New Delhi: The city might be reeling under severe air pollution but Delhi Half Marathon organisers claim it has not affected registration for the event, where 35,000 people have signed up for participation — a 1000 more than last year.
The 13th edition of the race, one of the top half marathons in the world, has been mired in controversy after the Indian Medical Association called for its cancellation owing to the smog in the natonal capital.
Around 30,000 had taken part in the race in 2015 and the numbers have touched 35,000 this year, according to race organisers, Procam International.
"It's great to see that how event registrations close much before the stipulated date and we are glad that ADHM has played a transformational role in bringing communities together," Vivek Singh, Joint Managing Director, Procam International, said.
Out of these 35,000 participants, 13,216 (elite and amateur together) will run in the half marathon (21.097km) distance, while the remaining will take part in five categories of Great Delhi Run, Timed 10K Run, Senior Citizens Run and Champions with Disability Run.
Among the elite runners are 24 top contestants from abroad who will vie for the top prize of USD 27,000 each in both men's and women's category, including the likes of reigning world marathon champion Geoffrey Kirui of Kenya and world and Olympic 10,000m gold madallist Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia.
In 2016, 12,844 ran in half marathon distance while there 13,200 took part in the category in 2015. The Delhi Half Marathon is one of the 10 in the world to be granted the highest Gold Label road race 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.
In 2015 when it was held on November 29, concerns were raised regarding the health of the participants. But 30,000 turned out on on a misty, chilly morning despite government-run air monitors showing "very poor" readings.
PM2.5 -- the very fine particles that get lodged deep in the lungs and cause the most damage -- crossed 300 at some places in New Delhi then, but very few runners wore pollution masks during the race.
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 postpone 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 yesterday refused to postpone the race.
The organisers were able to convince the HC bench that measures have been put in place to ensure that the participants were provided a "conducive environment" to run.
On November 19, the entire course would be washed with treated water mixed with salt followed by intermittent spraying of water on the route from 2am to 10am, Procam International told the court.
It also said that potential dust hot spots would be twice doused with water prior to start of the marathon. Apart from that, around 150 mist fans would be deployed at varying heights at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, the holding area for the participants, and from 2am to 11am the roads designated for the event would be blocked.
Elaborate medical facilities, comprising six medical stations, seven ambulances, 75 doctors, 50 physiotherapists and over 100 nurses, and 12 water stations will be put in place for the benefit of the participants.