Oljira and Degefa to Spearhead Ethiopian 1-2 Challenge in Toronto

Belaynesh Oljira wins the Carrera de la Mujer (Organisers)

Belaynesh Oljira brings an enviable reputation to the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon October 20th which includes two 2013 IAAF World Championships bronze medals at 10,000m and in cross country.

The Ethiopian star, who also represented Ethiopia at the 2012 London Olympics, has run 2:21:53 (Frankfurt 2018) for the marathon staking her claim as one of the heavy favourites to win this IAAF Gold Label race.

Oljira will be joined in Canada’s largest city by a member of her training group, Bruktayit Degefa Eshetu, who is also a world class marathoner. In January of this year Degefa ran a personal best of 2:23:28 to earn herself a hat trick of Houston Marathon victories. A year ago, Degefa beat Oljira in Houston by a mere six seconds.

Despite sharing a coach and training group their contact has been minimal and it will be every woman for herself when they line up in Toronto. 

“I train with the Demadonna Athletics Promotion team,” Oljira says, “which includes also Biruktayit Degefa. We don’t train together, except when there is group training, we meet with others.

Biruktayit Degefa wins the Houston Marathon (Victah Sailer)

“We are not friends. I joined the team recently, I didn’t socialise with most of them but once I met her at the Houston Marathon she seems sociable and I hope we will be friends in the future.” 

Their casual relationship is not unusual. With training groups numbering as many as a hundred the athletes will meet their coach – in this case Gemedu Dedefo – two or three times a week at some of the popular training sites such as Sendafa, a thirty-minute drive outside Addis Ababa. Athletes might ride share. Training sessions begin just as the sun is rising so it is not unusual that runners might get out of bed at 4am to be picked up.

After a brief warmup the training session starts and from then on, it’s all business. If the athletes are going to socialise it is likely to be in Addis away from training. Another barrier in their relationship is the fact Degefa is also married to an American-based Ethiopian named Abinet Adraro and spends much time in the U.S. This past spring, she prepared for the Boston Marathon for several months there. She was eighth in Boston. 

Read more at: IAAF. org