With runners set to hit the road, the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon will be flagged off in the early hours of Sunday morning. The enthusiasm to run has been rising steadily every year and it is no surprise that close to 30,000 participants registered themselves for this edition of the race, to be telecast live on CNBC TV18.
The open category of the main event will be the half-marathon (21.097 km). The other three categories are the Great Delhi Run (7km), senior citizens' run (4.3 km) and wheelchair event (3.5 km).
With more than 100 elite athletes in the fray, the half marathon will be the pick of the lot as competitors slug it out for the podium. Deriba Merga, the winner last year, said that he would be looking to beat his personal best timing of 59.15 minutes clocked in last year's race.
"If the weather stays good, I will do a good race this year again," a beaming Merga said. Stephen Mokoko, the reigning South African national champion, will also be looking to better his personal best timing of 61.26 minutes. On his first visit to India, the athlete observed, “The course looked very flat and gives a good chance to better one's timing.”
The women's field will also have a strong international presence. Defending champion Aselefech Mergia of Ethiopia will be challenged by the 2007 winner Deriba Alemu. Kenyan runners led by Mary Keitany, the world half-marathon champion, will be a big challenge.
“I am happy to be back and looking forward to a good competition," said Aselefech.
The Indian athletes include Anuja Biijagare, Vaishali Chatre, Deepchand, Ramsingh Yadav and Irappa D Akki. They will be aiming to lower Sandeep Kumar's mark of 64.48 minutes set last year.
A big group of volunteers will ensure that all has been taken care of. Six medical stations will be set up along the route with one base medical station, comprising 120 doctors. 13 water stations will distribute about 80,000 litres of water.
So, early morning risers will be up tomorrow with their trainers on. It's get, set and go.