28 MAY 2011 General News Ottawa, Canada

Ambitious Merga settles for victory in warm and muggy Ottawa

Deriba Merga wins the 2011 Ottawa 10km (Victah  Sailer)Deriba Merga wins the 2011 Ottawa 10km (Victah Sailer) © Copyright

There was no pacemaker and no World record bonus but that didn't stop Ethiopia's Deriba Merga from chasing Leonard Patrick Komon's World 10k record (26:44) at the Ottawa 10km race, an IAAF Silver Label race, on Saturday night (28).


However, the Ethiopian fell well short, finishing in a time of 28:31 almost a minute slower than the time he posted en route to victory in the Ras Al Kaimalh half marathon.


"That's Merga!" said his US based agent Hussein Makke "He really went for it and was 25 seconds under World record pace at 4km. He tortured himself."


The Ottawa route was altered this year to make it more accessible to spectators and many of the runners said they preferred the new route. But the race, which began at 6:30 p.m., was stifled by warm (22 degrees celsius) and muggy conditions.


It didn't help either that Merga set off rather ambitiously,  passing the first kilometre in 2:36,  albeit on the slightly downhill grade,  before hitting 5:16 at 2km and 8:04 at 3km. Needless to say, he was alone most of the way.


At the halfway point he has slowed considerably (13:50) and the only incentive he had was to try and catch the leading women who were given a 3 minute 55 second head start.


Dire Tune who trains in the same group as Merga won the women's race in 31:44 - her second consecutive Ottawa victory - and managed to stave off Merga's challenge. They both earned $6,000 US for their victories while Tune won an additional $4,000 US for being first across the line.


Second place in the women's race went to Samira Raif in 32:48.


Because of difficulties in getting his Canadian visa, Merga arrived in Ottawa only Friday losing a full week of training.


Second place in the men's race went to Kenya's Wesley Korir in 29:01 with Ryan Vail (USA) third in 29:09.


The top Canadian in the men's race was 2008 Olympian Eric Gillis who duplicated last year's 4th place finish in 29:16. The Canadian marathoner will take a couple of weeks off before turning his attention to a marathon training build-up.


"I am very satisfied with my race," he said, "I didn't know what to expect.  I didn't have a lot of confidence because I had been feeling under the weather all week. I think I got the most out of me I could."


Canadian 10,000m record holder Simon Bairu (27:23:53) was a crestfallen figure placing 14th in 31:11. After a two day journey that took him from Flagstaff, Arizona to Ottawa with an overnight stop in Phoenix before a connection to New York he was feeling flat.  


Merga, meanwhile, returns Sunday (29) to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where he also will resume marathon training with an eye on an autumn marathon. Which one remains confidential at this point.


Paul Gains for the IAAF


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