Kipchoge starts as favourite in Delhi Half Marathon (Preview)
New Delhi, Nov 19 (IANS) Reigning Olympic marathon champion Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya will start as the favourite, although he is expected to face a strong challenge from fellow east African athletes when the Delhi Half Marathon gets underway here on Sunday.
The 32-year-old Kenyan, who clocked 2 hours, eight minutes and 44 seconds to clinch the Olympic gold in Rio, has a personal best of 59:25 minutes in the half marathon.
However, he is expected to face a strong challenge from Yigrem Demelash of Ethiopia. Demelesh, a former junior world champion in the 10,000 metre event, holds a personal best of 59:49 minutes in the half marathon.
Gladwin Mzazi of South Africa, who had set his personal best of 61:12 minutes at the Delhi Half Marathon in 2013 and Jackson Kiprop (62:05) of Uganda are also expected to be strong contenders.
Kipchoge asserted that he is happy with the course and weather conditions and is raring to try and beat his personal best time on Sunday.
"The course here is really flat and it will help in maintaining good speed and producing a good time. I want to go below 59 minutes and try to beat my best time," Kipchoge told IANS.
"Although it is a bit hot during the day, it is quite cool early in the morning and will be ideal for running.
"I felt familiar coming here to India..perhaps it may be because of the weather conditions. This is my first marathon after Rio and the decision to compete in India was also to inspire millions of Indians to take up road racing as a potential career," he added.
Like Kipchoge, Choge will also be running in Delhi for the first time. Choge has a very impressive track career so far, winning medals at the 2016 and 2012 world indoor championship in the 3,000m.
He was also 2006 Commonwealth Games champion in the 5,000m and is now moving up to the road races and made a winning debut in the half marathon this year in Philadelphia.
In the international women's section, Kenya's Peres Jepchirchir and Helah Kiprop are expected to face stiff competition from the Ethiopian duo of Worknesh Degefa and Netsanet Gudeta.
Peres has a personal best of 66:39 although Worknesh (66:14) and Netsanet (67:31) are not far behind.
Forty-year-old Italian veteran Valeria Straneo (67:46), who won her last two marathons in Italy, may also be a tough opponent for the African athletes.
In the Indian men's section, Gopi Lakshmanan, Mohammed Yunus, and Man Singh will aim to break the course record on Sunday
Yunus, who has a personal best of 64:47 minutes, is confident of emerging as the winner among the domestic runners.
However, Yunus, who won this year's Kolkata Marathon 2016 with a timing of 2:30:37 and stood third at last year's Delhi Half Marathon, admitted that he is expecting a tough challenge from Man Singh and Lakshmanan.
"I will aim for the course record. And I'm sure that one among the three of us will climb the podium," Yunus said on Saturday.
Lakshmanan, who is from the Indian Army, is also in good form this year. He has won the World 10K 2016 in Bengaluru and has bagged numerous titles including the Delhi Half Marathon in 2013, and the Cochin Marathon this year.
His timing at the Cochin Marathon was 1:04:38 which is his personal best.
Srinu Bugathax, who won the Jaipur Marathon last year, is another strong prospect among the Indians.
In the Indian women's section, Swati Gadhave and Sanjeevani Jadhav are among the favourites.
Swati, who took the women's 10000m title at the Federation Cup 2016, won the World 10K in Bengaluru this year with a timing of 34:45 while Sanjeevani was the runner-up with 35:48:78.
Sanjeevani, who will make her debut in the half marathon event on Sunday, is motivated by former Olympian Kavita Raut and is determined to set a new course record.
Former national champion Monika Athare is also expected to provide a strong challenge to Swati and Sanjeevani.
"All credit goes to the coach who trains us with utmost dedication as this is a very big platform for us," Monika said.
"We hope to give our best."