By Paul Gains
“I remember not knowing where the finish was,” says three-time Canadian Olympian Eric Gillis, laughing as he recalls his victory at the 2016 Toronto Waterfront 10K race.
“Any race I run it’s the kilometre markers I look at more than anything. I think I relied on that just a little too much last year. I knew where the start was, though!”
Gillis won the race in 29:23 and then spent time meeting and greeting fellow runners. The race provided both him and women’s winner Krista DuChene (33:50) with an opportunity to break up their Rio Olympic marathon training and be given a proper send off from the running community.
The pair return to the June 17 race, along with a brand new title sponsor lululemon, with the intention of defending their hard-won titles.
The 36-year-old Gillis, of course, finished an incredible 10th in the Rio Olympic Marathon, the best performance by a Canadian since Jerome Drayton’s 6th place in the 1976 Montreal Games. DuChene, meanwhile, was 35th in the women’s race in Rio. Knowing the Waterfront course a little more intimately this time should be an asset when they line up on University Avenue for the start.
Gillis says he enjoyed last years’ experience on the waterfront.
“I enjoyed the course,” Gillis continues. “It’s a little bit downhill at the start; the waterfront and the finish is great. It has a nice big open feel to it before and after the finish. I stuck around and shook a lot of hands. That was special, last year. A good vibe afterwards and having the kind of Rio sendoff for Reid (Coolsaet), Krista and I, was cool.”
Until a swelling of his achilles tendon interfered with his preparation, Gillis had intended to run the Boston Marathon last month but instead decided to give it a proper rest. Now his attention has turned to the IAAF World Championships in London in August, giving the Toronto Waterfront 10K much more importance as a proper fitness test.
“There is nothing like getting out there on a closed race course and getting in a race. Last year worked well and I believe it will this year,” Gillis adds. “Once I have begun a buildup for the marathon they are all pretty similar in terms of the commitment and the interest and the work that I put in for each marathon. So the Toronto Waterfront 10K will be pretty similar to last year in the way I approach it.”
Following the Olympic Games, Krista DuChene made some significant changes. First there was an amicable parting with long time coach, Rick Mannen, and her subsequent move to Speed River Track and Field Club, where she joins Gillis and six other Canadian Olympians under the guidance of Dave Scott-Thomas. Then, as a 40th birthday present, she spent a month training at a high-altitude camp in Kenya, something she has never done previously.
“I just felt that I needed the next level, kind of the next step. I didn’t want any regrets looking back on my career and I didn’t want to say ‘why didn’t I step out of my comfort zone?’” DuChene says of the changes. “I didn’t want to settle at a level because I was used to it. Knowing I probably have a couple of years of good marathoning left before I plateau, it was definitely the right time to do it.
“I think it’s safe to say my birthday gift was the trip to Kenya. I am thankful that my husband basically gave me his blessing to leave for a month – leaving him at home with the kids. It was a big commitment for him in order to support me, in order for me to be gone for a month. They gave me some earrings and I had some chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting. Pretty good for a 40th birthday present, if you ask me.”
The altitude training went well and she was in good shape to race at the London Marathon in April. But for the first time in her career, the Brantford, Ont. native experienced gastrointestinal issues while racing. A fall marathon is in the plans now. Nevertheless, she looks forward to racing the Toronto Waterfront 10K.
“I just love running races with the Canada Running Series,” she admits. “Toronto is close to home. I am somewhat familiar with the course and it will be good for me to do a race at a shorter distance off of three marathons since August.
“There are so many reasons I love CRS and choosing those events, so it just made sense to do that one. The timing was also appropriate. It will be almost two months since I ran in London.”
For more information and to join Olympians Eric Gillis and Krista DuChene at the Toronto Waterfront 10K, with title sponsor lululemon, go to toronto10k.com