Reigning Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya expectedly won the men’s race of Delhi Half Marathon in a fast time but below the course record while Ethiopia’s Worknesh Degefa clinched the women’s title here on Sunday.
Kipchoge, considered one of the greatest marathoners of all time, clocked 59 minute and 44 seconds to cover the 21.097km distance and win the race at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium ahead of Ethiopia’s Yigrem Demelash, who clocked his personal best of 59:48, in a close finish. Another Kenyan Augustine Choge was third in 60:01.
Kipchoge, running here in his first competitive race after winning Rio Olympics marathon gold in August, was clearly the pre-event favourite in men’s elite race but many had thought he would lower the course record of 59:06 set by Guye Adola of Ethiopia in 2014.
But he neither lowered the course record nor could he better his personal best of 59.25 in a course considered one of the fastest in the world.
In the women’s elite race, Degefa clocked one hour, seven minutes and 42 seconds to clinch the title ahead of fellow Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh (1:07:52) and Helah Kiprop (1:08:11) of Kenya. Reigning half marathon world champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya was fifth with a timing of 1:08:28. The women’s course record was 1:06:54, set by Mary Keitany of Kenya in 2009.
Both the men’s and women’s elite winners pocketed USD 27,000 for their victories.
Among Indian men, G Lakshmanan, who has won the 2013 edition of Delhi Half Marathon and also TCS World 10K 2016, emerged the winner with a timing of one hour, 04 minutes and 34 seconds while Mohd. Yunus (1:04:38) and Man Singh (1:04:40) were second and third respectively.
Monika Athare finished first among Indian women with her personal best time of one hour, 15 minutes and 34 seconds while Sanjeevani Jadhav (1:15:35) was second and pre-race favourite Swati Gadhave (1:17:43) was third.
The 32-year-old Kipchoge, a living legend in Kenya, said he was happy to be in India for the second time. He had won a silver in 5000m race in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games.
“I am happy to come to India and I came here in the capacity of an old runner (six years after 2010). The conditions were good,” he told reporters after the race.
“I have no issue with my time though I could not break the course record. I have come here to inspire the people of India to take up (long distance) running,” he added.
Sports Minister Vijay Goel and Athletics Federation of India President and IAAF Council member Adille Sumariwalla flagged off the races.
Former 100m world record holder Asafa Powell, who was brought to India by PUMA, graced the event and cheered the runners.
Kipchoge’s world famous coach Patrick Sang, known for churning out several champion long distance runners in Kenya, said it was tough for his celebrated ward to break the course record after giving his best effort in the Olympic Games.
“Kipchoge has given his all, the best effort for the Olympics marathon and it is difficult for him to come up with another record breaking effort here three months after that (Rio effort). But his sub-60 performance is still very good. I am happy and satisfied for his performance,” Sang told PTI.
The USD 2,70,000-prize money event witnessed more than 12,000 runners in the elite Half Marathon (21.097km) category; around 19,000 participants in the Great Delhi Run (6km), around 1000 in Senior Citizens Run (4km), and around 500 in the Champions with Disability category (4km), taking the total number of participants to nearly 34,000.