Who To Watch For in 2015
Running Talk with Manny Rodriguez, Elite Athlete Coordinator
Every year, Manny Rodrigues, Elite Athlete Coordinator of the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, puts together Canada’s deepest field of elite runners to compete in the Ottawa 10K and Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon. It’s a field that regularly features world champions, record holders, and winners of the world’s largest marathons.
In the days leading up to race weekend we asked Manny who spectators should be looking out for and why these runners make the trip to Ottawa.
Who are some of the big names people can watch out for this year?
In the 10K, some of the big names are:
- Gladys Cherono from Kenya – Half-Marathon World Champion, 10,000m Silver medalist at World Championships
- Khalid Khannouchi from the U.S. – the previous World record holder in the marathon
- Wesley Korir from Kenya – Boston Marathon winner (and member of Kenyan Parliament)
- Lanni Marchant from Canada – Canadian marathon record holder
- Natasha Wodak from Canada – Canadian 10,000 metre record holder
And in the marathon, people can watch out for:
- Meselech Malkamu from Ethiopia – 4x medalist at World Championships (5000m, 10,000m – 3 silver, 1 bronze)
- Deriba Merga from Ethiopia – Boston Marathon winner and Ottawa 10K record holder
There are so many great stories here. Just picking one, can you tell us why someone like Khalid Kannouchi is considered such a legend?
Kannouchi has such a great story. He ruled the roads before moving up and conquering the marathon. He quickly went on to set the world record in ’98 and was arguably the top marathoner over the next 2 yrs.
But in 2001, he did not finish the world championships in Edmonton – a race he was heavily favoured to win. Then in spring 2002, there was the highly touted show-down at the London Marathon that pitched the two greatest distance track runners of the 90s – Haile Gebresalassie and Paul Tergat. In the build-up, people overlooked Kannouchi as he hadn’t been a factor since 2000. But in an epic race, he went on beat Tergat (2nd) and Gebresalassie (3rd) AND set another world record in the process.
That time still stands as the fastest non-aided American marathon. It’s a fantastic story.
So why do these runners love coming to Ottawa?
I think its a combination of things. We have a great product – a fast course, great organization and a great atmosphere with tons of spectators. And of course, we have a competitive prize purse.
You’ve been building the Elite Athlete Program for fifteen years. What makes you proudest of what you’ve accomplished so far?
I think Ottawa has gained a great reputation.
For marathoners, Ottawa is known as an amazing stepping stone. Yemane Tsegay, who won the men’s race in record time last year, went on to finish 2nd at Boston this year. While our women’s winner, Tigust Tufa, won this year’s London Marathon. And those are just the latest examples. Abderrahim Bouramdane first made his mark winning Ottawa before finishing 2nd at Boston. He felt so attached to Ottawa that he presented us with a thank-you gift from his hometown after his Boston accomplishment.
For 10k runners, the reputation is that Ottawa is one of the fastest courses in the world. So runners come for the opportunity to get a really fast time under their belt. The aggressive front running styles of legendary runners like Geoffrey Mutai & Deribe Merga have really helped foster that.
I’m proud that we’ve built a world-class event here in Ottawa. Every May, the world’s best come here and put on a great running show for the city. Ottawa is definitely on the running map.