There's no stopping T.O. marathon now

BILL LANKHOF, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:52 AM ET

Gone with the wind.

Dreams of another Canadian record run at the Toronto Marathon were blown away yesterday as a duel between John Kelai and Tariku Jufar failed to unfold.

Instead, Kenyan Ken Mungara out-sprinted countryman Peter Kiprotich by 1.6 seconds in a slow time of 2:11:00.

"It has become a world event. People get excited about two things: Fast times and records and head-to-head competition. The marathon is the pinnacle of running ... the equivalent of running from City Hall to the Ford Plant in Oakville and they average 20 kilometres (an hour) the whole way. It's amazing to watch these folks," race director Alan Brookes said.

And it was exciting. Just not as fast as Brookes anticipated with Mungara and Kiprotich jockeying for the lead and chasing last year's record time of 2:09.30 set by Kelai. When they scooted up Bay St. to the finish they had turned it into a two-man race.

"We were on target halfway, the course was great," Kiprotich said. But then they hit the harbour spit and the wind. "I was on track for 2:09 but I couldn't beat the wind," Mungara said.

Kelai finished fifth with Jufar a flagging 13th.

The ninth-annual event attracted almost 13,000 runners and while it's a rung below classics such as the Boston and New York marathon, it has grown in prestige.

GROWING

"They're Arsenal, they're Manchester United. We're only a nine-year old event but we're definitely in the Premiership with them," Brookes said. "People are talking about us in that way. Last year we were one of only three sub-2:10 marathons in North America behind New York and an event in San Diego."

Yesterday's run illustrated the resurgence in Canadian marathon running, led by Kingston's Dylan Wykes, who placed 11th as the top Canadian, with a 2:16:20 clocking.

Stephen Drew, 30, of Waterloo, in just his second marathon, was 14th.

"I was pleased, given the conditions ... the humidity," Drew said. "I lost time between the 20 and 30 kilometre (marks). I just couldn't seem to get enough fluids. I was grabbing two, three cups of Gatorade every station."

Wykes said he was on target for 2:15, which would've given him the preferred Athletics Canada A standard for the Berlin world championships next spring.

"The first half I was where I wanted to be but the humidity was tough. It was hard to stay focused and then the wind became a factor."

Still, the Canadian contingent is young and there are indications Canada could send it's strongest team in years to those world championships. Wykes, as well as Vancouver's Suzanne Evans, the top woman Canadian in ninth in 2:44.22, just ahead of Toronto's Nicole Stevenson at 2:44.57, are all likely candidates to make that team.

Wykes said he'll do some cross-country events until then.

"(Between now and then) if I do get selected," Wykes said. "Maybe I'll do another marathon."

Then, laughing, adds: "But an hour from now when my legs start to hurt I might want to change my mind."


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