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Tirfi Tsegaye was ranked amongst the world’s greatest marathoners is now returning from maternity leave to run the Ottawa Marathon

Three years ago, and prior to giving birth to a baby boy, Tirfi Tsegaye was ranked amongst the world’s greatest marathoners with some incredible performances. Now, after gradually returning to training, the Ethiopian Olympic runner makes her first start at the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon, May 26th since the arrival of young Tilember Miresa.

Tsegaye, 34, ran the world-leading time of 2:19:41 in January 2016 in Dubai – her personal best time – then three months later finished 2nd in the Boston Marathon. At the Rio Olympics, she missed the podium by 17 seconds finishing 4th in 2:24:47. It was quite a year, indeed.

As if these credentials aren’t impressive enough, consider she also won the both the Tokyo and Berlin Marathons in 2014 and finished 3rd in London. Few athletes have made the podium in one World Marathon Major let alone four.

“Training is going good,” Tsegaye says from her home in Addis Ababa. “But, I’m not like how I was before. It’s been a little different for me coming back but still training. I’ve missed it a lot. I’ve even missed the training more than the actual competitions. I’m pretty excited about the Ottawa marathon.”

Under coach Gemedu Dedefo she has slowly regained her form and counts such stalwarts as Shure Demise, a two-time Toronto winner, and Alia Mohammed, 2018 Ottawa 10k champion amongst her training partners.

During her maternity leave, she split with her husband and is combining motherhood and marathon training, which would cause concern but for the fact she is such a disciplined and highly experienced athlete.

“It’s tough but I manage,” she admits. “I have a nanny and she helps me out with the baby and other errands. When I come back from training I get exhausted, so, it’s really nice to have some help around the house.

“Pregnancy takes a lot from you and the time I had off was really therapeutic. I feel like I’ve recovered enough for now.”

Tirfi grew up in the town of Bekoji, 220 kilometres south of the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. Bekoji was immortalized in a documentary “Town of Runners” as an unusually large number of Olympic champions have ‘graduated’ from the training of local coach Sentayehu Eshetu. These include Kenenisa Bekele, Tirunesh Dibaba and Derartu Tulu.

“Growing up in Bekoji was an inspiration in itself,” she admits. “Tulu was a major inspiration for me since we were one of the same. My coach was Sentayehu Eshetu at the time when I was in Bekoji. I moved to Addis in 2008.”

“Yeah, Derartu, Haile (Gebrselassie), Kenenisa and others have inspired me to try and push myself and be my best. I fell in love with their work and dedication when I saw them on television.”

As her impressive curriculum vitae suggests, Tirfi places high expectations upon herself even for this comeback race. Although predicting marathon performances is a difficult proposition at the best of times, it is unlikely she, or coach Gemedu, would confirm her entry unless she was going to be ready. Still, there is that element of the unknown.

Her Italian manager, Gianni DeMadonna, has made her aware that the course record of 2:22:17 was set by her compatriot Gelete Burka last year but for the moment that is secondary to having a successful return.  Victory would bring her $30,000 CDN and the course record is worth an additional $10,000 CDN. That is also a significant factor.

“Ottawa is a big deal for me now because I need to get back to my winning form,” she stresses. “I have big expectations for Ottawa and I will try and do my level best.

“I figure it’s going to be a little hard for me to beat the record set by Gelete last year. But, I think if I try my best I believe that it is beatable. I’m not familiar with the course or the climate. And I have not yet talked with any other athletes about the Ottawa race. But, soon I hope.”

Should she cross the finish line first she would be the tenth consecutive Ethiopian woman to emerge triumphant in this IAAF Gold Label race. There are, without a doubt, plenty of resources then for her to approach when it comes time to seeking advice on how to run the Ottawa course.

(05/09/2019) ⚡AMP
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Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon

Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon

Welcome to Canada’s largest and fastest marathon: the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon. As one of two IAAF Gold Label marathon events in Canada, the race attracts Canada’s largest marathon field (7,000 participants) as well as a world-class contingent of elite athletes every year. Featuring the beautiful scenery of Canada’s capital, the top-notch organization of an IAAF event, the atmosphere of...

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Ethiopia’s Abera Kuma just might be the most talented runner in the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon this year

The 28-year-old has twice bettered 2:06 in his career, most recently when finishing second at the 2018 Rotterdam Marathon in a PB of 2:05:50. The other occasion was at the 2014 Berlin Marathon where Kuma finished third in 2:05:56 in the race in which Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto set a world record of 2:02:57, which has since been broken by Eliud Kipchoge.

In between those two races, Kuma has made his mark across the globe. Now he sets his sights on racing in the Canadian capital.

