Race Weekend is upon us in Ottawa! The weekend features two gold label races – a 10k (Saturday night) and the Marathon (Sunday morning). I have already written in-depth previews for the men’s and women’s 10k races.
I am not sure about all of you, but this and STWM are my two favourite weekends of the year. Many of the top Ethiopians and Kenyans come to Canada and race on our roads! Although Ottawa the Ottawa start list does not have many of the big names like Toronto had in the fall (Robertson, Levins, Kiprotich, Kandie, and Rono), elite athlete coordinator Manny Rodrigues has assembled a stellar and rapid field for this edition of the Ottawa Marathon. In fact, five runners on the men’s side have run under the current course record.
We of course, cannot forget about the Canadian challenge, which in my opinion is the best story line entering the weekend. Reid Coolsaet, Tarah Korir, Krista Duchene, Dayna Pidhoresky, and Rachel Hannah will all be toeing the line on Sunday, and with the Olympics around the corner, who knows. For those of you who maybe aren’t quite as nerdy as I am, there are two ways that Canadian runners can achieve the Olympic standard this weekend – time and position. Since Ottawa is a Gold Label race, any runner who finishes Top 5 will be considered as a qualifier. Additionally any male who runs under 2:11:30 or female who runs under 2:29:30 will be considered to have achieved the standard. Can any of the Canadians do it? Find out below. If you have any questions about the standards and Olympic qualifying, Run the North did an amazing article breaking down how qualifying works.
Here are my 5 things to watch:
Reid Coolsaet has been a stalwart of the Canadian running scene for years. I spoke to Reid about this, the Olympics, and many other things at the beginning of the year.
Coolsaet is returning to Ottawa for the first time since his debut marathon here in 2009. Things are beginning to come full circle for Coolsaet, who mentioned to me that he still has designs on making the Olympics and that he believes he can have his best ever finish in Tokyo.
As I previously mentioned, two things need to happen for Coolsaet – he must finish top 5 or run 2:11:30. In his blog posts, Coolsaet has mentioned that he is aiming to target the 2:13 mark – which would meet the standard to qualify for World’s in Doha in September. If Coolsaet does run this time, the time standard for the Olympics will be out of reach, but a top five placing will not.
I mentioned that the Ottawa field this year is fast. It features a 2:04 guy, 2:05 guy and a few 2:06 guys. I expect the race organizers will want this lead pack to go for 2:06 pace, perhaps faster, due to this quality where Coolsaet has an advantage. Many of the PBs set by these athletes are from Dubai, a course which has had its share of criticism and unrepeatable results. Therefore, it is very likely the men’s pack explodes by the 25k mark and the race could open up for Coolseat. Of course, this is not for certain, it’s the marathon – anything could happen, but this is how Reid best stands to get the standard this weekend.
Coolsaet is fit. According to Strava he feels good, and has spent the last couple of months training at altitude and putting in some serious work (check it out on Strava). These is no question that Reid will be the top Canadian in Ottawa, but I am excited to see if Reid can achieve his end goal – a 3rd Olympic games. I encourage everyone out on the course Sunday to ensure Reid gets the maximum amount of support as possible – he’s deserved it.
Canadian Women’s Race
There are four premiere Canadian names on the start list for the women’s: Krista Duchene, Rachel Hannah, Dayna Pidhoresky, and Tarah Korir.
These names are intriguing. Krista Duchene is the biggest of the list. Duchene is an Olympian – top 40 in Rio, and has finished 3rd at the Boston Marathon. Duchene sports a marathon PB of 2:28 and will be taking the start just two months after competing in the Boston Marathon. I spoke to Duchene before the race and she indicated that she did not have a race plan and was going to go with the feel of the race.
Tarah Korir, a gutsy runner and partner to Boston Marathon champ Wesley Korir, is also on the start list. Korir is a 2:35 marathoner, set in Ottawa in 2016. She hasn’t recorded a race on IAAF since 2017 when she ran the Ottawa 10k.
Rachel Hannah is registered dietitian and veteran of the Canadian running scene. She came off an injury last year to run in both Berlin and STWM. Now, she is lining up in Ottawa. Hannah has run seven marathons and has a personal best of 2:32 in Houston. She also sports a half marathon PB of 1:12 set in Toronto. During the 2015 Pan Am Games, Hannah won Bronze in the women’s marathon.
Prolific racer Dayna Pidhoresky is also on the line in this deep Canadian field. Pidhoresky has a marathon PB, set on this very course, of 2:37 which was enough to qualify her for the world championships that year. This year, both Pidhoresky and Hannah must go under the 2:37 mark to be considered for the Worlds. I mentioned that Pidhoresky is a prolific racer, as she has run three races in the last two months, including a win at the Vancouver half, and only a month earlier, a second place at Around the Bay. I expect the Canadian women to run together through the half way point, and if they can run in the low 2:30s compete for a spot in the top 5 in the women’s race.
