We’re a week and a half out from this year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Here’s a look at 10 international elites who will toe the line on University Ave. on October 20. Defending champion Benson Kipruto, 28, of Kenya will be back, as will two-time champion and Canadian all-comers record-holder Philemon Rono, 28. That record, set in 2017, is 2:06:52, and there are a number of others who will be looking to take it down next Sunday. (Watch for our Canadian Olympic Trials preview, coming shortly.)
Kipruto’s winning time in last year’s cold, windy conditions was 2:07:24, which is just a few seconds off his personal best of 2:07:11 set at Seoul earlier last year. With slightly warmer temperatures and calmer breezes, Kipruto will be looking for a new PB and to defend his title.
Rono will be looking for the third victory at STWM that eluded him last year, as an old calf injury flared up and derailed his race. Rono was already healthy in time for this year’s Boston Marathon, where he finished sixth, and his training with Patrick Sang’s group (which also includes marathon world record-holder Eliud Kipchoge, who will attempt to run the world’s first sub-2 marathon at the INEOS 1:59 Challenge in Vienna this weekend) will no doubt stand him in good stead going into STWM.
Felix Chemonges, 23, of Uganda, trains with Joshua Cheptegei, the new 10,000m world champion. His PB of 2:09:19 from this year’s Linz Marathon in Austria (where he finished second) barely hints at his potential to challenge the more experienced runners. At last year’s World Half-Marathon Championships in Valencia he finished four places ahead of Canada’s marathon record-holder, Cam Levins.
Among the men, there are two Ethiopians to watch: Lemi Berhanu Hayle, 25, and Abera Kuma, 28. At 2:04:33, Hayle has the fastest PB of anyone going into this year’s race, set with this second-place finish at Dubai in 2016. (He also won Boston that year, and finished 13th in the Olympic marathon in Rio despite being injured. He won Dubai the previous year.) Kuma and his sister, Dibabe Kuma, 23, will both race Toronto, confident in their potential to become the first pair of siblings to reach the STWM podium. Abera’s PB is a very quick 2:05:50, set with his second-place finish at Rotterdam last year. (He was also second at this year’s Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon.) A sub-27 10,000m runner from the 2013 World Championships, he has built his marathon ability on his strong record on the track.
International elite women
The women’s race is also shaping up to be an exciting one. Dibabe Kuma won this year’s Hamburg Marathon just a little over a minute slower than her PB of 2:23:34, set a year ago with a third-place finish at the Ljubljana (Slovakia) Marathon and, with the comfort and security of traveling with her older brother Abera, she’ll be looking to bring it down even further.
STWM 2018’s third-place finisher Ruth Chebitok, 28, set her PB of 2:23:29 here last year, and is still basking in the glory of numerous triumphs in 2018 that also included being the first Kenyan woman to win Australia’s Gold Coast Marathon in a course record 2:24:49, and winning the Barcelona Marathon (in 2:25:49). Chebitok finished 10th at the Tokyo Marathon in March.
Magdalyne Masai-Robertson, 25, will have lots of insider information on the STWM course, since she is married to New Zealander Jake Robertson, who finished fifth last year. She also comes from a very fast family, being the younger sister of Linet, Moses and Dennis Masai, all of them past World Championships 10,000m medallists. Masai-Robertson set her PB earlier this year with her second-place finish at Hamburg, in 2:26:02, and with her strong second-place finish at the Great North Run recently, all systems are go for Toronto.
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Biruktayit Degefa Eshetu, 29, of Ethiopia, has won the Houston Marathon three times, setting her PB of 2:23:28 at this year’s edition in January, following that up with a ninth-place finish in Boston three months later. Eshetu is training partners with Shure Demise, who won STWM in 2015 and 2016.
Bekelech Gudeta, 22, also of Ethiopia, is the only African woman making her marathon debut at STWM, but that doesn’t stop her from declaring her goal as not just the win but the course record, set at 2:22:29 by Mimi Belete last year. She has run the Copenhagen Half-Marathon in under 1:08 twice, setting her PB of 1:07:03 there last year, and finished eighth at last year’s Half-Marathon World Championships in Valencia.