Kochi: Fresh from their victories in the Delhi Half Marathon Dec 15, Kerala's Preeja Sreedharan and Tamil Nadu's G. Lakshmanan will lead the Indian elite athlete field in the first Cochin International Half Marathon here Dec 29.
Preeja, who bested a field comprising Sudha Singh, Kavita Raut and Lalita Babbar, to win in 80.04 minutes, will be looking to replicate the feat while running in front of her home crowd. The half mrathon will be flagged off from the Maharaja's College Ground.
Olympian Preeja, also the 2010 Asian Games gold medallist, will have a fight on her hands as she will have to battle it out once again with Sudha, Kavita and Lalita.
Sudha, who swept all the major road running titles in 2012, will be looking to make amends and so will Kavita, recent winner of the Vasai-Virar Mayor's Marathon and second place winner at Delhi. She has a personal best of 75 minutes.
The women's field will also be strengthened by the presence of national cross-country champion Monika Athare and Vijaymala Patil.
The men's field will have the top three winners of the Delhi Half Marathon -- Lakshmanan, Kheta Ram and Ratti Ram Saini. Here Lakshmanan will also have to contend with another fast finisher, B.C. Tilak, who has a personal best of 64.45 and is in good shape having skipped the Delhi event in order to prepare for Kochi.
The field will also have experienced campaigners Shoji Mathew, Indrajeet Patel and Irappa D. Akki, all capable of springing a surprise.
There are a total of 56 elite Indian male athletes and 20 elite Indian women who vie for the overall prize money as well as the separate Indian prize fund for the first 10 places. The winners stand to gain Rs.2 lakh each.