Formidable Field Chases Ottawa 10k Course Records
by Paul Gains
Organizers have assembled one of the strongest and more unpredictable Ottawa 10k fields in the history of this IAAF Gold Label race. Should weather conditions cooperate, this might be the year that Deriba Merga’s 2009 course record (27:24) is finally beaten.
Leading the men’s race is 22-year-old Kenyan Benard Kimeli, who won the 2017 Prague 10k in a personal best time of 27:10, the equal 7th fastest time ever run. Last month Kimeli, who is based in Japan, won the Prague Half Marathon in an excellent time of 59:47, which barring unforeseen circumstances, stands him in good stead in the battle for the $10,000 first place prize.
Among other contenders is Morocco’s Mohamed Ziani, the 2016 Ottawa champion who has run 27:18 for the 10k distance and Ethiopian teenager Andamlak Belihu Berta.
The latter was a controversial selection for the Ethiopian national team at the 2017 World Athletics Championships but acquitted himself quite well there running a personal best 10,000m 27:08.94.
There is little doubt Berta is fit to challenge Kimeli and Ziani after finishing 2nd in the Ethiopian Championships 10,000m on the track last month then, just five days later, turning up at the Yangzhou Half Marathon (an IAAF Gold Label race) where he finished 5th despite the exhausting travel involved.
The Kenyan duo of Edith Chelimo and Gladys Kimaina will be difficult to beat in the women’s race.
Chelimo has a personal best of 31:07 from 2016 but can run much faster. Consider, for instance, that last November, en route to winning the Cardiff Half Marathon, she passed 10k in 30:56. The Ottawa course record is 30:55 (Gladys Cherono, 2015). Meanwhile, Kimaina won the 2017 Paderborn Ostelauf (Germany) 10k in a personal best of 31:15.
Battling the Kenyans will be Alia Saeed Mohammed of the United Arab Emirates. Mohammed was born in Ethiopia and lives and trains there. However, she has been representing the UAE at international events since 2010. Two years ago she finished 23rd at the Rio Olympics. With a personal best 10,000m of 31:10.25 she is capable of being among the prize money.
Once again Ottawa will serve as the official Canadian Championship 10k and two Canadian women have shown they can be in the thick of the action amongst this strong international field. Vancouver’s Natasha Wodak is the Canadian 10,000m record holder on the track at 31:41.59. At the Commonwealth Games last month she finished 5th in 31:50.18, her fastest time in three years.
Another Vancouver resident has enjoyed an incredible start to the 2018 season with a slight increase in training mileage. Rachel Cliff, who is part of the BC Endurance Project, set a Canadian Half Marathon record of 1:10:08 in March before presenting Canada at the Commonwealth Games. More recently she raced to a new personal best 10,000m of 31:56.86 at the Payton Jordan Invitation in California.
Cliff is particularly familiar to Ottawa race fans. In 2017 she took home the $3,000 prize as Canadian champion turning back the efforts of Wodak.