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African runners in focus

From Pragya Tiwari, New Delhi, Sep 29, 2012, DHNS: 1:14 IST

Kavita Raut and Sudha Singh to lead strong Indian challenge

It is that time of the year again when the city will be woken up early to the footsteps of thousands running for joy in the Airtel Delhi Half-Marathon that will start off at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Sunday.

Apart from the elite athletes from African countries, there will be as many as 31,746 participants chasing a portion of the total prize money of $210,000 over 21.097 km. There is also a prize tag of $25,000 for a new world record and $10,000 for a new course record.

For the Indian athletes, a new course record will fetch them Rs 1 lakh.
The field this year is among the strongest with 12 men athletes clocking sub-60 minute personal bests. The race has been dominated by athletes from Kenya and Ethiopia for some time now, with defending men’s champion Lelisa Desisa of Ethiopia, who clocked 59:30 minutes last year, already announcing his intention of breaking the course record.
Snapping at his heels will be the young Kenyan Ezekiel Chebii, who recently clocked 51:05 during his title win at Lille, France.

Among the women athletes Aselefech Mergia of Ethiopia leads the pack. She finished third here last year and hopes to win this edition for the third time on Sunday. Kenyans Helah Kiprop and Caroline Kilel and Helalia Johannes of Namibia will challenge the strong Ethiopian.

Leading the Indian men athletes will be the defending champion Suresh Kumar who clocked 1:04:08 last year and hopes to better his own record. “I hope I do better this year. The prize money is good and I will do my best to set a course record,” Kumar said.

Soji Mathew, who won the half-marathon in Mumbai in January and finished third among the Indians in 2009, will also be in fray.

Kavita Raut and Sudha Singh will be the star attractions among the Indian women. The field also include defending champion Lalita Babar, World 10K Bangalore 2012 winner Monika Athare, last year’s runner-up Kiran Tiwari and Priyanka Singh Patel, the half-marathon winner in Mumbai this year.

Raut said Indians can compete with the top international athletes. “We have been training with the Kenyans in Nairobi and we work as hard. The only difference is that they train at high altitude. We just get scared thinking they are top athletes,” she said.

With weather still hot, the men's elite event starts at 6:30 am followed by the elite women's event five minutes later as per International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) guidelines.

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