Airtel Delhi Half Marathon: Women’s defending champion Gemechu eyes hat-trick of course records

Two-time defending champion Ethiopia’s Tsehay Gemechu on Thursday said she is aiming to break the course record for the third time in the women’s race of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon here on Sunday.

The 21-year-old Gemechu made a huge impact on her ADHM debut in 2018, setting a women’s course record of 66:50. She then went on to better her own record by 50 seconds when she ran a stunning personal best of 66 minutes last year.

“This year again I’m going to try for the course record. After corona I have done a lot of training and I am in shape to go even faster than last year,” Gemechu said at the pre-race press conference.

Her compatriot, men’s defending champion Andamlak Belihu, who will be aiming for an unprecedented third successive victory like Gemechu, also expressed his desire to break the course record.

The 22-year-old is coming off a fifth place finish in the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships and said he is in good shape despite the coronavirus pandemic stalling training earlier this year.

“I came fifth in the World Half Marathon Championships and after that I trained for a month to five weeks and my training improved. So, I’m expecting to go for the race record like last year. I’m in similar or maybe even better shape,” Belihu said.

“Last year, I was just four seconds outside the course record (59:06 set by Ethiopia’s Guye Adola in 2014) and I think I can find the difference,” the two-time champion added.

The 16th edition of the ADHM will see one of the best fields of international elite athletes with an unprecedented 13 men, having run under the world class bench mark of one hour, and seven women clocking sub-67 minutes results.

This year’s ADHM has two women’s world record holders in Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei (marathon record) and Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh (half marathon record) and an enticing battle between the two is on the cards.

“I am coming here looking to show what I can do after finishing fifth at the World Half,” Yeshaneh said.

“I fell there (about three kilometres from the finish) and was very frustrated, finishing in tears, because I know I was in shape to win but you just have to pick yourself up and carry on. I have brought the shape I had in Poland to Delhi.”

On the other hand, Kosgei stunned the world when she broke the long-standing women’s world marathon record by more than a minute at the 2019 Chicago Marathon, clocking 2:14:04, with Yeshaneh a distant second on that occasion although she still ran a superb personal best of 2:20:51.

However, Yeshaneh prevailed with a world record 64:31 at the Ras Al Khaimah Half Marathon in February this year with Kosgei (64:49) finishing second.

More recently, Kosgei won the London Marathon on October 4 with a timing of 2:18:58.

“After London, I took 10 days off, but I have since had six weeks very good preparation for this race. I have a good record in half marathons, but I am not going to make predictions about this race as it is a very tough field,” commented Kosgei.

“Some of the ladies may be better prepared as they competed at the World Half Marathon Championships last month.”