South West Delhi:
Jitender Yadav, a 23-year-old physical education student from Nangloi in Delhi, will bid fair to complete a hat-trick of victories while 25-year-old Ladakhi Tsetan Dolkar could well be the woman runner to beat in the fifth Apollo Tyres Millennium City Marathon at the Sikanderpur and Golf Course Road underpasses on Sunday.
Nearly 2,500 runners -- a 26 per cent increase from last year -- will take part in the marathon, half-marathon and 10km Speed Challenge, while several thousand will take part in the Joy of Running (5km) event. The races will be flagged off from Cyber Hub, taking the marathon and half marathon runners to Sector 54 before winding back to the Sector 42-43 Metro Station for the u-turn.
"We are delighted that the route has been certified by the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races (AIMS) and the event is one of the handful recognised by the Athletics Federation of India," said Race Director Abhishek Mishra, who is also the founder of Tabono Sports & Events Pvt Ltd which organises the annual running event in Gurugram. "We are growing and will keep evolving with time."
Jitender finished third in 2:44:04 on MCM debut in 2016, the self-taught runner won the next two editions run with several slopes to negotiate in 2:45:27 by a good eight minutes from his nearest rival and in 2:50:57 by a reduced margin of just over two minutes.
"Since running on the inclines increases the load on the body, I am careful there," he said.
The 23-year-old, who uses the prize money won in events to finance his scholastic pursuit, said he has been inspired by India's top marathoner T Gopi and women's national record holder OP Jaisha.
"I want to win competitive races. There is so much more satisfaction in winning close battles," he says, acknowledging the support he receives from his benefactor, Kanika.
Meanwhile, Tsetan returns to MCM after having finished second in the 2016 edition a mere four seconds behind her friend Jigmet Dolma who holds the event record at 3:22:18.
Ludhiana-based Amandeep Kaur will be another runner who is seeking a hat-trick of MCM titles. She won the women's 10km Speed Challenge in 2017 in 40 minutes 10 seconds and followed it up last year with a victory in 43:43.
Anju Chaudhari, who drew from winning her category in the 10km Speed Challenge in 2017 to secure a podium finish in the half marathon last year, will be back, too.
One of India's fastest amateur runners Shailja Singh Sridhar, who clocked a personal best of 3:20:00 in the New York Marathon recently, will be among the runners, as will the event's brand ambassador Milind Soman who intends to run the half marathon after flagging off the race.