Posted by: Joe English | September 18, 2008

Races: Strong women’s field to battle at Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Asha Gigi wins Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Asha Gigi wins Toronto Waterfront Marathon

TORONTO — Defending champion and course record holder, Asha Gigi of Ethiopia, is confirmed to head up the strongest women’s field to date at the 9th annual Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on September 28th. She’ll be joined on the start line by fellow Ethiopians Atsede Bayisa and Mulu Seboka.

Together, they will face a tough Kenyan challenge from Irene Mogaka, Caroline Cheptonui and Winifredah Kwamboka. Ukrainian Olena Shurkhno is expected to round out the lead pack, which is likely to give the event its first sub-2:30 women’s finish. The 34 year old Gigi ran a solo 2:33:16 last September in Toronto for a new course record.

“This is the best, deepest women’s field we’ve had so far,” said Race Director Alan Brookes. “It’s shaping up to be the first time we’ve really had a women’s race, with a pack. Asha has been very consistent lately around 2:28/2:29, and her experience, pitted against some exciting, young talent promises a gripping contest.” For the first time, the women’s prize purse is identical to the men’s at $61,000 plus time bonuses, with money down to 8th place.

When Gigi recorded her 2:33:16 at Waterfront ’07, she did so running entirely on her own. Despite a highly injudicious start that saw her go through 10K in 33:35 and half way in 1:12:13, she hung on to hold off a charging Malgorzata Sobanska by a minute. Since then, she has run 2:28:24 for 6th in Dubai in January, then 2:29:28 for 3rd in Hamburg in April. Her career best of 2:26:05 came 4 years ago in Paris.

As the IAAF Silver Label Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon has lowered it’s men’s finishing time from 2:17 to 2:09:30 over the past 5 years, it has gained a growing international reputation for providing talented, young up-and-comers with the opportunity to secure a fast time on the flat, Lakeshore course. This year, this is carrying over into the women’s race also.

At just 21 years old, Atsede Bayisa won a hilly Istanbul Marathon last October in 2:29:05. Coached by Hussein Shibo, the head coach of the Ethiopian Federation who coached the 5000m/10,000m athletes in Beijing, she is hoping for a major improvement. Similarly, 24 year old Mulu Seboka defended her title with a 2:30:04 PR clocking in hot, humid conditions in Mumbai in January, and is expected to improve that time in Toronto. Kenyan Irene Mogaka, 2nd to Seboka in Mumbai in 2:32:51, is just 22 years old; Kwamboka is 26, and Cheptonui 27 years. Shurkhno, coming off a PR of 2:33:37 and 2nd place at hilly Country Music Marathon in April, is a relative veteran at age 30.

Behind this lead pack, the International Team Challenge between Team Canada, Team Mexico and Team England promises a highly competitive second group of 10 women between 2:36 and 2:48, led by Mexico’s Judith Ramirez and Alicia Rodruigez, and Canada’s Nicole Stevenson. The Canadians will be battling to get at least the B standard of 2:43, to claim one of the 5 places on the Canadian team to the World Championships marathon in Berlin next August.

Toronto Waterfront Marathon — Women’s Elite Field
GIGI, Asha [ETH] 2:26:05 (2004) F1
BAYISA, Atsede Tesema [ETH] 2:29:05 (2007) F4
SEBOKA, Mulu [ETH] 2:30:04 (2008) F5
CHEPTONUI, Caroline [KEN] 2:31:10 (2006) F6
MOGAKA, Irene [KEN] 2:32:51 (2008) F7
SHURKHNO, Olena [UKR] 2:33:37 (2008) F9
STEVENSON, Nicole [CAN] 2:32:56 (2004) F10
EVANS, Suzanne [CAN] 2:45:38 (2007) F11
HARVEY, Lisa [CAN] 2:48:48 (2007) F12
KWAMBOKA, Winifridah [KEN] 2:36:30 (2007) F13
FAWKE, Kim [ENG] 2:42:08 (2008) F14
HAZLITT, Karen [ENG] 2:43:30 (2006) F15
DECKER, Helen [ENG] 2:47:43 (2008) F16
WOODVINE, Andrea [ENG] 2:45:49 (2008) F17
NATOLI, Karen [AUS] 2:45:15 (2007) F18
RODRUIGEZ, Alicia [MEX] 2:36:16 (2004) F19
RAMIREZ, Judith [MEX] 2:36:43 (2007) F20

Source: Toronto Waterfont Marathon
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