New Delhi: Powerhouses Kenya and Ethiopia are all set to renew their long-standing rivalry when the Capital city hosts the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon here on Sunday with expectations rising among the Indians.
Last year Ethiopian Guye Adola overcame a strong Kenyan field led by Geoffrey Kipsang Kamworor, while Kenyan Florence Kiplagat defended her crown.
Adola has struggled this season and his title will be under serious threat from compatriot Mosinet Geremew, Eritrea's Zersenay Tadese, who is the world record holder and Kenya's Kenneth Kipkemoi and Geoffrey Kirui.
Florence, who recently won the Chicago Marathon, will also defend her title but it will not be easy for the world record holder.
"I am motivated to complete the half marathon in under 65 minutes and am working hard to achieve my career best feat,” said Kiplagat.
She will face strong challenges from her compatriot and 2015 World Championships marathon silver medallist Helah Kiprop.
Ethiopian Meseret Mailu is also having a fabulous year with a win in the Hamburg Marathon and a bronze medal at the Berlin Marathon.
Apart from the trio, there is experienced Ethiopian Wude Ayalew, who is also a previous winner in Delhi.
Meanwhile, the Indian women are confident after training in the high altitudes of Ooty. O.P. Jaisha, Lalita Babar and Sudha Singh are optimistic of giving the Africans a challenge. One big name missing is Kavita Raut.
"We are not competing here for money, we are doing it for the country. It is not important who among us will win (the Indian race), but we want to give a good competition to the Kenyans,” said Jaisha.
Sudha said they will use the Delhi race as a build-up for the Mumbai marathon early next year.
“The way we are training, we should do well. I had done 2:35.35 in the Mumbai marathon last year and my target is to go below 2:30 this time. And for tomorrow, i will be eying 1.15 hour mark."
Their coach Nikolai Snesarev is hopeful of a new national record from his wards.
Nitender Singh Rawat, Gopi T. and Mohd Yunus are also training in Ooty at the national camp and will be India's main competitors for Sunday.
They are yet to qualify for the 2016 Olympics and feel the event would help them assess themselves in the run-up to the Mumbai marathon, where they will have the opportunity to earn spots for Rio 2016.
As many as 34,000 runners across various categories are expected to throng the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the starting and finishing venue of the race.