Top runners brave pollution at Delhi Half Marathon - in pictures

Air quality was in 'poor' category during the 21km race on Sunday

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Top runners braved poor air quality and a rise in coronavirus cases on Sunday in India's capital for the Delhi Half Marathon.

In all, 47 professional runners hit the 21km course in the men's and women's event, while amateur participants raced between Wednesday and Sunday to prevent overcrowding in what was one of the country's first major sporting events since the pandemic started.

The route was sprayed with chemicals to minimise the effect of Delhi's annual toxic smog, which blankets the city in winter due to traffic and industrial pollution, crop stubble burning and cold temperatures.

The air quality index, which monitors dangerous particles that get into the bloodstream and vital organs, was at 244 and in the "poor" category, the Central Pollution Control Board said on Sunday.

Doctors last week said it would be "suicidal" for runners to take part in the competition given the twin risks.

Ethiopia's Amdework Walelegn won the men's race with a course record of 58.53 minutes with last year's champion Andamlak Belihu just a second behind.

The previous best was 59.06 set by Ethiopia's Guye Adola in 2014.

"The course was very good," Walelegn was quoted as saying by AFP. "In earlier years there were a lot of U-turns, but this time it was flat and good to race on."

In the women's race, Yalemzerf Yehualaw of Ethiopia won in 1.04.46, also a record, with Kenya's Ruth Chepngetich second.

Avinash Sable, who has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in 3000m steeplechase, was the top Indian finisher with a record national time of 1:00.30.