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Ottawa marathon champion Girma accepts, then declines, STWM

Girma changes her mind about racing STWM, meanwhile the race welcomes 2016 Boston Marathon champion and Olympian Lemi Berhanu Hayle and American marathoner Becky Wade

The running world is scratching its head as Ethiopia’s Tigist Girma, who won the this year’s Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon in 2:26:34, who was to appear at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, has now changed her mind, claiming her husband does not think the course is fast enough for her. Considering last year’s STWM winner and course record-holder Mimi Belete ran more than four minutes faster, this is perplexing, to say the least.

Tigist Girma at the 2019 Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon. Photo: Victah Sailer/Canada Running Series

RELATED: Philemon Rono to seek his third win at STWM

A week ago, Canada Running Series announced Girma’s participation at STWM, but pronounced it a “reality check” and her hopes for victory “decidedly ambitious.” Girma also won the 2018 Guangzhou Marathon in China, but she is relatively inexperienced, and the lineup at STWM, including some Ethiopians with faster PB’s than hers (not to mention Kenya’s Magdalyne Masai) would have given her her stiffest competition yet.

In a statement on Tuesday, STWM race director Alan Brookes expressed surprise and disappointment that Girma had broken her contract with the race. In an email to Canadian Running, he said, “Every year we have a few late scratches owing to injury. But this is the first time someone has withdrawn because they changed their mind… We provide a super race, a super opportunity for athletes of all levels to have a great experience. And we want to see 25,000 people on our start line who are 100 per cent committed to being here and leaving it all out there. We still have one of our best international fields ever, for both men and women and best-ever Canadian. We’re so excited to see this year’s crop of rising stars!”


Lemi Berhanu Hayle winning the 2016 Boston Marathon. Photo: PhotoRun

RELATED: Siblings Abera and Dibabe Kuma to attempt course records at STWM

In other STWM news, 2016 Boston Marathon champion and Olympian Lemi Berhanu Hayle of Ethiopia has joined the elite roster, and has declared his hope of breaking Philemon Rono’s course record of 2:06:52 from 2017. (Rono will also race this year, as will 2018 champion Benson Kipruto.) Hayle’s personal best is 2:04:33 (set with his second-place finish at the 2017 Dubai Marathon), so under the right conditions, he could be a serious contender. The race has a prize purse of $30,000, as well as a $40,000 bonus for breaking the course record.

American marathoner Becky Wade will also toe the line in Toronto on October 20. Wade has a PB of 2:35:01 (set at last year’s London Marathon) and finished 17th at Boston this year. In 2016 Wade published a book entitled Run the World: My 3,500-Mile Journey Through Running Cultures Around the Globe based on her travels while on a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. In her blog, Wade reports she is also targetting the US Olympic Marathon Trials in Atlanta on February 29; Olympic standard is 2:29:30. Wade trains in Boulder, Colo.