Ethiopians on top at Delhi Half Marathon

File Photo : Tsehay Gemechu
IANS|21-Oct-2018 14:48

New Delhi, Oct 21 (IANS) Ethiopia ruled the roost at the 2018 Delhi Half Marathon on Sunday with Tsehay Gemechu setting a new course record on her way to the women's title while Andamlak Belihu emerged triumphant among the men.

Tsehay overcame some tough competition to cross the line at 1 hour 6 minutes and 50 seconds. In the process she broke the long standing previous record of 1:06:54 which was set by Mary Keitany of Kenya in 2009.

Joyciline Jepkosgei of Kenya, the current world record holder, was second at 1:06:56 while Ethiopia's Zeineba Yimer was third with 1:06:59.

In the men's category, Belihu recorded a time of 59 minutes and 17 seconds. His compatriot Amdework Walelegn was a close second with a personal best of 59:21. 

Kenya, the other powerhouse of long distance running, got the bronze as Daniel Kipchumba finished third with a time of 59:48.

Among the Indian men, Abhishek Pal finished first at 1:04:13. 

He was given a tough fight throughout the race by Avinash Sable who came second taking a mere one second more, at 1:04:14.


   |Read More : "Ethiopia's Liyew Kebede tops Xi'an international marathon"

Gopi Thonakal was third with 1:04:15.

Among the Indian women, Sanjivani Jadhav (1:13:58), Parul Chaudhary (1:14:01) and Monika Athare (1:16:55) were the top three finishers.

In a race full of drama and surprises, the 20-year-old Gemechu outsprinted the world record holder Jepkosgei in the final few hundred metres, the latter taking second place in 1:06:56, with Ethiopia's Zeineba Yimer running a strong final five kilometres to take third in 1:06:59.

The first shock was the sight of three-time Olympic champion Tirunesh Dibaba visibly starting to struggle as early as the 5km mark, clinging on to the back of the women's leading group. She was still hanging on at 10km as a pack of eight, assisted by male pacemaker Timothy Kutto, went through that checkpoint in 31:42 but she soon became detached and ceased to be a factor in the women's race.

Four women -- Gemechu, Jepkosgei, Kenya's Stacy Ndiwa and Ethiopia's Senbere Teferi -- followed Kutto through the 15km mark in 47:51 but Teferi, another half marathon debutante, decided to take off shortly afterwards.

At 19km, Teferi had a 12-second advantage over the chasing pair of Gemechu and Jepkosgei who seemingly were battling for second place.

However, with little more than one kilometre to go, Teferi started to slow down and was soon barely raising her gait above walking pace.

Teferi drifted to the side of the road and with about 700 metres to the finish almost came to a halt as Gemechu and Jepkosgei sped past her. Subsequently, she dropped out due to dehydration, although she recovered quickly after getting treatment.

Gemechu then increased the speed as the finish line approached.

"To be honest, I hadn't changed my training to do this race so I'm surprised that I won and ran so fast. When we went past Teferi, I actually thought it was a tactic, that she was slowing and was going to run with us before sprinting," Gemechu told reporters after the race.

The men's race was a fast, neck and neck contest from start to finish.

Belihu took control of the final third of the race, having pushed the pace from just after the halfway point.

At 15km, crossed in 42:41, four men were together -- Belihu, Walelegn, Kenya's Daniel Kipchumba and Eritrea's Aron Kifle. But soon Belihu pushed the pace again and only Walelegn could follow him.

The two 19-year-olds stayed together, although Belihu always looked more comfortable and confident, until the final 250 metres when the eventual winner turned the screw again with Walelegn finishing four seconds behind him.

Belihu, who had finished runner-up to fellow Ethiopian Berhanu Legese last year, asserted that he had worked harder in the run up to this edition.

"I was not able to win last year. I trained harder this year. I was determined to win this year and I am happy that all my hard work has borne fruit," he told the media after the race.

"Last year was my first experience here. I had better knowledge of the course this year which came in handy. The pacemaker did not do the kind of job I wanted, otherwise I would have perhaps registered a better timing. But I am happy with my performance," he added.

The 19-year-old, who has started competing in marathons and half marathons only recently, wants to focus on track events for now.

"I am not thinking of marathons for now. I want to focus on track events and win gold at the World Athletics Championships and the World Cross Country Championships next year. I might switch to the marathon some time in the future," he said.