Ethiopia's Deressa Chimsa on his way to victory at the Toronto Marathon (© Victah Sailer)
Almost perfect weather conditions and perhaps the deepest world-class field ever assembled on Canadian soil led to a course and Canadian all-comers’ record in Sunday’s (20) Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, an IAAF Silver Label Road Race.
In the end it was pre-race favourite and 2012 World Half Marathon silver medallist Deressa Chimsa of Ethiopia who prevailed, crossing the line in 2:07:05 to beat the former record by 53 seconds.
The 26-year-old always looked fluid, even as the eight-man pack – which passed halfway in 1:03:15 – began to disintegrate. Under clear skies and with temperatures hovering around 10°C, there was early optimism for a fast time.
By 30km the three dedicated pacemakers had dropped out, leaving Chimsa, his compatriot Habtamu Assefa and Kenya’s Solomon Kiptoo alone to face the oncoming westerly wind.
Kiptoo surged, covering two consecutive kilometres in less than three minutes each and that was the end of Assefa. But Chimsa could not be dissuaded. The barrel-chested Ethiopian – who went under 2:07 three times in 2012, recording a personal best of 2:05:42 in Dubai a year ago – simply responded in the unkindest way possible. He himself surged going up a gradual climb and put distance between himself and Kiptoo.
Of his move at 36km, Chimsa was rather casual in his assessment.
“I just saw his (Kiptoo) condition and I left him,” he revealed through an interpreter. “I felt confident when I followed him that I could go with him and I could beat him.”
Around the 37km mark the course took a series of sharp turns made necessary by the city of Toronto on-going construction projects. Kiptoo soon lost sight of his rival and slowed down considerably. He was rewarded with second place in 2:09:03 and $12,000 prize money.
“I couldn't make a 2:06 today but next time I can,” said Chimsa, who earned $20,000 for the victory plus a $35,000 Canadian all-comers’ record bonus. “I am happy to finish in the time I did, but in the end I felt tired. I made a mistake and went with the pace car when it turned off (400m).
“The roads were smooth, I didn't mind the course and I had no problems. I feel happy today.”
Chimsa’s training partner, Sahle Warga, the defending champion, faded to seventh in 2:16:03 after complaining of a pain in his hip.
Cheyech maintains 2013 winning streak
The women’s victor was Kenya’s Flomena Cheyech who, like Chimsa, is represented by the Italian sports agency DeMadonna Management.
She ran wisely as the lead women went through the halfway point in 1:11:53, but by 24km she found herself in the lead with nobody willing to push the pace. While the others slowed, she just powered away from the field to win in 2:25:13.
“I am pleased with how I ran, really, because I was not really concentrating on the course record,” said Cheyech, who is undefeated this year, having won at the Rome-Ostia Half Marathon in 1:07:39 and at the Vienna Marathon in 2:24:34, setting PBs on both occasions.
“I was not ready for it. The course was very tough. I am happy I finished this race and I was still feeling good at the end.
“When I looked around at 24km there was nobody who wanted to come in front and when I arrived at 30km there was nobody coming again, so I motivated myself to keep going on. This is the beginning of racing for me. Maybe one day I will have a business in Kenya.”
The early pace destroyed many of the leading contenders leaving Ethiopian Sechale Adugna to claim second in 2:26:43.
Marchant breaks Canadian record
The crowd along the Toronto streets were delighted to see the renowned Canadian international pair Lanni Marchant and Krista DuChene both beat the 28-year-old Canadian record of 2:28:36.
Marchant finished in third place in 2:28:00, 32 seconds ahead of her friend and rival. They were greeted at the finish by Sylvia Ruegger, whose record they had finally beaten. Their performances represented about a three-minute improvement on their previous best times.
Asked when she knew she had the record safely in her grasp, Marchant laughed.
“Really not ever until even the last kilometre,” she said. “I asked the guy on the bike ‘how far back is Krista? and ‘what pace am I on?’ My calves didn't cramp as bad as they did at the World Championships but they definitely started to hurt.
“Throughout the whole race our pacers were great and I just tucked in behind Krista and the pacer. I guess about 33km or 34km I kind of pulled away from Krista and I thought I have to keep going. The World Championships was in the back of mind and with a flip of a switch things can go wrong. So I thought just take control, stay patient. Then some of the Ethiopian and Kenyan women started coming back to me. I am still in shock.”
Along with her third-place prize money ($8,000) Marchant earned a $28,000 Canadian record bonus offered by Scotiabank, the title sponsor. DuChene was equally delighted with her fourth-place finish.
Paul Gains for the IAAF