World champs Kirui, Ayana to headline in Delhi Half Marathon
New Delhi, Nov 2 (PTI) Reigning marathon world champion Geoffrey Kirui and London Worlds 10,000m winner Almaz Ayana will headline a strong elite field in the men's and women's events at the 13th edition of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, which will be held on November 19.
Kenyan 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 the Indian soil for the first time and also be making her debut over the half marathon distance.
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 Rio Olympics, to the roads.
Both runners, and the rest of the elite field which was announced today, will be chasing the very strong course records in Delhi.
This edition of the IAAF Gold Label Road Race is the 10th anniversary of Airtel becoming the title sponsor and may turn out to be a spectacular contest, race promoters Procam International said.
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 a 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 first prize cheques of USD 27,000 with a total prize money purse (combined men and women) of USD 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