Amid warnings from the Indian Medical Association (IMA) over the toxic smog levels in the national capital, the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon took place on Sunday with over 35,000 participants from across the world. The IMA had issued a warning to the Delhi High Court to call off the marathon following the escalating pollution levels since November 6 and was termed as a health emergency. The doctors had urged that running in such severe conditions could trigger asthma attacks, aggravate lung conditions and increase the risk of cardiac arrests and strokes. Telecom giants, Airtel also threatened to pull out their sponsorship of the event if the Delhi government failed to act to improve the city’s air quality.

However, with Delhi experiencing light showers on Friday, the air quality improved slightly but remained “very poor” according to IMA standards. Despite all the health concerns, 35,000 runners thronged to participate in the marathon on Sunday, 19th November. The organizers saw to it that the track was sprayed with salt mixed with effluent treated water. Measures were taken to tackle any medical emergencies with six medical stations, 75 doctors, 5050 physiotherapists, over 100 nurses, and 12 water stations set up along the track. Nebulisers were also provided and ambulances equipped with oxygen tanks were also on standby along the route during the marathon.

The marathon saw tens of thousands of runners, mostly Delhiites, who braved the chilly weather and smog. The ADHM 2017 was flagged off by Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore in the presence of Ravindra Singh Negi, CEO Airtel (Delhi and NCR circle) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. It was studded with elite athletes, including champion marathoner Geoffrey Kirui and 10,000m Olympic gold medallist Almaz Ayana. However, the Ethiopian athletes ruled the rooster in this event.

Ethiopia’s Berhanu Legese won the elite international men’s category by clocking 59:46 minutes followed by fellow Ethiopian Andamlak Belihu and American Leonard Korir, who completed their races in 59:51 and 59:52 minutes respectively. Ethiopia’s Almaz Ayana clinched the elite international women’s category with a fantastic debut timing of 1:07:11 followed by Ababel Yeshaneh (1:07:19) and Netsanet Gudeta (1:07:24).

The elite Indian men’s category saw a close call between Olympian Nitendra Singh Rawat who finished the race in a new course record time of 1:03:53 and G. Lakshmanan who also clocked the same 1:03:53 but was declared second when the timing was broken down to decimal seconds. 21-year-old Maharashtra runner Avinash Sable came in third with a timing of 1:03:58 and winning a bronze in his debut half marathon.

L. Suriya won gold with a timing of 1:10:31 in the elite Indian women’s category, followed by Sudha Singh (1:11:30) and Parul Choudhary (1:10:31) who grabbed the other two podium spots. Out of the 35,000 participants, 13,216 (elite and amateur together) ran in the half marathon distance, while the remaining participated in the four categories of Great Delhi Run, Timed 10K Run, Senior Citizens Run and Champions with Disability Run.

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