Ayana, Legese win men and women gold in Delhi Half Marathon
Current woman world athlete of the year Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia clinched gold in her debut race while compatriot Berhanu Legese won the men's event in the Delhi Half Marathon in New Delhi on Sunday.
Ayana, the world's leading woman long distance runner on track, clocked one hour, seven minutes and 11 seconds to emerge champion in her maiden half marathon race as Ethiopians ran away with all the three top positions.
Ayana was not bothered by the pollution level in Delhi which had led to calls from some quarters of postponement of the race.
Ababel Yeshaneh and Netsanet Gudeta were second and third, clocking 1:07:19 and 1:07:24 respectively to cover 21.097km distance.
In the men's elite race, 2015 winner Legese bagged the gold in 59 minutes and 46 seconds while another Ethiopian Anadamlak Belihu was second in 59:51. Leonard Korir of United States was third in 59:52.
Both the men's and women's winners pocketed $ 27,000 as prize money.
Both Ayana and Legese could not break the course record of 1:06:54 and 59:06 respectively.
Among the Indian women, L Suriya bagged the gold in course record (for Indians) time of 1:10:31 while veteran long distance runner Sudha Singh and Parul Choudhary were second and third in 1:11:30 and 1:13:09 respectively.
Olympian Nitendra Singh Rawat won the Indian men's race, clocking a new course record time of 1:03:53 in a dramatic photo finish with G Lakshmanan who also clocked the same 1:03:53 but was declared second when the timing was broken down to decimal seconds.
21-year-old Maharashtra runner Avinash Sable was third in 1:03:58 as he clinched a medal in his debut half marathon race. He won the third place in a photo finish with Durga Bahadur Budha who also clocked 1:03:58 but had to be content with fourth place.
In fact, all the top three Indian men finishers – and even the fourth placed runner -- bettered the earlier course record of 1:04.00.
Around 35,000 runners turned out on Delhi roads for the 13th edition of the race, one of the top half marathons in the world, which has been mired in controversy after the Indian Medical Association called for its cancellation owing to the smog in the national capital.
Around 30,000 had taken part in the race in 2015, while 34,000 took part last year, according to race organisers, Procam International.
Tens of thousands of runners, mostly Delhiites, braved the chilly weather -- was around 15 degree Celcius when the men's elite race started at 6:40am -- and ran the race despite the health warnings just a few days ago.
The pollution level in the city though has got better with the early morning rain on Saturday.
Out of these 35,000 participants, 13,216 (elite and amateur together) ran in the half marathon distance, while the remaining took part in four categories of Great Delhi Run, Timed 10K Run, Senior Citizens Run and Champions with Disability Run.
Terming the air quality in the national capital as poor and unsafe, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) on November 14 urged the Delhi High Court to pass directions to postpone the Delhi Half Marathon.
But the Delhi High Court gave its nod to the marathon scheduled to be held in the city.