The 2013 Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon produced course records in both the men’s and women’s races thanks to the Ethiopian pair of Tariku Jufar and Yeshi Esayias, who ran 2:08:05 and 2:25:31 respectively, but elite athlete coordinator Manny Rodrigues is optimistic that both marks will be reduced further on Sunday 25 May.
“It’s the best field we've ever assembled in Ottawa,” commented Rodrigues as he unveiled the elite fields of the IAAF Silver Label Road Race on Wednesday (7).
Consequently, this year, Rodrigues’s pacemakers will be aiming to lead the men’s field to a 2:06 or 2:07 finishing time, and a new Canadian all-comers record.
The fastest time ever run on Canadian soil is 2:07:05 by Ethiopia’s Derissa Chimsa a year ago in Toronto.
As an incentive to eclipse that mark, the Ottawa organisers have put up a bonus of US$10,000 as well as a 2014 Hyundai Santa Fe sports utility vehicle to whoever can beat that standard in Ottawa.
This is in addition to the US$20,000 US first place prize money.
Thanks to his impressive record in the classic distance, Kenya’s Wesley Korir is the man to watch.
The tactically smart University of Louisville graduate is most famous for his ‘come from behind’ victory at the 2012 Boston Marathon but he is also a two-time winner of the Los Angeles Marathon, finished second in Chicago in 2011, and owns a personal best of 2:06:13, which he recorded at the 2012 Chicago Marathon.
Korir’s intelligence is not limited to road racing.
Last year, he was elected to the Kenyan parliament, which has also meant balancing a heavy parliamentary workload. Still, Korir has a reputation for producing on the day and certainly will be the man to watch.
“My training has been going well, not the best, but good,” he admits. “I think coming to Canada for the two months before the race will allow me to push it to the next level. My work in parliament has been very busy.”
“I have been doing about 70 to 80 miles a week and am now starting to push it up there. I train by myself but I have a bodyguard, a policeman, who runs with me sometimes. He is a 2:06 guy.”
Korir, 31, is naturally cautious about predicting the outcome of the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon but believes he will be fully prepared.
“Ottawa is going to be an incredible competitive field,” he declared. “I think Ottawa has done a great job in recruiting the best athletes. It will give me an opportunity to compete and try to win the race. My first goal is to win the race.”
Korir may be the most decorated and accomplished marathoner in the field, but he is not the fastest as that distinction belongs to Yemane Tsegay Adhane, who won the 2012 Rotterdam Marathon in a brilliant 2:04:48.
More recently, Tsegay Adhane won the 2014 Daegu International Marathon on 6 April in 2:06:50.
The Ethiopian has also won the 2013 Marathon Eindhoven in driving rain and has twice represented his country in the marathon at the IAAF World Championships, finishing fouth in Berlin 2009 and eighth a year ago in Moscow.
The question now will be whether he has sufficient time to recover from his effort in the Korean city to tackle such a seasoned performer as Korir.
Given the demanding schedules of leading candidates, it could be another Ethiopian who pulls off an upset in Ottawa. Bazu Worku sports a best time of 2:05:25 from the 2010 Berlin Marathon.
More recently, in January, Worku won Houston in 2:07:32 and in March notched up his second victory of the year when winning in the Japanese city of Otsu in 2:09:10.
Another potential champion is Mulugeta Wami. He has a best time of 2:07:11 from the 2012 Amsterdam Marathon. Wami is also the brother of Gete Wami, a two-time winner of the Berlin Marathon and former World champion on the track and at cross country.
Should any of the top names falter, we might see two-time Canadian Olympian Eric Gillis get onto the podium.
Gillis, whose best time of 2:11:29 qualified him for the 2012 London Olympic Games, was scheduled to run in Ottawa a year ago. However, a nagging injury prevented him from having the proper buildup to the race and he withdrew ahead of the big day. The 34-year-old won his third consecutive Canadian Half Marathon title on 27 April to suggest his preparation is on target.
Ethiopia’s Ehitu Kiros is the class act in the women’s field with a personal best of 2:23:39 from the 2013 Dubai Marathon.
Last autumn, Kiros was also sixth in the Chicago Marathon. Having gone out aggressively, she passed through the half way mark in 1:11:16 before fading over the last ten kilometres to finish in 2:27:42.
Her compatriot, Etalemahu Kidane will also be in the hunt for the $20,000 first prize if she can find the form that took her to a personal best of 2:25:49 at the 2012 Hamburg Marathon.
A strong Kenyan contingent will be led by 34-year-old Agnes Kiprop, whose best time of 2:23:54 was achieved at the 2011 Frankfurt Marathon.
Paul Gains (organisers) for the IAAF