There is an unprecedented enthusiasm among the Indian athletes on the eve of the 2012 edition of the Airtel Delhi half-marathon.

The rise in level of confidence is distinct and there is talk about the possibility of Indian records being overhauled. The field, comprising several men with personal bests of below-70 minutes and quite a few women with personal bests of below-90 in the half-marathon, is one of the best and competition is expected to be stiff.

The elite Indian male athletes were bubbling with confidence. V.L. Dangi, who finished third last year, is sure of a tight finish. “All the top runners in the country are here and everyone is in good shape. I am sure the Indian record will be broken this year,” said the Armyman, with a personal best of 65 min.

The Indian men’s course record of 64 minutes was set by Deepchand Saharan in 2009, while the women’s record of 67:12 was created by Kavita Raut in 2008.

Defending champion Suresh Kumar Patel, who had clocked a 64.08 in his maiden half-marathon in 2011, is keen to better the mark this time.

“There will be good competition this year. My aim is to return an improved timing.”

World 10k Indian champion in Bangalore, Rahul Kumar Pal may emerge as the dark horse. Pal, who claimed the 5000m gold medal in the Open National athletics in Chennai earlier this month, sounded confident ahead of his first half-marathon experience.

Prominent names

The Indian women’s competition will have some prominent athletes like Asian Games gold medallist in 3000m steeplechase Sudha Singh, Asian Games 10,000m silver medallist and 5000m bronze winner Kavita Raut, defending champion Lalita Babbar and the up-and-coming World 10K winner Monica Athare.

The international field is also crowded with several top runners.

The presence of around 10 men with sub-60 timings and eight women with sub-70 pose a threat to the course records of 59:15 (Deriba Merga, 2008) in men and 66:54 (Mary Keitany, 2009) in women.

Title-holder Desisa Lelisa (PB: 59:39) has promised to target the world mark of 58:23, while the promising Kenyan Chebii Ezekiel Kiptoo, after setting a course record of 59:05 in the Lille half-marathon, is determined to leave his mark.

In the women’s section, two-time champion Aselefech Mergia (PB: 68:01), World 10K winner Helah Kiprop (32:22 in 10K), Boston marathon winner Caroline Kilel (PB: in marathon 2:22:36) and 12th place finisher at the London Olympics marathon Helalia Johannes (2:26:09) are likely to lead the race for the title.

The event organisers have promised $25,000 for a new world record and $10,000 for a new course record.

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