Early this year, Ethiopia's Atsedu Tsegay had plans to build a house in the suburb of Addis Ababa, where he trains. But lack of funds forced him to put the plan on hold.
After winning the Delhi half marathon (21 km) on Sunday with a new course record, Tsegay was upbeat. "It's a good payday. It will help me make a new house," the Ethiopian said, after collecting the winner's purse of $25,000 (approx `15.55 lakh).
In a strong field of 20 elite runners, Tsegay underscored his hunger for success, winning his first major title of the season. "In my region, running has become a big industry. Everyone wants to make money as long as they can run and save for the future," he told HT.
A cool mid-December morning provided the perfect setting for the runners. With the leading bunch including Tsegay breezing past the 10km mark in less than 29 minutes, the course record of 59 minutes, 15 seconds looked within reach. And the Ethiopian made the first move, breaking away from his rivals at the 18km mark to cross the finish line at 59:12.
Kenya's Geoffrey Kipsang, the pre-race favourite, finished a close second at 59:30. Kipsang later revealed he lost his teenaged brother back home in Eldoret on Thursday. "Due to the tragedy I wasn't in the proper frame of mind. Yet, I ran in the memory of my younger brother."
Tsegay hopes the victory on the streets of Delhi will enhance his profile, not having raced for long due to an ankle injury. "There are several people running back home and only the good runners get invitations to compete," he said. "I'll take a short break and then prepare for a race in the spring." Although Kenyans dominated, defending champion Edwin Kipyego faded to eighth.
In the elite women's category, it was a clean sweep for Kenyans. Florence Kiplagat won with Gladys Cherono and Lucy Kabuu finishing second and third respectively. Ethiopia's Meseret Hailu, the pre-race favourite, was fourth. Kiplagat said she could have improved her time of 1:08.00 but for jet-lag that prevented her from injecting pace. Kiplagat, who only landed on Saturday, said: "I was feeling lazy, never felt like moving fast."
Army's G Laxman was jubilant after his victory in the Indian category, who improved his personal best by two minutes clocking 1:04.44. The runner from Tamil Nadu took up distance running only recently but showed he has made rapid strides by overcoming the challenge of more experienced runners like Kheta Ram and Ratti Ram Saini, who finished second and third respectively. Preeja Sreedharan won in the Indian women's category.