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Lynne Bermel Lynne Bermel's Column

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May 8, 2001

NCM Weekend Draws Best Elite Field Ever

That annual harbinger of summer - the NCM weekend - is almost here. Increased prize money, a stepped-up marketing campaign and a dedicated elite athlete coordinator have resulted in attracting the most competitive men's and women's fields in the race's 26-year history.

NCM - tiptoe through the tulips!
National Capital Race Weekend - Tiptoe Through the Tulips!
[Photo couresty of the National Capital race Weekend]

"The MDS Nordion 10 km has the deepest field of top runners we've ever had," says Manny Rodrigues, the Elite Athlete Coordinator. "In the men's race, we have at least 17 runners with a chance at winning, including a slew of Kenyans. They come with impressive resumes: Nine runners entered have run under 29 minutes." Kenyan Gabriel Muchiri's 27:47 is the fastest in the field.

Canadians Sean Kaley (an Ottawa native living in Arkansas), Sherbrooke's Joel Bourgeois and Steve Boyd of Kingston have run in the 29-minute range. You will remember a disappointed Steve Boyd at the finish line last year of the men's marathon, missing an Olympic qualifying spot by minutes. In the master's division, former Olympic steeplechaser Graeme Fell is the one to watch for.

Manny feels the doubling of prize money for this year's race has been the main draw in bringing top runners to Ottawa. The prize purse runs 10 deep with the marathon winner receiving $5000, along with the possibility of receiving additional time bonuses up to several thousand dollars.

The 10 km purse also goes 10 deep with the winner receiving $4000. Unlike big name races in the states, the NCM's policy has not been to offer appearance fees. What they do offer to those elites who qualify is accommodation, transportation, a scenic course and, of course, unparalleled national capital hospitality.

Since Manny published the race in the Road Race Management handbook (for elite runners and road race directors), he's been working flat-out to ensure the chips fell into place. "We've been very lucky," he says.

He certainly felt lucky the day Uta Pippig's husband Dieter called him about entering his famous wife in the 10 km. The call came out of the blue he says. "Uta was looking for a 10km race and ours fit her race schedule. Having Uta in the race has created so much media attention." Pippig, of course, is known more for her marathon prowess, including several Boston wins.

FILE PHOTO -- Germany's Uta Pippig takes some water before the women's marathon at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, July 28, 1996.

Visit her web site at

Uta Pippig
Ottawa's Sarah Dillabaugh ran to the wire last year against Kenya's Grace Momanyi. Momanyi won't be back this year, but Dillabaugh will. This time, though, there are four top Kenyan runners in the race, including Jackline Torori who won the recent Sporting Life 10 km in Toronto. She's run 32:05. "The Kenyan women are very young," says Manny. "I don't think any of them are over 20 years old and they've already run some impressive times. They have bright futures ahead of them."

Another Ottawa favourite, Tania Jones is expected to factor in the race, having recently qualified for the upcoming World Championships at the London marathon. Other runners in the 10 km include 1500 metre track runner Cindy O'Krane and Vancouver's Tina Connelly. In the master's division, Manny says the Puntous twins are the ones to watch for. Sylvianne and Patricia Puntous, Ironman Hawaii winners in the 1980s, are making their masters debut this year

The women's marathon has attracted four of the top ranked Canadians, including Olympian Danuta Bartoszek, Kim Webb, Sandy Jacobson and May Allison. All have run sub 2:40. As of press time, Manny hadn't heard whether the winner of the past two years - Veronique Vandermissen - was going to run.

In the master's division, Ottawa's Joyce Burghardt (formerly Switzer) who has run 2:47 is the one to watch for. She has shown top form in early season races. Her competition will come from Canadian Olympic race-walking team Janice McCaffery who has run 2:46:55 in Virginia Beach this March.

Bruce Deacon Last year's men's marathon came down to a race of two: Bruce Deacon and Boyd. This year there are more runners vying for the top 5 placings, including a returning Deacon and three Kenyans. One of them is Joseph Nderitu who won the Hamilton Around the Bay and David Kariuki who has run 2:14.

For more on Bruce read his Sydney Olympics profile

A lot has fallen on Manny's plate these past few months. "It's been a great learning experience. I don't think I've done anything special." Manny adds: "I think the key factor was that for the first time, they injected an elite athlete coordinator early into the process, allowing Robbie (race director Robbie Robinson) to concentrate on other activities. The telling tale if I've done a decent job is whether they (the elite runners) come back next year."

Contact Lynne via email @

For more on Lynne's background read this interview with Wayne Scanlan which appeared originally in the Ottawa Citizen.

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