Ethiopian distance runner Meselech Melkamu (Getty Images) © Copyright
General News Ottawa, Canada

Top Ethiopians target course records at Ottawa Marathon

Organisers of the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon are expecting the event records to fall again this year, thanks to a faster course, higher calibre pacers and a highly competitive field of runners for the IAAF Silver Label Road Race on 24 May.

Leading the way is Ethiopian duo Girmay Birhanu and Meselech Melkamu. Both athletes won in Daegu earlier this year; a good omen, given that Yemane Tsegaye also triumphed in the Korean city in 2014 before heading to Ottawa and setting a Canadian all-comers’ record of 2:06:54.

Birhanu has a PB of 2:05:49, set in Dubai last year, but that makes him just the second-fastest athlete in the field. Compatriot Dadi Yami clocked 2:05:41, also in Dubai, back in 2012 and will be looking for his first career victory over 26.2 miles.

Joining him is 2009 Boston Marathon winner Deribe Merga. The 32-year-old has won the 10km in Ottawa twice before, but this will be his first marathon in Canada.

Also in the field is Kenyan trio Peter Kirui, who has a PB of 2:06:31, Alfers Lagat and Philip Kangogo. The latter two will be contesting their second marathons, having recorded respective debuts on 2:07:11 and 2:08:16 over the past seven months.

Rob Watson, the 2013 national marathon champion Rob Watson, is set to lead the Canadian contingent.

Melkamu’s recent Daegu victory in 2:27:24 was just the second marathon win of her career, following her 2:21:01 debut in Frankfurt in 2012. The 2009 world 10,000m silver medallist, whose 29:53.80 PB for that distance is the second-fastest performance of all time, will lead a high-calibre group of Ethiopian runners in Ottawa.

She will be competing with 2014 Houston and Rotterdam winner Abebech Afework, who set a PB of 2:23:33 in Dubai earlier this year.

Joining them will be two-time Ottawa Marathon champion, and previous event record-holder, Yeshi Esayias. The 29-year-old has a personal best of 2:24:06 and this will be her fifth appearance in Ottawa.

All three women will be looking to break the current event record of 2:24:31 set by Tigist Tufa, who won the London Marathon last month.

Joining them on the start line will be Kenyans Rebecca Chesire, who recently set PBs of 1:08:21 for the half marathon and 2:25:22 for the marathon, and Agnes Kiprop who has a 2:23:54 personal best and finished third in Ottawa last year.

“Seeing our event records fall has practically become an annual tradition for us,” says elite athlete coordinator Manny Rodrigues. “Our men’s event record has been broken four times in the past five years, and the women's three times in the past six years. We’re focused on creating the conditions to make this happen again.”

Organisers for the IAAF