By Paul Gains
PHILEMON RONO 28 KENYA
PB 2:06:52 Toronto Waterfront 2017
A two-time winner of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon ‘Baby Police’ as he is
nicknamed, also set the Canadian All-Comers’ record of 2:06:52 here in 2017. He struggled in his attempt to become three-time champion last year. A calf injury resurfaced during the race.
But he has rebounded this year finishing 6th at the Boston Marathon this past April with a time of 2:08:57, a minute behind the winner. Training with a group headed by coach Patrick Sang and world marathon record holder Eliud Kipchoge, preparations have gone well for Toronto Waterfront. Earning that third victory remains his focus.
BENSON KIPRUTO 28 KENYA
PB 2:07:11 Seoul 2018
Kipruto is the defending Toronto Waterfront champion (2:07:24) and one of the more consistent marathoners on the circuit. Three times he has run in the 2:07 to 2:08 range with a 2:07:11 remaining his personal best from Seoul last year. He also ran 2:07:21 at the 2017 Gongju Dong-A Marathon in Korea. With his earnings he has been building rental accommodation in Kenya as a business investment for when he retires from running. This Barcelona FC fan has set a target of beating his personal best and defending his Toronto title.
LEMI BERHANU HAYLE 25 ETHIOPIA
PB 2:04:33 Dubai 2016
One of the most talented runners to grace Toronto Waterfront he is the 2016 Boston Marathon champion. He won the 2015 Dubai Marathon in 2:05:28, then a year later finished second in Dubai in a personal best 2:04:33. The Ethiopian Federation chose him for their 2016 Rio Olympic team where, despite an injury, he finished 13th. This is his first time in Canada, but he has familiarized himself with Toronto Waterfront. He says he watches the live streaming of the race every year. His most recent victory was the Henghsui Lake Marathon in China in September 2018. He ran 2:08:51 there.
ABERA KUMA 28 ETHIOPIA
PB 2:05:50 Rotterdam 2018
Abera Kuma travels to Toronto with his sister Dibabe Kuma knowing that in its 30 years history Toronto Waterfront has never had a brother-sister combination reach the podium. He is certainly up to the task with a personal best of 2:05:50 from last year’s Rotterdam Marathon where he was second. On May 26 he was second at the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon. A third-place finish at the 2014 Berlin Marathon in 2:05:56 also bears noting. Kuma comes from a strong track background having twice represented Ethiopia at the IAAF World Championships (5th in the 5,000m at Daegu 2011 and 5th in the 10,000m at Moscow 2013). In 2013 he ran 26:52.85 for 10000m which was the second-fastest time in the world that year.
FELIX CHEMONGES 23 UGANDA
PB 2:09:19 Linz (Austria) 2019
Part of the new wave of talented Ugandan distance runners, Chemonges made his debut at the 2018 Beirut Marathon where he achieved 2:11:57 on what is not considered a fast course. Since then he finished second at the Linz marathon in 2:09:19. That was in April, By June he had improved his half marathon personal best racing to a 61:03 clocking in Zwolle (Netherlands) again finishing second. Toronto Waterfront marks his first time in North America. He has represented his country overseas previously. He was selected by the Ugandan Athletics Federation for the 2018 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships where he finished 26th four places ahead of Canada’s Cam Levins. Among his training partners in Kapchorwa, Uganda (elevation 2,000m) is Joshua Cheptegei the recently crowned world 10000m champion.
BEKELECH GUDETA 22 ETHIOPIA
PB 1:07:03 Copenhagen Half Marathon 2018
Toronto Waterfront will mark this young Ethiopian’s marathon debut though she is hardly
frightened at the prospect. Twice she has run the half marathon distance well under 1:08 at
Copenhagen – an IAAF Gold Label race – and was 8th in the 2018 IAAF World Half Marathon
Championships in Valencia. She and her coach Dawit Hiluf believe she can run very fast in her debut and have boldly set Mimi Belete’s course record of 2:22:29 as a target. Her most recent Copenhagen appearance netted her a time of 1:07:21 just 18 seconds off her best. This was accomplished despite the fact she has been piling on the miles in preparation for Toronto. She points to Kenya’s Mary Keitany and her fellow Ethiopian Tirunesh Dibaba as role models for her career.
