NEW DELHI: Race promoters Procam International announced Wednesday that Ethiopia’s Andamlak Belihu and Tsehay Gemechu will return to the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon to defend their titles at the 15th edition of this prestigious IAAF Gold Label Road Race on Sunday, 20th October.
Belihu won in India’s capital city last year in 59:18, just missing out on the course record of 59:06 held since 2014 by his compatriot Guye Adola.
“Immediately after last year’s race I said that I was going to come back to Delhi in 2019 as I had unfinished business with the course record and I am keeping my promise,” commented Belihu, who will still be just 20 on race day.
He returned to India in May earlier this year to also win the TCS World 10K title in Bengaluru, another IAAF Gold Label Road Race promoted by Procam International.
In 2018, Belihu made a decisive run for home over the final third of the race but still had to work hard to hold off his fellow Ethiopian Amdework Walelegn to win by four seconds and the latter also returns with the ambition of going one better in this year’s race.
No less than eight men in the ADHM 2019 elite field have run under the world class benchmark of one hour but much of the attention will be on a man who has yet to run the distance, Hagos Gebrhiwet. Gebrhiwet had planned to make his half marathon debut in Delhi last year but a late bout of illness curtailed his training. However, he will stand on the start line this year and could come to Delhi clutching another world championships medal on the track, to add to the two he has already won over 5000m from 2013 and 2015.
He has been named to the Ethiopian team for both the 5000m and the 10,000m – and leads the world this year over the longer distance – at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 which gets underway on Friday.
The fastest man in Delhi this year will be Erick Kiptanui. The Kenyan notched up two impressive half marathon victories in 2018 when winning the high-quality Lisbon and Berlin, coming home in the German capital in a personal best 58:42, and he is currently equal seventh on the world all-time list.
In 2019, Kiptanui has been concentrating mainly on the track but had a solid win at the Barcelona Half Marathon earlier in the year.
Last year, Tsehay Gemechu made a huge impact in on her debut over the distance when she set an Airtel Delhi Half Marathon women’s course record of 66:50 and in 2019 she has shown it was no fluke with a string of sparkling performances both on the roads and the track, including taking the African Games 10,000m title.
The 21-year-old Gemechu has also been named to the Ethiopian team for the 5000m and 10,000m at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019.
The third and fourth-placed women from the ADHM 2018 also return with Ethiopia’s Zeineba Yimer and Kenya’s Stacy Ndiwa coming back to do battle.
The fastest woman in the ADHM 2019 elite field, will be Caroline Kipkirui. The Kenyan-born runner, who now competes under the Kazakhstan flag, set a personal best of 65:07 in the 2018 Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon.
Like the men’s race, the women’s race will also have a highly rated debutant, with Ethiopia’s Letesenbet Gidey hoping to emulate the achievement of her compatriot Gemechu last year and win on her first outing over the distance.
Gidey, also 21, has been twice a winner of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships U-20 race and took the senior’s women’s bronze medal in this year’s event back in March.
Both the men’s and women’s races have a first prize cheques of $27,000 with a total prize money purse (combined men and women) of $275,000.
“As we countdown to the landmark 15th edition of the “Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, we are humbled, that ADHM, has become one of the most prestigious and highly regarded half marathons in the world. We are excited to have both our defending champions, back at ADHM 2019. The fact that they may be on the start line in Delhi, with medals from Doha to their name, will enhance the events profile and appeal, within India and internationally,” commented Vivek Singh, joint managing director of Procam International.
“We wish our runners the best of luck on the track at the forthcoming IAAF World Championships in Doha,” he added.