Andamlak Berta takes the Ottawa 10k (© Kevin Morris (organisers))
Upon arrival in Canada Kenyans Benard Kimeli and Benard Ngeno conspired amongst themselves to go after the nine-year-old course Ottawa 10k course record of 27:24 held by Ethiopia’s Deriba Merga.
But on a humid night it was Andamlak Berta of Ethiopia who emerged victorious in this IAAF Gold Label road race in a personal best of 27:48.
The Kenyans’ plan was to hit kilometre splits in 2:40 and hang on. It was not as daft as it seemed. Both are young, bold and potential world beaters. The Japan based Kimeli, in fact, has run the distance in 27:10, while Ngeno, barely eight months into his North American road race adventure, has claimed victories in three US races including the 2018 Azalea Trail 10km. He recorded his personal best of 27:45 there.
An opening kilometre in 2:40 set the tone but by the halfway point reached in 13:44 Ngeno was paying the price for his gambit leaving his compatriot to tackle the tall 19-year-old Ethiopian alone. Then just after seven kilometres Berta made a decisive move putting distance between him and Kimeli.
Frequent looks over his shoulder and an occasional glimpse at his wrist watch soon gave way to staring ahead as the elite women’s field had set off three minutes and 40 seconds ahead of the men and there was more money if he could catch them.
Berta who won the 2017 Ethiopian 10,000m title earning a place on his nation’s London 2017 world championships team - he ran 27:08.94 in London - chased down Alia Mohammed of the United Arab Emirates in the final kilometre to cross the line first overall. That earned him $10,000 while Mohammed took $8,000 for crossing the line second.
The men’s runner-up was Benard Kimeli in 28:22 just ahead of the Moroccan pair of Mohamed Reda and Mohammed Ziani both timed in 28:23. Berta, competing in his first North American competition was pleased with his effort.
“I had lots of energy and was just checking on (Kimeli) and once I knew that he wasn't going to catch up then I was trying to catch the women,” he explained.
“I was happy that (Ngeno and Kimeli) made the early pace very fast. They got tired. It was difficult to run by myself. If there were others the time might have been better. I’m very happy to win this great race.”
Despite a sore stomach, the Ethiopian-born Mohammed broke a strong women’s field knocking twenty seconds off her personal best with 31:36. Behind her was Edith Chelimo of Kenya (31:47) who has won the 2017 Cardiff Half Marathon in 1:05:42 passing 10k in 30:56 there. Gladys Kimaina claimed third place with 32:19 and collapsed with cramps in her legs.
“I just controlled her,” Mohammed said through a smile. “I was watching her. In the beginning we were together and another runner was pushing us but at 5k we dropped her. Then there was just the two of us pushing, pushing, pushing, After 8k I looked at her and she looked tired so I went on my own. It was too windy after that and I was feeling my stomach.
“When I started the race I thought, ‘I have to run my own race.’ I was thinking top three. I didn’t expect to win. So I am so happy.”
Chelimo, who was considered by many to be the race favourite, was smiling after the race.
“I am pleased with my race,” she said revealing she had been nursing a knee injury early this spring. “I missed a lot of training with my knee injury. So this is a very good race for me because I never thought I could finish number two. I was doing my best to push and trying to catch her but she was fast and she was in super shape. It was a really fantastic race.”
Paul Gains for the IAAF