With the addition of Ethiopia’s Tariku Jufar to the 2014 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon organisers proudly point to the fact four men in the field have beaten 2 hours 7 minutes in the past three years. Two of them have also beaten 2:06.
The event, slated for October 19th, is once again an IAAF Silver Label race and, at this rate, it won’t be long before gold level status is acquired.
Jufar set a course record in the 2012 Houston Marathon with a personal best time of 2:06:51. Along with Kenya’s Peter Some (2:05:38) and Laban Korir (2:06:05) as well as fellow Ethiopian Shami Abdulahi (2:05:42), Jufar will focus on attacking the Canadian All Comers’ record of 2:06:55 and the course record of 2:07:05 set a year ago.
“Of course! If I break the course record I hope it will be as the winner,” the 30 year old says laughing. “I plan to run to my shape and if God allows me that day to beat the field and win then I will be happy.”
Jufar has won several major marathons during his accomplished marathon career. Just last year he became the first Ethiopian male to win the Ottawa marathon setting a then course record of 2:08:05. He also won the 2012 Beijing Marathon. Most recently he finished 4th in the 2014 Seoul Marathon March 16th in a time of 2:07:02. Consistent training with an outstanding group of athletes at high altitude has obviously contributed to this success.
“I train under Coach Haji Adillo of ESMI (Elite Sports Management International) in Ethiopia,” he explains. “I train with some very strong athletes like Lelisa Desisa (2:04:45 pb), Tadese Tola (2:04:49 pb), Feyisa Lilesa (2:04:52 pb) and Endeshaw Negesse (2:04:52 pb). They push all of us and make us all stronger. I feel very good coming into this year’s race.”
Like many of the elite Ethiopian marathoners Jufar benefits from daily training at high altitude sites just outside Addis. Indeed, the training is all done at roughly 8,000 feet above sea level with the training group numbering around eighty athletes. The discipline runs through the entire group and, at any given time, dozens from the ESMI group can be overseas at many of the world class marathons.
“We arrive for training at 7:00 a.m. and train and recover and stretch until 10:00 a.m.,” Jufar reveals, “then I eat and rest. In my free time I like to visit with friends and enjoy tea with my family.”
“I come from Debre Zeyit which is known in Oromo as Bishoftu. It is known for the crater lakes there, it is a beautiful region. My family are farmers. Some of them are still living in Bishoftu. Farming and running have been my life.”
Jufar, of course, remembers a previous visit to Toronto in 2008 and not so fondly. He struggled to a 13th place finish in 2:18:47 on that day. Obviously he has put that disappointment behind him with pragmatic thinking.
“Honestly, I have been in the marathon for some years now and I learned that it is a very unpredictable event,” he says of that day. “Sometimes it’s just is not your day and the race gets away from you and you cannot control it. A 2:18 was not anything I ever expected from myself.
“But Toronto is a beautiful city and has very nice people. The water (along Lake Ontario) was nice too! “
A year after his last visit Jufar was hit by a car while training in Addis. It was thought he would not run again. However, he proved the skeptics wrong with a series of meaningful results beginning with a remarkable time of 2:09:32 in Los Angeles. That was good enough for second place. Considering he had missed out on training most of the year he showed his immense talent.
The Toronto course has been slightly altered this year – a series of twists and turns that were added out of necessity due to downtown construction projects last year – have been removed. The course is thought to be even faster. Jufar knows he will have a tough time against the assembled field. But with a commitment from all of them and the right conditions the course record could fall. He’d like nothing more than to cross the line first with that record.