Harpal Singh Bedi / New Delhi
Ethiopia’s Tirunesh Dibaba and Kenya’s Joyciline Jepkosgei both pronounced themselves fit and ready to go head-to-head at the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2018 at the traditional pre-race press conference on Friday.
Three-time Olympic champion Dibaba ran the outstanding time of 2:18:55 at the Berlin Marathon just over a month ago but believes she has recovered quickly despite the short amount of time between the two races and is ready to challenge for the first prize cheque of USD$27,000 – the richest half marathon winner’s jackpot in the world – in India’s capital city.
“One of my plans was to run a 21K (half marathon) after Berlin and my manager told me about Delhi, and I thought it was a good idea,” commented Dibaba, who has turned into one of the world’s top road runners after a star-studded track and cross country career which also included nine world titles on those surfaces.
“I’ve recovered more-or-less, although I wanted to run faster in Berlin. I’ve come to Delhi with the first target of winning, I’m not thinking about times too much,” added Dibaba, professing herself somewhat uninterested in the ADHM course record of 66:54 which has belonged to Kenya’s Mary Keitany since 2009.
By contrast, although she didn’t put a figure on her ambitions, the current half marathon world record holder Jepkosgei is clearly looking to run quickly in Delhi and hoping that her speed will take her to victory.
“I’m very happy to be here – it’s a privilege to meet Indian people – and I’m looking to run a fast time although improving on my world record (of 64:51 set in October 2017) Of course, it all depends on the weather and climate,” added the diminutive Kenyan, slightly-built by even the standards of leading female distance runners.
Delhi has a reputation as a flat and fast course, demonstrated by the times posted by the leading runners in recent years, and the 14th edition of the ADHM – which has established itself as one of the world’s leading races over the distance – will have much improved environmental conditions on race day.
The temperatures at the early morning start time for the elite races are expected to be in the low 20s (degrees Celsius) and the race promoters Procam International, as part of their commitment to race sustainability, have made strident efforts to diminish the pollution levels of the IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
The men’s race will see 2016 Olympic marathoners Gopi Thonakal and Nitender Singh Rawat go head-to-head, the former also the 2017 Asian marathon champion and the latter the leading Indian man in last year’s ADHM.
The target for both men, not only Singh Rawat’s Indian ADHM best of 63:53 set in 2017 but the national record of Bugatha Shrinu from Bhopal in 2016.
“Fifteen years ago, there was no road running culture in India and now we have world record holders and Olympic champions coming here. This is something India can be very proud of,” reflected Vivek Singh, joint managing director of race promoters Procam International.
“The fact that runners like Tirunesh (Dibaba) and Joyciline (Jepkosgei) have chosen the ADHM over the many other race options they had it a great statement for this event and for India,” he added.
The world running organisation the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) announced that Jepkosgei has been recognised with the AIMS World Record Award.
Joyciline set a Half Marathon World Record of 1:04:51 at the Medio Maraton Valencia Trinidad Alfonso EDP on 22 October 2017. In setting the record, Joyciline broke her own record by one second. Vivek Singh, Jt. MD, Procam International, promoters for the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon presented Joyciline with her award