By Paul Gains
An injury forced Netsanet Achero Abeyo to withdraw from last year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, a race where she had set her sights on beating the course record of 2:22:43. One year on, and she is more determined than ever to make her mark on this IAAF Silver Label Race.
The 25 year old Ethiopian knows the Toronto course well, since she was partly responsible for Koren Yal’s record breaking performance in 2011. Indeed, she ran with Yal and Mare Dibaba through ridiculously quick splits at 10 kilometres (32:41) and 21km (68:39) during that race but faded in the latter stages to finish a disappointing 5th in 2:32:51.
The experience was disappointing but she reckons she has learned from the mistake of being too aggressive early on and now has a better understanding of pacing. Abeyo went on win the 2012 Mumbai Marathon in a course record of 2:26:12. In that race, held in steamy hot and humid conditions, she led from 10 kilometres on, beating the second place finisher by more than four minutes.
That performance was an indication of her considerable ability and three months later she would lower her personal best to a world class 2:24:12 at the 2012 Hamburg marathon.
An ankle injury earlier this year slowed her progress, somewhat, but in May she finished 4th in the Ottawa Marathon in 2:27:44. Perhaps unwilling to jeopardise her luck she is rather coy about her current fitness.
“I don't want to compare but I'm always in training to become better than before,” she allows. “I hope I can win the Toronto race.”
Represented by the Italian sports agency, Demadonna Athletics, she trains with Koren Yal among others, under the watchful eyes of coaches Gemedu Dedefo and Gebeyehu Berihun. The group has been running upwards of 200 kilometres a week, most of it at elevations of 2,400 metres above sea level.
Abeyo grew up in a village called Woba, which is in the southern part of Ethiopia, and moved to Addis in 2003 to become a runner.
At first she tried her hand at the 3,000m steeplechase and enjoyed international success. She ran a personal best of 9:28.03 and represented Ethiopia at the 2006 All African championships missing the medal podium by one place. A year later she ran in the IAAF World Championships in Osaka, Japan though she failed to make the final. But wisely her coaches saw her potential to run marathons and she dropped the track for good.
He marathon debut came at the 2011 Rome Marathon where she ran 2:28:28. By way of comparison, this is a little quicker than Sylvia Ruegger’s long standing Canadian record of 2:28:36. Not a bad debut.
Victory in Toronto would be worth $20,000 with a bonus of $35,000 is on offer for a new course record. That’s the immediate goal but Abeyo has tremendous ambition.
“My ultimate goal is to get an Olympic gold medal for my country,” she says. “I would then like to give my all time to God and the church after I finish my running career.”
Among others, Abeyo will face her Ethiopian compatriot, Dinknesh Mekash (2:25:09 this year in Paris), Kenya’s Flomena Cheyech (winner of the 2013 Vienna Marathon in 2:24:34) as well as Canadian internationals Krista DuChene and Natasha Wodak during this year’s Toronto race.
For further information on Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, see STWM.ca.