I asked a question last week regarding Gilly and Reid and who was Canada’s all time #2 marathoner. I wanted to know what you guys thought because I have a hard time giving one guy the edge over the other. I think we simply have to appreciate just how incredible both these athletes are. It is annoying that every time either of these guys runs a marathon all anyone wants to talk about is the Canadian Record. Bloody hell, I wish Reid didn’t have to stop for that poop back in 2011, or that Dylan didn’t have his issues in Biwa in 2012 (Dylan is definitely in my Top 5 all-time as well) as I think both athletes were capable of snagging the record on those days. Then instead of that stupid record we could better appreciate the fact that over the past 8years we have been fortunate enough to witness Reid and Eric constantly roll tremendous races. The consistency in which they race strong marathons blows my mind.
In the late 2000’s there was positive momentum for the marathon in Canada. Dylan was just getting going in the event and rolled a 2:15 debut, we had a couple other dudes running in the 2:16-2:18 range and Brooks threw a boatload of cash at the “Brooks Distance Project” in Toronto.
In 2009 Reider debuted with a 2:17 on a less than ideal build up and in 2010 Gillis got going in the marathon game with a very impressive 2:13 debut in Houston. It appeared as though we were on the verge of a marathon resurgence in Canada. Fast forward 7 years and it’s still Reid and Gillis carrying the torch.
A lot happened between 2009-2016: Dylan crushed some amazing races, including a 2:10 in Rotterdam and a 20th place showing at the 2012 Olympics. One of Canada’s greatest talents, and then 10,000m national record holder, Simon Bairu gave the distance a good go, but was unfortunately never able to find his legs in the event and could not mimic the success he had on the xc course or track.
I was constantly 4th in the pecking order, but never managed to break through to a truly elite level topping out with a couple 2:13’s. Kip also rolled some good ones, but like myself never really crushed one.
And sadly, despite best intentions, the Brooks group never really made much of an impact.
While all this was going on Reid and Eric kept steadily improving and setting the bar for the rest of us. Now as we roll into 2017 they are the two left standing and they continue to set the bar.
What am I getting at? Two things, firstly we have to appreciate what special athletes Eric and Reid are, and secondly, something is wrong with men’s marathoning in Canada.
Year after year Canadian men only manage a handful of sub 2:20 performances. Our depth in the event is terrible. Why is this and what can we do to fix it? I have a couple thoughts on this matter. One is that we lack proper development in bringing athletes through as marathoners. I feel as though we have many capable athletes who are attacking the distance rather blindly, there is a lack of organization and structure in their pursuit to conquer the marathon.
I am quite optimistic with what is going on in Guelph. Reid and Eric are there as the old guard, and hopefully they can mentor Esselink and Hoffbauer and teach them the way of the marathoner. I also believe that DST is a fantastic marathon coach. I was happy when I heard Hoffbauer was moving to Guelph, and I am also happy to hear that he is not rushing into the marathon. I fully believe that an athlete should max out their track speed before tackling the marathon.
If you take a look at the guys whom have had success in the marathon over the past 10years you will notice that they were all very accomplished on the track; Reider 13:21 5000m, 27:56 10,000. Gillis 13:36, 28:07. Dylan 13:43, 28:12.
I think that people are too quick to move up, they have to max out at 5000m & 10000m first. I believe that you can run 2:18 off talent, tonnes of miles and hard work, but to run 2:12 you have to have the chops at shorter distances. Fast track times do not guarantee fast marathon times, but it is certainly an indicator.
Another aspect that is hindering our development is obviously support. To train properly for an elite marathon you have to have lots of time, both on a micro and macro level. You have to be willing to commit years to the process, and you also have to have many hours each day to set aside for training AND recovery.
Being a “pro” runner in Canada is a joke, especially for those on the fringes hoping for a breakthrough. Contracts are pretty much just gear, and any financial incentives tend to be very underwhelming. I’m not saying that athletes necessarily deserve a tonne of cash, just pointing out that the financial struggle is a big deterrent to overall success. I have often heard people brush this off by saying something along the lines of ‘suck it up and get a job’. Sure some people have had success working 40hr weeks but those are exceptions and not the norm.
We have athletes that want to succeed and have the potential to be great, but man it can be such a friggen grind. I speak from experience here, there will be very lean times (I lined up for Boston 2013 with maybe $400 dollars in my bank account). To chase distance running dreams it essentially means you accept living below the poverty line. I think we lose a tonne of potentially great runners because they simply cannot afford to/want to live that lifestyle.
I’m not trying to bitch and say athletes deserve more, just pointing out some serious issues that can deter success. I believe that the marathon is suffering from this more than some other events because the amount of time it takes to fully reach your potential in the event.
Anyways, maybe I’ll write more about this later and present some solutions rather than just be an old grump and point out flaws. but for now I’m tired of rambling and I assume most of you stopped reading a little while ago.
I’m gonna run the BMO Vancouver Marathon in May, that should be fun. I hope I win.