Delhi ready for half marathon, 2009 champion Merga pulls out

Saturday, November 20, 2010

NEW DELHI - An estimated 30,000 Delhiites are set to run in the company of world-class athletes and India’s most sought after celebrities in the third edition of the $210,000 Airtel Delhi Half Marathon Sunday.

The competitive part of the 21-km half marathon involves 8,680 Indian and foreign athletes, the 6-km Great Delhi Run will bring 20,000 plus fun-loving residents out on the streets, the 2.5-km wheelchair race will see 200 differently-abled and the 4-km run will get over a thousand senior citizens to brave the early morning chill.

Thirty elite runners from overseas — including 12 Kenyans and eight Ethiopians — will hit the road. Runners from six other nations will also be there.

Ethiopian Deriba Merga, two-time defending champion, had to pull out of the race at the last moment and that has left the field open for the Kenyan athletes in the $25,000 men’s half marathon.

And the pick amongst the Kenyans will be Geoffrey Mutai, the long-distance runner’s forte being cross-country running.

“The course is good, I should be able to run close to 59 minutes,” Mutai said.

Mutai’s countryman Joel Kimurer won the Prague Half Marathon in March and will be looking to do it again here.

In the women’s section, 2009 champion Keitany of Kenya is not competing this time and in her absence the favourite will be the 2008 winner Aselefech Mercia of Ethiopia.

Kenya have enough fire power here, too, to spoil the Ethiopian party.

Sharon Jemutai, fresh from her maiden major marathon victory in Hamburg, will be another strong contender to take home the winner’s purse of $25,000 and so will be another Kenyan Lydia Cherome.

Sveitlana Kouhan of Belarus and Ukraines Olena Burkovska are expected to spring a surprise in the field dominated by the Africans.

The celebrity list comprise industrialists, bollywood actors and a handful of sportspersons.

The likes of Anil Ambani, Dhanraj Pillay, Arshad Warsi, Gul Panag and Rahul Bose will be part of the race to spread the messsage of importance of ‘being healthy.’

Bipasha Basu has replaced Shahrukh Khan as the face of the event.

Filed under: Sports

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