Toronto, CanadaFor the first time in its 23 year history an Ethiopian male emerged victorious in the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Sunday (14).
Sahle Warga’s victory in 2:10:36 at this IAAF Silver Label Road Race was far from easy though.
Unheralded, when compared to the Kenyans John Kiprotich, Kiplimo Kimutai and Gilbert Yegon, who have all run much faster, the Ethiopian stole the race near 39km.
It was at that point that Kiprotich was pushing the pace with only Kimutai left among the contenders. For some inexplicable reason Kiprotich, after passing the refreshment table there, turned back to collect a bottle. A gap suddenly appeared and Warga was away and gone.
Despite his personal best being 2:09:40 recorded at the 2010 Venice Marathon, Warga had secretly harboured thoughts of defeating the big names. He was easily distinguishable wearing a woolen hat and never straying far from the lead.
"This was a very nice race," said the happy winner in English, "and I thought I would win 25 kilometres into the race. It was very cold and it was raining so I’m very happy to win. I didn’t run my personal best, it was a little windy, but with this result I am happy.
"I knew from my training in Addis that I was ready to race well."
Immediately after the race a friend, who had been following an internet livestream of the race in Addis, let his wife know he had won. He collects $20,000 for his efforts today. The couple has a one year old son.
The race had started out with much promise with three Kenyan pacemakers towing the field through the half way point in 1:03:41. The pack numbered seven at this point all targeting the course record of 2:07:58 set by Kenneth Mungara two years ago. But during the early kilometres the rain poured and a slight wind proved an equal impediment. To make matters worse the cool temperature forecast only a few days ago gave way to 17 celsius by the mid point of the race.
Kiprotich appeared to have second place sewn up but Kimutai surged over the final four kilometres to surprise his spent countryman. They finished in times of 2:11:20 and 2:11:29.
"I ran into a problem at 32-k and I recovered after 39-k pushed and came up to second," Kimutai said.
"I like the Toronto course and I like the people also and if the organisers would invite me back I would like to come back."
Kiwi Davies springs surprise in women’s race
The women’s race also provided a surprise winner in New Zealander Mary Davies who ran a new personal best time of 2:28:56. The heavily favoured Agnes Kiprop of Kenya went out hard - 34:14 at 10km and 1:11:30 at the half way point - with two pacemakers blocking the wind. Only Eyerusalem Kuma tried to keep up. But the Ethiopian fell off by the half way mark.
Once her final pacemaker dropped out Kiprop was alone and couldn’t manage. Shortly afterwards Davies caught sight of the Kenyan.
"At about 39km I could see the girl and I thought maybe I could catch her. I didn’t have much energy left," Davies revealed.
"It was amazing, my goal was to break 2:30 and I am just over the moon. I felt strong at 40km when I passed her but kept looking around for her."
Kiprop collapsed into the arms of officials and was taken to the medical tent in a wheelchair.
"When I arrived at 35km I felt my legs with extra pain, so I started struggling," said Kiprop once she had regained her composure. "No, I wasn’t going for the course record. It rained a lot. Maybe if it hadn’t rained I would have gone for the course record."
"I feel ok but my legs have pain. I am not disappointed because I finished the race in weather like this."
Radiya Adilo of Ethiopia finished third in 2:30:49 with Canada’s Krista Duchene finishing a credible fourth place in 2:32:15 well off the Canadian record (2:28:36) she would like one day to claim.
"We will go back and look at our training and certainly won’t look at it as a failure," said the Canadian. "The goal was the Canadian record. You always set the bar high. If you set low goals for yourself you achieve them or worse.
"Obviously with my hip giving trouble at 6-k I thought at least I could go under 2:30 and then it was just hurting. Reid (Coolsaet) said, 'at 39km you’ve got that hill and its windy and its brutal’. And I felt like that. But I have never had a pacer all the way through like that."
Davies confirmed that although she and her husband live in the Canadian capital of Ottawa she is a proud New Zealander and will remain a Canadian resident only. But she will likely lock horns again with Duchene.