by Paul Gains

The elite field for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon just keeps getting deeper and now, with the addition of Ethiopia’s Seboka Dibaba Tola, organisers are hoping the men’s race will result in the fastest time ever run on Canadian soil.

The current ‘Canadian All-Comers’ record belongs to Kenneth Mungara, a time the Kenyan star set in 2010. The mark of 2 hours 7 minutes 58 seconds has proven elusive to subsequent winners for one reason or another.

Dibaba, a confident 25-year-old, has twice run faster.  At the 2012 Dubai Marathon, he ran a splendid 2:06:17 personal best then, in March of this year, he finished 3rd in the Seoul Marathon in a time of 2:07:26. Naturally, each course has its merits and it’s difficult to compare, but Dibaba is grateful for the fact he has been given full details on what he can expect on the streets of Toronto.

“My training mate and defending champion of the Toronto [Waterfront] Marathon Sahle Warga and my coach Gebeyehu Berihun, told me their experiences last year,” he explains, “and so I know a little bit about the Toronto [Waterfront] Marathon.”

This visit to Canada’s largest city marks his first time in North America and is a result of a close association between his agent, the noted Italian, Gianni Demadonna, and the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Dibaba admits his training is on schedule to attack Mungara’s record and earn the $35,000 bonus on offer at this IAAF Silver Label race.

“I would like to run under the course record,” he declares. “My training is better and I am in good condition. I train with the group from ‘Demadonna Athletics.’ I train with Dino Sefir (2:04:50 best), Deressa Chimsa (2:05:42 best), Shami Abdulai, Sahle Warga and some other strong athletes.”

Last year Warga became the first Ethiopian man to win the Toronto event. His winning time of 2:10:36 belies the Toronto course layout, which has a good reputation amongst elite runners.  Weather conditions were certainly not conducive to running a fast time as the runners were pelted with rain and faced a stiff wind as well as humidity.  Warga, in fact, went on to run 2:08:19 this year in Paris.

Training in such illustrious company is bound to benefit Dibaba too. The group spends much time in the popular, and very picturesque, mountain spots of Entoto, Sululta and Sendafa just outside the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. These sites are all at altitudes of 2,500m (8,200 feet) above sea level – or more –  optimal for marathon training.

Dibaba joins Abderrahime Bouramdane of Morocco (2:07:33) amongst the entries who have beaten 2:08 in recent years. Though he doesn’t have the experience of the Moroccan, who was fourth in the 2011 IAAF World Championship marathon he certainly has come a long way fast.

Indeed, just last year he was the designated pacemaker for Wilson Loyanae at the 2012 Seoul Marathon. He helped the Kenyan to a 2:05:37 victory. Later in the year, Dibaba set a course record of 2:08:27 at the Dusseldorf Marathon and is now comfortable traveling the world as an international marathoner.

“I didn’t get the chance to visit the tourist sights,” he says of his travelling, “mostly I leave the day after the race. But I would like to return to visit Dubai.”

Race Director, Alan Brookes, is more excited than usual about a potential record-beating performance on the day.

“Dibaba ran 30 seconds faster than the record, this spring,” Brookes emphasises. “We have four more guys who’ve already run 2:08 this year, including last year’s defending champ Sahle Betona Warga.  And he will be tough to get by. Then there’s Bouramdane, a 2:07 guy with great experience who is a notorious front-runner. There are also a few long shots who could surprise.”

Brookes says the event is providing four dedicated pacers to take the key athletes through 28km with two of them going on to 30 or 32km. Their target pace will be 2:07:00. To be sure Dibaba will be going for a very fast time.