Ethiopia’s Yemane Tsegay runs record Ottawa marathon
Out of the fog and into the record books.
Yemane Tsegay completed the fastest marathon ever on Canadian soil on Sunday, running away from the field and running to victory in the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon.
“I would like to thank the Canadian (spectators) because I saw them all over, and that was a big encouragement,” the 29-year-old Tsegay said after crossing the finish line in two hours six minutes 54 seconds, which not only sliced 31 seconds off the national all-comers record that Deressa Chimsa established last fall in Toronto, but also obliterated the year-old Ottawa standard (2:08:04.8) set by a third Ethiopian, Tariku Jufar.
“This was the first time that I’ve (competed) in Canada, and, when I get the record, it is a really nice surprise for me, and I’m really delighted,” Tsegay added through a translator.
Tigist Tufa completed an Ethiopian sweep of the marathon titles for the second consecutive year, claiming the women’s title with a time of 2:24:31, which was not only a personal best by more than 3 1/2 minutes, but also nearly a minute better than the year-old event record of Yeshi Esayias.
“I was really very much prepared to win,” said Tufa, who crossed the line nearly three minutes ahead of Ethiopia’s Meseret Tolwak (2:27:26). Kenya’s Agnes Kiprop (2:28:05) was third.
The Ottawa marathon also served as the Canadian championship for the 42.195-kilometre distance, and the crowns were claimed by Eric Gillis (2:13:47) of Guelph, Ont., and Rhiannon Johns (2:47:11) of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
Tsegay was among the leaders from the very start of the race in moderately thick fog, which proved to be a plus for the elite athletes since it kept the temperature from rising until they had nearly completed the course. That pack of 10 runners dwindled to about half that size by the race’s mid-point, and by 30 kilometres Tsegay had dropped the last pacesetter and set out on his own.
He was then 15 seconds ahead of Wami and Kenya’s Milton Rotich, but he put the hammer down as he raced along the Rockcliffe Parkway and built his advantage to more than 90 seconds by the time the runners reached 40 kilometres.
“The last 10 kilometres was really difficult for me,” said Tsegay, who last fall won another marathon at Eindhoven, Netherlands, and in early April also triumphed at Daegu, South Korea. “I had pain in my legs, and it was really foggy, and, at the same time, I was so tired. But, I was doing my best, which was just to keep the record of Canada so that I could make it.
“I made it.”
Even if he did experience some physical discomfort, it didn’t show in Tsegay’s on-course performance. He could also comfort himself with an impressive array of prizes for his record-setting race: $20,000 US as winner; $10,000 US for setting the Ottawa marathon record; $10,000 Cdn and a new automobile for the fastest time on Canadian soil.
Yes, he holds a valid driver’s licence.
Rotich fell back into fifth place in 2:10:48 behind Wesley Korir (2:09:17), the 2012 Boston Marathon champion who is now also a member of Kenya’s parliament.
Tufa also received $20,000 US as winner and $10,000 US for her course record. Following her in second and third place were Mulugeta Wami (2:08:18) of Ethiopia and Ishhimael Bushendich Chemtan (2:08:35) of Kenya.
“After this race, I will improve my time,” Tufa said through the interpreter. “That is my target. I will improve the time more than this.”
Gillis, who added the national marathon title to the half-marathon championship he captured four weeks ago at Montreal, said he wasn’t surprised at Tsegay’s record time.
“Absolutely the deepest field in Canadian history, all-around, and I’m not surprised the Canadian-soil record went down. Really world-class guys up there,” said Gillis, who was eighth overall, two placings and a little less than three minutes faster than the second-ranked Canadian, Vancouver’s Rob Watson (2:16:38). It was another two spots back to Montreal’s Philippe Viau-Dupuis (2:23:22), who was running his first marathon ever.
Johns was only in her second, so, even if she only placed ninth overall, becoming national champion was worth the effort.
“It hasn’t quite sunk in yet,” she said. “It was my goal coming in, but to actually do it is fantastic.”
Montreal’s Eric Noel was first among men’s half-marathon participants in 1:14:16, followed by Dany Croteau of Mont St-Hilaire, Que., and Ottawa’s Patrick Kong, both in 1:14:43.
Toronto’s Angela Switt placed first in women’s half-marathon in 1:22:06. Jenny Drabble (1:23:41) of Winston-Salem, N.C., was second, and Véronique Cloutier (1:24:02) of St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que, was third.
Total participation in the Saturday and Sunday events was 46,666, including more women (25,934) than men (20,732).