8,000 expected at Indian Open Marathon

New Delhi: As many as 8,000 participants from across the country are expected to compete in the 23rd edition of the Mawana Sugars Indian Open Marathon which will also be a qualifying event for the upcoming London Olympics. The annual marathon, which will be held on February 19, will be organised in association with Athletics Federation of India (AFI) and has been accorded the status of a national event by the governing body.

So far only Ram Singh Yadav has booked a berth for the London Games and the upcoming marathon is expected to add to that number. Yadav clocked 2:16:59 in the recently-concluded Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon to get his ticket to the Olympics. Elam Singh (2:18:27), who missed the qualifying time by few seconds at the Mumbai event, is one of the top contenders for the February 19 event. But defending champion Deepchand Sharan would be missing from action following some injury concerns, the organisers said.

In the women`s category, the field will be spearheaded by last year`s champion Shastri Devi. Apart from her, athletes like Sukanya Mall and Lalita Babar will also be in the fray. The Olympic qualifying mark in the men`s `B` category is 2:18:00 while in the `A` category the mark is 2:15:00.

For the women, the mark is set at 2:35:00 in the `A` category while in the `B` category it is 2:43:00, informed the director of AFI, M L Dogra. Dogra said since it was a national event, a dope test will be conducted on the winners. A purse of Rs 15 lakh will be on offer with the winner in both men`s and women`s category getting Rs 2.5 lakh each.

The race will start from the historic India Gate at 7:30am and will go across Rajpath, Rafi Marg, Parliament street, Raisina road and Rajendra Prasad road before culminating at the origin. A total of four rounds of the 10.5Km track will account for the full marathon, the organisers said.

The last date for the registration is February 13 and so far 6,000 people have registered themselves for the event. The entry fee for the race has been put at a nominal Rs 50 and all the participants will be provided with an electronic chip, in order to nullify any inconsistencies.