Two IAAF Gold Label events on back-to-back days makes for a terrific weekend of racing and highlights Ottawa’s unique position as the only city in the world to be so acclaimed.
Peres Jepchirchir and Mohammed Ziani, the winners in 2016, headline the fields for Saturday night’s Ottawa 10km, which has a ‘gender gap’ contest. The elite women are given 3:40 head start over the elite men and the first across the line earns an extra CDN$2,000 in addition to the CDN$5,000 winner’s purse. It was Jepchirchir who held off Ziani in 2016.
Jepchirchir, who held off Ziani in 2016, is making her comeback since giving birth to a baby boy at the tail end of 2017. Whether she can find the form that carried her to a PB of 30:55 for the distance in 2015 as well as capture the 2016 world half marathon title is intriguing, but she started 2019 strongly with a 1:07:36 clocking at the Ras Al-Khaimah Half Marathon.
The expected competition will likely come from her compatriot Paskalia Kipkoech, the 2012 world half marathon bronze medallist who has a 10km PB of 30:57, and 20-year-old Ethiopian Gete Alemayehu, who ran 31:12 to win the Corrida Pédestre Internationale de Houilles in France last December.
The heat and humidity at the 2016 Ottawa 10k left Jepchirchir shattered at the finish and requiring brief medical attention. But the forecast calls for rain this year, possibly even a thunderstorm.
Ziani, who finished fourth last year, will be joined by compatriot Mohamed El Aaraby who ran 27:58 at the Valencia 10k earlier this year.
Kenya’s Moses Kibet, a former steeplechaser, will challenge the two Moroccans no doubt. Last June he won the La Corrida de Langueux in a personal best of 28:26, while more recently he finished second at the Jianzhen International Half Marathon in China in a PB of 59:58.
Major flooding in recent weeks along the Ottawa River has meant that the Ottawa Marathon course has undergone substantial changes. Still, the incoming international athletes are aware that the women’s (Gelete Burka 2:22:13 2018) and men’s race records (Yemane Tsegay 2:06:54 2014) are going to be tough to beat.
Pre-race favourite Tirfi Tsegaye was forced to withdraw earlier this week after picking up a hamstring injury, but her absence leaves an evenly matched group tasked with extending Ethiopia’s winning streak to 10 women’s marathon titles in Ottawa.
Shuko Gemeno, Abeba Gebremeskel, Bethelhem Moges and Tigist Girma are all capable of victory. The latter keeps improving in leaps and bounds though her personal best is still ‘just’ 2:26:44. The winner will earn CDN$30,000.
Abera Kuma, who set a PB of 2:05:50 at the 2018 Rotterdam marathon where he placed second, looks like a good pick in the men’s race to add another Ethiopian victory in Canada. However, he will be hoping he finds top form and not the conditions that took him to a seventh-place finish at the Mumbai Marathon earlier this year in 2:13:10.
Should he falter, it might well be his 23-year-old compatriot Tsedat Ayana – the winner in Seville earlier this year in 2:06:36 – who prevails.
Kenyan fortunes lie with Martin Kosgey who achieved his personal best of 2:06:41 while finishing second in Frankfurt last October. He will be looking for his first victory since the 2014 Lyon Marathon.
As always, much will depends upon the weather conditions. A severe thunderstorm was heading towards the Ottawa region which could strike on Saturday night. The 10km starts at 6:30pm, while the marathon runners may find conditions much improved on Sunday morning.
Both races are being live streamed on runottawa.ca
Paul Gains for the IAAF
Korio, Cheprot and Njeru seek second victories Okpekpe
Three past champions of the Okpekpe Road Race will return to Nigeria’s Edo State on Saturday (25) in a bid to become the first two-time winner of the IAAF Silver Label 10km event.
Alex Oloitiptip Korio and Simon Cheprot, the men’s winners in 2015 and 2016 respectively, will clash while Polline Wanjiku Njeru, the 2016 women’s winner, will bid for a second title.
Korio and Cheprot both have 10km PBs inside 28 minutes. Korio set his PB of 27:52 back in 2010, but his half marathon PB of 58:51 was set just 20 months ago. Cheprot, meanwhile, set his 10km PB of 27:41 in 2014 but came within three seconds of that mark last year in Oelde. More recently, he clocked 1:00:12 at the Lisbon Half Marathon just two months ago.
Fellow Kenyan Vedic Cheruiyot heads to Okpekpe in superb form. The 2013 world U18 3000m silver medallist reduced his 10km PB to 27:25 in Valencia earlier this year and followed it two months later with a 27:37 clocking in Laredo.
Ethiopia’s Taye Girma will be racing in Okpekpe for the first time, but his PBs of 28:06 for 10km and 1:00:55 for the half marathon suggest he’ll feature in the lead pack.
Kenya’s William Sitonik is another strong contender. A sub-27-minute performer on the track, he is coming off a recent victory at the Padua Half Marathon.
After setting a half marathon PB of 1:00:01 in March, Bahrain’s Dawit Fikadu won the Asian 10,000m title last month, so is clearly race-sharp.
Kenya’s 2017 world cross-country silver medallist Leonard Barsoton is one of the more accomplished runners in the field, but this will be his first race in more than a year, so his current form is unknown.
Njeru hasn’t contested a 10km race since 2016, the year of her Okpekpe victory. Since then, the 30-year-old Kenyan has reduced her half marathon PB to 1:08:20, which suggests her 10km PB of 32:10 could be due for revision.
Gloria Kite will start as favourite, though. The 20-year-old Kenyan set a 10km PB of 30:26 when finishing second in Valencia earlier this year and followed it with a 3000m PB of 8:29.91 at the IAAF Diamond League meeting in Doha.
Compatriot Sheila Chelangat, the 2015 world U18 3000m bronze medallist, has only raced over 10km on two occasions but she recently set a PB of 31:01.
Although she has raced at longer and shorter distances, Ethiopia’s Sintayehu Lewetegn will be contesting her first 10km race. Her PBs at 5000m (14:53.44) and the marathon (2:22:45) suggest her first 10km clocking could be a fast one.
Other top contenders include 31:02 performer Antonina Kwambai of Kenya, 2006 world U20 3000m champion Veronica Nyaruai, Kenyan cross-country silver medallist Beatrice Mutai, World Cross Country Championships fourth-place finisher Rachael Chebet of Uganda, and Ethiopia’s Sutume Asefa.
The course records of 28:35 and 32:41 have stood since 2014. No other edition in the six-year history of the race has had finishing times within 29 minutes for men or 33 minutes for women.