Geoffrey Mutai produces a dominating run in the 2012 Ottawa 10km (Victah Sailer) © Copyright
Preview Ottawa, Canada

Ottawa Race Weekend promises world-class racing

Organisers of the 2013 Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend on 24-25 May have their fingers crossed the weather cooperates for their world-class 10km and Marathon events – both IAAF Silver Label Road Races.

The Canadian capital is unique in hosting two IAAF Silver Label races in the same weekend and aside from the elite athletes who are competing for the prize money there are more than 43,000 runners of all ages expected to participate in the various events.

Saturday evening’s 10km promises to be an exceptional race this year. Both defending champions Lindsey Scherf and Geoffrey Mutai are returning. The former will face Joyce Chepkirui of Kenya and Ethiopia’s Firehiwot Dado on the starting line. Mutai, meanwhile, is expected to have a go at Deriba Merga’s 2009 course record. The Ethiopian covered the distance in a spectacular 27:24 which was, at the time, the seventh fastest in history.

Scherf, who represents New York’s Westchester Track Club, was a surprise winner here last year in 33:18, but will have to considerably raise her standards if she has any interest in the $6000 first place prize money.

Two years ago Chepkirui ran 30:38 in Tilburg, making her the fastest of the bunch on paper. But Dado also has fine credentials. In addition to winning the 2011 New York City Marathon she has run 10km in 32:00 but that was en route to setting a New York Half Marathon course record of 1:08:35. Under the right conditions surely she is capable of knocking thirty seconds off her best.

The course record of 31:24 was set by Grace Momanyi in 2007.

Canada’s dynamic Marathon pair, Lanni Marchant and Krista Duchene, will also test themselves over the 10km distance in preparation for the IAAF World Championships in August. Both have been winning domestic races while gaining confidence. Should the favourites go out too hard this pair could spring some surprises. And with more than 100,000 spectators seeking vantage points along the route they will receive plenty of crowd support.

Mutai’s return after London DNF

Mutai – who won in Ottawa last year in 27:42 – dropped out of the London Marathon five weeks ago and will be looking for a fast time to acquit himself. According to his management team, they haven’t discussed times, so perhaps we shouldn’t put too much stock in the fact that he has travelled to Ottawa with one of his training partners, Charles Kimeli.

“The course in Ottawa is not bad,” Mutai has said previously. “But for a 10km race it’s very important that weather conditions are good. I will need an athlete who can run a stable speed as pacemaker. I prefer a pacemaker from my own training group who knows me and I know him.”

Mutai’s plans for a fast race were almost torpedoed when Kimeli’s visa application was originally denied by the Canadian embassy in Nairobi. Thankfully he received his visa on Thursday just in time to catch a flight to Ottawa.

For the Kenyan superstar, a past winner of the New York, Boston and Berlin Marathons, it may not be a simple matter of lining up and following a pacemaker, however. Also entered in the field is Ethiopia’s Adugna Tekele who surprised many with his world-leading time of 27:30 in March. Either way, neither athlete wants to find himself stranded alone in front over the last three kilometres where typically a slight headwind greets the racers along the Rideau Canal.

Moiben looking for hat-trick

Sunday’s Marathon could well produce course records. A year ago Laban Moiben of Kenya set the record at 2:09:12 and he will be going for his third consecutive Ottawa victory.

Race director Manny Rodrigues has put together a deep international field and it will a hard-fought victory for whoever crosses the line first. Among the contenders is Tariku Jufar who hopes to become the first Ethiopian man to win the Ottawa Marathon.

He won the 2012 Houston Marathon in 2:06:51 and believes he’s ready to run well under Moiben’s standard. It won’t be easy. Kenyans Nathaniel Kipkosgei (2:06:08 PB) and Victor Kipchirchir are also in form. The latter finished third in 1:00:27 at the 2013 Berlin Half Marathon which suggests he might well be ready to better his only previous Marathon best of 2:09:16.

A series of hills between 21km and 30km contributes to the scenic course as it passes into the province of Quebec and partially explains why the course records are modest compared to some other city Marathons. Ottawa, it must be said, emphasises head-to-head competition as opposed to running against the clock.

The women’s race includes a formidable line-up of Ethiopian runners. Sechale Delasa, the 21-year-old who made an impressive Marathon debut in last December’s Shanghai Marathon (2:26:27), will tackle defending champion Yeshi Esayias and Netsanet Achamo. The latter ran 2:24:12 in Hamburg last year.

Russia’s Maria Konovalova, 38, has the fastest time of the field with her 2:23:50 which earned her third place at the 2010 Chicago Marathon.

Should the weather cooperate, the course record of 2:27:41 set by Morocco’s Asmae Leghzaoui in 2009 could very well fall. And that would be an achievement welcomed by the organisers.

Paul Gains (organisers) for the IAAF