Almaz Ayana wins the Delhi Half Marathon (© Organisers / Procam International)
Ethiopia’s Birhanu Legese and Almaz Ayana took the honours at the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, crossing the line in the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in 59:46 and 1:07:11 respectively to win the IAAF Gold Label road race on Sunday (19).
Legese, now 23, regained the title he won two years ago after pulling away from four rivals in the final 500 metres.
Teenage compatriot Adamlak Belihu followed Legese home and clocked 59:51 on his debut over the distance. Despite having to settle for second on this occasion, it was still a stunning performance from Belihu who turns just 19 on Monday.
Leonard Korir finished third in 59:52, the second-fastest time ever by a US runner and just nine seconds shy of the North American record.
Entering the final kilometre, any one of five men could have still potentially won and all five finished within one hour, with another four within 61 minutes to provide a race of memorable depth and quality.
Ethiopia’s Asefa Negewo bettered the 60-minute barrier for the first time when finishing fourth in 59:54 to take more than a minute off his best, while Kenya’s Jorum Okumbo, still only 19, was fifth in 59:58.
Geoffrey Kirui had his first race since winning the world marathon title but lacked just a little bit of sharpness compared to his rivals and slipped out of contention late in the race before coming home sixth in 1:00:04.
World and Olympic 10,000m champion Ayana was making her debut over the half marathon distance but hardly looked like a novice as she led home an Ethiopian clean sweep of the podium positions in the women’s race.
Like in the men’s race, the outcome was decided in the final kilometre as she pulled away from her rivals on the approach to the stadium.
Ababel Yeshaneh was second again, as she was in 2016, and set a personal best for the second consecutive year as well, crossing the line in 1:07:19 to slice 33 seconds from her personal best.
Completing the all-Ethiopian top three, Netsanet Gudeta clocked 1:07:24 to improve her best by seven seconds.
Finishing further down the order, there were huge cheers and delight for Indian international Loganathan Suriya in eighth place.
Suriya missed out on medals at the Asian Championships in July when she finished fourth in the 5000m and 10,000m and failed to secure a place in the Indian team going to the IAAF World Championships the following month.
However, she got partial compensation for those disappointments when she finished in an Indian half marathon record of 1:10:29, taking 33 seconds off the record set by Lalita Babar at the 2015 edition of this race.
Her performance should be good enough to secure her a place on the start line of the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships Valencia 2018 in March, which would be her first global championship outing
Organisers for the IAAF
1 Birhanu Legese (ETH) 59:46
2 Andamlak Belihu (ETH) 59:51
3 Leonard Korir (USA) 59:52
4 Asefa Negewo (ETH) 59:54
5 Jorum Okumbo (KEN) 59:58
6 Geoffrey Kirui (KEN) 1:00:04
7 Edwin Kiptoo (KEN) 1:00:06
8 Abadi Hadis (ETH) 1:00:25
9 John Langat (ETH) 1:00:41
10 Nitendra Singh Rawat (IND) 1:03:53
1 Almaz Ayana (ETH) 1:07:11
2 Ababel Yeshaneh (ETH) 1:07:19
3 Netsanet Gudeta (ETH) 1:07:24
4 Helah Kiprop (KEN) 1:08:07
5 Worknesh Degefa (ETH) 1:08:09
6 Paskalia Chepkorhir (KEN) 1:08:46
7 Veronica Nyaruai (KEN) 1:09:02
8 Loganathan Suriya (IND) 1:10:29
9 Daria Maslova (KGZ) 1:11:28
10 Sudha Singh (IND) 1:11:28