Two-time defending champion Deriba Merga of Ethiopia leads a field of elite runners in the $10,000 Airtel Delhi half-marathon to be held here on November 21.

Merga, with a personal best of 59.15 set in the 2008 edition, is the fastest runner in the talented field which has more than 10 sub-60 runners.

Merga will be challenged by his Ethiopian compatriot Eshetu Wendimu, who has a personal best of 59.56, and training mate Lelisa Desisa.

The formidable Kenyan field will be led by Geoffrey Mutai, who has a personal best of 59.30 set during his title winning performance in RAK Half-Marathon this year. Incidentally, Merga was defeated by Mutai at that same race.

Mutai will be backed by his teammate and training partner Erick Ndiema, who has also run below the hour mark this season. Other top Kenyan runners in the field are Sammy Kosgei, Silas Kipruto, Kiplimo Kimutai and Leonard Lagat.

Kosgei set the World record in the Big 25km run in Berlin in May this year with a timing of 1:11.50, while Kipruto, Kimutai and Lagat have personal bests of 59.39, 59.36 and 59.56 respectively. Moroccan Khalid El Boumlili and Moldovan Laroslav Muschinski are the other strong contenders.

The winner in 2008, Aselefech Mergia will make a return. Aselefech, who recorded her personal best of 67.22 at the RAK half-marathon this year, will have her Ethiopian compatriots Mare Dibaba, who ran 67.13 at that same race, and 2009 half-marathon World silver medallist Aberu Kebede.

Sharon Cherop, the winner of the 2010 Toronto Marathon, will spearhead the Kenyan challenge.

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