Preview: Ethiopians favoured at 2022 Tartan Ottawa International Marathon
Course records set to fall in the women and men’s races
by Paul Gains
Barring any unforeseen circumstances, Ethiopian women will likely extend their 10-year winning streak at the Tartan Ottawa International Marathon May 29th.
Race director Dylan Wykes, a 2012 Canadian Olympian, has done well to bring back the past two winners who are expected to battle for supremacy now that ‘in-person’ racing has also returned to the nation’s capital.
Gelete Burka set the course record here (2:22:17) in 2018 despite suffering stomach cramps in the latter stages of the race and would like nothing more than to win this year’s in a time under 2:20:00. Her personal best remains 2:20:45 from the 2018 Dubai Marathon.
As she proved on the streets of Ottawa, she is willing to run from the front if necessary. Now 36 years old, the question will be whether the Ethiopian star still has the strength to outrun the woman who succeeded her as Ottawa champion in 2019, Tigist Girma.
Also a front runner, Girma is eight years younger than her countrywoman and her winning time on her last visit was a personal best of 2:26:34 not a world class time by today’s standards but that victory opened doors.
In Amsterdam later that year she finished 2nd in 2:19:52. She also beat 2:20 at the 2020 Valencia marathon. And, although she won the Ethiopian women’s Olympic marathon trials – contested over 35km and at 2800m above sea level – she faced disappointment after testing positive for Covid prior to traveling to Japan. But she bounced back later that year running 2:22:45 in London.
While these two are clearly the co-favourites, there are others hoping to be in position to take advantage of any mistake.
Bruktayit Eshetu finished 2nd in the 2019 Toronto Waterfront Marathon with a personal best of 2:22:40. If she can find that form, she will likely be on the podium. Then there is Worknesh Edesa who ran 2:20:24 at the 2019 Valencia marathon. That makes four excellent Ethiopians competing for the $24,000 first place prize money.
Although her personal best is just 2:23:13, Juliet Chekwel of Uganda recorded that national record in her marathon debut two years ago. Though she started the 2021 Olympic marathon, an injury early in the race saw her jog the entire way just to finish. But clearly she has the ability to run with the leaders for at least 30km. If there is a surprise, perhaps this 31-year-old will be in the middle of it.
On the Canadian front, the 2022 Ottawa event will see the return of crowd-favourite Lanni Marchant, former Canadian record holder (2:28:00) who has been living and training in Colorado for the past few years. Health problems had reduced her ability to train and race. At the 2021 New York Marathon, a comeback of sorts, she finished 11th in 2:32:54.
Also seeking a return to form is Dayna Pidhoresky, the 2019 Canadian marathon champion with a best of 2:29:03. She had a disappointing Olympics experience due to COVID, so will be prepared for redemption.
Unprecedented depth of field in the men’s race
The men’s race will feature a solid field, with no fewer than eight men holding personal bests under 2:08, four under 2:07 and three of those Ethiopians, Adugna Takele (2:05:57), Andualem Shiferaw (2:05:52) and Tsegaye Getachew Kebede (2:05:11) under 2:06. While Ottawa has boasted impressive fields in the past, this depth of the field is unprecedented on Canadian soil.
This will be the third time Adugna has contested the marathon distance in Ottawa – he also finished 2nd in the 10k on a previous occasion. While he will be hoping to finally win this race the competition will be intense. Tsegaye recently won the Ryadh Marathon (March 5th) in 2:06:27 and, presuming he has enjoyed a successful recovery, will be eager to add to his impressive marathon record. At 25 years of age, surely his recovery will be fine.
Perhaps equal to the task is yet another Ethiopian, Andualem Belay Shiferaw, who was 2nd to Tsegaye in Riyadh (2:06:28) but who won Lisbon 2021 (2:05:52). This fellow has fought his way to many podium finishes over a lengthy career.
A group of Kenyans led by 31 year old Alex Kibet are perhaps underrated due to their lack of superior marathon times.
Kibet, for instance, has a personal best of 2:07:09 from the 2018 Frankfurt Marathon, but that was before the widespread use of ‘super shoes,’ which have transformed road racing in the past few years. Most interestingly, he won the Berlin Half Marathon by a minute, recording a new personal best of 58:55. That was on April 3rd of this year and is a very good indication that his preparations are going well.
The top Canadian in the men’s field is Tristan Woodfine. Despite running 2:10:51 at the 2020 London Marathon he was left off Canada’s Olympic marathon squad. He was 10th in the 2018 Ottawa Marathon and will be seeking a top 10 finish.
The course record belongs to Yemane Tsegaye (2:06:54 in 2014) but the Canadian Open record – fastest time on Canadian soil – is held by Kenya’s Philemon Rono at 2:05:00. He set that in Toronto. No doubt that record can be broken this year. A new course record will earn an additional $10,000.
Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend is set to take place May 28-29, 2022 with over 20,000 people currently registered to run, walk or roll in one of 6 events throughout the weekend. For more information or to register, visit www.runottawa.ca.