Upon arrival in Canada Kenyans Benard Kimeli and Benard Ngeno conspired amongst themselves to go after the nine-year-old course Ottawa 10k course record of 27:24 held by Ethiopia’s Deriba Merga.
But on a humid night it was Andamlak Berta of Ethiopia who emerged victorious in this IAAF Gold Label road race in a personal best of 27:48.
The Kenyans’ plan was to hit kilometre splits in 2:40 and hang on. It was not as daft as it seemed. Both are young, bold and potential world beaters. The Japan based Kimeli, in fact, has run the distance in 27:10, while Ngeno, barely eight months into his North American road race adventure, has claimed victories in three US races including the 2018 Azalea Trail 10km. He recorded his personal best of 27:45 there.
An opening kilometre in 2:40 set the tone but by the halfway point reached in 13:44 Ngeno was paying the price for his gambit leaving his compatriot to tackle the tall 19-year-old Ethiopian alone. Then just after seven kilometres Berta made a decisive move putting distance between him and Kimeli.
Frequent looks over his shoulder and an occasional glimpse at his wrist watch soon gave way to staring ahead as the elite women’s field had set off three minutes and 40 seconds ahead of the men and there was more money if he could catch them.
Berta who won the 2017 Ethiopian 10,000m title earning a place on his nation’s London 2017 world championships team – he ran 27:08.94 in London – chased down Alia Mohammed of the United Arab Emirates in the final kilometre to cross the line first overall. That earned him $10,000 while Mohammed took $8,000 for crossing the line second.
The men’s runner-up was Benard Kimeli in 28:22 just ahead of the Moroccan pair of Mohamed Reda and Mohammed Ziani both timed in 28:23. Berta, competing in his first North American competition was pleased with his effort.
“I had lots of energy and was just checking on (Kimeli) and once I knew that he wasn’t going to catch up then I was trying to catch the women,” he explained.
“I was happy that (Ngeno and Kimeli) made the early pace very fast. They got tired. It was difficult to run by myself. If there were others the time might have been better. I’m very happy to win this great race.”