Shami Abdulahi, Tariku Jufar and Peter Some ahead of the 2014 Toronto Marathon (Victah Sailer) © Copyright
Preview Toronto, Canada

Strong field targeting course record in Toronto

For seven straight years the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon has achieved IAAF Silver Label Road Race status, an impressive distinction certainly, but organisers of this year’s race on Sunday (19) have certainly not grown complacent.

Race director Alan Brookes, together with elite athlete consultant Gianni DeMadonna, has assembled the strongest field yet at the race with no fewer than five men who have run faster than 2:07.

The current course record of 2:07:05, set last year by Derissa Chimsa of Ethiopia, could therefore be in jeopardy if the weather cooperates. The forecast at the moment is calling for cool temperatures of about 3⁰C by the 8:45am start rising ever so slightly through the race.

Brookes has a reason for optimism besides the strong field; a slight tweak to the course has also removed some twists and turns which interfered with the leaders’ rhythm a year ago.

Leading this year’s field is Kenya’s Peter Kimeli Some who won the 2013 Paris Marathon in a personal best of 2:05:38. The 24-year-old also won the Route du Vin Half Marathon in Luxembourg, a race he used to gauge his preparation for this marathon. Some has studied the field in advance of the race.

“I feel very good with my training because I have been training with my brothers and other colleagues,” Some said while proudly showing off photos of his one-year-old daughter Sharleen.

“That encourages me because my colleagues have run below 2:07 and if we can work together we can improve the course record.  We can run below 2:06 if the weather is good. If the weather is cold and windy, we may only run below 2:06:30. I have been thinking about this race since my manager informed me I was running in Toronto. I focused on this marathon only.”

But he and his fellow Kenyan, Laban Korir – who has a PB of 2:06:05 from the 2011 Amsterdam Marathon – will have their hands full with a formidable Ethiopian triumvirate of Tariku Jufar, Abraha Gebretsadik and Shami Abdulahi Dawud.

Jufar, who set his PB of 2:06:51 in Houston two years ago, and Dawud, whose PB of 2:05:42 was set in Dubai in 2012, have raced in Toronto previously, with Dawud finishing second in the 2011 edition of the race. Moreover, he counts Chimsa as one of his training partners. No doubt the pair have had much to talk about with respect to their Toronto experiences.

Gebretsadik is another sub-2:07 performer. The former world junior silver medallist set his PB of 2:06:21 on his debut in Amsterdam.

Some and Korir were fortunate they weren’t among half a dozen of their compatriots who missed a connection from Eldoret to Nairobi and spent Wednesday night at a Nairobi YMCA. They eventually arrived in Toronto on Thursday evening.

The Canadian all-comers’ record of 2:06:54 set in Ottawa this past May is also in the sights of these athletes. The victor will receive $20,000 first place prize money with another $35,000 if the course record falls. That bonus goes up to $40,000 if the Canadian all-comers’ record is beaten.

Although the men’s field is the strongest ever on Canadian soil, the women’s race is none too shabby either.

Duliba out to repel the African challenge

Aliaksandra Duliba will be conspicuous among the elite women’s field as she faces a strong East African contingent.

The Belarusian, who lives in Ukraine with her fiance Vitaliy Shafar who finished fourth in Boston this year, has enjoyed a quick rise to the top levels of marathon racing.

She made her debut in Los Angeles last year and won in 2:26:08. Later that year, she finished fourth at the 2013 Chicago marathon in 2:23:44 and improved her PB again at this year’s Boston marathon, finishing sixth in 2:21:29.

Chief among her competition are two previous Toronto winners: Mulu Seboka and Amane Gobena, both of Ethiopia. Seboka won the 2008 Toronto race and then finished more than a minute behind Gobena the following year. The latter achieved her personal best in Dubai last year, clocking 2:23:50.

This year Seboka has been a consistent performer winning in both Dubai (2:25:02) and Daegu (2:25:23). The 30-year-old would like nothing more than to make it three victories in three starts.

Seboka eschewed the tendency to belong to a large training group, preferring to train with her husband.  Both Seboka and Gobena – who finished a few places behind her compatriot in Dubai – have said they will take aim at the women’s course record of 2:22:43.

Thousands are expected to line the streets of Toronto but marathon fans around the world will be able to watch the entire race online at stwm.ca.

“We’d be thrilled and honoured to have Gold Label status,” says Brookes. “It would be a huge recognition for our team’s tremendous hard work over the past decade. And, it would make us the first Gold Label marathon in the Americas, outside of World Marathon Major events (Boston, Chicago, New York). I think that’s important.”

Paul Gains for the IAAF