By Paul Gains
Ethiopiaís Shure Demise will defend her Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon title October 16th a year wiser and stronger than when she made her first visit to Canadaís largest city.
On that occasion she won this IAAF Gold Label race in unusually cold temperatures (4C at the start) with a time of 2:23:37.
Although the temperature is usually milder and more suited to fast marathon running on Toronto race weekend, Demiseís introduction to North American racing was particularly harsh. Coming from a training environment that is more like summer she was amongst a group of elite athletes who were caught out. Race organizers for the first time ever went shopping for gloves and hats as a courtesy. Demise had never experienced such conditions but handled them like the world beating athlete she is.
"The weather part was very cold thatís what I remember most," she recalls. "Yes, the weather was somehow challenging but with the will of the Almighty finally the victory was mine.
"I had never worn a hat and gloves before (in a race) at that time. The reason I wore them was because of the cold weather. I will definitely have them in my luggage this time."
Now that she has one Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon under her belt Demise has begun her preparation for this yearís race and has targeted the course and Canadian All Comerís record of 2:22:43. That record is held jointly by Sharon Cherop (Kenya) and Koren Yal (Ethiopia) and has withstood the assault of many a fine marathoner.
The 20 year old Demise reckons she is destined to write her name in the record book and her performance last year has convinced her of this. Earlier this year she ran 2:25:04 for 6th place in Tokyo, one of the World Marathon Majors, and was clearly disappointed to suffer leg pain. She denies feeling pressure to match her incredible debut time.
"It (Dubai) was my first time to take part in a marathon and it was a good time," she explains. "But no itís not difficult, I will repeat it in the near future. I feel to improve my personal best I must keep working hard.
"Itís the same training as last year that I am doing now. When I train individually I go 27-28kms when I run with the group itís more like 35-37kms. With the help of the Almighty I want to improve the (Toronto) record time."
Although the cold left an indelible mark she also recalls the informal celebration she experienced after winning Toronto. She joined fellow Ethiopian runners and guests at Rendezvous restaurant on Torontoís Danforth Avenue.
"I was very proud to win in that cold weather; for me it was a great feeling I never had before. Af-terwards I enjoyed eating dinner in an Ethiopian restaurant in Toronto. When I got home to Ethio-pia I celebrated with my family," she explains.
Demise first turned heads when, as a 19 year old debutante, she broke the unofficial world junior marathon record with a clocking of 2:20:59. That achievement, recorded at the 2015 Dubai Mara-thon, earned her fourth place and a large cash prize. Invitations to World Marathon Majorsí Bos-ton Marathon in the spring, and then Toronto in the autumn, saw her make her first visits to North America.
As a member of an elite group of distance runners coached by Gemedu Dedefo Hailemariam, she showed promise, keeping up with Aselech Mergia in training. Originally her manager, Gianni Demadonna, had looked at one or two low key marathons for her to race but on Gemeduís advice sent her with Mergia to Dubai. Mergia won the race in 2:20:02 while Demise earned her teamís faith with her spectacular debut.
Remarkably, Demise ran without taking water during her first marathon and she is still not com-pletely comfortable now.
"The reason why I was not taking the water was that I was not used to do it before," she explains, "and I was not able to catch the bottle in my hand. But now I will.
"I train with a group of Demadonna Athletics Promotion athletes with very well know athletes like Tirfi Tsegaye, Aselefech Mergia, Aberu Kebede and many more. These athletes are very mature and I learn a lot of things from them regularly."
Tsegaye won the 2014 Berlin Marathon, the 2016 Dubai Marathon (in a world leading 2:19:41) and was 2nd in Toronto in 2010, while Aberu Kebede has also won Berlin in 2012. Their exploits overseas fuelled her desire upon hearing their stories during early morning training sessions in rural Ethiopia.
While her training partners inspire her every day she remembers watching Ethiopian legends De-rartu Tulu and her cousin, Tirunesh Dibaba on the television when she was young. Like many Ethiopian youngsters she took comfort in knowing these athletes came from humble beginnings such as her own. Her parents are farmers and Demise has five brothers and five sisters.
After running a very quick 33:24 for 10000m - at the age of sixteen - it was very clear she had the talent to succeed. It should be noted that that time was recorded in Asella in south-central Ethio-pia at an altitude of 2430m. Not long after she went off to Addis Ababa to stay with her brother who is a policeman in the capital.
Still just 20 years old Demise has a bright future ahead.
"I want to work hard and participate in a future Olympics and achieve a good result for my country and myself," is her response when asked about the future. But next up is the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and an assault on the course record.
For more information and to run with Shure Demise, Rachel Hannah & others: STWM.ca.