By Paul Gains
Ethiopia’s Yemane Tsegay, who set an Ottawa and Canadian All Comers marathon record
here four years ago, leads a stellar field in the 2018 Ottawa Marathon.
That day, he ran 2:06:54 on a foggy morning to win the men’s race and take home, not only
first place prize money, but a brand new Hyundai SUV. The latter was his reward for running
the fastest time ever on Canadian soil, a standard that was reduced in Toronto in
Yemane Tsegay wins the 2014 Ottawa Marathon (organisers / Victah Sailor)
Since then, he has further established himself as one of the world’s most consistent marathoners.
In the year following his Ottawa triumph he finished second in Boston then took
the silver medal at the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing. Then, in December
2016, he won the Fukuoka Marathon for good measure.
Tsegay’s return is an indicator of just how this IAAF Gold Label race is viewed across the
globe, and this year organizers are further emboldened with the addition of another Ethiopian
star, Gelete Burka in the women’s race.
,font color=gray>Gelete Burka wins the 10,000m in Hengelo (Coen Schilderman)
A world championship medalist at distances from 1,500m to 10,000m, Burka stunned the
running world with a 2:20:45 personal best marathon in Dubai this past January. She is a
bonafide world-beating athlete.
Amongst the contenders Burka will face is the unpredictable Aberu Mekuria. She is capable
of running with the world’s best at any time. A quick glance down the list of Ottawa winners
will find her name as the 2015 champion. She was 2nd in 2016 and 4th a year ago.
The prospect of Hiwot Gebrekidan, a year older and wiser since her brave front-running in
Ottawa last year, raises eyebrows. Then just 22 years old, she forged a sizeable lead for 39
kilometres and hung on to finish second. If the conditions are right, she could reduce her
personal best of 2:25:45 by a considerable margin. On May 11th she celebrated her 23rd
Also expected to be amongst the early leaders and potential podium finishers is Sara Hall of
the United States. Though her personal best is just 2:27:21, she finished 2nd in the 2015
Chicago Marathon and 3rd in New York in 2016, and won the 2017 US marathon championship.
Kenya will be represented by Lucy Karima winner of the 2016 Prague Marathon in
a personal best of 2:24:46.
The men’s defending champion is also returning. A year ago, Kenya’s Eliud Kiptanui, whose
personal best of 2:05:21was earned chasing the world’s number one marathoner Eliud
Kipchoge along the streets of Berlin in 2015, was a last minute Ottawa entrant. Travel problems
hindered his performance in Vienna a few weeks earlier and he didn’t finish there. His
decision to switch focus to Ottawa was wise and he comfortably won the race in 2:10:14
collecting $40,000 for his victory.
Tsegay will not be the only Ethiopian threat for the top spot. Adugna Takele (2:08:31 personal
best) will be one to watch.
The top Canadians entered this year include Sami Jibril, a full time shift worker with the
Toronto Transit Commission, who finished second in the 2017 Canadian marathon championship
last October (2:22:04), and Tristan Woodfine.
The latter has been active on the roads winning the Race Roster Spring Run Off 8k last
month then the Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal two weeks later, all in preparation for the
Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon. He is studying full time at the Ontario Health and Technology
College and will become a paramedic upon graduation.
The first Canadian finisher, male and female, will receive $5,000 with $2,500 and $1,000 for
the remaining podium finishers.