DIBABE KUMA 23 ETHIOPIA
PB 2:23:34 Ljubljana (Slovakia)
Dibabe set her personal best of 2:23:34 last October when she finished third at the Ljubljana (Slovakia) Marathon. More recently her victory at Hamburg April 28th (2:24:42) has given her reason for optimism. Earlier this year she ran a personal best half marathon time of 1:06:45 to finish second at the Barcelona Half Marathon. She is delighted to be travelling to Toronto with her elder brother, Abera Kuma whose experience in travel and competition is invaluable. She expects to run a new personal best in Toronto Waterfront.
MAGDALYNE MASAI-ROBERTSON 25 KENYA
PB 2:26:02 Hamburg 2019
Her second-place finish at the 2019 Hamburg Marathon earned her a personal best of 2:26:02 but she is confident she can run much faster. Most recently and in her build-up for Toronto Waterfront she finished 2nd at the Great North Run Half Marathon in South Shields, UK in a time of 1:07:36 a good indication training has been going well. And she didn’t have to go far for information on Toronto Waterfront: her husband Jake Robertson was 5th in last year’s race in 2:09:52. Magdalyne or “Magz” as she likes to be called, is the younger sister of Linet Masai (2008 Olympic 10000m bronze medalist), Moses Masai (2009 World Championship 10000m bronze medalist) and Dennis Masai (2010 World Junior 10000m Champion).
RUTH CHEBITOK 28 KENYA
PB 2::23:29 Toronto Waterfront 2018
Chebitok finished third in Toronto Waterfront last year with a personal best of 2:23:29. Her
performance capped off a brilliant 2018 as she won the Gold Coast Marathon in Australia – the first Kenyan woman to win that acclaimed race – in a course record 2:24:49 as well as the Barcelona Marathon in 2:25:49. This year she recorded a personal best half marathon time of 1:09:06 finishing 3rd in the Goteborg (Sweden) Half Marathon. In her only marathon of 2019, she claimed 10th in the Tokyo Marathon, March 3rd.
BIRUKTAYIT DEGEFA ESHETU 29 ETHIOPIA
PB 2:23:28 Houston 2019
Biruktayit is a three-time winner of the Houston Marathon recording her personal best (2:23:28) this past January. From there she earned a 9th place finish at the 2019 Boston Marathon. She spends much time in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her husband an Ethiopian-American, whom she met at the 2015 Houston Marathon. He was a volunteer at a community dinner held on race weekend. Among her training partners is Shure Demise who won Toronto Waterfront in 2015 and 2016. Winning Toronto is her main goal.
There is much at stake for Canadian marathoners with Olympic aspirations at this year’s
Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Not only is this IAAF Gold Label race the official
Athletics Canada National Championship, but the 2019 version is also the Marathon Trials
selection race for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
The IAAF has set Olympic qualifying standards of 2:11:30 and 2:29:30 for men and women
respectively and a quota of 80 athletes for each of the Tokyo Olympic marathon races. But
athletes can also earn points by placing in their national championship/trials and at IAAF Gold Label races such as Toronto Waterfront. The 2019 Canadian champions crowned will get automatic pre-selection if they have the time standard. The importance of this event cannot be overstated.
The result is an unprecedented list of Canadian athletes.
CAMERON LEVINS 30
Black Creek, B.C.
PB 2:09:25 Toronto Waterfront 2018
Levins made his marathon debut in dramatic fashion a year ago at Scotiabank Toronto
Waterfront Marathon comfortably beating Jerome Drayton’s national record (2:10:09) with his 2:09:25.
