Kenya’s Eliud Kiptanui crushed a world-class field to win the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon on Sunday (28), winning the IAAF Gold Label road race in 2:10:14.
Most noteworthy was that Kiptanui, who has a best of 2:05:21 when he finished second at the 2015 Berlin Marathon, was a late addition to the field after failing to finish the Vienna Marathon last month.
This time he ran away from Ethiopian Seboka Dibaba and his fellow Kenyan Levy Matebo in the closing three kilometres to win in 2:10:14 and earn himself CDN$40,000. The Ethiopian, trying to extend his country’s grip on this race to five consecutive victories, was no match for Kiptanui, but he fought his way back to take second place after Matebo had forged ahead temporarily.
Dibaba’s time was 2:10:31 with Matebo (2:10:38) snatching third place by one second from Uganda’s Moses Kipsiro, whose 2:10:48 in fourth place was a huge personal best and more indicative of his potential at this distance.
The temperature was 13C at the 7:00am start but with no cloud cover and no wind it rose quickly to about 18C midway through the race. Remarkably, three pacers had led a six-man pack through the half-way point in 1:03:40.
“After the pacemakers dropped out (at about 31km) I decided to push the pace,” said Kiptanui. “Then I was in a position to take the pace. I had enough energy. I knew when I was in front I had a lot of energy. I was making a decision at which place to go. That’s why I came first. I was not worried.
“The conditions were a little bit warm; that’s why we couldn't make a good time,” he added. “I had no intention of running for time, I just wanted to win. It has been a long time since I won a race.”
Kiptanui explained it was visa problems that conspired against his racing performance in Vienna. He only arrived the day before the marathon and got to 30km feeling tired and decided to save himself for another day. His decision was obviously a wise one.
“I knew the competition was strong,” he added. “You cannot ignore anyone, they must be prepared when they come here.”
Dibaba was pleased with the fact he battled back for second place and earned CDN$20,000 which is double the third place money.
“I am happy that I am second,” he said. “The weather was really nice the course was nice except there were a few hills which make you more tired.”
The women’s race became another battle of attrition with 22-year-old Ethiopian Hiwot Gebrekidan charging through the first half in 1:11:11, 20 seconds ahead of the field. Over the next half hour she extended this to about two minutes, but in the closing kilometres she withered under the heat.
With the dedicated pacemaker visibly imploring her to continue, she was running slower than 4:00 per kilometre. Her compatriot Guteni Imana pulled back the deficit and passed her in the last kilometre.
Imana crossed the line in 2:30:18 with Gebrekidan holding second place in 2:30:53.
“I was not really expecting to win this race,” Imana said. “I thought I might be second or third. I was a little bit uncomfortable with a sharp feeling in my stomach, but when I felt a little relieved I ran a faster pace.
This makes eight consecutive years the women’s race at the Ottawa Marathon has been won by an Ethiopian runner and again the top four were from the East African nation. Aberash Fayesa finished third in 2:31:27.
Defending champion Koren Jelala and 2015 winner Aberu Mekuria were among the pre-race favourites but suffered in the conditions. Mekuria finished fourth in 2:33:46 while Jelela, pointing to a pain in her back, was ninth.
Early leader Gebrekidan needed medical assistance at the finish and she was quickly whisked away for treatment. Once recovered, she was all smiles at the post-race press conference.
“It was really difficult,” she said of her second marathon, “especially the last three kilometres was really hard for me. I was not able to turn the legs, so it was very hard. The reason I am so happy is that I finished second.”