Thousands turn out on Delhi roads despite pollution concerns
New Delhi: Delhiites on Sunday turned out in tens of thousands in the Half Marathon, despite calls from certain quarters to cancel the race due to severe air pollution in the city.
The 13th edition of the race went off without any hiccup, and the elite runners (both Indian and foreign athletes) were unequivocal in their views that they did not feel they were running amid a polluted air.
"I have not felt anything due to pollution. The conditions were good, and the course was very good also. The only thing I felt was about the wind speed," Berhanu Legese, who won men's international elite race in 59 minutes and 46 seconds, said after the race. Leonard Korir, who finished third in 59:52, went a step further and termed the conditions as perfect.
"It was perfect conditions. Before the race, we were briefed about the pollution and the measures taken by the organisers. I did not have any issues at all, and for me the conditions were perfect," he said.
Women's international race winner Almaz Ayana also said her only concern was the chilly weather.
"I have nothing which came up my mind. The course was very good; only the chilly weather created some problems, nothing else," she said.
The Indians were also not concerned by the thought of pollution.
"The weather was very good, and there was no pollution. I feel the rain on Saturday has reduced the pollution level," Rawat, who won the Indian men's race in new course record time of 1:03:53, told reporters.
The organisers were not immediately being able to furnish the exact number of participants on Sunday, but they had said on Saturday that record number of runners would turn out despite pollution concerns.
Around 30,000 had taken part in the race in 2015 and the numbers of those who registered for the race this year have touched 35,000, according to race organisers, Procam International.
The Delhi Half Marathon is one of the ten such races in the world which has been granted the highest Gold Label road race status by the world governing body of athletics – IAAF.
But in the past three years, there have been calls to cancel or postpone the race from the November slot due to severe air pollution in the city.
Last year too, the pollution level was high, and there were calls from some quarters to postpone the race. The matter reached the Supreme Court. But a bench of then Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice A R Dave refused to delay the race, saying that "people have a fundamental right to run and cannot stop them if they want to run".
This year again, the matter reached the Delhi High Court, seeking postponement of the half marathon as the air quality in the national capital was poor and unsafe.
A bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Sanjeev Sachdeva issued notice to the race organisers but on Sunday refused to postpone the race.