Course record holder Guye Adola also returns to Delhi.
Defending champions Andamlak Belihu and Tsehay Gemecu will return to Delhi to take part in the 16th edition of the prestigious World Athletics Gold Label Road Race, Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM) on 29 November.
The Ethiopian pair will both be aiming for an unprecedented third successive victory in the Indian capital. “I have been training well in Addis Ababa for the last couple of months and I am very thankful to have the opportunity to race in Delhi, a city I always enjoy returning to and racing in,” commented Belihu, who will turn 22 just over a week before race day.
“This has been a difficult year, for everyone around the world, not just professional athletes, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and I have been training alone much more than that I am normally used to but my fifth place at the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships in Poland last month has assured me that I am in good shape and I am confident I can put up a good defence of my title,” Belihu added.
Belihu’s compatriot Guye Adola still holds the ADHM course record with 59:06 that the latter clocked in 2014 but Belihu has gone very close in the last two years with 59:18 and a personal best 59:10 in 2018 and 2019 respectively. He will be aiming to finally go into new territory on the streets of Delhi, perhaps even going under 59 minutes, and confirm his place as the most successful runner in ADHM history after having also placed second in his race debut in 2017.
An unprecedented 13 men in the ADHM 2020 elite field have run under the world-class benchmark of one hour, and five of them have actually run faster than Belihu in their careers including Adola who returns to Delhi for the first time since his record run six years ago.
The fastest man in the field is Bahrain’s 2018 World Athletics Half Marathon Championships silver medallist Abraham Cheroben, who holds the Asian record for the distance with 58:40.
Two other men to watch out for will be the Ethiopian pair of Amdework Walelegn, who was second in Delhi last year and also took the bronze medal at 2020 World Athletics Half Marathon Championships last month, and 2017 and 2019 world 5000m champion Muktar Edris, who will be making his half-marathon debut.
Last year, Tsehay Gemechu improved her own women’s course record from 2018 by no less 50 seconds when she ran a stunning personal best of 66:00. Ideally, Gemechu would like to go even faster this year but, like so many runners around the world, her training and racing this year have been hugely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“COVID-19 is a disaster which has affected everyone’s life all over the globe and, definitely, it has affected my training, not least in the early stages of the pandemic when we were all fearful of infection. Later, my coach and I decided to take care of ourselves, taking into account all the advice from the World Health Organisation, and I started my individual training programme with my main goal of coming back to Delhi, although since September I have had some races on the track,” reflected Gemechu, who will turn22 in December.
Gemechu will have a host of outstanding rivals in this year’s race, arguably the strongest women’s field ever seen in the history of the ADHM with seven women having run under 67 minutes. Among them are two of her compatriots, Yalemzerf Yehualaw and Netsanet Gudeta.
Both the men’s and women’s races have a first prize cheque of US$27,000 with a total prize money purse (combined men and women) of US$233.270.
The ADHM 2020 will be unlike any previous edition with only an estimated 60 elite international and Indian runners in action on the Delhi roads, with the traditional start and finish in the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the event being held in a bio-secure bubble. Non-elite runners of all abilities will have the chance to participate virtually from any location, running at any time between25-29 November via the ADHM App.