TORONTO. August 26th. Three years ago Shami Abdulahi Dawud came within a step of winning the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. It would have been his first international victory at the distance.
The 30 year old Ethiopian returns to the IAAF Silver Label race this coming October 19th a much more experienced and determined athlete.
Like several of his rivals he has been informed about the course record. But Abdulahi has one distinct advantage: the man who has shared detailed information on running fast in Toronto is none other than Derissa Chimsa the record holder himself. The pair are training partners.
“I remembered I lost the victory in the last meter of the 2011 race and I don’t forget the people of Toronto who support us in the race,” Abdulahi recalls. “(this time) I’ll come to win with the course record. Yes, I’m thinking to do that and I’ll try to do my best.”
Following the 2011 visit to Canada’s largest city he received an invitation to race the 2012 Dubai Marathon and took full advantage of the glorious opportunity. He recorded a new personal best of 2:05:42. Ironically the man who finished a step behind him on that occasion was Chimsa.
When Chimsa ran that impressive 2:07:05 a year ago it was, at the time, also the fastest time ever recorded on Canadian soil. It has since been beaten by another Ethiopian Yemane Tsegay who ran 2:06:54 in Ottawa this spring. Abdulahi has no doubt done the math. A new Canadian all comers record would earn him an additional $40,000 on top of the $20,000 first place prize. Significant time bonuses provide even more incentive to run fast.
Abdulahi certainly has the credentials to chase this record. His magnificent Dubai result was not a one off situation either. Three months afterwards Abdulahi won the 2012 Hamburg Marathon in 2:05:58, his second time beating 2 hours 6 minutes.
Coming from the famed walled city of Harar about 500 kilometres directly east of Addis, Abdulahi is the second sub 2:06 man to be confirmed for the 2014 Toronto race, the other being Kenya’s Peter Some. When told that there are seven men in this year’s race who have personal bests that are faster than 2:09 he nods his approval.
“That’s good because the race will be competitive,” he declares. “No, I haven’t raced Some before but I know him. He is a strong athlete.”
Abdulahi says he was inspired by the exploits of his famous countrymen Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele, who have won five Olympic gold medals between them. Winning his first 5km race in Harar gave him the incentive to follow in their footsteps and in July 2008 the Addis based Defence Force Sports Club brought him to the capital.
Since June of 2009 he has trained with a very strong contingent of runners all of whom are represented by the Italian sports agent Gianni Demadonna. Although they push each other in training they are largely supportive of one another and, should he beat Chimsa’s Toronto course record, he doesn’t expect that to cause any rift with his friend.
“It is difficult to describe my training but I’m in a good shape and I train well and I hope
it will continue until Toronto,” he explains. “I like to train in Entoto (the mountainous region on the outskirts of Addis), mostly I do long runs there. Gemedu Deddefo and Gebeyehu Berihun are my coaches. No, there isn’t rivalry with the other athletes but we help each other always.”
Although training and the recovery takes up most of his days he admits to enjoying watching action movies on television as well as English Premier League football. The latter pastime is something he apparently shares with his rival Peter Some. The Kenyan is a committed Manchester United supporter while Abdulahi loves Chelsea. The pair, no doubt, will be aware that the two teams play one another the week following the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
Abdulahi comes from a family of farmers who grow corn and sorghum in Harar. Twice a year he returns to the region to visit his parents, his three sisters and four brothers. In a country where the per capita income is $470, his running brings opportunities to provide for family as well as ensure some economic security for himself. In the future, he says, he will invest in a business but for now he is concentrating solely on his running.
With the addition of Abdulahi this year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is clearly the strongest field assembled for the event. Whether the records will fall is to be seen. But both Some and Abdulahi have designs on victory as well as the record prize purse and that bodes well for the race.
For further information and entry to Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon visit www.stwm.ca