Ethiopians Walelegn, Yehualaw win ADHM with record times; national mark for India’s Sable

Ethiopians Amedework Walelegn and Yalemzerf Yehualaw smashed event records to win the men’s and women’s titles respectively in the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon held in a bio-secure environment amid the COVID-19 pandemic, here on Sunday.

The results in this World Athletics Gold Label road race were unprecedented with both the elite race winners re-writing the event records.

Both Walelegn (58.53 seconds) and Yehualaw pocketed USD 27,000 first prize and an additional USD 10,000 as event record bonus.

In fact, Yehualaw ran the second fastest women’s half marathon ever. Her timing of 1:04:46 was just a quarter of a second outside the world record time (1:04:31) of compatriot Ababel Yeshaneh, who finished third.

For India, Tokyo Olympics-bound Avinash Sable smashed the national record with a time of 1:00:30.

The 26-year-old Sable, from Maharashtra, was 10th overall. He pocketed Rs 3.5 lakh first prize and an additional Rs 1 lakh for setting event record among Indians.

According to the Athletics Federation of India’s official records, the earlier national half marathon record stands at 1:03:46 in the name of Kalidas Hirave of Maharashtra.

This year’s race course was radically different from the last two years due to health protocols and the elite athletes ran under unprecedented circumstances due to the pandemic with the organisers providing them with a bio-secure zone.

In the men’s elite race, last year’s silver medallist Walelegn beat compatriot and defending champion Andamlak Belihu in a nail-biting finish in event record time of 58.53 seconds. Walelegn had won a bronze at the World Half Marathon Championships last month.

Belihu, who had won the title in 2018 and 2019, settled for the silver with a time of 58.54sec in the 21.09km distance. Uganda’s Stephen Kissa was third in 58.56.

The 21-year-old Walelegn bettered the earlier ADHM record of 59:06, which was in the name of compatriot Guye Adola, set in 2014.

“I had a few bad patches but in the final kilometre I felt strong. I was second in 2018 and this is a much faster course which has less sharp turns,” said Walelegn about the new circuit.

Avinash Sable, who qualified for Tokyo Olympics in 3000m steeplechase, emerged winner among Indian elite runners, clocking 1:00.30. This was the first time an Indian ran below 61 minutes in the ADHM.

“I wanted to break the national record and stay as close as possible to the international runners during the race. I am happy I was able to do that,” said Sable.

“I have not competed in any tournament for a year and I have been only doing practice, so I wanted to compete in an event. ADHM has certainly helped me to prepare for Olympics.”

Srinu Bugatha, who won the race last year, was second with a time of 1:04:16 while Durga Bahadur Budha was third, clocking 1:04:19.

In the star-studded women’s elite race, Yehualaw surged ahead after the halfway mark to win in record time, bettering the earlier mark of 1:06:00 in the name of compatriot and defending champion Tsehay Gemechu, who could not finish on podium this time.

Kenya’s Ruth Chepngetich was second in 1:05:06 while another Ethiopian and world half marathon record-holder Ababel Yeshaneh was third in 1:05:21.

Yehualaw had finished second in last year’s ADHM and third in the World Half Marathon last month.

“This was more than I expected, and I hoped for a win here after just losing by a second a year ago. My plan was to push hard with two kilometres to go and that helped my fast time, and it was also very nice weather,” said Yehualaw.

Among Indians, Parul Chaudhary, who had finished second last year, took the gold in 1:12:18 while Sanjivani Jadhav (1:13:00) and Komal Jagadale (1:14:04) were second and third respectively.

The ADHM is one of the first global sporting events to be hosted in India during the pandemic and had Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju and Olympic gold-winner shooter Abhinav Bindra in attendance.

Around 13,500 people from around the world took part in the ADHM 2020, across three categories — half marathon (21.097 km), Open 10K (10 km) and Great Delhi Run (5 km) — from their own respective locations.

While the elite runners ran from Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, thousands from across the globe joined them via the exclusive ADHM Mobile App.