Ottawa Marathon records up for grabs

Some of the world's top-ranked runners are heading to Ottawa Race Weekend, which means course records could be shattered.

Some of the world’s top-ranked runners are heading to Ottawa Race Weekend, which means course records could be shattered.

A strong contingent of Kenyans and Ethiopians will dominate the start line in the men’s and women’s marathons on May 27.

“This is a race people won’t want to miss,” Manny Rodrigues, Elite Athlete Coordinator for Run Ottawa, said in a statement. “New and returning athletes combined with a faster race course will make this year’s marathon a memorable one.”

Teyba Erkesso, a 29 year-old Ethiopian, is the favourite to break the women’s three-year-old event record of 2:27:41. She has a solid record that includes winning the 2010 Boston Marathon and a personal best almost four minutes faster than the record.

“Teyba is familiar with Ottawa after winning our 10K in 2009 and I’m glad to see her move up to try and stamp her name on our marathon,” said Rodrigues. “Teyba is an incredible athlete who I’m hoping will bring the event record under 2:25.”

Erkesso will get some hard competition from fellow Ethiopian Yeshi Esayias, 26. Since placing third in the 2007 Ottawa marathon in 2:36, she has consistently improved to achieve a personal best of 2:26:00 in Tokyo in February.

Rounding out the list of top women includes three women who have personal bests under the event record; Ethiopian Biruktawit Degefa, who was second in Ottawa last year, Kenyan Ruth Wanjiru and Russian Alventina Ivanova.

Ottawa is a lucky town for 28-year-old Laban Moiben of Kenya, who won the men’s Ottawa Marathon last year (2:10:17), placed second in 2010 (2:09:43) and fourth in 2009 (2:14:17).

“Laban is an exciting runner to watch because he’s never content to let the pace dawdle. With his win in Mumbai in January he showed he is in top form by beating some 2:08 marathoners,” said Rodrigues, “So, I don’t think it will be a stretch to see a new men’s record considering the competition we’ve lined up against him.”

In this year’s men’s marathon category, six elite runners boast a personal best time that is faster than the current event record of 2:09:33 set by Japanese racer Arata Fujiwara in 2010.

Kenyan Moses Kigen was considered a dark horse when he took third in the 2010 New York City Marathon. Add in a new personal best of 2:07:45 run in Dubai in February and he’ll be one of the favourites in Ottawa. Kenyan Julius Karinga was only 16 seconds behind Moses in Dubai and will be looking to make his own mark. Also in contention from Kenya are 24-year-old Evans Kiplagat, who has a personal best time of 2:09:22 and Stephen Kibiwott, 26, with a best time of 2:08:02. The Ethiopians’ hope will be spearheaded by 2:07 marathoner Negari Terfa.

“With so many Kenyans having personal bests under the current event record of 2:09:33, together with four-time champion David Cheruiyot – a pair of Moroccans and Ethiopians that are knocking on the door – it’s a recipe for a fast race,” said Rodrigues.

The Ottawa marathon also serves as Athletics Canada’s Canadian Marathon Championship. Leading contenders for the men’s national title are Réjean Chiasson and Giita MacHaria, with personal best times of 2:17 and 2:16 respectively. The women expected to challenge for a national title are Myriam Grenon, Lisa Avery and Josianne Aboungono.