One of the things that makes the Ottawa 10K so exciting to watch is the mixed-gender bonus scenario, in which the elite women are given a three-minute-and-40-second head start. This creates a battle of the sexes at the finish line, rather than the traditional situation where the first woman breaks the tape around three and a half minutes behind the overall winner. Anything can happen–and as past results show, more often than not it’s been a woman who’s been first to break the tape in Ottawa.

Canadian Athletics Championships
Photo: Matt Stetson

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The first person to cross the finish line, whether male or female, gets a $2,000 mixed-gender bonus this year. (Second place gets $1,000 and third place gets $500.)

As elite athlete co-ordinator Manny Rodrigues explains, each year the size of the women’s head start is calculated based on the field’s personal best times and recent results, plus factors such as that the men have an advantage in running behind the women, whereas the women are running “blind.” The head start has been as much as 4:15 and as little as 3:20. “…There are also aspects that we can’t account for, like weather–for some reason women tend to perform closer to their PBs when the weather is warm than men,” says Rodrigues, “so, in the end, it’s really guess-work.”

A female runner has broken the tape at the Ottawa 10K six times since it was first implemented, back in 2008:

2010–Dire Tune of Ethiopia (32:11)
2011–Dire Tune (31:43)
2014–Mary Keitany of Kenya (31:21.7, a course record)
2015–Gladys Cherono of Kenya (30:56, a course record)
2016–Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya (31:29)
2017–Netsanet Gudeta of Ethiopia (31:35)
Ottawa 10K. Photo: Rémi Theriault studio
In 2016, Jepchirchir collapsed dramatically at the finish line, having beaten the overall winner, Mohammed Ziani of Morocco, to the tape. Both are returning to race at Ottawa again this year, which should make for yet another exciting finish.

(Jepchirchir had another dramatic finish-line collapse the following year at the 2017 RAK Half-Marathon in the United Arab Emirates.)

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