In 2009, Army runner Deepchand clocked 64:00 on his way to victory in the Delhi half marathon. Two years later, Suresh Patel emerged as the winner, but narrowly missed out on creating a new event record for Indian men, managing 64:07.
This year, winning is not the only concern for India's top male distance runners - breaking the 64-minute barrier is. With Suresh being just one of many runners exuding confidence of creating a new mark, a keen contest is expected on the streets of New Delhi on Sunday. Among those eyeing the event record is Vishnu Dangi, who along with hordes of other Army runners from Pune arrived here on Friday, and took stock of the situation.
Dangi ruled out the possibility of the Delhi weather standing between his dreams and the record. "We have been training in similar conditions," was all he had to say about the warm and humid weather prevalent in the Capital at this time of the year.
Apart from the seasoned distance runners, India's rising star Rahul Pal Kumar is also in the fray. The Delhi half marathon will be his second 21-km race in the last 12 months.
Despite lacking experience over the longer distance, he is in no mood to give up. "I have good basic speed. If I am able to stay with the leading pack till the 20-km mark, I shall outshine them all in the home run," reasoned Rahul. In the women's event, the main contest is expected to be between international runner Kavita Raut and upcoming distance runner Monika Athare. Sudha Singh and Priyanka Singh Patel are the other key runners in the Indian category.