OTTAWA, May 29 – Leading from start to finish, Peres Jepchirchir proved the strongest in a race heavily impacted by harsh weather conditions to win the Ottawa 10K.
The 22-year-old Kenyan, who surprised many with her victory at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships two months ago, clearly suffered from the 22C temperatures and staggered around the finish area for several anxious seconds before crossing the line in 31:29.
She collapsed and was transported in a wheelchair to the medical tent immediately to recover.
Organisers had wisely pushed back the start time by half an hour to 7:00 p.m. to try and beat the unseasonably hot weather but even this measure was not enough.
No sooner had the race begun than a surprise rain shower greeted the runners adding to their woes.
Jepchirchir had passed 5k in 15:36 with a four second cushion over Mamitu Daska of Ethiopia and simply extended her lead to the finish with the Ethiopian finishing second in 32:08. Rebecca Chesir of Kenya was third in 32:40.
Ottawa employs a unique ‘gender gap’ by which the elite women are given a head start of 3 minutes 15 seconds over the men.
The first man or woman to cross the finish line earns an additional USD $2000. Through the latter stages of the race Jepchirchir did everything to protect that lead.
“At 5k when I saw that I was alone I knew that I would win the race,” said the winner with a smile. “I knew about the time difference. I knew they (the men) were coming but I didn’t see behind, just in front.”
“My plan was to push the time because I knew it was hot so I thought if I would run fast in the first half I could run a better time. Then I felt a pain in my stomach (at the finish) and I was feeling pain.”
Although she didn’t exhibit the same degree of exhaustion as her rival, Daska was nevertheless affected by the conditions.
Last November she won the Great Ethiopian Run, one of the biggest races in Africa, joining some of her nation’s greatest athletes in the list of victors. Today she lamented a lost opportunity.
“The conditions were very difficult. It was very humid and at the same time it was raining,” she said echoing the winner’s sentiments. “Combined it was the worst situation and it tired me out so I couldn’t perform.”
“I was trying to keep pace with them (Kenyans) and watching how their breathing is but I couldn’t keep up (with Jepchirchir) because of the humidity, that’s why I dropped back to third place for a bit. I tried to keep up.
Because this is my first time in Canada to compete I am happy with the result I got and I hope to perform better next time.”
Ziani edges Atnafu in men’s contest
Morocco’s Mohammed Ziani was the surprise winner of the men’s race in a time of 28:37 just holding off Yitayal Atnafu Zerihun of Ethiopia who recorded the same time.Third place went to Ahmed Tamri, also of Morocco, in 28:40.
The trio had broken away from a group at 8k –one which included the favoured Simon Cheprot of Kenya – and watched each other continually for signs of weakness.
They all took water at the same stations marking their time together as they came down the final straight. Ziani had just enough to claim victory. He knelt on the ground and kissed it moments afterwards.
“In the first six kilometres I was not thinking I was going to win but in the last 2k I said, ‘this is my race today I am not going to give up,’ Ziani said.
“I didn’t talk to any other Moroccans about the race, I was focusing on the race to win. I am very happy that I won today.”
A member of the Royal Moroccan Guard, Ziani trains with the national team in the high altitude training camp at Ifrane and was only released to travel on Friday, a day later than scheduled.
In preparation for the Ottawa race he won the Rabat International Half Marathon in 1:01:21.