New Delhi: A spark of energy ran through the streets of the Capital on Sunday morning as Delhities turned out in large numbers to participate in the Airtel Delhi Half-Marathon.
The event in its fifth edition has grown in populairty and size, now offering a whopping $210,000 in prize money.
The world's richest half-marathon will see male and female winner get $25,000 each. The top 10 finishers will also get handsome cash rewards.
The Indian winners will gain $4,000 each, with top 10 finishers winning separate purses.
The open category of the main event will be the half-marathon of 21.097 km. The other three categories are Great Delhi Run (7 km), senior citizen's run (4.3 km) and wheelchair Event (3.5 km).
While 8,695 participants are taking part in the half marathon, altogether around 30,000 runners have taken part in the event of which the Great Delhi Run will draw the maximum number.
The field also has some top international stars participating with the top two finishers in the men's section of last year's half-marathon all set to renew their rivalry.
Ethiopian Deriba Merga had pipped Kenyan Wilson Kipsang by only a second to take the title last year. And both will be competing again in Delhi. They will be looking to better the world record (58:33 sec) of Sammy Wanjiru of Kenya in 2007.
"Delhi half-marathon has become an important part of the international calendar. The course is flat and gives a good chance to better one's timing," said Kipsang.
Defending champion Merga, who clocked 59:15 in 2008, said he has recovered fully from a knee injury and is raring to go.
The women's competition also has a strong international presence. Defending champion Aselefech Mergia of Ethiopia is expected to get a tough challenge from her compatriot and 2007 winner Deriba Alemu. A bunch of Kenyan runners led by Mary Keitany, the world half-marathon champion, will pose a strong challenge to Aselefech.
"I am happy to be back and looking forward to a good competition," said the 24-year-old.
Aselefech is in good form this season. She clocked her personal best of 67:48 to finish second at the RAK international half-marathon in the UAE this year.
Apart from the runners, the presence of Bollywood celebrities like Shah Rukh Khan, Rahul Bose and sporting celebrities like Vijender Singh also added a dash of colour to the event. Former Australian captain Allan Border and Sydney Olympic 400 metre gold medallist Cathy Freeman are the brand ambassadors of the event.
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