Three tests, bio-secure zone for elite athletes as Capital gears up for Half Marathon

Unprecedented safety protocols will be in place for the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM) on November 29, the organisers said. This is the first international sporting event in New Delhi after the hard lockdown in March to combat Covid-19 and it will take place at a time when the city is seeing a surge in cases. It is also the first major marathon organised in India in a year that has seen a huge pile up of cancelled races due to the lockdown and the need to maintain physical distancing.

Only elite runners will run the original course starting from the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. Amateur runners can choose their own locations and their timing and distance will be tracked through ADHM app. Defending champions from Ethiopia, Andamlak Belihu (men) and Tsehay Gemechu (women), will be among 35 international runners.

The international athletes will have to take a RT-PCR test within 72 hours of their departure and will be tested again on arrival. There will be another test on Friday, Nov. 27. Indian and international elite runners will remain in a biosecure zone. A medical camp with a two-bed ICU set up will be deployed. Only authorised people will be allowed to enter the bio-secure zones inside JLN Stadium. The route will be a 21Km loop through the city. Elite men race starts at 07:10 am and elite women at 08:40 am.

“These are unprecedented times and unprecedented protocols in terms of safety and security will be in place. We will have a strong, competitive and world class field,” said Anil Singh, managing director of Procam International, the organiser of the event, at the launch of the event here on Saturday.

Belihu and Gemechu, who set a course record (1:06:00) last year, will be looking for their third consecutive titles. The women’s field will be highly competitive with Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh, who set a world record in half-marathon (1:04:31) in February, and Kenyan Brigid Kosgei, the marathon world record holder and London Marathon winner, being in the fray. In the men’s competition, 2020 World Athletics Half Marathon Championships bronze medallist Amdework Walelegn and 2014 ADHM champion Guye Adola, the course record holder of ADHM (59:06 seconds), will compete.

Avinash Sable will be the biggest draw among Indians. Sable has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in steeplechase. Defending Indian men’s champion Srinu Bugatha, Abhishek Paul and Pradeep Singh too will run. The women’s field will have 2018 winner Parul Chaudhary, who set an Indian course record at Tata Mumbai Marathon (1:15:37s) earlier this year, Monika Athare and Chinta Yadav among others.

Adille Sumariwalla, the Athletics Federation of India president, called it a good start for the sport in India. “We have lost out a whole season because of the pandemic restrictions. It is important for elite athletes to participate in competitions. I am glad that this will be a starting point,” he said.

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