“I want to win and I want to run fast,” he said. “I hope the conditions will be kind to me. Yes, (the course record is a target) though it all depends on the conditions.”

Compatriot Yemane Tsegay set that record (2:06:54) in 2014.

Kuma’s performance in Rotterdam was all the more startling since he had run, and finished, Japan’s Lake Biwa Marathon (2:09:31) just 35 days earlier – hardly the ideal preparation for a world-class marathon.

“At Lake Biwa I did not feel well and had a bad day at the office,” he explains. “I felt like I ran at 95% without being able to give more than that. After finishing I still felt strong and very disappointed about the race. I needed to take revenge quickly and the gamble paid off.”

Kuma has a level of confidence matching his ability. Unlike many of today’s marathon runners, he took up road racing after a successful career on the track. Twice he represented Ethiopia at the IAAF World Championships, finishing fifth in the 5000m in 2011 and fifth in the 10,000m in 2013. With 5000m and 10,000m personal bests of 13:00.15 and 26:52.85, he has basic speed matched by very few road racers.

“I had a short track career but always wanted to go to the road fairly quickly,” he says. “Track has helped me to be a stronger road runner, though.

“I like the endurance that belongs to road running and marathons. Running is fun to do and I enjoy it, but it is also my job. In marathon running the financial aspect is important.”

The lucrative prize money in road racing, coupled with the fact there is a limited number of track races with decent prize money, has seen many young East African athletes go straight to the roads. First place in Ottawa is worth CDN$30,000 with another CDN$10,000 on offer for a course record.

As Kuma says, running is his job. And, he is happy to share his experience with younger up-and-coming Ethiopian runners, many of whom are part of the training group under coach Tessema Abshero, who himself was a 2:08 marathon runner.

“I would advise others to run track but I also know that it is not easy to do that as the track races are scarce these days,” Kuma says.

Training is going well currently he says, despite a mediocre performance at the Mumbai Marathon in January when he finished seventh in 2:13:10.

“I am preparing really well and my last test (a half marathon in Spain where he ran 1:00:41) was good,” he says. “Now I am finalising the endurance part to bounce back strongly after a disappointing race in Mumbai. The conditions in Mumbai were very difficult (heat, air quality) and the course was tough. I was with the lead group for a long part of the way but suffered a lot in the last seven kilometres.

Kuma has a marathon personal best of 2:04:24. There are others of similar quality among Kuma’s training partners. Most significantly, all of this training is done at altitudes of at least 2600m. It’s hard work but with a group sharing the load and the drudgery it is normal. Down time is used to relax and recover and wait for the next workout.

(05/09/2019) ⚡AMP
by IAAF
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Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon

Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon

Welcome to Canada’s largest and fastest marathon: the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon. As one of two IAAF Gold Label marathon events in Canada, the race attracts Canada’s largest marathon field (7,000 participants) as well as a world-class contingent of elite athletes every year. Featuring the beautiful scenery of Canada’s capital, the top-notch organization of an IAAF event, the atmosphere of...

more...
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Ethiopian Gelete Burka breaks course record at Ottawa Marathon

32-year-old Ethiopian’s Gelete Burka set a Canadian All Comers’ marathon record of 2:22:17 to win the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon by almost four minutes on Sunday May 27.  Her superb victory on an overcast breezy day was earned despite suffering stomach cramps in the final 12 kilometers which at one point provided incentive to her compatriot, Hiwot Gebrekidan to attempt a break. But the highly experienced Burka brushed off the pain to earn her first marathon victory. Though she finished 6th in Dubai in 2:20:45 earlier this year, winning this IAAF Gold Label road race on a less than flat course is certainly a far greater achievement. Along with the $40,000 (Canada) first place prize Burka will receive an additional $10,000 (Canada) for the new course record. (05/28/2018) ⚡AMP
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Alan Forster is one of the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon’s youngest-ever

Before Ottawa’s Alan Forster was even 10 years-old, he was an experienced marathoner. In 1979, Forster completed the National Capital Marathon when he was just nine. Then, he completed the marathon again the following year. “At the time, people couldn’t believe it,” Foster recalls almost 40 years later. “It was a big deal and I got in the newspaper. People still ask me now, ‘Are you still running?’ I am. I hope to run a marathon in every decade of my life." (01/25/2018) ⚡AMP
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Ottawa Marathon Man Has Run Them All

Howard Cohen has completed the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon, every year, dating back to 1975. The craziest personal moment of adversity he’s overcome in the 43 editions. In 1975, at the inaugural Ottawa Marathon, a small group of runners, including Howard Cohen, raided an ice cream bar vendor just off the race course. They had become so hypoglycemic that the urge for sugar became too strong to resist the fuel. “It was a hot day, needless to say,” he notes. (12/19/2017) ⚡AMP
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