Delhi Half Marathon: Runners play down pollution situation in Delhi, say no problem with conditions
“Running is a basic right of the people,” said Chief Justice T.S. Thakur on Friday after the Supreme Court dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) which sought a stay on the recently concluded Airtel Delhi Half Marathon. Pollution in the capital has been a huge talking point over the last few weeks and the petition stated that the city was too polluted for marathon running and could cause serious harm to the participants.
All those doubts were laid to rest after more than 34,000 people braved the early morning chill to take part in what was the ninth edition of the annual event on Sunday. As far as the impact of pollution was concerned, the elite runners had absolutely no complaints regarding the weather and the conditions, with a few also recording their personal best timings during the race.
Foreign athletes satisfied with conditions
Winning the men’s crown was Eliud Kipchoge, who had won gold at the marathon in Rio in August, finishing the race in an impressive 59 minutes and 44 seconds. He was followed by Yigrem Demelash in second place as the Ethiopian recorded his personal best timing at 00:59:48 despite suffering a foot injury prior to the event.
Kipchoge stated that he was very comfortable running in Delhi and was satisfied with the conditions. “Someone suggested I should wear a mask when I run in Delhi, but I never felt the need to do so. I had no coughing problems or irritation in my eyes and I am happy with my performance,” said the Kenyan.
Echoing the same sentiments were Demelash and Augustine Choge of Kenya, who had finished in third place. Both runners were happy with the weather conditions and said that they were able to run to the best of their abilities.
Helah Kiprop, who finished in third place in the women’s race, shared the opinions of her male counterparts and said that the conditions were okay and the race was keenly contested. The Kenyan had finished in second place last year in Delhi and she would like to return next year as well.
Pollution has subsided in the last few weeks
The images of the pollution in Delhi that emerged post-Diwali were frightening to see, at the very least. However, the situation is much better now and has improved in the last few weeks, according to sexagenarian Sabhajeet Yadav - who finished first in the 60-65 years age category with a time of 01:29:34.
This was his sixth straight victory at the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon and he said that the conditions were good for running, as a result of which he was able to finish under the one-and-a-half-hour mark.
“I ran in the Delhi 10k challenge on November 6 and could feel my eyes watering due to the pollution in the air. Today was a completely different story and I had no problem whatsoever. Everything was ideal and I am very happy with my performance,” said Yadav – who is a farmer and hails from a village in eastern Uttar Pradesh.
The top three Indian finishers in the women’s category all recorded personal bests with Monika Athare completing the course with a time of 01:15:34. Their coach Vijendra Singh said, “The entire pollution situation didn’t matter much in my opinion. I’m very happy with the performances of the girls as they all made significant gains in their best timings.”