India's 3000 metres steeplechase national record holder Avinash Sable smashed the event record for an Indian at the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon on Sunday. The athlete, who has already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics raced to the first position in the Indian elite men's category in 1:00:30, beating the previous national record of 1:03.46 held by Kalidas Nirave.
Parul Chaudhary clinched the first position with a timing of 01:12:18 in the Indian elite women's category, while Sanjivani Jadhav (01:13:00) and Komal Jagadale (01:14:04) finished second and third respectively.
Despite the glooming fear of COVID-19 that has seen a recent surge in the capital added with the high levels of pollution in the city, nothing could deter the 26-year-old from the target he had set in his mind. "When I came to New Delhi from Bengaluru, I was experiencing a slight breathing problem because of the pollution levels, however, in the next couple of days, I got acclimatised to the conditions in Delhi, and on the race day, I wasn't feeling uncomfortable. So I ran with my full dedication," said Sable in a conversation with The Bridge.
At a time when there are no track races and the athletics calendar is disrupted like most sports, the athlete from Maharashtra, only participated in the half marathon to test himself after training consistently over the last seven months in the SAI campus of Bengaluru. The Delhi Half Marathon was the first major athletics competition to be held in India since the coronavirus lockdown earlier in the year. Sable broke the previous national record of 1:03.46 held by Kalidas Nirave by a big margin.
"I had my target set, which was something below 61 minutes. I know I have attained my target, but somewhere I knew I could improve my timings further. I took this marathon as a test event before I go to the Olympics, and even without the competitive outlook, I am happy that I met my target. I look forward to doing even better in the coming days." says Sable. He adds, "This event has lifted my confidence ahead of the Olympics."
Sable qualified for Olympics in 3000m steeplechase during the World Athletics Championships last year. He was in Ooty for the last few months and then moved to Bengaluru at the SAI centre. "I will train in India in the coming days, because I don't wish to travel abroad in this condition. However, in the coming days, I will be travelling outside to take part in international events." said Sable.
What worked for Sable to improve his timings in the ADHM was the adequate time he got to train himself. he says, "Earlier, we used to take part in tournaments and competition every three-to-four months. We couldn't focus on one particular event. This time, I had enough time to practice and train rigorously. Also after so many days, there was this extra hunger to do well."