Toronto, CanadaEthiopia’s Mulu Seboka gave herself an expensive birthday present at the 2008 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Sunday when she won the race and set a new course record of 2:29:08 in the process.
The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is an IAAF Silver Label Road Race.
Course record eclipsed by more than four minutes – women’s race
The previous record had been set a year ago by Seboka’s compatriot Asha Gigi in 2:33:16. But the temperature at the 7:30 a.m. start time here was a balmy 17 degrees celsius with the humidity greater than 80%.
The leaders ran sensibly through the first 10km in 35:05 and passed halfway at 1:13:49. But turning around and heading back to the finish at Nathan Phillips Square, site of the Toronto City Hall, they encountered a strong wind off Lake Ontario.
Just three days earlier Seboka celebrated her 24th birthday while en route to Canada’s largest city. On the flat Toronto course the shy runner ran away from pre-race favourites Gigi and Caroline Cheptanui of Kenya at 33km to claim the $CAD 20,000 first place prize as well as an undisclosed amount for beating 2:30.
This year marked the first time that the women’s prize purse had equalled the men’s at the Toronto event.
All in all it has been a very good year for Seboka who trains with the Ethiopian national Marathon team in Sululta. In January she set a new course record of 2:30:04 to win the Mumbai Marathon claiming more than $30,000 USD for that victory.
“It’s all about walking the walk, I don’t care about who are the favourites,” she said of the fact she was overlooked in pre-race banter. “I tried from the start to do my job and that is exactly what happened.”
“I knew I was going to win at 30km. It was a fantastic course, the crowd was impressive but the wind was hard. But I am really delighted to run here. It was a good celebration of birthday, I told myself I would like to celebrate with something good.”
Olena Shurkhno of the Ukraine moved through the field picking off runners during the last ten kilometres eventually claiming second place in a new personal best of 2:30:13. But the day belonged to Seboka.
“I am delighted to get my personal best and to come to this event for the first time,” said the happy winner. “My objective is to run the world championships next year and then go to the London Olympics.”
Mungara takes men’s contest
For all its hype the men’s duel between defending champion and record holder John Kelai of Kenya and Ethiopia’s Tariku Jufar failed to materialise.
Race director Alan Brookes had put up $25,000 bonus for a sub 2:09 time and instructed a group of pacemakers to take the leaders through half way in 63:40. When the favourites failed to respond to the pacemaking - they passed halfway a minute slower than expected - the race organisers told the pacemakers to slow down and wait. They had hoped to wind up the pace once the pack had been reconstituted. But it never happened.
Two of the pacemakers went right to 32km before dropping out. At this point a pair of Kenyans, Peter Kiprotich and Kenneth Mungara were left alone to battle.
Mungara, the winner of the 2008 Prague Marathon on May 20th, who has a personal best from the 2007 Mombasa Marathon of 2:10:13, pulled away over the last three hundred metres to squeeze out a two second victory in 2:11:01.
Ethiopia’s Amersisa Ketema, who only arrived in Toronto on Thursday owing to visa difficulties, claimed third place in 2:11:52.
Kelai faded to fifth in 2:12.43 while Jufar had an even bigger nightmare struggling home in 2:18.47 for 13th place.
Paul Gains for the IAAF