By Paul Gains
Whether the course for the Tartan Ottawa International Marathon has minor deviations or not, the streets of Canada’s national capital will be entirely familiar to Adugna Takele when he races this gold label race May 29th.
Twice before, the now 33-year-old Ethiopian has competed in the marathon here finishing 3rd in 2018 and 5th in 2019. Will it be a case of third time lucky?
Some aficionados might remember he also finished 2nd in the Ottawa 10k on his first visit. That was in 2013. Though he ran an astonishing 27:38 that day, he lost a close battle for victory but still wound up as the fastest 10k runner in the world that year having won the Taroudant 10k in Morocco in 27:30.
Despite success at that distance, he decided to move up to the marathon a short time later.
“Running 10k was a bit of a challenge for me,” he recalls. “I had a little discomfort in my legs and the speed was proving to be a little difficult for me. So, I felt moving up to the marathon was the right decision at this time of my career.”
This fourth visit to Ottawa will see him play the role of one of the marathon favourites not just because of his knowledge of street signs but because of his performances since his last visit. In January 2019 he ran 2:06:32 at the Dubai Marathon.
More recently, on March 22nd of this year he recorded a new personal best of 2:05:52 in Seville and, encouraged by his current fitness, now believes his countryman Yemane Tsegaye’s Ottawa course record (2:06:54) is attainable.
“I think I can (beat the record),” Adugna says. “It's going to be difficult but achievable. If I am healthy and one hundred per cent on the day anything is possible. God willing.”
“My recovery (from Seville) was rather easy. It was a fifteen-day recovery time. We had ample time off to rest due to COVID so, a 15-day period was enough. Training has been going really well. I had a few problems a while back, but everything is looking good now. We are training hard to make sure we win this one.”
Winning, he adds, is his primary objective but breaking the record ‘would be the cherry on top of the cake.’ He hopes his familiarity with Ottawa and the citizenry will also be of benefit as he goes about his business. Adugna looks back fondly on his previous Ottawa experiences.
“Yes, I love Ottawa and its people,” he declares. “They are very welcoming, humble and loving people. I just love going there because I love everything about it.”
“The scenery, the people and the city. I had a great time walking about and taking in the beautiful city. I got to chat with the locals and had a marvellous time there.”
Although he relocated to Addis, Ethiopia’s capital, in order to pursue a running career as most runners do, he has not forgotten his roots in Arsi. Nor has he forgotten it was his uncle who inspired him to become a professional runner by repeatedly telling him it could change his life and benefit his family.
In a country with one of the world’s lowest per capita incomes, prize money from overseas races is an enormous financial benefit. This year’s Ottawa prize purse, for instance, includes $24,000 to the winner and a course record bonus of $10,000.
“My uncle was my biggest inspiration. He motivated me and pushed me and showed me that, if you want to be successful in life and want to achieve something, you have to work hard for it,” Adugna declares emphatically.
“I want to make a name for myself and leave a big legacy. I want to be financially secure so that my family can have a good life.”
Adugna is married to Eden Taye and the couple have a son Gadisa Adugna. In the Ethiopian culture, the father’s first name is handed to the children as a second name. Clearly his family is a source of pride.
“I like spending my time with my family,” he continues, “and going out and exploring different places or staying at home and watching some TV and relaxing.”
Ottawa Elite Athlete Coordinator Dylan Wykes, a Canadian Olympic marathoner himself, is working hard to put together a world-class field. Whoever toes the line with Adugna Takele will have a fight on his hands.
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