Monday, May 27, 2013

Ethiopians rule Ottawa Marathon (with video)

OTTAWA — Tariku Jufar and Yeshi Esayias collected the Ottawa Marathon titles and established event records, but Luka Rotich nearly upstaged them.
Jufar took advantage of great running conditions and Rotich’s efforts as a pacesetter to finish the 42.195-kilometre course through Ottawa and Gatineau in two hours eight minutes 4.8 seconds, slicing 67 seconds off the 2012 race standard established by Laban Moiben.
Esayias successfully defended her Ottawa title and made it a double triumph for Ethiopia, crossing the finish line in 2:25:30.1 to take 71 seconds off a mark set by Asmae Leghazoui in 2009.
Rotich, 24, had been hired by Tamarack Homes Ottawa Race Weekend officials to set the pace through 30 kilometres, and he earned an additional stipend by playing that role through 35. Free to do whatever he wanted to do at that point, he kept going.

The Kenyan remained at Jufar’s side through 39 kilometres, and he finished second in a personal-best time of 2:08:11.1. Another Kenyan, Gashaw Melese, was third in 2:10:23.5.
“When I was running, I was feeling strong at 30 (kilometres), 35,” Rotich said. “I feel I have to finish because I have the energy to finish.”
A lead pack of 15 stuck together through 15 kilometres, but it dwindled to nine by the race’s mid-point in central Gatineau. By the time the runners passed 25 kilometres, just before crossing the Alexandra Bridge to re-enter Ottawa, Jufar, Rotich and Ethiopian Teferi Kebede had pulled ahead.
Kebede faded at about 33 kilometres, his head and shoulders showing bobbing up and down as he ran, and he dropped out of sight of the leading duo. He eventually finished fourth in 2:11:09, just ahead of Kenya’s James Mbugua (2:11:15.2).
Moiben, who had won the past two Ottawa Marathons, was sixth in 2:11:44.5.
Jufar, 28, has his own backstory: a broken neck after he was struck by a car while on a training run in 2009. He seems to have drawn inspiration from his recovery, having won marathons at Houston, Beijing and Ottawa since 2012, and he placed second in a race at Otsu, Japan, in February.
Sunday’s time didn’t match his personal best (2:06:51), but Jufar was more than satisfied with the victory, which was worth top prize of $20,000 plus a $10,000 bonus for the event record.
“I’m very happy. I did better than I expected,” he said through an interpreter. “I didn’t expect to run this fast. I’m very grateful for this time.”
Besides his payment as pacesetter, Rotich earned $12,000 for placing second and the respect of Jufar for the push he provided.
“I didn’t expect him to go that far,” the race champion said. “I expected him to drop out around 30K. He kept going to 35, and he even got stronger after 35.”
Esayias led a parade of four Ethiopians atop the women’s standings. Misiker Mekonin, who stayed with Esayias through 40 kilometres, took second in 2:25:44.4. Sechale Delasa (2:27:31) and Netsanet Achamo (2:27:43.9) were third and fourth, respectively.
“It doesn’t matter (who wins),” Esayias said through an interpreter. “If they win, they are Ethiopian. If I win, I am Ethiopian.”
Esayias added that she had been confident about her chances of winning Sunday, and she promised to return in 2014 in a bid to become the first woman to win the Ottawa Marathon three years in a row.
Four others previously won back to back, including Lioudmila Kortchaguina of Thornhill, Ont., who 2008-09 double gave her a total of four victories. The others occurred in 2002 and 2006.
Kortchaguina was eighth on Sunday in 2:33:10.2. Now 41 and with children both 14 years and 17 months old, she cobbled together an $8,500 payday for her overall placing ($1,000), standing as leading masters runner ($1,000) and top Canadian ($5,000) and a $1,500 Canadian time bonus.
“It’s not so big pressure on me now,” she said. “When you run the open category, you push yourself more. Now I’m more relaxed and more comfortable in doing my pace, my race. I’m just doing it for pleasure.”
The Ottawa Marathon constitutes the Canadian championship, so those honours went to Kortchaguina and Vancouver’s Rob Watson, who was 10th among men in 2:13:33.3.
“It was a good, hard effort out there,” said Watson, who just six weeks ago finished 11th in the Boston Marathon and who arrived in Ottawa with initial plans to compete only in Saturday’s 10-kilometre race.
“The Canadian championship was the thing I was really going for, so I’m pretty stoked about that,” Watson added. “This is my second Canadian championship, and it’s always cool to be top in your country.
“Running in such a fun event in the nation’s capital. Great support, great course, great organization. It was a really fun day (Sunday).”
Gatineau’s Maxime Leboeuf was 15th among men in 2:27:08.7, while Ottawa’s Kerri Labrecque was 14th among women in 2:52:14.8.