Course Record Challenge
The men’s course record could go down. Here are some of the guys that can break it:
Tsedat Ayana (Ethiopia) – PB 2:06:36 set in Spain this year. He also sports a PB of 60 minutes for the half, also set this year in China. Ayana’s 2:06 performance was the first time he has gone under 2:09.
Getu Feleke (Ethiopia) – PB 2:04:50 set in Rotterdam in 2012. His half marathon PB is 59:56, run in the RAK half in 2010. Feleke hasn’t run a race since November of last year, where he ran 2:13 in Instanbul. In 2016 he finished 9th in Boston. Feleke’s PB is the fastest in the field, but it was set seven years ago.
Albert Korir (Kenya) – PB 2:08:17 set in Lake Biwa last year. Korir also won the Houston Marathon this January in 2:10. Korir does have experience in Canada with a 3rd place finish in Toronto in 2016. Korir has only run marathon’s since 2014, no other distances.
Martin Kosgey (Kenya) – PB 2:06:41 set in Frankfurt last year where he finished 2nd. Kosgey has no other recorded races besides the marathon. Kosgey is a prolific marathon races with wins at Lyon (2014), Marseille (2013), and Salzburg (2012).
Abera Kuma (Ethiopia) – PB 2:05:50 set in Rotterdam last year where he finished second. He also finished 5th at Lake Biwa and DNF’d in Berlin. This season, in January, he finished 7th in Mubai in 2:13 and recently finished second in a half marathon running 60:41. Kuma’s best result came with a win in Rotterdam in 2015.
Adugna Takele (Ethiopia) – 2:06:32 set in Dubai this spring where he finished 7th (Yes, 2:06 was 7th). In a tune up race for Ottawa in Turkey, Takele ran a 60:26 half marathon. Takele ran Ottawa last year, so has the advantage of course knowledge and finished 3rd in 2:09. In 2013, he also finished 3rd in the Ottawa 10k.
I believe the course record can go down this year – weather permitting. The field has thinned out with a couple of scratches in the last couple of days, but still maintains 5 guys who have run under the course record. Chances are, one of them repeats their performance, but if they do go out hard, say 2:05 pace – the seas may part for our Canadian.
Wide Open Women’s Race
Risper Chebet (Kenya) – PB 2:27:23 set in the Czech Republic in 2016. In a prep race for Ottawa, run in China, Chebet ran 1:12:12 to finish 4th.
Teysehay Desalegn (Ethiopia) – 2:27:35 set in China last year. Desalegn has not run a race this year, but ran Houston, LA, and Hangzhou last year finishing 5th, 2nd and 2nd respectively.
Abebe-Tekulu Gabremeskel (Ethiopia) – 2:24:53 set in Sevilla, Spain in February – her only race last year. In 2017, she ran 4 separate marathons in Thailand, Italy and China. She has won the Porto Marathon (Portugual) twice in her carrer.
Shuko Gemeno (Ethiopia) – PB 2:24:31 from Vienna in 2016 where she won. That year she also won the Mumbai marathon. In hear lead up to Ottawa, she placed a respectable second in Kiev running 70:54 for the half.
Tigist Girma (Ethiopia) – PB 2:26:44 ran in China last fall while taking the win, it was also her third marathon of the year. She has run 9 marathons in the last 3 years.
Betelhem Moges (Ethiopia) – 2:24:29 set in Dubai in 2015. Only 2 months ago, she finished 4th in Rotterdam with a time of 2:27. Moges ran Ottawa 2018 and finished 4th, running well outside her PB in 2:33.
Salome Nyirarukundo (Rwanda) – PB 2:28:02, although she has no recorded marathons on IAAF.com. Last year, Nyirarukundo finished 11th in the 10,000 at the Commonwealth games and won the Quebec City Half. She also ran in the world championship 10,000 in 2017 finishing 25th. She has a very quick PB of 68 minutes in the half.
The fact that I have not recognized any names which are lining up for the women’s race means it’s a wide open affair. I do not believe the course record is in reach, but hey, I have been wrong before.
Pacers Finishing the Race
Last year, Tim Hutching’s bane came true – two pacers finished the Ottawa marathon and placed in the top 5. Ottawa has a history of pacers finishing, mostly because it is located so late in the racing season and those pacing do not have another race in their calendar. If multiple (or any) pacers finish again again, it will be bad for two reasons:
- Coolsaet would have a tough time getting into the top 5.
- I believe that pacers are paid to do a job – pace, not race. It sets a dangerous precedent for racing across the world if pacers are allowed to finish the race and actually erodes the competitive environment.
Women’s Podium (no course record)
- Tigist Girma
- Shuko Gemeno
- Salome Nyirarukundo
Men’s Podium (course record)
- Abera Kuma
- Martin Kosgey
- Adugna Takele
Top Canadian Women
Toss-up – but I will have to go with Krista – her experience will win over the others, but only just.
Top Canadian Man
Reid Coolsaet – Reid will have a great race. Other Canadians of note in the field are David Freake and Maxime Gonneville.