All smiles: Kenneth Mungara after his 2:08:31 Canadian record in Toronto in 2009 (organisers) (© Traci Williamson)
Toronto, CanadaKenneth Mungara successfully defended his Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon today and in doing so ran the fastest time ever recorded on Canadian soil.
Under extremely humid conditions and temperatures hovering around 17 degrees C. the 36-year-old stopped the clock in a time of 2:08:31, roughly one hundred metres ahead of Ethiopia’s Chala Lemi. Lemi’s time of 2:08:48 also beat the record of 2:09:30 in the 20th anniversary of this IAAF Silver Label Road Race.
“I didn’t believe the clock,” Mungara admitted. “It was a surprise. My manager (Dereke Froude) said I could run 2:08. He said ‘you can make it.’ I didn’t believe him. Now I have made it.”
The victory was worth CAD $20,000. He earned another $35,000 in bonuses, $25,000 for beating the all-comers record and another $10,000 for dipping under 2:09.
Mungara finished third in the Prague Marathon in May despite a nagging knee injury which limited his training for the Toronto race. It was only two months ago that he realised he would be in good enough form to compete here.
“I was hoping to run 2:10 here because I was injured in May,” he disclosed. “I couldn't go very fast because of my knee injury in Prague. When I was behind I didn't worry. I was going slowly because of my knee.”
Mungara and Lemi were amongst a group of eight athletes who followed three handpicked pacemakers through the early stages passing 10km in 30:04 and the half way point on this pancake flat course in 1:03:34. Two of the rabbits dropped out at 25km having done their job while the third, Paul Kimugul of Kenya, who conducted similar chores in London earlier this year, kept the pace going a few more kilometres until he slipped on a patch of slick pavement and fell.
Lemi and his countryman Gashaw Asfaw, seventh in the Beijing Olympics, made a bid to break open the race between 32 and 35 km opening a small gap on Mungara. But Lemi was visibly tiring and looked over his shoulder a couple of times, a dead giveaway he was concerned. This seemed to inspire Mungara and he passed both Ethiopians and opened up an impenetrable margin.
Asfaw who has a personal best of 2:08:03 held on for third place in a time of 2:09:23.
Moments after crossing the finish line the winner accepted a congratulatory telephone call from the pastor of the Kenya Global Church in Toronto. Following the awards ceremony he planned to join fellow Kenyans for a special service.
Gobena takes down women’s course record as well
The women’s race also resulted in a new course record as 23-year-old Amane Gobena upset the defending champion, Mulu Seboka, with a time of 2:28:30. Both athletes come from Ethiopia.
“I’m very happy with my race,” the winner announced, “I knew after 40km I would win. I was hoping to run around 2:22 but I had trouble with my stomach.”
Seboka had broken away midway through the race thanks to a series of surges that troubled Gobena who was running in only her third Marathon. At one point there was almost two hundred metres separating the pair but Gobena battled back into contention at 39km.
Haile Kebebush made it an Ethiopian sweep crossing the line in 2:30:47 for third place. The Ethiopians were greeted at the finish line by the 1980 Olympic 5000m and 10,000m champion Miruts Yifter who is in Toronto visiting his son.
Canadian hopes had rested upon Lioudmila Kortchaguina but the 38-year-old Russian-born resident of Toronto twisted her ankle on a streetcar track just three kilometres into the race and stopped.
The day’s success left race director Alan Brookes glowing and the good news was enhanced by the announcement that $1.8 million had been raised for various charities.
“We copied the Flora London Marathon, unashamedly, in their charity format,” Brookes said. “Now we are up to 99 local charities this year.”
Paul Gains for the IAAF