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Delhi half marathon: Only elite athletes will run on original course this year, says Procam’s Vivek Singh

The annual Delhi half marathon wouldn’t be the same this year. That’s not surprising though, considering the damage the Covid-19 pandemic has caused to sports all around the world. However, the organisers are trying their best to keep the show running even if in a restricted manner despite a steep rise in the Covid cases in Delhi over the last couple of weeks.

On account of the risks posed by Covid-19, Procam International, the organisers of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon (ADHM), have made a slew of adjustments in the usual arrangements. The biggest attraction of most of the marathons is the participation of amateur runners, who get the opportunity to run on the same course where elite international athletes run. But this year that arrangement has been withdrawn. Instead, the organisers are encouraging amateur runners to log in on the ADHM app to register themselves, select a course of their own choosing between November 25 and 29 and post their race timings on the app.

“It’s not the same thing as running on the original course with the elite athletes,” admitted Vivek Singh, Procam International joint managing director.

“What we have tried to do is to make the app very creative. World’s best commentators Tim Hutchings and Rob Walker have recorded their voices to encourage people. We are coming up with new innovations which will be announced in due course. We are doing as much as we can so that if someone wants to run, whether they are in Gurgaon or whichever part of India, they have a sense of feeling of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon.”

Keeping amateur runners away from the course will help the organisers maintain the bio-secure zone they have created for the elite athletes. Some of the world’s top long-distance runners will participate in the half marathon in the national capital on November 29.

Ethiopian pair Tsehay Gemechu and Andamlak Belihu, the defending champions, will both be aiming for a third successive victory in Delhi’s half marathon. Ethiopia’s Yalemzerf Yehualaw, who won a bronze last month at the women’s World Athletics half marathon championships in Poland, is among those who will run the ADHM 2020.

“We’re only going to have the elite athletes running on the original course of Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. We are not having any amateur registrations at this venue. It’s only the professionals who will run and they will be running in a bio-secure zone,” Vivek told ET Sport.

All the athletes will be tested twice before being allowed to run in race.

“No athlete will be allowed to board a flight without having taken an RT-PCR test within 72 hours of departure from his port of embarkation. When they come here, they will be tested again. Only those testing negative will be allowed to run on Sunday, whether they are Indian athletes or international,” Vivek said.

An entire floor of a posh city hotel, which according to the organisers is fully equipped to ensure that all the Covid-related protocols are followed, has been reserved for the elite athletes. Global Sports Communication, a Netherlands-based sports management agency, is handling the operations related to elite international athletes.

The number of elite international athletes who are going to participate this year has also come down in comparison to previous years. In normal years, around 40 elite international athletes used to participate in the ADHM but this year the number, according to Vivek, will be around 30.

Similar arrangements have also been made for the elite Indian athletes, who will be gathering in the city from across the country. “All the top athletes will be under the same bio-secure zone. That’s something the AFI (Athletics Federation of India) is helping us with,” Vivek said.

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