TORONTO, September 25th. Kenyan Daniel Rono ran his marathon streak to three consecutive victories yesterday, as he defeated a high-quality field in challenging, windy conditions on the Toronto Waterfront. His 2:10:15 took a minute and a half off the previous course record of 2:11:57, set by Simon Bor last year. His time was only 20 seconds off the Canadian all-comers mark [2:09:55], and represents the third fastest marathon ever run on Canadian soil.
Rono, who entered the race with a PR of 2:12:02, won his marathon debut in April 2005 in Madrid, coming within 10 seconds of a 14-year-old course record there, then followed that up with a second win this January in Mumbai, where he ran another 2:12 in tough, hot conditions.
After an excitable first kilometre of 2:49, a large group of more than 20 athletes settled down and tucked in behind the four pace makers who created an excellent human barrier to the wind between 3k and 12k, at times having to bend into it to maintain momentum. They passed 10K in 30:50, then halfway on target-pace in 64:37. At this point, there were still 15 in contention, including Rono, last year's winner Bor, Commonwealth Games ('06) Champion Samson Ramadhani of Tanzania, and the Moroccan Abderrahime Bouramdane, winner of Ottawa in May, in a previous PR of 2:12:18.
By 25k the group was down to six, with Kenyans Laban Moiben and Festus Kioko just about holding onto the pack of four mentioned above. The pacers had gone at this point, a job well done, and Ramadhani and Bouramdane were pushing the pace to the extent that at this stage a 2:09 looked likely. By 30k, passed in 1:32:07, the leaders were down to three, with first Moiben, then Kioko, then Bor dropping off, the latter with a sore calf muscle, struggling home courageously to finish sixth. At 33k Ramadhani paid the price for his earlier aggression, and the race was down to two, Rono and Bouramdane. Turning into the wind [gusting from 25km to 30km/hr] just before 34k, the pair ran shoulder to shoulder, no quarter being given by either. Significantly, however, the pace dropped to 3:12 per kilometre and the chances of picking up the $20,000 bonus for breaking 2:09:55 slipped away.
At 39k, Rono sensed that his opponent was tiring and made the decisive move, surging hard and opening up a gap of some 40m in almost no time. He maintained his style even into the wind in the last kilometre, to record a very impressive winning time.
A new course record was also set in the women's race, as Poland's Malgorzata Sobanska [a former London Marathon winner] ran a smart tactical race, overhauling the long-time leader Elizabeth Chemweno of Kenya in the last quarter of the race to cross the line in 2:34:31. This eclipsed the mark of 2:36:20 set by Russia's Lyubov Morgunova in 2003.
The indefatigable Canadian phenomenon, "The Master" Ed Whitlock, set yet another age-group world record with his 3:08:35 at age 75, taking 10 minutes off the previous mark set by Warren Utes of the USA.
And Michal Kapral, aka "The Canadian Joggler", was thrilled to bring the Guinness World Record for "running a marathon while juggling 3 objects", back to Canada, with his 2:57:53. "I managed to do it! I can't believe it! I love joggling," he said after crossing the line. Michal had lost the record this Spring in a great head-to-head duel with Harvard divinity student, Zach Warren, at the famed Boston Marathon. Warren won and set the impressive new Guinness mark of 2:58:23. "After he broke my old record of 3:07, I thought I'd better get it back!"
A lot of other folks also went home happy, as runners for 50 local charities raised a record $750,000 on the day.
In the accompanying half marathon, locally-based Congolese runner, Giitah Macharia, benefited from the shelter of the pacers in the marathon to 18k before powering on to win in 64:38; the women's race was won easily and impressively by Commonwealth Games marathon silver medalist, Hellen Cherono on Kenya in 1:12:59.