Dino Sefir winning the 2016 Ottawa Marathon

(IAAF) — Ethiopians dominated both the men’s and women’s races filling all but one of the podium places at the 2016 Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon, an IAAF Gold Label Road Race, on Sunday (29).

Under warm and humid conditions Dino Sefir ran away from what had been considered a very tightly competitive group to win in 2:08:14. The 2012 Olympian outlasted pacers who reached only 25km before dropping out, as well as his countryman Shura Kitata, to earn himself the victor’s laurels.

Kitata, a 19-year-old who burst onto the scene a year ago after running 2:08:53 in his marathon debut in Shanghai, was second in 2:10:04 with Kenya’s Dominic Ondoro third in 2:11:39.

The dire warnings of a heat wave were, as it happened, premature as the temperature at the start was 19C with a gentle breeze cooling the air. The lead pack had passed the half way point in 1:03:54 with Sefir always looking comfortable. With a personal best of 2:04:50 (Dubai 2012) and having represented his country at the 2012 Olympics he is an experienced runner. Only he could maintain the early pace.

“The last 10k were very difficult but I controlled my pace,” said Sefir, who turned 28 the day before. “It was very tough running alone. I was thinking of the time as well as winning the race. I was looking at my watch to follow the time.”

“The pacemakers were not going as fast as I wanted them to go so I had to push them to go faster and faster. That is correct that if there was more competition there was a chance I could have run better.”

Kitata’s inexperience showed. When he did try to take water he spilled most of it and at roughly 30km Sefir kindly handed him his own bottle to ensure he hydrated.

“I am happy with my result but the only problem I had was I used new shoes today,” Kitata said of his smart looking footwear. “I was not comfortable with the new shoes.”

“And I have no experience with taking water. I tried to run without water. Once Dino shared water and then he took off.”


Koren Jelala en route to her victory at the 2016 Ottawa Marathon
Koren Jelala en route to her victory at the 2016 Ottawa Marathon

The women’s race was another story of attrition with Koren Jelela running alone for the final eight kilometres. She had been one of four athletes –Isabella Ochichi of Kenya, defending champion Aberu Mekuria and Sechale Dalasa were the others– to pass the half way point in 1:12:30 but as the temperature quickly rose during the second half of the race none could maintain that rhythm.

Five years ago Jelela set the Canadian all-comers record of 2:22:43 in Toronto. Today she suffered along with her rivals and frequently turned around worrying where Mekuria, her nearest challenger, might be. Her concerns were unfounded and the gap between her and Mekuria increased to the finish.

Jelela reached the line in 2:27:06 with Mekuria finishing a well-beaten second in 2:29:51. Sechale Dalasa was third in 2:32:46.

“It was a bit difficult but it wasn’t as challenging as we had expected,” Jelela said of the weather. “It turned out to be better than we thought.”

“If there were people around it would help break the wind but because I was by myself I had to push. If there had been people around me we could have obtained better results out of that. After 30k as people were dropping back and the gap was getting big I felt very comfortable and was confident I would win.”

As Ethiopian flags waved in the crowd and the Ethiopian ambassador posed for pictures with her comrades, plans for a celebration were being sketched out. Sefir joked that his birthday celebration yesterday consisted of drinking more water and getting more sleep. Jelela smiled at Sefir.

“No problem, we will celebrate,” she said laughing. “We will be celebrating and I hope to come back next year and celebrate some more. Because we took first, second and third in the women’s race and it’s very exciting to see so many Ethiopians taking the podium. We will celebrate.”


dino-sefirDino Sefir Kemal (born 28 May 1988) in the Shewa region. Dino made his first impact internationally with a bronze medal in the 5000 metres at the 2007 African Junior Athletics Championships, finishing behind Mathew Kisorio and Dejen Gebremeskel. He travelled abroad for the first time in 2008 and set a best of 13:11.69 minutes for the distance at the Golden Spike Ostrava.

