Mulu Seboka smashes record in win

September 29th, 2008 | by addis portal |

Ethiopian finishes almost a minute ahead of second-place competitor

The 22-year-old Ethiopian woman set a course record of 2 hours 29 minutes 5 seconds, smashing the previous best for the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon yesterday morning in a romp across the shores of Lake Ontario. Her time was more than four minutes better than the mark set last year by fellow Ethiopian Asha Gigi, this year’s third-place finisher. Olena Shurkhno of Ukraine finished second in the women’s race.

“Haile always watches us train in Addis Ababa and he tells me don’t practise a lot,” said Seboka, who puts in a phenomenal load of roadwork at 280 kilometres a week. Each of her five training days in a week starts with 40 km in the morning, then she runs for another hour in the afternoon.

“He’s a father figure to us. He told me to reduce the work level.”

But Seboka thrives on the high volume. She never has run any distance but the marathon, following her sister into the sport. She said it’s the way of women’s sport in Ethiopia to take up after a family member. The Olympic 5,000- and 10,000-metre gold medalist, Tirunesh Dibaba, 23, followed a sister, who had followed an aunt in distance running.

Dubbed the “baby-faced destroyer,” Dibaba’s Olympic prowess has paid of for her with a promotion to the rank of superintendent on her prison police club. She actually outranks the legendary Gebrselassie, who is a major with another police unit.

The winner of the Mumbai Marathon in India earlier this year, Seboka said she runs only two or three competitive races in a season, but the daily workload is the equivalent of more than a marathon.

Her course record and personal best time yesterday was the highlight of the Toronto race. She won by almost a minute over Shurkhno’s 2:30:12. Seboka, from the town of Sululta, near Addis Ababa, figures she has more left in her, aiming to take her time down to the 2:22 or 2:23 range by the year’s end. She said she came to Toronto because she heard about a flat, fast course where she could post her best time.

Gebrselassie, Ethiopia’s 35-year-old running machine, knows about the wear and tear on the body from running.

The multiple Olympic gold medalist at 10,000 metres worked his way up gradually to the classic distance of the marathon (41.195 km) and, hours before the Toronto race, lowered his own world record for the men’s race to 2:03:59 for his third consecutive Berlin Marathon win.

Gebrselassie has set 26 world records in his lifetime, “and seeing him break the record today on television was an inspiration just before we went out,” Seboka said.

Toronto Waterfront race director Alan Brookes had hoped to see the men’s course record fall for the second consecutive year. Organizers invested about $35,000 of the $350,000 budget in rabbits who kept the race at a record pace through the first half. However, hard winds slowed the field coming up the Leslie Street spit in the second half of the race. No one came close to the 2:09:30 notched last year when John Kelai of Kenya ran the fastest marathon ever run in Canada.

This year Kelai finished fifth, while fellow Kenyan Kenneth Mungara won in 2:11:09. “I tried to go for a 2:09, but I didn’t make it,” Mungara said.

“At around 30 kilometres the wind was so strong we couldn’t keep the time,” said second-place finisher Peter Kiprotich of Kenya, who clocked 2:11:02, holding a lead twice but losing touch on the final sprint to Nathan Phillips Square. Ethiopia’s Amersisa Ketema was third in 2:11:51.

The top Canadian finishers were Suzanne Evans of New Westminster, B.C., ninth among the women in 2:44:22, her first sub-2:45 run, and Dylan Wykes of Kingston, Ont., who placed 11th among the men at 2:16:20.

Wykes said his goal is to get to next year’s world championship marathon in Berlin.

“It would be my next big step … If I am selected, I’d stay away from marathons for the next year and get back to 10 km and half marathons.”

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