After a two-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Tartan Ottawa Marathon is back on as an in-person event.
One athlete who is apparently happy to hear this is Ethiopian Gelete Burka from Addis Ababa.
The last time that she race in Ottawa she broke the the Canadian All Comers’ record with her stunning performance of two-hours and 22 minutes and 17 seconds.
“Of course that time everything was hard,” she remembers still smiling. “The weather! I had been training here in Ethiopia and it was so very hot and also the (strong) wind and I also had stomach cramps. Anyway, God is good and, for me that day, helped me for that victory. I was so very happy.”
The margin of victoria on that cool day was four minutes.
“Ottawa is a good memory for me,” she continues. “When I was training I had a bit of a leg problem with an injury to my calf and I came to Ottawa with that injury. Also I got those stomach cramps. It was not easy. That was why I smiled when I came to the finish.”
In Addis she is both an usher and a member of the forty-member choir at The Glorious Life Church. With two Sunday services, plus another on Tuesday nights, her devotion to the church is exemplary. No wonder she has little time, outside of training and travelling, for herself. When she does have free time she might have tea or coffee with friends.
Family is also very important to Burka.
Gelete has represented Ethiopia in six successive world outdoor championships and three Olympics. In Rio six years ago, she finished 5th in the 10,000m earning her personal best of 30:26.66. Had it not been for a slight on the part of the Ethiopian federation a year later, she might never have turned to the marathon.
“In 2017 I was in Hengelo (Netherlands) at the Ethiopian trials for the world championships. I won the Ethiopian 10,000m trials (30:40.87), but they never took me to the world championships in London,” she explains her smile having vanished now.
“After that I stopped track and that is the point when I went to the marathon. So, I trained for the Dubai Marathon where I ran 2:20:45.”
A year later she won the 2019 Paris Marathon in 2:22:47, then finished 3rd in Chicago, one of the ‘World Majors,’ in 2:20:55. The latter result illustrates the importance of pacemakers to marathoners.
“In Paris we had a very nice pacer and also in Chicago, you remember the world record was broken,” she remembers. “The pacemakers went with the Kenyan lady (Brigid Kosgei set the world record of 2:14:04) and after 2km I was all by myself for 40km. Maybe when someone is pushing me I will run under 2:19. I need a good pacemaker. Yes I hope it is arranged (in Ottawa). I want to go under 1:10 the first half.”