New Delhi :Olympian Deriba Merga of Ethiopia would look to exploit his familiarity of the track to defend his title when over 8,500 people, including 266 foreign athletes, brave a chilly Sunday morning to run at Airtel Delhi Half Marathon here on Sunday.
The event which has grown in terms of participation as well as popularity in the last five years, is offering $210,000 as the prize money, with the men and women winners bagging $25,000 each.
Merga, who had clocked his personal best of 59.15 minutes at the 21.097km race last year, would face stiff competition this time from last year's runner-up Wilson Kipsang of Kenya and reigning South African national champion Stephen Mokoko.
"I am looking to perform better this year. I would be running here for second time and I think, familiarity to the track would give me some advantages," said Merga, who won the Sunfeast World 10K event in Bangalore this year.
"I have trained well and am in form. The weather is also looking fine. So I am confident about doing well," he added.
Among women, holder Mergia Aselefech of Ethiopia exuded confidence of defending her title but she will face tough competition from Kenyan long-distance runner Mary Keitany, who won the World Half Marathon Championship in England earlier this month.
"I am happy to be back in India, I love the people of the country. The weather is fine here and I am hoping for a good performance like last year," Mergia said.
The event also offers rich dividends for Indians with top finishers in both the men and women category receiving $4,000 each, while there are handsome rewards for the top-10 finishers also.
There would be 8,429 Indian participants, including 7,430 in men's category.
It would be mandatory for all the participants in the 'Half Marathon' category to wear a specially designed timing chip on their legs to generate authentic results.
To ensure the well being of the participants, six medical stations along the route and one base medical station would be set up to be manned by 120 doctors.
The Sunday morning is all set to watch a star-studded beginning of the race with Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan in attendance.
Besides, the two high-profile event ambassadors - Australian cricket great Allan Border and compatriot Olympics gold medallist Cathy Freeman - will also be present on the occasion.