No Ethiopian man had previously won the Ottawa Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race, but Tariku Jufar accomplished that and more, setting a new course record of 2:08:05 despite cool and windy conditions on Sunday (26).
Jufar was chased to the finish by Kenya’s Luka Rotich who had originally been hired to take the pace through 30km; but as there was no restriction on how far he could run, and, there were just three athletes left in contention at that point, the 24 year old Kenyan kept going.
Shortly after, Jufar waved him to the front again to continue the pace making and Rotich graciously continued despite no longer being under any obligation.
Rotich claimed second place in his surprising debut in 2:08:12 with Ethiopia’s Geshaw Melese third in 2:10:24.
“I did better than I expected, I didn’t expect it to be this fast. I am very happy with my time,” said Jufar, who won USD $20,000.
“I expected that the pacemaker (Rotich) was going to drop out around 30km. He kept going at 35km and got stronger. It was very crucial to us running fast.”
The winner was lucky to be to be in Ottawa at all. His original visa application was denied but his manager Hussein Makke and the race director Manny Rodrigues petitioned on his behalf.
They explained he has a home, children and a taxi business back in Addis and, therefore, would be unlikely to claim refugee status.
Rotich was pleased with his impromptu marathon debut and grinned when asked if he now considered himself a marathoner. Prior to his Ottawa outing, he ran 60:14 in the Lago Maggiore Half Marathon when winning the event.
“I was pacing that guy through 35km,” said Rotich quietly, “I was feeling good so I said I have to complete the race. I was feeling strong at 30km and 35km so I had to finish. I am happy. Until now, I have run half marathons and run good times”
“I arrived here (in Ottawa) on Friday. I flew to London Heathrow then Toronto then Ottawa. This is my first time in North America. I was tired from the travel but I recovered very fast.”
Race director Manny Rodrigues confirmed that in addition to his second place prize of USD $12,000, Rotich will receive an undisclosed sum for his pace making duties.
Rodrigues was hoping to pay out another bonus, for the fastest time ever run on Canadian soil, but Jufar finished just outside the 2:07:58 set by Kenya’s Kenneth Mungara at the 2010 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
Kenya’s defending champion Laban Moiben, who set the previous course record of 2:09:12 a year ago, was chasing his third consecutive victory and in contention until shortly after the 30km mark. However, shortly after, he began to fade and eventually finished sixth in 2:11:45.
Esayias makes it an Ethiopian double
Shortly after Jufar jogged back up Queen Elizabeth Drive in the Canadian city, waving to the appreciative crowd with an Ethiopian flag draped around his shoulder, his compatriot Yeshi Esayias also crossed the line in a personal best and women’s course record of 2:25:31.
Her previous best was 2:26:00 from the 2012 Tokyo Marathon.
Ethiopians, in fact, swept the first four places with Misiker Mekonnen second with 2:25:45, Sechele Delasa third in 2:25:31 and Netsanet Achamo fourth in 2:27:44.
“This was my fastest time I am very proud of this.After 32km I decided I could win. I was ready to win. I was watching the (Ottawa) 10km last night carefully and it helped me (with motivation). I could have run faster but the pacemakers didn’t go past 25km. I could have run 2:24,” claimed Esayias.
The winner enjoys training in Sendafa with her famous coach Getananeh Tessema and counts Tiki Gelana the London 2012 Olympic Games champion amongst her friends.
Both Jufar and Esayias picked up USD $10,000 course record bonuses as well as their USD $20,000 first prize cheques.
Paul Gains (organisers) for the IAAF