Toronto, CanadaAt the pre-race press conference late last week Kenneth Mungara told the gathering he loved the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and the people of Toronto and that he wanted to win his fourth consecutive title. Then he went about his business.
Despite the persistence of Ethiopia’s Shami Dawit, who chased him right to the finish, the popular Kenyan pulled off another victory in this IAAF Silver Label Road Race with a time of 2:09:49 squeezing out a three-tenths of a second margin.
“Right at the finish I knew he was coming,” Mungara said with a smile. “I didn’t know how he trained. I thought he could win the race and maybe he could do some kick at the finish. Four times winning was my target.”
Third place went to the Canadian Reid Coolsaet who twice battled back from being dropped by the leaders - once after an unexpected bathroom break - and was rewarded with a new personal best of 2:10:55. the second fastest time ever by a Canadian. Jerome Drayton’s 36-year-old Canadian record of 2:10:09 survives yet again. Most importantly for Coolsaet, however, is that he has now twice beaten the Athletics Canada 2012 Olympic standard of 2:11:29.
Standing at the finish line he had the satisfaction of watching his training partner Eric Gillis beat the standard by one second.
“That was amazing,” said Coolsaet. “That was my main goal coming here - to solidify my spot on the Olympic team. Of course I wanted to get the record. It didn’t happen today but there’s no timeline on it really so I will take a few shots at it in the coming years.
“When I crossed the line I didn’t know what was going on. I turned behind me and saw Eric coming and looked at the clock and I knew it was going to be close. The two of us train together and we helped each other, pushed each other to prepare for this race. Now we can prepare together for London.”
The times don’t do justice to the effort these athletes put forth on this cold and extremely windy day. Many observers were surprised when the pack set off at 2:06 pace into the wind which blew off nearby Lake Ontario. The leaders passed the halfway point in 1:03:56.
After pacemaker Joseph Ngeny dropped out at 30km a pack of six athletes remained. Soon after it was down to the eventual podium trio who took turns leading on the long stretch into the wind. Brimming with confidence Coolsaet exchanged words with both Dawit and Mungara as they ran past the crowd who shouted his name in encouragement.
“I was saying switch it up,” he explains. “I took my turn leading and I didn’t want to be the only one leading after 35km. They took their turn, I took my turn and they took another turn and ran away from me.”
Women's race - Yal outduels compatriot Dibaba
The women’s race, as expected, came down to a dual between the two Ethiopians Koren Yal and Mare Dibaba both of whom have Olympic aspirations. Two days before the race the 21-year-old Dibaba asked for a pacemaker to take her through half way in 69 minutes. She was told that was a little ambitious.
With Yal running alongside her Dibaba produced a half marathon split of 1:08:36 raising more than a few eyebrows belonging to marathon aficionados shivering on the side of the road. Their relentless pace continued through 30km (1:38:31) before the older more experienced Yal put the pressure on.
Yal crossed the finish line in 2:22:43 with her compatriot second in 2:23:25. Russia’s Silviya Skvortsova - second in the 2009 Berlin Marathon - was third in 2:27:51.
“Yes I am really very happy,” the winner said with one slight hesitation. “There are a lot of Ethiopian athletes who have run 2:22 so I am not sure yet if I am going to be on the Olympic team. I will find out.
“We planned to go this hard at the beginning. That was the plan but after half way I started feeling a pain in my leg and slowed down.”
She was taken in a wheelchair to the athletes’ area to recover.
Perhaps the only time a group of Kenyan athletes have been left shaking their heads in astonishment was when a group of them met 80-year-old Canadian marathoner, Ed Whitlock, fresh from setting a world best for his age class at 3 hours 15 minutes 51 seconds.
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Paul Gains for the IAAF