By Paul Gains
Ottawa is the only city in the world to have two IAAF Gold Label races on the same weekend and once again quality fields are the rule - not the exception.
Some familiar names are on the 10km start list including past winners Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya and Morocco’s Mohammed Ziani who were both victorious in the 2016 edition of the race. But neither are guaranteed podium finishes since race director, Manny Rodrigues, as is his custom, is seeking a competition not an anointment.
Jepchirchir’s best 10km time of 30:55 came in winning the 2015 Prague 10k. After winning the 2016 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, she went on to set a world half marathon record of 1:05:06 at the 2017 RAK Half Marathon in the United Arab Emirates. At the end of that year, she took time off to have a baby. Her first post-maternity race was a strong 6th place finish in the RAK Half Marathon this past February in 1:07:36.
Stiff competition will be provided by her compatriot Paskalia Kipkoech (30:57 personal best) and Ethiopia’s Gete Alemayehu, whose best performance at this distance came in winning the Corrida Pédestre Internationale de Houilles in France last December. She ran 31:12 on that occasion.
Once again, the Ottawa 10k is the official Canadian 10km Championship with a national title and $3,000 going to the first Canadian man and woman. Natasha Wodak is clearly the leading Canadian woman. She finished 4th overall here in 2015 with her personal best time of 31:59. The Canadian 10,000m record holder at 31:41.59, she has just come down from five weeks of altitude training in Flagstaff, Arizona. At the Payton Jordan 10,000m on May 2nd she recorded her second fastest time ever 31:43.26 at the age of 37.
The elite men’s race seems wide open with any number of athletes capable of taking home the $5,000 first place prize money. Although Ziani has a personal best of 27:28 from 2016, he is a bit of an unknown commodity at this point in his career as he has been transitioning to the marathon since winning Ottawa. Still, last year he was 4th in Ottawa in 28:23.
His countrymen, Mohamed El Aaraby (3rd last year) and Abderrahmane Kachir who has never competed outside of Morocco until this weekend, will also be contenders. Kachir has a personal best of 27:50 from the 2018 Casablanca Memorial Rahal 10km. Morocco versus Kenya seems to be the theme as Moses Kibet (28:26 PB) will battle him for the prize money.
Leading Canadians include Tristan Woodfine of Cobden, Ontario who has been on a tear lately winning Toronto’s Spring Run Off 8km and the Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal last month. He has a best of 28:56 for the 10km distance. Last year’s Canadian champion, Evan Esselink returns to the event also.
Ottawa is unique in having not only individual prize money ($5,000 to the winner, $4,000 for second, $3,000 for third, down to 8th place) but also a ‘gender gap’ prize of $2,000 to whomever crosses the finish line first, man or woman. The elite women’s field will set off 3 minutes and 40 seconds ahead of the men making for an exciting finish such as in 2016 when Peres Jepchirchir held off Mohammed Ziani to win the gender gap.
For the second year, elite athletes will be drafted to compete on a team too. The winning team based on lowest point totals will collect $6,000 to be shared amongst the four members while a chosen charity will also benefit to the tune of $1,000.
The 10km course has been changed somewhat to accommodate construction in Canada’s capital but the elevation remains the same - extremely flat. Ethiopia’s Deriba Merga holds the race record of 27:24 while Gladys Cherono of Kenya has the women’s record at 30:56.
Clearly this year’s Ottawa 10km is filled with a stellar cast of characters capable of providing excellent competition. It’s once again worthy of its IAAF Gold Label designation.
Subscribe to the Runner's Web Weekly Digest
Check out our FrontPage for all the latest running and triathlon news.