He broke through as a senior athlete in 2009, winning the Lotto Cross Cup de Hannut and finishing runner-up at the Cross Ouest France. He gained his first major international selection as a result and placed 15th at the 2009 IAAF World Cross Country Championships. He was runner-up over 5000 metres at the Ethiopian Athletics Championships and set a best of 28:39 minutes for the 10K run at the World 10K Bangalore at the end of the year. The focus of his 2010 season was a move up to the marathon distance, but he made only a modest debut at the low-key Maratón de Castellón, finishing eighth in a time of 2:20:36 hours.

Third place at the Jan Meda Cross Country saw him chosen for the 2011 IAAF World Cross Country Championships and there he shared in the team silver medal with Ethiopia through his twelfth-place finish. A month later he won the Humarathon half marathon race with a course record of 59:42 minutes – a time which established him among the world’s top road runners. He was very active in May: he won the 15 km du Puy-en-Velay, placed second at the national championships in the 10,000 m, then finished third at the Ottawa Marathon with a much improved best of 2:10:33 hours. Dino made his senior track debut at September’s 2011 All-Africa Games and set a new personal best of 28:23.40 minuties for the 10,000 m, but did not win a medal.

Dino’s run at the 2013 Dubai Marathon raised him to eighth place in the all-time marathon lists, as he was runner-up to Ayele Abshero with a time of 2:04:50 hours – this was the second fastest non-winning time at that point. He was selected for the Ethiopian marathon team at the 2012 Olympic Games, but he could not repeat his earlier form and dropped out of the Olympic race.

His next marathon outing came at the 2013 Tokyo Marathon, but his time of 2:09:13 hours saw him finish eighth in the field. Dino took victory at the Nice Half Marathon that April. He did not perform well in the rest of the season, finishing 14th in Bangalore and tenth at the Portugal Half Marathon and Falmouth Road Race. He entered the Frankfurt Marathon, but was some way off his best, recording 2:09:22 hours for seventh.


jelala_yalKoren Jelela, also known as Koren Jelila Yal, (born 18 January 1987 in Shewa). At the 2007 World Cross Country Championships she finished nineteenth in the senior race. With four Ethiopian runners ahead of her she missed out for a place on the victorious Ethiopian team. The same thing happened in 2008, when Jelela finished fourteenth individually. She was less successful at the 2009 edition, as she finished in 30th place. She chose to move away from cross country running and switch her focus to the road. On her debut over the marathon distance at the Venice Marathon in 2009, she finished as the runner-up with a time of 2:28:41 hours, second to veteran Kenyan athlete Anne Kosgei. That November she entered the Great Ethiopian Run held in Addis Ababa and won the 10 km race with a course record time of 33:03 minutes.

She competed at the RAK Half Marathon the following February and made the top ten with a run of 1:10:52. She was announced as one of the elite foreign competitors for the 2010 Boston Marathon in April, but she failed to match her Venice performance and finished in twelfth place some five minutes off her personal best pace. She made an appearance over 10 km at the World 10K Bangalore the following month and took fourth position. In her second full distance race of the year, she came fourth at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon with a best run of 2:24:33. She closed her year in Nigeria with a fifth-place finish at the African Mountain Running Championships hosted by the Obudo Ranch Race that November.

She opened 2011 at the Mumbai Marathon and she won in course record time. Her mark of 2:26:56 was also the fastest marathon ever run by a woman in India. In April she took on the Paris Marathon and placed top-three behind Kenyans Priscah Jeptoo and Agnes Kiprop. She returned to India for the World 10K Bangalore and finished just outside the top three behind Belaynesh Oljira in an Ethiopian sweep of the top four. She was a back-up runner for the Ethiopian team at the 2011 World Championships in Athletics, but ultimately did not compete. In October she won the Toronto Waterfront Marathon ahead of her compatriot Mare Dibaba – Koren reached the halway mark in a quick time of 1:08:38 hours, but slowed in the second half to finish the race in a personal best time of 2:22:43 hours.

The next year, her best run came at the 2012 London Marathon, although her time of 2:28:05 was only enough for twelfth. She was one second slower at the Istanbul Marathon, but the race was more tactical and she came out on top to win the race.

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