New Delhi: Kenyan Sammy Kitwara and Ethiopian Aselefech Mergia, the fastest man in the elite field and the women’s defending champion, respectively, said they were in super shape and looking forward to having a fast run on Sunday in the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon on Sunday. The athletes were present at a meet & greet session at the media centre on Friday.
Kitwara, who ran a stunning 58:48 in the USA in September this year is confident of making a serious attempt at bettering the course of 58.15. Aselefech, who is on her fifth visit to the capital city and is attempting to win the title for the third time also said she was in “top shape”, coming here at the back of two strong wins, in the Dubai Marathon and the Great South Run in October.
While Kitwara acknowledged that the men’s field was tough, he did not seem to be unduly worried, having pulled off wins in the past, while running against very big names, among them Haile Gebrselassie.
Kitwara will have to contend with Ethiopians Feyisa Lelisa and team mates Tilahun Regassa (the Ethiopian record holder) and Lelisa Desisa who was just edged on the line in Delhi last year by Boston and New York marathon champion Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya. Feyisa, who is on his second visit to India, said he has trained well in the buildup to this event and is looking to run a sub-59 minute race on Sunday.
The Kenyan field of athletes is also very strong, with the likes of Stephen Kibiwott , who boasts a half marathon best of 59:37, Philemon Limo, winner of the World 10K Bangalore, who now has a half marathon best of 59:30 and also enjoys front running tactics and track specialists Mark Kiptoo and Emmanuel Bett.
Tim Hutchings, a former runner and expert commentator, felt this current field had the potential to set new course records among the men and women. Having been to Delhi for the earlier editions, Hutchings felt that the supreme condition of the roads and the weather would support the athletes on Sunday in their quest for a fast finish.
Aselefech said she would be banking on support from her fellow Ethiopians to counter the atrong Kenyan field led by Lucy Kabuu. The other Ethiopians include last year’s runner-up Merima Mohammed and former World silver medalist Aberu Kebede, besides National record holder Mare Dibaba.
Kenyan Lucy Kabuu is the fastest woman in the field this year and having burst onto the road scene in September, running away from a world class field in the UK’s Great North Run to run a solo 67:06, she fees she is in great form to even have a run at the world record held by Mary Keitany. Lucy will be backed up strongly by Lydia Cheromei and Doris Changeywo, who recently showed great form in the Great South 10 miler in the UK.