Ethiopia’s Birhanu Legese and Kenya’s Cynthia Limo came out on top after thrilling battles over the last kilometre for both the men’s and women’s titles at the 2015 Airtel Delhi Half Marathon on Sunday November 29.
After a leading pack of 10 runners went through 10km in 27:56, five men were still in contention with just 500 metres to go ahead of the finish line in the Indian capital’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
After an initial surge by Ethiopia’s Mosinet Geremew, Legese overtook his compatriot with barely 100 metres remaining and crossed the line in a personal best of 59:20, with Geremew one second in arrears.
“I am very happy, I enjoyed the course and enjoyed the race. It was very easy for me,” reflected Legese, after clinching the $27,000 winner’s cheque.
His time equalled the third fastest time in the world this year.
Just 21, Legese notched up his second major half marathon victory this year, having also won the Berlin Half Marathon back in March where he set his previous best of 59:45. In Delhi, he was just 14 seconds outside the course record set in 2014 by another Ethiopia, Guye Adola.
Eritrea’s world record holder Zersenay Tadese, now 33, did not quite have the sheer acceleration of his younger rivals over the final few hundred metres on Sunday but will still have been satisfied with third place in 59:24, his fastest time for more than four years.
The Kenyan pair of Edwin Kiptoo, who made much of the pace from halfway until the final kilometre, and Jonathan Maiyo finished fourth and fifth respectively but were given the same time of 59:26.
The depth of world class performances – only two other half marathons in history have had five men run under 59:30 – confirms the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon as one of the premier races in the world over the distance.
Kenyan women sweep
Limo took the women’s race in 1:08:35 after outsprinting her compatriots Helah Kiprop and Gladys Chesire over the last 200 metres, although she always looked the most likely to triumph after increasing the tempo at the front of the race with three kilometres to go.
Kiprop snatched second place in the final 30 metres and was given the same time as the winner while Chesire was one second further back to complete an all-Kenyan women’s podium.
After being dropped coming into the last kilometre, Ethiopia’s Genet Yalew finished fourth in 1:08:46.
In eighth place, 2015 IAAF World Championships 3000m steeplechase finalist Lalita Babar showed that she is also a talented runner over longer distances by taking exactly four minutes off the Indian national record with a time of 1:10:52.
Pre-race favourite and world record holder Florence Kiplagat, from Kenya, failed in her bid to win in Delhi for a third successive year.
The 2015 Chicago Marathon winner clearly still had last month’s marathon in her legs and started to struggle from six kilometres into the race, and eventually dropped out around halfway, despite the relatively modest initial pace which saw the seven women in the leading pack pass 10km in 33:43.