A year ago Aberu Mekuria lined up for the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon with little fanfare and almost no pressure before racing to victory at the IAAF Gold Label Road Race.
It will be a different scenario when the 32-year-old defends her title on 29 May as she will be a well-respected favourite among a world-class field.
Mekuria had previously won marathons in Hengshui, Eindhoven and Cologne before her triumph in Ottawa. She is confident of another successful outing in the Canadian capital next month.
“I am planning to run sub-2:25,” said Mekuria, who clocked a lifetime best of 2:25:30 in last year’s race. “Definitely, I am after a personal best. My goal for the Ottawa Marathon this year is to deliver a nice performance, better performance than ever before and win the race again.
“My training is going well and I am focusing on my daily and weekly training programmes as I want to do my best,” she added. “I am very happy with speed work and things are looking good. I am training with my friends and we have very good team spirit, sharing experiences with strong athletes, like Betelhem Moges and Ashete Bekere among others.”
Moges won the 2014 Amsterdam and 2015 Beijing marathons and has a best of 2:24:29. Bekere has run the distance in 2:23:43. Together, the group trains at various sites outside Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, such as Entoto, Sendafa, Ararat and Sululta. Mekuria particularly enjoys the latter because it is at a slightly higher elevation, roughly 2800m.
Mekuria fondly recalls her victory in Ottawa last year. With only five hundred metres remaining, she pulled ahead of Kenya’s Rebecca Chesir and suddenly opened a gap of 11 seconds. Pre-race favourite Meselech Melkamu finished a distant fifth.
“It was relatively easy for me to win Ottawa Marathon last year, as I was well prepared with lots of work being done for several months before the race,” said Mekuria. “I remember the slight ups and downs of the Ottawa Marathon course. The course was so fantastic for me and it worked well for me.”
The cold and windy conditions, however, may well have prevented her from beating the course record of 2:24:31, set by fellow Ethiopian Tigist Tufa in 2014.
Organisers for the IAAF