Toronto, CanadaKenneth Mungara is aiming for his third successive victory in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon this Sunday (26) but collecting the $20,000 Cdn first prize may prove a formidable challenge for the 37 year old from Kenya.
Once again organisers of this IAAF Silver Label Race have assembled a field that is deep with talent in spite of a relatively modest $2 million budget. Indeed, it is entirely conceivable that Mungara’s 2009 course record of 2:08:31 - which is also the fastest time ever run on Canadian soil - could be lowered.
At the top of the list of challengers is Daniel Rono. In addition to sporting a personal best time of 2:06:58 from the 2008 Rotterdam marathon this Kenyan star is very familiar with Toronto’s flat out and back course. He won here in 2006 then finished second a year later in a then personal best of 2:09:35. A third place finish in the 2008 New York marathon followed by second in the 2009 Boston marathon solidified his credentials as a world class athlete.
Ethiopia will be well represented by a trio of excellent runners who train within an Addis based group of some eighty athletes under the guidance of coach Haji Adilo.
In January, Teshome Gelana, 25, won the 2010 Houston marathon in 2:07:37 ahead of Zimbaba Yigeze who ran a personal best of 2:08:27 in the Texan oil capital. Yigeze will be celebrating his 27th birthday on the starting line. The third member of the group, Chala Lemi, was second in Toronto last year in 2:08:48. Coach Haji expects big things from all three but especially from Gelana.
“Teshome is in very good shape. He ran 30 kilometres in one hour 33 minutes at 7000 feet in training and he is ready to race well,” Adilo says. “I don’t know how fast.”
Canadian fortunes rest on the shoulders of two promising marathoners Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis who will not have to suffer the ill effects of travel. They both live and train within an hour’s drive of Toronto. Athletics Canada just announced its qualifying standard for both the 2011 IAAF World Championships and the 2012 Olympics (2:11:29) a reasonable target for both athletes.
There is also the added incentive of racing for a $35,000 Cdn bonus, that’s $1,000 for each year Jerome Drayton’s Canadian record of 2:10:09 has stood.
A year ago Coolsaet, who has a best of 27:56. 92 for 10,000m on the track was crowned Canadian marathon champion in Ottawa after just six weeks of proper marathon training. He went on to finish 25th at the World Championships in Berlin in 2:16:53. With a full year of high volume running he is capable of challenging the national record.
Gillis meanwhile, represented Canada at the 2008 Olympics in the 10,000m and finished 7th in his marathon debut last January in Houston (2:13:52).
Alan Brookes, the race director, was delighted with Mungara’s Canadian All Comers record a year ago. This time he has his fingers crossed someone can lower Lydia Simon’s women’s all comer’s record which has stood since the 2001 IAAF World Championships in Edmonton. The Romanian ran 2:26:01. To that end he has put up an additional $20,000 Cdn for a record.
Coach Haji is sending two of his leading female athletes Firehiwot Dado and Merima Mohammed to Toronto. When prodded for his expectations he admits that the young Mohammed has prepared very well for this race.
“Both athletes are in very very good shape if the weather is good, and there’s a good pacemaker, maybe Mohammed can run under 2:24,” he declares.
Another one to watch is Tirfi Tsegaye of Ethiopia. She was third at the 2010 Paris marathon in 2:24:51 the fastest time by any woman competing in Toronto.
Cool temperatures are expected at the 7:30 a.m. start so there is every expectation that this year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon will once again live up to its IAAF Silver Label status.
Paul Gains for the IAAF