Kenya’s Laban Korir and Ethiopia’s Mulu Seboka triumphed despite frigid temperatures and a headwind at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, winning at the IAAF Silver Label Road Race in 2:08:15 and 2:23:15 respectively on Sunday (19).
Korir chased down the race leaders in the final three kilometres to win the $20,000 first prize with Tariku Jufar holding on for second place in 2:08:36 and his Ethiopian compatriot Shami Abdulahi third in 2:08:41.
It was 3 degrees Celsius at the start and the men’s favourites all followed the pacemakers bravely through the halfway point in 1:03:15, precisely the requested time.
However, the pace slowed at 25km as the course turned uphill slightly. Hopes of the course record of 2:07:05, set by Ethiopia’s Derissa Chimsa last year – and the Canadian all-comers' record of 2:06:54 – faded at this point as the race soon became a battle among the leading Ethiopians and Kenyans in the field.
The pacemakers dropped out at 30km, passed in 1:30:28, and it was Peter Some of Kenya, the 2:05:38 winner of the 2013 Paris Marathon, who surged into the lead, breaking away with only his countryman Patrick Terer in tow.
They appeared to have the first places on the podium but Korir, who had experienced a pain in his left calf and briefly slowed, suddenly appeared in the picture with Jufar tagging along.
“I was not expecting to win the race; I was targeting to be in the top three as I said at the press conference,” said the happy Korir after crossing the line.
“At first the pace was OK. First we went through halfway in 63 and I was thinking it would be a 2:06 winning time. My target was 2:06. I see my fellow (training) colleagues running so well like Emmanuel Mutai (second in Berlin) and Eliud Kipchoge (Chicago winner), they ran good. They are the guys who train with me.
“After 30km I felt something tender in my legs so I decided to set my own pace and that was ok. I was looking back and I saw the Ethiopian guy was behind me. I was worried because I saw the guy (Jufar) who had won some races and I thought he might beat me.”
Korir was one of five men who have beaten the 2:07 mark in recent years and although few would have bet on him to win this race, clearly his preparation was spot on.
In total, five men dipped under 2:10 with Terer fourth in 2:08:58 and Ukraine's Vitaliy Shafar fifth in 2:09:53. Some, after his courageous mid-race break, faded to sixth in 2:10:07.
Seboka regains Toronto Waterfront title after six-year gap
The women’s field also went out hard and it was Kenya’s Rael Kiyara who led them in single file through the early stages before Seboka, the 2008 Toronto Waterfront Marathon winner, took over with just her compatriot Amane Gobena for company, just before the halfway point.
The pair reached 21.1km in 1:10:53 with Kiyara now third and six seconds in arrears.
The pair increased the gap between themselves and their Kenyan rival up to 30km, which was reached in 1:41:12.
Shortly afterwards, Seboka made her decisive move and was never headed, crossing the line in a personal best of 2:23:15, 28 seconds faster than she had run before and a tantalising 32 seconds short of the course record set by her compatriot Koren Jelela in 2011.
Belarus’ Aliaksandra Duliba, sixth in Boston in 2:21:29 this year, came through the field strongly in the latter stages to claim second in 2:24:43 while Kiyara was rewarded for her courage in the first half of the race and persistence in the second half with third place in 2:27:10.
“I am so happy but the weather was a problem and because of that I didn’t make a good time,” said Seboka. “For sure if the weather is better I can get a good time. Everybody came here to win. When I took the lead, I felt I was going to win.”
For her part, Duliba was bitterly disappointed.
“I am not going to lie to you,” said the Belarusian. “I am very disappointed with the result but now, when I think about, it is a good lesson for me. I will run fast in another marathon, but I am going to use this as a good experience.”
Gobena, who had beaten Seboka to win at the 2009 Toronto Waterfront Marathon, faded to fourth in 2:28:29 here.
Paul Gains for the IAAF