Ethiopians dominate podiums at Tartan Ottawa International Marathon

Ottawa Marathon podium 2023

There were a number of surprise moves at Sunday’s Tartan Ottawa International Marathon on both the men’s and women’s sides, resulting in podiums that were different from what was predicted early in the race. After appearing to be earlier struggling in the race, Ethiopia’s Yihunilign Adane, who also won the TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon last October, once again made a similar move around the 35K mark, surging for the win in 2:08:22.

Adane’s compatriot, Gebrestsadik Abraha, in his fourth Canadian race, finished second, in 2:09:13; Abraha ran a PB of 2:06:08 in Dubai in February and is a former U20 world championships silver medallist in the 10,000m (from 2010). Abdi Ali Gelchu, also of Ethiopia, finished third on Sunday, in 2:10:38, after finishing second last year on his first trip to race in Canada.

After leading for much of the first half of the race, the only Kenyan in the field, felix Kibitoka half-marathon specialist, faded to sixth as the temperatures rose in Ottawa. Lee Wesselius was the first Canadian to cross the finish line, in 14th place (2:18:26).

The conditions at the 7:00 am start were a cool 15 C but the temperatures warmed up to 23 C after the halfway point. Adane’s time was a few minutes shy of the event record of 2:06:04, set last year by his compatriot Andualem Shiferaw.

The women’s race

The leading pack of three Ethiopian women, including Melat Kejeta, Waganesh Mekasha and Aberu Ayana Mulisa, paced by Canadian marathon record holder cam levins and followed by Canada’s Malindi Elmore, who was seeking the Olympic standard of 2:26:50, dwindled to two relatively early in the race, Kejeta and Mekasha running together until 23km. Then Mekasha, who finished fifth at the Chicago Marathon last year, threw in an early surge, dropping Kejeta. Mekasha was on pace for an event record (2:22:17, set by Burka Jelly in 2018), and despite slowing down considerably in the final 12 km, she held on for the win, breaking the tape in 2:24:47.

women's podium Ottawa Marathon 2023
The 2023 Tartan Ottawa International Marathon women’s podium. Malindi Elmore of Canada, Waganesh Mekasha of Ethiopia and Melat Kejeta of Ethiopia. Photo: Marley Dickinson

Elmore, meanwhile, was slowly picking off competitors, and wound up with a glorious second-place finish, in 2:27:45–a little off her time goal, but a major accomplishment and a delightful surprise for the Canadian crowd. (Elmore set the Canadian record at the Houston Marathon in 2020 at 2:24:50; it has since been lowered by Natasha WodakSaturday’s Canadian 10K champion, who ran 2:23:12 in Berlin last year.)

More coverage is to come from Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend.

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