Mulu Seboka wins convincingly, smashes women's course record by 4 minutes
TORONTO, September 28th. Ethiopia's Mulu Seboka didn't let humid and breezy conditions slow her down as she set a new personal best of 2:29:06 to convincingly win the 9th Annual Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Her performance smashed the previous course record by more than four minutes, set last year by compatriot Asha Gigi, who was third today. Ukraine's Olena Shurkhno ran a very smart race to come through for second in 2:30:13, a PR by more three minutes. The men's race proved far more tactical, and was decided in an exciting sprint to the line as Kenneth Mungara held off fellow-Kenyan Peter Kiprotich by 2 seconds for the victory, 2:11:01 to 2:11:03.
A record of more than 10,000 runners took off in a combined field of marathoners  and half marathoners , from the new Start/Finish venue at Nathan Phillips Square, City Hall, in the heart of downtown. Another 4,700 took part in the separate 5K fun run. Although the temperature did not rise much during the morning, it was already 17 degrees Celcius at the 7:30am Start, with cloudy skies and high humidity.
Seboka was content to sit in with the pacemakers and a group of 3 Ethiopians and 3 Kenyans for the first half of the contest. The group passed 10k in 35:05 and 21.1k in 1:13:49. Shurkhno, who appeared relaxed and focused all week in Toronto prior to the race, was content to sit back, patiently, almost a minute behind at halfway.
By 30k, as they emerged from Tommy Thomson Park into a stiff breeze, Seboka and Gigi were alone at the front. With Shurkhno closing fast, and only 13 seconds back, Seboka made her decisive move. She looked strong and confident throughout the morning and the result never looked in doubt over the last 10k. "I wasn't expecting the time to be that good," said the diminutive Ethiopian who just turned 24 years old on Thursday. "But I was certain I would win! My fitness is good and nothing was going to stop me."
Seboka and the other Ethiopians said they were definitely inspired by watching Haile Gebreselassie's world record run in Berlin on the internet before leaving their hotel for the start line in Toronto. "I left my village on my own when I was 17 to run in the big city. Haile is like a father to us, an inspiration, although he often tells me not to run so much." But it was perhaps Seboka's prodigious training regimen, of more than 200km some weeks, with 40k runs most mornings and another one-hour run in the afternoon, that gave her an unassailable strength on the Toronto Waterfront. "This is my personal best. I'm still young. My dream is to be a champion. This is an important step. Perhaps I now have a chance to make the team for the World Championships," she said.
Shurkhno, who had set her previous PR of 2:33:37 only 5 months ago at the Country Music Marathon, was equally delighted with her disciplined performance, running only a minute slower in the second half than the first. In contrast, the other Africans wilted in the humidity: Gigi to 2:33:24; Caroline Cheptonui to 2:34:27 for 4th; and Atsede Bayisa to 2:35:56 for 5th.
The men's race started promisingly. A group of 10, that included last year's champion and Canadian All-comers record-holder, John Kelai, followed the 3 pacemakers nicely through 10k right on schedule for an expected sub-2:10, at 30:19. At halfway, only Zimbabwe's George Mujaji had dropped off the back, and at 64:41, the group had only slipped from 3:02s to running 3:05s per kilometre.
In the park, between 25k and 30k, the group steadily broke up, with only Peter Kiprotich, who had run 2:08:49 in Frankfurt last autumn, Kenneth Mungara, Prague winner in April, and Ethiopia's Amensisa Ketema hanging onto a reduced pace from pacers Paul Kimugul and Willian Chebon. They passed 30k in 1:33:09, with the sub 2:10 looking decidedly unlikely. By the time Kimugul and Chebon stepped off at 32k, Kiprotich had a gap of about 25 metres on Mungara with Ketema a further distance back. Interestingly, Kiprotich then appeared to slow down to allow Mungara to catch him. The two then worked with some purpose getting back to 3:01 and 3:02 kilometres from 33km to 35km, and widening the gap to some 100m over Ketema.
Between 37km and 38km first Kiprotich and then Mungara each tried a couple of times to get away. It was not until after 41km that Mungara made a successful effort and opened up a 5 metre gap that Kiprotich was unable to close, despite a thrilling sprint up Bay Street to City Hall. Ketema crossed third in 2:11:52. David Taurus came through for 4th in 2:12:13; Kelai was 5th in 2:12:43 suffering from cramps, with Rome winner Jonathan Yego 6th in 2:13:23.
Canada's Dylan Wykes had a strong run in the conditions, in just his second marathon, finishing first non-African in 11th in 2:16:21, and helping Team Canada defeat Team Mexico and Team England in the developmental International Team Challenge.
Full results at www.torontowaterfrontmarathon.com/en/results.htm.