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Ethiopia’s Tsehay Gemechu retained her Airtel Delhi Half Marathon title in 1:06:00 on Sunday (20), taking 50 seconds off the course record she had set 12 months ago at the IAAF Gold Label road race.
Gemechu’s compatriot Andamlak Belihu also retained his title, clocking a PB of 59:10 to finish within four seconds of the course record.
The women’s race came down to a thrilling head-to-head duel over the final five kilometres between the 21-year-old defending champion and her compatriot Yelamzerf Yehualaw.
A large pack went through 5km in 15:43 before the male pacemakers brought the leading group of six past 10km in 31:22, indicating that the course record was very much under threat. One by one, runners became detached until only Gemechu and Yehualaw remained as they went through 15km in 47:05.
Coming into the final kilometre, Yehualaw – who won the African Games half marathon title in August – edged in front and briefly looked like she was going to cause an upset. But with the finish line approaching, Gemechu dug deep and managed to claw her way past her rival to notch up a personal best while becoming just the second woman to retain a title in Delhi.
“I was tired after Doha (where she finished fourth in the World Championships 5000m two weeks ago) but I wanted to come here and fight for the course record. I knew I was mentally strong,” said Gemechu, who becomes the sixth-fastest Ethiopian woman for the distance.
Yehualaw, even younger than the winner having turned 20 in August, took more than three minutes off her previous best for the distance when finishing just one second behind Gemechu in 1:06:01.
Zeineba Yimer, who started to lose contact with the leading pair just before 15km, held on to make it an Ethiopian 1-2-3 when she crossed the line in third place in 1:06:57, the same position as she had finished in 2018. Kenya’s 2017 world cross-country champion Irene Cheptai had a solid half marathon debut to finish fourth in 1:07:39.
The men’s contest also saw a thrilling head-to-head battle over the final few kilometres.
Six men passed 10km in 28:08. Belihu was still accompanied by another Ethiopian, Solomon Berihu, and the Kenyan pair of Kibiwott Kandie – who had made much of the pace in the middle stages of the race – and Alfred Barkachas.
The lead quartet reached 15km in 42:11 but between 17 and 18 kilometres firstly Barkach and then Kandie couldn’t stay with the relentless momentum and surges from the two Ethiopians and drifted backwards.
Berihu pushed again at 18km and Belihu looked in trouble for several minutes but recovered his poise and reeled in his rival with little more than a kilometre remaining before pulling away for victory.
“At about 18km I started to suffer some back pain; that possibly cost me the course record,” said Belhiu, who still managed to take eight seconds off his PB to move to seventh on the Ethiopian all-time list. “I have been mainly focusing on the track season in my training until recently but I always knew I was going to come here and so I had that in mind.”
Berihu, just 20, posted one of the fastest half marathon debuts ever when he came home second in 59:17 while Kandie hung on for third in 59:33.(10/20/2019) ⚡AMP
Ethiopia’s Birhanu Legese and Almaz Ayana took the honours at the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon, crossing the line in the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in 59:46 and 1:07:11 respectively to win, world and Olympic 10,000m champion Ayana was making her debut over the half marathon distance but hardly looked like a novice as she led home an Ethiopian clean sweep of...more...