The story of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon was about the second half of the race. As Krista DuChene and company repeated on the live broadcast, humidity was gradually increasing and was going to be a significant variable from 21K on.
The elite men went out hard in pursuit of the Canadian All-comers record of 2:06:54, set by Ethiopia’s Yemane Tsegaye at Ottawa in 2014. The lead pack came through in 62:35, about 10 seconds ahead of the pace for the record.
The elite women followed at 71:10, picking up the pace from a conservative start. Ethiopian Marta Megra, a veteran of 11 marathons with a 2:24 PB but no victory at the distance, opened up a gap at 30K with no competitors in sight.
Megra’s stride indicated that she hit the wall in the later stages of the race, but she maintained the gap for her first victory in 2:28:20.
Leslie Sexton and Lyndsay Tessier led the Canadian women’s contingent. Tessier, an elementary school teacher, had a previous marathon PB of 2:45 but was hanging in with Sexton and chasing a 2:34 finish past the halfway point.
Sexton broke free and in her own words was in “survival mode” in the warm conditions from 38K on. Showing her signature toughness, Sexton cranked out a 2:35:45 finish to snatch the Canadian women’s crown.
Tessier held strong for a 2:36:54, a nine minute PB. At the post race conference, Lyndsay said her antics certainly “up my cool factor among my students.”
2015 Chicago Marathon champion Dickson Chumba and defending STWM champion Philemon Rono – a Nike Breaking2 pacer and training buddy of Eliud Kipchoge – went toe to toe heading to 25K. The two briefly fell off record pace as they passed 30K, where they clocked in at 1:29:27.
There was to be no duel in the sun as Rono entered the “championship rounds” by kicking about 100 meters ahead of Chumba, who appeared to succumb to the conditions. Dropping Chumba seemed to liberate Rono, who looked among his strongest all race heading past the 35K mark.
“We’re a race that loves records!” Race Director Alan Brookes frequently proclaims and Rono obliged with a 2:06:50 for the all-comers record.
At the finish line, Rono simply reported to Kate van Buskirk, “I’m very, very happy!” Rono will collect $75,000 for his troubles, including winnings and a bonus for the record.
Trevor Hofbauer made his debut at the marathon and claimed the top spot among the Canadian men. Hofbauer showed some struggle with the heat, but managed to keep his form and even dish out high fives in the final kilometres and came through smiling in 2:18:06. Trevor told van Buskirk that rather than Disney World, he’d instead be “going home to sleep” following his stellar debut.
Race walker Evan Dunfee joined in the marathon, placing 302 with a 3:16. It was Evan’s first STWM. “I really loved the course and it was special to go back over some of the Pan-Am course from 2015 where I won gold,” Evan reports.
Evan says his goal has always been to “leave the event with more respect than it had a few years ago.” Now with some growing recognition since Pan-Am and Rio, he’s pleased that his presence on course is greeted with more enthusiasm. “It’s great that now people actually know what it is I’m doing and what race walking is rather than thinking, ‘what the hell is that guy doing?'” Evan says. Loving the course and atmosphere, Evan says he’ll definitely be back in Toronto.
Congrats to everyone who laced up today!
– Ravi Singh