Doctors warn against Delhi's half marathon amid rising coronavirus cases, air pollution
Top doctors have warned runners against what they say is a "suicidal" half marathon in Delhi amid the rising coronavirus cases and soaring air pollution in the national capital.
Women's marathon world record-holder Brigid Kosgei from Kenya and Ethiopia's two-time men's winner Andamlak Belihu are among the 49 elite athletes running the 21 km race.
Thousands of amateur runners will also be taking part in Delhi's half marathon.
Organisers say the "highest level of safety-standards, with bio-secure zones" have been laid on for the race starting at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
However, with New Delhi recording more than 500,000 coronavirus cases, and air quality in the world's most polluted capital hovering between 'unhealthy' and 'hazardous', doctors said the athletes should think twice as it would be "suicidal"
"It will be suicidal for runners to run the race this time. We have such high levels of pollution, we have the risk of coronavirus," Arvind Kumar, founder trustee of the Lung Care Foundation, told AFP.
"With the presence of this twin threat if people are still running despite knowing everything, well, I have no words to express my anguish."
"Whether you are an international elite runner or you are a small boy from a village, the damaging potential of a damaging agent remains the same," said the doctor.
All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Director Randeep Guleria also told the agency that the race should not be run because of the air pollution.
"Because of high levels of air pollution, exercising outside in this weather sometimes can lead to aggravation of underlying lung problems," he said, adding, "Even if you are an elite runner the air pollution would still affect your lung."
Delhi has been hit by a winter pollution crisis each year for the past decade when crop-stubble burning from nearby states, cold temperatures and car and industrial pollution produce a toxic mix.
This year, the Indian capital is also a major concern in the battle against the coronavirus. India is the world's second worst-hit country behind the United States, with about 9.3 million cases.
Kosgei, who is visiting India for the first time, acknowledged her concerns about travelling for the race. "We have definitely been affected by Covid-19. I had to convince my parents and family back home to allow me to visit Delhi for the half-marathon," she said.
As in other countries, nearly all sport in India has been cancelled.