That record had stood for 43 years. Injury forced him out of London this spring and other results have been below his usually top-class standard. Nevertheless, when he is on form, he is a world-class talent and widely revered by fellow competitors. More than one of his Canadian competitors have admitted they are running for Canadian silver here, Though he and his wife live in Portland, Oregon he has been spending months at a time with his Southern Utah University coach Eric Houle in Cedar City, Utah. He represented Canada at the 2012 Olympics (5000m, 10,000m) and it would be a shock if he didn’t become a two-time Olympian.
REID COOLSAET 40
PB 2:10:28 Berlin 2015
Coolsaet has been Canada’s most consistent marathoner of the 21st century representing
Canada at both the 2012 London (27th) and 2016 Rio Olympics (23rd). He has run under 2:11 twice and sub 2:12 a total of five times. His personal best makes him the 3rd fastest Canadian ever. Despite his age, he cracked the top ten at the 2018 Boston Marathon (9th place) a race where weather conditions were demanding. He believes he has a good chance of being among the top three Canadians in Toronto and can run fast enough to earn a place in Tokyo 2020. That would make him a three-time Olympian.
DYLAN WYKES 36
PB: 2:10:47 Rotterdam 2012
Wykes was Canada’s top finisher at the 2012 Olympics (20th in 2:15:26) having made the
Olympic standard at the eleventh hour running a personal best 2:10:47 in Rotterdam. That was six weeks after he failed to finish the Lake Biwa Marathon in Japan. Chasing the Olympic standard wore him out both physically and mentally and semi-retirement followed. But a renewed enthusiasm has seen him return to a possible 2020 Olympic berth. Though he and his wife and children moved to Ottawa recently – wife Francine is a tenured track professor at Carleton University – he is still coached by Richard Lee of the BC Endurance Project.
In May he won the Canadian 10k title and three weeks later finished 4th in the Canadian Half-Marathon Championships. With solid results like that, an Olympic place is in the back of his mind.
TRISTAN WOODFINE 25
PB: 2:15:19 Houston 2019
In January, Woodfine took more than three and a half minutes off his personal best to finish 13th in Houston in 2:15:19. A graduate of the Ontario College of Health and Technology he has put a career as a paramedic on hold to focus on marathon running. He does some woodworking with his father to help pay the bills. Following Houston, he focused on regaining speed. He won the Race Roster Spring Run Off 8km in April and then in June won the Canadian Half-Marathon title in Winnipeg (1:04:46). Unlike many of his competitors he does most of his training alone. He is confident of being in the mix.
EVAN ESSELINK 27
Esselink moved to Vancouver a year ago to train with coach Richard Lee at the BC Endurance Project and since then his fortunes have improved considerably. He announced his marathon potential by running the Houston Half-Marathon in 62:17 in January 2019. That makes him the 4th fastest Canadian ever at the distance. More recently he won the Vancouver Eastside 10k in 29:50 despite being in the middle of his marathon buildup. He is coy about what time he hopes to run in Toronto but is confident he will make the Canadian Olympic team.
RORY LINKLETTER 23
Linkletter will also be making his marathon debut at Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. In fact, he has never run a competitive half marathon either. After graduating this year from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah where he ran 10,000m in 28:12.42 he signed on with Hoka One One Northern Arizona Elite. That required a move to Flagstaff, Arizona. He finished 6th in the 2019 Pan Am Games 10,000m. He also wore the maple leaf at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Kampala (2017) and in Aarhus, Denmark (2019).
Linkletter was born in Calgary but moved to Utah as a child when his parents split up. Still, he returned each year to visit his father. He’s a high mileage guy who trained with 2016 Olympic marathon 6th place finisher Jared Ward in Utah. Hence, the marathon distance doesn’t frighten him.
