The road back to running for new mother and marathoner Melat Kejeta

Melat Kejeta will be competing in the Tartan Ottawa International Marathon women’s World Athletics elite race on Sunday May 28, 2023, 7:00 am ET. Please the complete women’s field start list here.

Melat Kejeta is an up-and-coming face on the international marathon scene. But she’s one face that’s been notably absent since the Olympic Games in Tokyo in July, 2022. 

The 30-year-old marathoner placed an impressive 6th place in Tokyo, with a time of 2.29:16. Although she didn’t make it to the podium, the race was a seasonal best for the Ethiopian-born, German runner. And little did she know at the time, there were other reasons to celebrate. 

“When I ran Tokyo, I was pregnant, but I didn’t know that. It was not planned. So it was a bit of a surprise,” laughs Kejeta.

Her appearance at the 2023 Tartan Ottawa International Marathon this month will be her first race since Tokyo—and the first since having her daughter, who will turn one just prior to the race. It will also be her first time ever taking part in the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend.

Balancing motherhood and marathoning

Running the Ottawa marathon will also be special for Kejeta because her daughter will be watching on the sidelines at the halfway point cheering her on. 

“That will be the first time she’s watching me run a marathon, so I will be so happy to see her,” says Kejeta. “Being a mother makes me want to work even harder. I want to work hard now, for her, and for my family.”

Kejata admits that the last year has been an exciting, yet challenging one. She loves being a mother, but balancing the demands of marathon training, with her work as an officer in the German police force, as well as the demands of motherhood has not been easy—especially since she packs in at least 160 kilometres a week in training. 

“There are many challenges. You have to breastfeed in the night and then get up and work or train the next day. And then all the vitamins and nutrients you take in, you have to use for your baby as well.  So yeah, it’s not easy after you have a baby to get back to running,” she explains. 

One of the things Kejata would like to see change for women marathoners like her, is the recognition that they receive. Traditionally, she says the spotlight has mostly been on the male runners. For instance, she points out that when a marathon is televised, the coverage generally follows the men’s pack, and often ignores the women. 

“The marathoning world has to change. Men and women have to be seen the same way. We both work hard. We are both doing the training,” she argues. “Yes the men may be a little faster, but the training, the work, we all do the same.”

Key race for the marathoner

Although Kejeta runs under the German flag, she was born in Ethiopia. She moved to Germany in 2013 as a refugee and she became a citizen in 2019. She made her marathon debut that year at the prestigious 2019 Berlin Marathon and finished in sixth place with an impressive time of 2:23:57. In 2020, she also won a silver medal at the World Half Marathon Championships in Poland. 

But the 2023 Tartan Ottawa International Marathon is a particularly important one for Kejeta—not just because it will be the first chance for her daughter to watch her race. As the last international marathon before the 2023 World Championships, Kejeta’s performance in Ottawa will determine whether she qualifies to race in Budapest in August.  

“My body changed after the baby, and I also have an injury—I have a little hip problem. It’s not bad, but that makes me a little worried,” she admits. “But I hope I will be able to run well.”

The World Athletics Elite label Tartan Ottawa International Marathon takes place on May 28, 7 am ET in Ottawa, Ontario and will be broadcast live on Rogers-22 and YouTube. Registration is open for all Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend events until May 22, 2023. Sign-up here