World champions Kirui, Ayana to contest Airtel Delhi Half Marathon

File Photo : Geoffrey Kirui
IANS|02-Nov-2017 20:34

New Delhi, Nov 2 : Reigning marathon world champion Geoffrey Kirui and London Worlds 10,000 metre winner Almaz Ayana will lead a strong elite field in the mens and womens events at the 13th edition of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, to be held here on November 19.

Kenya's Kirui, who won the men's marathon race in the IAAF World Championships London in August, is familiar with the circuit here as he was sixth in a high-quality field two years ago when he clocked his current personal best of 59:38.

In contrast, the reigning world 10,000m champion Ayana of Ethiopia will be setting foot on Indian soil for the first time and also be making her debut over the half marathon distance.

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However, all eyes will be on the Ethiopian to see whether she can transfer her stunning form on the track of the last two years, which also saw her break the 10,000m world record while winning gold over 25 laps of the track in the Rio Olympics, to the roads.

Both runners, and the rest of the elite field which was announced on Thursday, will be chasing the very strong course records here.

The men's course record is 59:06 and was set by Ethiopia's Guye Adola in 2014 while the women's record has been standing since 2009 and belongs to Kenya's Mary Keitany at 1:06.54.

Despite his fine credentials which also include a win in the Boston Marathon back in April, Kirui will not start as an out-and-out favourite.

Three of his compatriots have run under 59 minutes, with the in-form Jorum Okumbo the fastest man in the field having run 58:48 earlier this year, while Ethiopia's Yigrem Demelash was second in 2016 and determined to climb one step higher on the podium this time around.

In the women's race, Ayana will face her compatriot Worknesh Degefa, who is not only the defending champion but the fastest woman in the field having clocked 66:14 in 2016.

Indeed, the top three women from 2016 return with Ababel Yeshaneh and Helah Kiprop also coming back to Delhi to challenge for the title again.

"Bringing two global champions from London to this race shows our commitment to having the very best runners in the world compete at the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon," said Vivek Singh, joint managing director of race promoters Procam International.

"This IAAF Gold Label event is deservedly one of the world's most prestigious half marathon and with the appearance of Geoffrey and Almaz this year, it adds further lustre to its reputation. It is renowned among the world's top distance runners for its fast course and comprehensive field," he added.

All the leading runners will also have in their sights the first prize cheques of $27,000 with a total prize purse (combined men and women) of $275,000.

Elite fields for the 2017 Airtel Delhi Half Marathon:

Men: Geoffrey Kirui (Kenya) 59:38; Jorum Okumbo (Kenya) 58:48; Alex Korio (Kenya) 58:51; Stephen Kibet (Kenya) 58:54; Yigrem Demelash (Ethiopia) 59:19; Berhanu Legese (Ethiopia) 59:20; Ismail Juma (Tanzania) 59:30; Moses Kurong (Uganda) 59:50; Mohamed Ziani (Morocco) 60:28; Emmanuel Gniki (Tanzania) 60:47; Leonard Korir (USA) 61:06; Abadi Hadis (Ethiopia) debut; John Langat (Kenya) debut; Andamlak Belihu (Ethiopia) debut.

Women: Almaz Ayana (Ethiopia) debut; Worknesh Degefa (Ethiopia) 66:14; Netsanet Gudeta (Ethiopia) 67:31; Helah Kiprop (Kenya) 67:39; Ababel Yeshaneh (Ethiopia) 67:52; Mimi Belete (Bahrain) 69:15; Karolina Nadolska (Poland) 69:54.