TREVOR HOFBAUER 27
2:16:48 Hamburg 2019
Hofbauer won the 2017 Canadian Championship in Toronto with his 2:18:06 debut famously celebrating with the crowd as he made his way along the finish straight. After training with the Speed River Track Club in Guelph through his buildup to that 2017 Canadian title he decided he missed home and so returned to Calgary. In April of this year he lowered his best to 2:16:48 in Hamburg. His buildup has obviously been going well – he was 2nd at the Vancouver Eastside 10k in 29:58 on September 14th despite having marathon training in his legs.
KINSEY MIDDLETON 26
PB 2:32:09 Toronto 2018
Middleton was crowned 2018 Canadian Champion by virtue of her performance at last year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront race. That was her debut (2:32:09). She lives in Boise, Idaho but has dual US/Canadian citizenship as her mother is Canadian. Along with US marathon champion Emma Bates, she formed the Idaho Distance Project a year and a half ago. The club is coached by Kameron Ulmer, Bates’s partner. She regularly approaches 200k per week in training. Her enthusiasm has seen her run a personal best 10k of 32:46 for second in the Vancouver Sun Run this year, behind Olympian Natasha Wodak, and second also in the Vancouver Eastside 10k. In her spare time, she and her husband care for their very large St Bernard puppy, Hank.
MALINDI ELMORE 39
PB 2:32:17 Houston 2019
A former 1,500m runner – her 4:02.64 PB ranks her sixth fastest Canadian – she represented Canada at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. After she failed to make the 2012 Olympic team, she became somewhat disillusioned and retired from competitive athletics, though remaining active in triathlon. Then last year, just six months after giving birth to her second son, Elmore decided to run a marathon for the first time. She and husband/coach Graham Hood (1992,1996 1500m Olympian) chose Houston where she finished 7th in 2:32:17, just 8 seconds slower than Middleeton’s debut at Toronto Waterfront. Now 39, she sees a return to the Olympics as very possible in the marathon. Malindi is also Senior Middle-and-Long-Distance Coach in the Okanagan Athletics Club.
LESLIE SEXTON 32
PB 2:31:51 Prague 2019
Sexton was the 2017 Canadian Marathon Champion (2:35:47). Despite suffering from allergies this spring, she still ran a cracking personal best of 2:31:51 in Prague. A sub 2:30 is on her mind and she hopes that will come at Toronto Waterfront. Known for covering over 200k per week during her marathon buildup she still managed to finish 3rd at the Vancouver Eastside 10k last month. Along with coach Steve Weiler, she plans a move to Kingston to coach at Queen’s University following Toronto Waterfront. At home, Leslie is a huge Star Wars fan.
DAYNA PIDHORESKY 32
PB 2:36:08 Ottawa 2017
Though she is Ontario born, Pidhoresky has been living in Vancouver for six years now. Injuries, including a sacral fracture in 2016, have limited her progress but her fortunes are again on the rise. Earlier this year she ran 1:12:59 at the Houston Marathon, not far off the personal best she ran in Edmonton a year ago (1:12:38). She also won the 2019 BMO Vancouver Half-Marathon in May with 1:13:07. That was during her buildup for the Ottawa Marathon. She ran 2:37:19 for 6th place in Ottawa in less than ideal conditions. At the 2019 Canadian Half Marathon Championships (June 16th) she claimed the silver medal.
TARAH KORIR 32
St. Clement, Ontario
PB 2:35:46 Ottawa 2016
Selected to represent Canada at the 2016 IAAF World Half-Marathon Championships in Cardiff she ran a personal best of 1:12:04 for 23rd place there. Later that spring she ran her personal best marathon in Ottawa (2:35:46). In 2017 she earned a spot on the Canadian team for the IAAF World Championships in London where she finished 51st in the marathon. Tarah (nee McKay) is married to Kenyan runner Wesley Korir (2012 Boston Champion) and the couple have three children. Benjamin was born in June 2018. Wesley was also a Member of Kenya’s Parliament for Cherengeny. Together they run the Kenyan Kids Foundation which seeks to provide education and sports opportunities for Kenyan children.