Re-course for Cheruiyot

ROB BRODIE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:24 AM ET

Nothing was going to knock David Cheruiyot off course this time.

The Kenyan regained his ING Ottawa Marathon crown under grey skies yesterday morning, outpacing what turned out to be the fastest field in the race's 33-year history.

The top-six finishers, who were tightly bunched until the final few kilometres, all shattered the previous course record of 2:11:47, set by Kenya's Elly Rono in 2004.

DEFENDING CHAMP 2ND

For Cheruiyot, who clocked 2:10:35 and held off defending champion Abderrahime Bouramdane of Morocco (2:10:40), the victory was sweet vindication. A year ago, he was one of 14 runners who were denied a shot at winning when they ran off course in New Edinburgh. They ended up running about 400 metres less than the rest of the field, voiding their final race results.

"I showed them (I could win)," Cheruiyot, 36, said yesterday.

A new race course this year eliminated the turns that had a hand in the controversial finish. Cheruiyot, the marathon champ in 2005, didn't hesitate when asked to return for this year's race.

"I came back to Ottawa this year because it is a great race," he said. "The new course is amazing and it is obvious that the organizers truly care about the athletes and the sport of running."

Cheruiyot and Bouramdane began to separate themselves from the rest of the lead pack as they passed the Pretoria Bridge on the final stretch down Queen Elizabeth Driveway.

The Kenyan knew he had to decide first when to make the finishing kick.

"The other guys were too strong," he said. "I could see them a few metres away and I kicked. There were still four people at 41K.

SIX BETTER OLD MARK

"I was real thrilled that I could win this race. I knew that I could run a good time. Maybe something like 2:11 or 2:10."

Turns out that's exactly what he needed. Besides the top two, four other Kenyans -- Bencent Kiplagat (2:10:48), John Kelay (2:11:10), Hilary Kimaiyo (2:11:13) and Simon Njoroge (2:11:14) -- went under the old course record.

Bouramdane expressed frustration afterward that the Kenyans had worked together tactically to reduce his chances of winning. They were aware the Moroccan had not run a competitive road race since December and might not be able to prevail in a sprint to the end.

"The Kenyans know he doesn't have a good kick (right now). They know he hasn't been racing," said Rashid Tbahi, Bouramdane's agent, who admitted his runner needs more speed training.

"They wanted to take him to the final dash. He needed to take off early if he was going to win. He tried to go a little bit, but the Kenyans slowed him down with the pace."

Toronto's Matthew McInnes, who'll become an Ottawa resident on Canada Day, was the top Canadian for the second time in three years. He placed 10th in 2:18:06.

KORTCHAGUINA KEEPS TITLE

On the women's side, there was no such suspense: Lioudmila Kortchaguina of Toronto seized control by the 26-km mark and repeated as ING Ottawa Marathon champ. It's the fourth victory overall for the Russian-born runner, who has become a local fan favourite.

"The people are so nice, and everybody knows me," said a smiling Kortchaguina, 35. "It's one of my favourite races."

She hadn't raced since last year's victory in Ottawa. Kortchaguina broke a kneecap last summer, ending her season.

"This was a big test for my leg," she said. "My leg was feeling a little bit tired because I haven't raced in so long. I just wanted to finish this race as fast as I could."

Kortchaguina posted a winning time of 2:31:56, comfortably in front of Ethiopia's Kebebush Haile (2:35:41) and Yeshi Esayias (2:36:57).

A record 29,641 participants took part in the six weekend races.


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