Girmay Birhanu on his way to winning the Ottawa Marathon (Victah Sailer) © Copyright
General News Ottawa, Canada

Quality of Ottawa’s elite field suggests records could tumble

Organisers of the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon expect a hotly contested race on 29 May as the list of confirmed elite runners for the IAAF Gold Label Road Race grows.

While some Rio-bound athletes will forego the chance to compete in Ottawa, for others it is a last opportunity to qualify. As many as seven runners from several countries are eyeing Ottawa as a flat, fast course to secure an Olympic berth.

Despite these factors, organisers say event records – including the Canadian all-comers’ record – could fall.

Last year’s winner, 29-year-old Girmay Birhanu, is returning to defend his title and go faster than his 2:08:14 winning time from 2015. A 2:05:49 runner at his best, Birhanu will face stiff opposition from compatriots Dino Sefir, the fastest man in the field with a PB of 2:04:50, and 2010 world junior 10,000m silver medallist Megersa Bacha.

But victory won’t be handed to the Ethiopians on a silver platter. They will need to keep a sharp eye on the Kenyans and particularly Vincent Kipruto. The 2011 world silver medallist has a PB of 2:05:13 and earlier this year won the Xiamen Marathon.

Ethiopians also dominate the elite women’s field. Aberu Mekuria will be hoping to defend her Ottawa title and improve on her 2:25:30 winning time from last year. She could be joined by as many as five of her compatriots, including recent Hamburg Marathon winner Meselech Melkamu and Koren Jelela, who clocked a PB and Canadian all-comers’ record of 2:22:43 when winning in Toronto in 2011.

Isabella Ochichi leads the charge against the Ethiopians. The Kenyan took the 5000m silver medal at the 2004 Olympics but since returning in 2013 from a seven-year break due to injury and childbirth, Ochichi has made a name for herself on the roads.

Canadians Rachel Hannah, Tarah Korir and Leslie Sexton are also on the start list and hope to achieve the Canadian Olympic standard of 2:29:50.

Organisers for the IAAF

Elite fields (with PBs)

Men
Dino Sefir (ETH) 2:04:50
Vincent Kipruto (KEN) 2:05:13
Ghirmay Birhanu (ETH) 2:05:49
Gebretsadik Abraha (ETH) 2:06:21
Megersa Bacha (ETH) 2:06:56
Felix Keny (KEN) 2:07:14
Evans Ruto (KEN) 2:07:49
Dominic Ondoro (KEN) 2:08:00
Birhanu Gedefa (ETH) 2:08:03
Shura Kitata (ETH) 2:08:53
Yuhunilign Adane (ETH) 2:09:48
Khamis Bakari (MAR) 2:11:54
Guor Maker (SSD) 2:12:55
Elkana Yego (KEN) debut

Women
Meselech Melkamu (ETH) 2:21:01
Koren Jelela (ETH) 2:22:43
Merima Mohammed (BRN) 2:23:06
Aberu Mekuria (ETH) 2:25:30
Sechale Dalasa (ETH) 2:26:27
Makida Adbela (ETH) 2:29:43
Isabella Ochichi (KEN) 2:29:45
Etaferahu Wodaj (ETH) 2:29:45
Rachel Hanna (CAN) 2:32:09
Leslie Sexton (CAN) 2:33:23
Ariana Hilborn (USA) 2:35:20