By Paul Gains
Any marathoner would be delighted with a personal best time but Tarah Korir wants this and more when she lines up for the 2016 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon October 16.
A berth on the Canadian team to the 2017 IAAF World Championships Marathon in London is in the offing should she run fast enough in this IAAF Gold Label race. And, because Toronto is also the Canadian National Championship there are other considerations and rewards to be considered.
The Kenya-based mother of two was paced to a 2:35:46 time at the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon last May by an exclusive pacemaker, her husband and Kenyan Member of Parliament, Wesley Korir. That was a personal best by some fourteen minutes and opened her mind to greater prospects.
Wesley, the 2012 Boston Marathon champion, will represent Kenya at the 2016 Olympics and the couple had hopes of being the first husband wife duo to compete in the Olympic marathons. But Ottawa was unseasonably warm and Tarah fell short of the Olympic qualifying standard of 2:29:50.
"I am very happy with how that race went," she says from her home in Cherangany, Kenya. "I think that I ran a smart race given the conditions. I hydrated well before and during the race which helped me to run well despite the heat. I do not usually run well in the heat so running a ‘PB’ in hot weather was great.
"Unlike my first marathon I still was able to maintain a decent pace right up to the end. I knew my chances of getting an Olympic qualifier on my second chance at the marathon was quite a long shot and that everything would have had to come together on race day including the weather. Finishing fifth overall - and first Canadian - also helped to make the Ottawa Marathon a special experience for me. I love racing in Canada where I can get support along the course from family and friends."
Korir who is from St Clement, Ontario, just north of Waterloo, met Wesley when the two attended the University of Louisville. She has had an impressive year thus far. In addition to that enormous personal best, she represented Canada at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff March 26, finishing 23rd in a very good 1:12:04. Considering that day was marred by cold rain and wind her confidence has grown immensely.
"I think I will decide (my Toronto goal) once I'm further along in my training," Korir adds. "Of course a personal best would be nice and I wonder what could have been possible on a cooler day in Ottawa.
"I don't think I will change a whole lot (in training) except maybe trying to do a bit more mileage in workouts and long runs. My second marathon buildup had more mileage that the first but was still relatively conservative. I will see how my body responds to training."
At this point the couple can’t say for certain Wesley will pace his wife but he would like to. If he runs well in Rio no doubt he will earn invitations to race a fall marathon. Regardless, Korir expects to have a good run in Toronto.
"Wesley has told me he really enjoyed pacing me in Ottawa," she reveals, "and I enjoyed having him pace me, especially because there ended up not being many other people around us. Wesley would love to pace me again if it works out."
"I will definitely go in to Toronto with more confidence than the first one because of having now covered the distance twice. My confidence going into Ottawa was based on having good training leading up to Ottawa so my training prior to Toronto will also factor into my confidence level."
In Kenya she has no shortage of training partners. Occasionally she runs with Wesley on his easy days and with a group of elite Kenyan women on other days. Given the conditions in Ottawa she knows she can run much faster.
The IAAF announced the London 2017 qualifying standards in March. Women running 2:45:00 or better during the qualifying window, which began in January 1st of this year, are eligible for the race. At this point, Athletics Canada has not released their standards although Head Coach Peter Eriksson has indicated his standards will be superior to the IAAF’s. He says the National Team Committee will announce them "prior to the marathon in October." That doesn’t sit well with athletes and coaches.
"Of course knowing the standard is nice so that you don't end up finding out after the fact you were a few seconds off of a particular standard and you have a target to go off of for training," Korir responds.
"That being said, I think most athletes are always trying to better their own personal times and, sometimes, chasing a particular standard can force people to run at a particular pace that may be too fast. (They do it) just to try to make the standard and then blow up in the second half of the race. But that is part of what happens with racing."
Korir says she enjoys every opportunity to come back to Canada. Besides being the official Canadian Championship Toronto represents a chance to further the objectives of the charitable organization she and husband Wesley set up a few years ago called the Kenyan Kids Foundation.
The foundation is one of 185 official charities that are part of the Scotiabank Charity Challenge at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, and is operated by Tarah’s father Blair McKay. Among the initiatives they have undertaken are improvement in dairy farming techniques, clean water and health education as well as general education from pre-school age children and up.
Their fundraising target at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is $15,000. This money will provide scholarships to twenty impoverished high school students as well as fund a pre-school program in Cherangany. Korir is encouraging runners to sign up to run Toronto Waterfront with her and raise money for the team or to make a one-time charitable donation.
For More Information and to join Tarah’s Team: TorontoWaterfrontMarathon.com.