The Kenyan politician is the favorite to win north of the border.
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OTTAWA — “It’s the best field we’ve ever assembled in Ottawa,” Manny Rodrigues declares proudly after surveying his handiwork.
The elite athlete coordinator for the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon has found his IAAF Silver Label race increasingly appealing to athletes and managers around the world, with the improvement in the quality of fields, and finishing times, naturally following.
A year ago, the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon produced course records in both the men’s and women’s races as the Ethiopian pair of Tariku Jufar (2:08:05) and Yeshi Esayias (2:25:31) won their respective races. Consequently, this year, Rodrigues’s pacemakers will be aiming to lead the men’s field to a 2:06 or 2:07 finishing time and a new record on Canadian soil.
The fastest time ever run in Canada is 2:07:05 by Ethiopia’s Derissa Chimsa, achieved a year ago in Toronto. As added incentive to eclipse that mark, the organization has put up a bonus of $10,000 as well as a 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe sports utility vehicle to whoever can beat the standard in Ottawa. This is in addition to the $20,000 prize for winning.
Because of his impressive marathon record Kenya’s Wesley Korir is the man to watch. The tactically smart graduate of the University of Louisville is most famous for his come-from-behind victory at the 2012 Boston Marathon. But he is also a two-time winner of the Los Angeles Marathon (2009, 2010), finished second in Chicago in 2011, and owns a personal best of 2:06:13, recorded at the 2012 Chicago Marathon.
Korir’s intelligence is not limited to road racing. Last year, he was elected to the Kenyan parliament representing the district of Cherangany, which has also meant balancing a heavy parliamentary workload. Still, Korir has a reputation for producing on the day and will certainly be the man to watch.
“My training has been going well, not the best, but good,” he admits. “I think coming to Canada for the two months before the race will allow me to push it to the next level. My work in parliament has been very busy.”
“I have been doing about 70 to 80 miles a week and am now starting to push it up there. I train by myself but I have a bodyguard, a policeman, who runs with me sometimes. He is a 2:06 guy.”
Korir, 31, is naturally cautious about predicting the outcome of the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon but believes he will be fully prepared.
“Ottawa is going to be an incredible competitive field,” he declares. “I think Ottawa has done a great job in recruiting the best athletes. It will give me an opportunity to compete and try to win the race. My first goal is to win the race.”
Although Korir may be the most decorated and accomplished marathoner in the field, he is not the fastest. That distinction belongs to Yemane Tsegay, who won the 2012 Rotterdam Marathon in a brilliant 2:04:38.
More recently, Tsegay won the 2014 Daegu International Marathon on April 6 (2:06:50). The Ethiopian has also won the 2013 Eindhoven Marathon and has twice represented his country at the IAAF World Championships finishing, fourth in Berlin (2009) and eighth a year ago in Moscow. The question now will be whether he has sufficient time to recover from his effort in Daegu to tackle such a seasoned champion as Korir.
Given the demanding schedules of the leading candidates, it could be another Ethiopian who pulls off an upset in Ottawa. Bazu Worku sports a best time of 2:05:25 from the 2010 Berlin Marathon, and more recently won Houston in 2:07:32. Another prospective champion is Mulugeta Wami. He has a best time of 2:07:11 from the 2012 Amsterdam Marathon. Wami is also the brother of Gete Wami, a two-time winner of the Berlin Marathon.
Should any of the top names falter, we might see two-time Canadian Olympian Eric Gillis get onto the podium. Gillis, whose best time of 2:11:29 qualified him for the 2012 London Olympics, was scheduled to run Ottawa a year ago. However, a nagging injury prevented him from having the proper buildup to the race and he withdrew ahead of the big day. The 34-year-old won his third consecutive Canadian Half Marathon title on April 27, indicating his preparation is on target.
The Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon also doubles as the Canadian Marathon Championships, with reigning champion Rob Watson back to defend his title from Gillis. With a personal best of 2:13:29, Watson is still looking for a breakthrough race. A year ago, he finished 11th in Boston after running with the lead pack in the early stages. Perhaps Ottawa will provide that opportunity.
Ethiopian Ehitu Kiros is the class of the women’s field, with a personal best of 2:23:39 from the 2013 Dubai Marathon. That performance was a 10-minute improvement over the 26-year-old’s 2012 best time, indicating that she has a very bright future ahead of her.
Last fall, Kiros was also sixth in the Chicago Marathon. Having gone out aggressively she passed through the halfway mark in 1:11:16 before fading over the last 10K to finish in 2:27:42. Her compatriot Etalemahu Kidane will also be in the hunt for the $20,000 first place prize if she can find the form that took her to a personal best of 2:25:49 at the 2012 Hamburg Marathon.
A strong Kenyan contingent will be led by 34-year-old Agnes Kiprop, whose best time of 2:23:54 was achieved at the 2011 Frankfurt Marathon.
The top Canadian will receive a $5,000 bonus as well as the distinction of being crowned Canadian champion. The women’s race is wide open with Rhiannon Johns of Sault Ste-Marie, who boasts a personal best of 2:40:24, lining up in Ottawa for the first time.