Koren Yal, Mare Dibaba duel delivers yet more records for Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Mare Dibaba(in red), Koren Yal & Netsanet Abeyo pass Exhibition Place around 7km

The marvellous duel between Ethiopians Koren Jelela Yal and Mare Dibaba for the women’s title at this year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon produced not only a thrilling race but a new Course and Canadian All-Comers Record of 2:22:42.5 and a pending African Record for 30K of 1:38:33. The new CR also gave Yal a $35,000 cash bonus from title sponsor, Scotiabank. Their performances capped a remarkable weekend of record setting that continued to enhance the reputation of the event as one of the world’s fastest, and an outstanding place for up-and-coming stars and athletes of all ages to establish their careers and grab headlines. Eighty year old Ed Whitlock (3:15:54) and 100-year old Fauja Singh (8:25:17) set new age group World Records; Kenya’s Kenneth Mungara fought off Ethiopia’s Shami Dawit by 1/3 of a second (2:09:51) to claim an unprecedented 4thstraight men’s title; and two Canadians, Reid Coolsaet (2:10:55) and Eric Gillis (2:11:28) achieved the challenging Canadian Olympic Qualifying standard (2:11:29) for London 2012.

Both Yal and Dibaba came into the race in good form, looking for fast times that would also earn them consideration for the Ethiopian team in London next summer.  In the pre-race profile on Koren Yal, Paul Gains wrote:

 The 24 year old returns to Toronto for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon October 16th chasing a fast time and another hefty pay cheque. A year ago she finished 4th in this IAAF Silver Label race with a personal best time of 2:24:32 but claims she is ready for more.

“My fitness and preparation has been better than last year,” she says “ My target will be to run my personal best,  under 2:24, but to do it everything depends on the weather conditions and if I have a good pacemaker like last year.”

Koren Yal. 2:22:42.5 new Course & Canadian All comers Record!

Following her Toronto Waterfront performance last Fall, she went on to win in Mumbai in January (2:26:56), and place third on another warm day in Paris in April (2:26:57). The 21 year old Dibaba ran 2:25:27 for her marathon debut in Frankfurt last October, then 68:57 at the Ras Al Khaimah Half in February. Following a disappointing 2:30:25 at the LA Marathon in March, she bounced back with an impressive gold-medal performance (70:47) at the All-Africa Games Half marathon in Maputo in September. 

Though conditions were less than ideal with gusty winds on the Toronto Waterfront, Yal and Dibaba took off at a blistering pace. They had raised a few eyebrows two days before the event when they asked for the pacemakers to take them through halfway in 69 minutes. From the gun, they showed their intent and went right after it, into the wind from 3km to 12km, passing 10k in 32:31. They hit halfway side-by-side in 68:38.1 with a buzz of incredulity amongst the crowds at the Finish line watching the CBC broadcast on the big screen. As Road Race Weekly’s David Monti wrote, they

ran yesterday’s race aggressively, blasting through the half-way mark in … a time which would win all but a handful of half-marathons held in the world this year. They kept up the hot pace through 30 km where the pair set pending world 30-K records of 1:38:33. Buffeted by strong winds, they slowed significantly in the final kilometers. Nonetheless, Yal’s time was the fastest ever run in Canada (Dibaba ran a personal best 2:23:25 in second place).”   

According to Race Director Alan Brookes, “The half split was scary, and then hanging on into the wind the last 7-K was superb.”

According to IAAF international regulations, Yal’s final victorious time of 2:22:42.5 will be rounded up to the nearest full second, matching last year’s previous Course Record performance of Kenya’s Sharon Cherop. However, the independent Association of Road Racing Statisticians (ARRS) records road racing times to the tenth of a second (where available), and recognizes world records using that degree of precision (versus the IAAF use of whole seconds). Last year, Cherop recorded 2:22:42.8, or 0.3 seconds slower than Yal.

Brookes and sponsor Scotiabank feel strongly that registering the new Course and All Comers Record and paying the $35,000 bonus is the right thing to do.

“We think the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon has worked hard to build a good reputation of supporting (especially) young, developing athletes,” Brookes said. “We’re absolutely thrilled with Koren’s race yesterday in some tough, windy conditions, and are pleased to see it rewarded. Sharon Cherop said last year that ‘Toronto changed my life’, as she went onto bronze medal finishes at Boston this April and at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu in August. We hope it does the same for Koren! We also very much appreciate having a great sponsor in Scotiabank, so committed to building the sport.

The marvellous duel also produced a pending African 30K Record for Mare Dibaba, who passed the certified 30K mats half a step ahead, in 1:38:32.3 to 1:38:32.6. http://www.iaaf.org/statistics/records/inout=o/discType=2/disc=30RR/detail.html

To put the performance and Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront’s reputation in context, one week ago, this would have been a pending 30K World Record. The existing mark of 1:38:49 was set by Japan’s Mizuki Noguchi in Berlin in 2005. Then just last week in Chicago, Russia’s Liliya Shobukhova passed 30K in 1:38:23 en route to running the 4thfastest women’s marathon of all time (2:18:20)! If, for any reason, Shobukhova’s Chicago Marathon time is not ratified, the record would go to Dibaba.  If, as is expected, the incomparable Shobukhova’s time is accepted, Dibaba and Yal’s duel on Toronto’s Waterfront will still put them in the books as the 2nd and 3rd fastest women ever at 30K, and African record holders.     

“Yes I am really very happy,” Koren Yal said with one slight hesitation. “There are a lot of Ethiopian athletes who have run 2:22 so I am not sure yet if I am going to be on the Olympic team. I will find out.”

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