Ethiopians dominated both the men’s and women’s races filling all but one of the podium places at the 2016 Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday (29).
Under warm and humid conditions Dino Sefir ran away from what had been considered a very tightly competitive group to win in 2:08:14. The 2012 Olympian outlasted pacers who reached only 25km before dropping out, as well as his countryman Shura Kitata, to earn himself the victor’s laurels.
Kitata, a 19-year-old who burst onto the scene a year ago after running 2:08:53 in his marathon debut in Shanghai, was second in 2:10:04 with Kenya’s Dominic Ondoro third in 2:11:39.
The dire warnings of a heat wave were, as it happened, premature as the temperature at the start was 19C with a gentle breeze cooling the air. The lead pack had passed the half way point in 1:03:54 with Sefir always looking comfortable. With a personal best of 2:04:50 (Dubai 2012) and having represented his country at the 2012 Olympics he is an experienced runner. Only he could maintain the early pace.
“The last 10k were very difficult but I controlled my pace,” said Sefir, who turned 28 the day before. “It was very tough running alone. I was thinking of the time as well as winning the race. I was looking at my watch to follow the time.”
“The pacemakers were not going as fast as I wanted them to go so I had to push them to go faster and faster. That is correct that if there was more competition there was a chance I could have run better.”
Kitata’s inexperience showed. When he did try to take water he spilled most of it and at roughly 30km Sefir kindly handed him his own bottle to ensure he hydrated.
“I am happy with my result but the only problem I had was I used new shoes today,” Kitata said of his smart looking footwear. “I was not comfortable with the new shoes.”
“And I have no experience with taking water. I tried to run without water. Once Dino shared water and then he took off.”
Jelela beats the heat
The women’s race was another story of attrition with Koren Jelela running alone for the final eight kilometres. She had been one of four athletes --Isabella Ochichi of Kenya, defending champion Aberu Mekuria and Sechale Dalasa were the others-- to pass the half way point in 1:12:30 but as the temperature quickly rose during the second half of the race none could maintain that rhythm.
Five years ago Jelela set the Canadian all-comers record of 2:22:43 in Toronto. Today she suffered along with her rivals and frequently turned around worrying where Mekuria, her nearest challenger, might be. Her concerns were unfounded and the gap between her and Mekuria increased to the finish.
Jelela reached the line in 2:27:06 with Mekuria finishing a well-beaten second in 2:29:51. Sechale Dalasa was third in 2:32:46.
“It was a bit difficult but it wasn’t as challenging as we had expected,” Jelela said of the weather. “It turned out to be better than we thought.”
“If there were people around it would help break the wind but because I was by myself I had to push. If there had been people around me we could have obtained better results out of that. After 30k as people were dropping back and the gap was getting big I felt very comfortable and was confident I would win.”
As Ethiopian flags waved in the crowd and the Ethiopian ambassador posed for pictures with her comrades, plans for a celebration were being sketched out. Sefir joked that his birthday celebration yesterday consisted of drinking more water and getting more sleep. Jelela smiled at Sefir.
“No problem, we will celebrate,” she said laughing. “We will be celebrating and I hope to come back next year and celebrate some more. Because we took first, second and third in the women's race and it’s very exciting to see so many Ethiopians taking the podium. We will celebrate.”
Paul Gains for the IAAF