Teresa Fekensa simply wanted to run.
(winnipegsun) —So, 18 months ago he came to Canada, shedding the oppression he felt was holding him down back home in Ethiopia, and on Sunday morning at Investors Group Field, crossed the finish line as the fastest man in the 2017 Manitoba Marathon.
“I came to Canada to run,” Fekensa said through a translator after posting a time of 2:38:03 in the full marathon “Because of the situation in my country … I didn’t want to go back. I’m protesting that oppressive system and I want to stay here.
“I’m very happy that I won in Manitoba for the first time. Now I want to try and run a better time in the future.”
Fekensa, who won the Saskatoon Marathon at the end of May, wasn’t alone on race day. In the south end zone was a swath of his supporters, all members of the Oromo Association of Manitoba, who draped flags over him as he shook their hands following the race.
Oromos are the largest ethnic group that live in Ethiopia and in East Africa. Oromos make up roughly one-third of Ethiopia’s population and have been protesting “ decades of systemic exclusion and subordination,” according to Al-Jazeera.
Roughly 500 Oromos reside in Winnipeg and many of them were on-hand on Sunday cheering their fellow countryman.
“A friend of mine told me he was coming here,” said Barhanu Balcha, a fellow Oromo who was on hand on Sunday. “We organized this. We wanted to make sure he felt like he was at home. He came in on Thursday and took him around the city. We wanted to make him comfortable.”
The support was certainly felt by Fekensa.
“I’m very happy that they support me and they are also very keen on the situation that is going on in (Ethiopia),” Fekensa said.
East St. Paul’s Jeremy Walker placed second with a time of 2:39:07 and Winnipeg’s Jeff Sacco was third with a time of 2:44:21.
In the men’s half marathon, 20-year-old Daniel Heschuk sprinted past the finish line to claim his first title.
Soaken wet, he wobbled a bit before once again finding his feet under him. Later, he needed medical attention, including time spent warming up after setting the pace with a time of 1:09:45.
Heschuk, who runs for the University of Manitoba Bisons, figured he had a chance, so he wanted to go hard at the start.
“It worked out well,” said Heschuk, whose best finish prior to Sunday was a fifth place showing in 2015.
He had a chance, and a little extra motivation behind him.
“Honestly, there were a couple times in the race where I thought to myself, ‘I can’t do this anymore,’” he said. “It became a lot easier, in a sense, because once I was feeling pain, there was a point at the beginning of the race where I told myself I was going to do it for my uncle, who passed away last year. When he was five years old, he was diagnosed with leukemia and only had a 10% chance of living. Luckily, he survived through all this painful treatment and he lived a pretty full life until he was 40.
“If he could go through all this pain growing up, I can go through one hour of pain.”
Weather-wise, Heschuk had no complaints. The rain, however?
“There were a couple times where I slipped up,” he said.
If that wasn’t enough, Heschuk said he had to turn around at one point.
“I missed the chip reader, so I had to turn around and run to do that again,” he said.
Regina’s Michael Middlemiss placed second with a time of 1:12:29 and Brandon’s Davit Hagos Kidane finished third, clocking in at 1:13:08.