At Friday’s pre-event press conference for the Ottawa 10km, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, Kenya’s Gladys Cherono admitted she was now considering herself a marathoner having run 2:20:03 and finishing second in Dubai this past January.
But after smashing the Ottawa course record on Saturday (23) with a PB of 30:56 on a windy night, she is likely having doubts.
That record (31:21) had been set by fellow Kenyan Mary Keitany a year ago.
The victory earned Cherono both US $8,000 prize money plus US $2,000 for the course record and another US $2,000 for being the first athlete, male or female, to cross the finish line in a special ‘gender challenge’. The women were given a head start of 3:25 and Cherono managed to stave off their advance.
Early in the race it was her 21-year-old compatriot Peres Jepchirchir who pushed the pace, putting a gap between the pair and their pursuers. But following a long stretch where the runners faced a strong headwind, Cherono made her move.
“At 8km I started pushing,” Cherono said. “I was confident. I knew that Peres is strong but I tried to push. I could not hear her after I went ahead. I knew that I was ahead and she could not catch me again.
“I am happy for that (gender bonus). I was worried that the men were coming but I was not looking back.”
Jepchirchir, who has been racing both cross country and road races in Europe, was all smiles as she recounted the efforts against such a formidable opponent. Cherono, after all, is the world half-marathon champion and boasts a 10,000m personal best of 30:29.23. Two years ago she was also the 10,000m silver medallist at the IAAF World Championships in Moscow. Jepchirchir was well aware of her resume.
“At 8km I went to receive water and she left me there,” said Jepchirchir, still smiling. “After drinking water, I felt stitches but I tried to push. Then I just relaxed. I thought I had the energy to catch her but she was far in front. I am happy and pleased with my race.”
This year the Ottawa 10km was also the Canadian Championships and it was a glorious day for Canadian women runners.
Third place went to Canadian marathon record-holder Lanni Marchant who ran 31:49 to claim the Canadian 10km title. She took home US $2,000 for her podium finish plus CDN $3,000 for the national title.
Natasha Wodak, who recently set a Canadian 10,000m record (31:41.59), finished a strong fourth in 31:59. The pair earned enormous applause from the crowds lining the final kilometre of the route.
“I am excited,” said Marchant. “We kind of took a gamble trying to make this a distance for me and we thought this (10km distance) would be a B event but it’s starting to become an A event for me.
“Ottawa is always an exciting event with a fantastic field. I have been doing this race off and on for seven or eight years now and I just keep edging myself up in the field and to be up there with the Africans it was kind of exciting to have both Natasha and I up there. I don’t think there have been Canadian women up there with the Africans forever.”
The men’s race was equally compelling, even if Deriba Merga’s 2009 course record (27:24) was never challenged.
A trio of Kenyans set off at a steady pace, passing the 5km mark in 14:07. David Kogei, last year’s runner-up, was dropped at about 8km as Nicholas Bor and Simon Cheprot sensed a weakness.
The pair ran together until the finish line was in sight when Bor surged ahead, never to be caught. He crossed the line in 27:55, two seconds ahead of Cheprot.
“I tried to push because these guys have a lot of speed and they have experience, so I went with 600 metres to go,” said Bor. “I was afraid of that guy who was number two. I am happy with my time. I was surprised to win; I thought I would maybe be in the top three. If I was top three this would be ok.
“I was confident because last year we were running together in the Prague Half Marathon and I know these guys,” added Bor. “And I train with David Kogei in Kenya. I am happy and proud of this race.”
Bor’s victory was all the more remarkable since he only arrived in Ottawa 24 hours before the race. His domestic flight from Eldoret to Nairobi was delayed and he subsequently missed his flight to Paris. The earliest he could get out was on Friday. He then flew from Paris to Montreal before boarding a bus to Ottawa.
Kogei managed to hang on to third place in 28:16 with another Kenyan, Amos Mitei, bearing down on him over the last kilometre. Mitei was fourth in 28:31.
Paul Gains for the IAAF