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Defending champions of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon are back to fight to retain their titles. Ethiopians Andamlak Belihu and Tsehay Gemechu are scheduled to race the 16th edition of this World Athletics Gold Label race on Sunday 29 November.

The athletes are seeking their third consecutive titles.

In a press release, Belihu said, “I have been training well in Addis Ababa for the last couple of months and I am very thankful to have the opportunity to race in Delhi, a city I always enjoy returning to and racing in.”

Defending champion Andamlak Belihu retains his men’s title at the 15th Delhi Half Marathon, at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi, Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. Photo Piyal Bhattacharjee

Men’s defending champion Andamlak Belihu

Belihu has run as fast as 59:10, which he ran last year in Delhi. It is the 69th all-time fastest half-marathon performance. He also owns an impressive 10,000m best of 26:53.15 from the Hengelo meet from July 2019. He will be just 22-years-old on race day. It stands as the 82nd fastest performance of all-time.

“This has been a difficult year, for everyone around the world, not just professional athletes, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and I have been training alone much more than that I am normally used to but my fifth place at the World Athletics Half Marathon Championships in Poland last month has assured me that I am in good shape and I am confident I can put up a good defense of my title,” he added.

Fellow Ethiopian Guye Adola owns the course record with a 59:06 performance which he ran during the 2014 edition.

Belihu is seeking the course record.

The women’s defending champ Tsehay Gemechu

Last year, Gemechu improved her own course record from 2018 by running a stunning new personal best of 66:00.

Gemechu is also seeking to improve on the record, however, training and racing this year has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID-19 is a disaster which has affected everyone’s life all over the globe and, definitely, it has affected my training, not least in the early stages of the pandemic when we were all fearful of infection. Later, my coach and I decided to take care of ourselves, taking into account all the advice from the World Health Organisation, and I started my own individual training program with my main goal of coming back to Delhi, although since September I have had some races on the track,” reflected Gemechu, who will turn 22 in December.

“Like all the athletes who will be coming to Delhi, I’d like to express my thanks to the race promoters Procam International who have committed their time and effort and invested their money in making sure this race goes ahead while we all respect the appropriate health measures,” she added.

Ethiopia’s Tsehay Gemechu celebrates after crossing the finish line during the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon in New Delhi on Sunday. Photo Piyal Bhattacharjee

Her 10,000m best is nearly as impressive as Belihu’s having run as fast as 30:53.11, which was also done at Hengelo last year.

Approximately 60 elite international and Indian runners will toe the line. The start and finish are in the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium as always.

Non-elite runners of all abilities will have the chance to participate virtually from any location, running at any time between 25-29 November via the ADHM App. Details of how to download and use this app can found on the ADHM 2020 website: www.airteldelhihalfmarathon.procam.in