The change in course, which is 80 per cent new, is the most talked-about topic among athletes in the 2011 edition of the $210,000 Airtel Delhi half-marathon, to be held here on Sunday.

With the course becoming flatter, due to the shift of the start and finish point to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, hopes soar high among athletes about timings going very low.

The renovation work, in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games last year, has made the running surface smooth for the athletes. The early winter morning is also going to help them.

Some top long-distance runners from across the world are taking part in the main event, for which more than 8,000 participants have registered. Overall, more than 30,000 have registered for the event.

Kenyan Sammy Kitwara and Ethiopian Aselefech Mergia, the fastest man in the elite field and the women's defending champion respectively, said they were in super shape and looking forward to having a fast run.

Deepchand Saharan will lead the challenge in the Indian men's section.

The veteran runner, who had won the title in 2009 with a timing of 1:04:00, had skipped the event last year.

With his eyes fixed on earning an Olympics marathon berth, Saharan wants to test himself before taking the plunge in the Mumbai marathon in January.

The main race, starting at 7.10 a.m., will be telecast live on Star One.

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