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Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Rono Sets Canadian All Comers’ Record

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By Paul Gains

Kenya’s Philemon Rono won the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon for the second consecutive year today in a Canadian All Comer’s record of 2:06:52.

A tremendous surge at 34 kilometres saw him put daylight between him and favoured countryman, Dickson Chumba, a past winner of the Chicago and Tokyo Marathons, which he extended to the finish. Indeed, his winning margin in this IAAF Gold Label race was over two minutes as Chumba came home in 2:09:11. Ethiopia’s Solomon Deksisa took third in 2:11:27.

“The first thing I came here for was to defend,” a smiling Rono said afterwards.  “I was expecting the time will come automatically. Today the time came because I was pushing with Chumba.  When I went in front I said ‘I will not reduce the pace and let me maintain my constant pace.’”

Ethiopian pride was partially recovered with the 1-2 finish of Marta Megra (2:28:20) and Sutume Asefa (2:29:26) in the women’s race.

Asefa and Megra train together in Ethiopia and shared tactics as well as the occasional water bottle during the race.  After an opening half in 71:01 the pace slowed considerably with all the combatants struggling as they crossed the line totally spent.

“The first part is very easy,” Megra said of the course, “but the second part is very challenging especially after 30 kilometres I had sickness problem after 30km. I felt pain, real pain.

“I am very happy to win Toronto the first time I came here. I am happy but my plan was to run under 2:23 and I did not succeed. So I am upset about the time.”

The event also served as the 2017 Canadian Marathon Championship. Trevor Hofbauer a member of Guelph’s Speed River Track Club emerged victorious in his debut marathon with a time of 2:18:06. Asked how he felt about winning a Canadian Championships the affable Calgarian offered a smile.

“I think I am the Trevor Hofbauer champion I just did my best,” said the winner. “The Canadian championships is cool and all but I just wanted to be the best version of me. I laid everything out out there and I just wanted to give the best version of me; and the time is decent. There is going to be more to come I know over the years I can improve Today was a good starting point. So I can’t complain.”

Toronto’s Sami Jabril was second in 2:22:04 with Aaron Cooper  of Camlachie, ontario claiming bronze in 2:24:42.

Meanwhile the women’s race saw Leslie Sexton come close to her best time with a 2:35:47 performance to win the crown. The London native was delighted to finish 5th overall.

“I picked a pace that I thought I could handle,” she revealed. ‘I was actually hoping  that the front group would get aggressive because then you just get carnage. People drop and you pass  a few people. I think I moved up into 5th or 6th with a few kilometres etc go. The one I passed was just wobbling. I was hoping they would make mistakes so I could run them down.”

Behind her the Canadian silver medal went to Toronto elementary school teacher, Lyndsey Tessier in a time of 2:36:55 and the bronze to Melanie Myrand of Pierrefonds, Quebec 2:39:10.

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Canadian Marathoners to Watch at STWM

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There is a strong contingency of Canadian athletes toeing the line at the 2017 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.  From athletes making their debuts, to runners hoping to break master’s records, it’ll be a race worth watching.  Here are a few Canadians to look out for:

Sami Jibril

A local athlete who has Toronto as his hometown, Sami Jibril is no stranger to this race.  Not only does he have home course advantage, Jibril has been a pacer for STWM in previous years.  A member of the Canadian World Cross Country Championships team, Jibril is a force to be reckoned with on any cross-country course, and will undoubtedly be one on the marathon course.

Leslie Sexton

With a blazing personal best of 2:33, Leslie Sexton is a mileage hound who is inspiring to follow on Strava.  Running upwards of 200km per week, Sexton is no stranger to high mileage.  Slowly building up her tolerance to running these distances, she’s a workhorse that’s perfect for the marathon.  Don’t be fooled, even with that amount of mileage in her legs, Sexton has the speed that placed her in 2nd at the 2017 Under Armour Eastside 10k this September.

Kevin Coffey

Relatively new to the elite marathon world, Kevin Coffey has shown that he belongs there.  Having the cheeriest demeanour, it’s hard to find a race where there isn’t a photo of Coffey’s infectious grin plastered across his face.  Finding a balance between coaching with Vancouver’s Mile2Marathon, and running up a storm, Coffey has the same marathon goal almost every runner has: to beat his personal best.

Catherine Watkins

Faster as a master.  Catherine Watkins has shown the running world that age doesn’t slow you down.  Having represented Canada at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto in the marathon, her continual success in every race distance is awe-inspiring.  A mother of two girls, Watkins has found a balance between family and being an elite runner.  Like anything, at times it can be hard, but with her family’s, coach’s, and running community’s unwavering support, we have high hopes for this master to break some records at STWM.

Trevor Hofbauer

Giving up on his hoop dream of being an NBA star, Trevor Hofbauer has found stardom in distance running.  Initially he was training mostly on his own, Hofbauer made a big move from Calgary to Guelph to run with some of Canada’s top runners.  Representing Canada at the World Cross Country Championships, and at the World Half Marathon Championships, Hofbauer has shown he has strength in every distance.  Debuting at STWM has been much anticipated and we look forward to seeing what this young star will do.

Natasha LeBeaud Anzures

Originally from Kelowna, Natasha LeBeaud Anzures now calls San Diego home.  Running since she was a young girl, she’s made it her life not only in racing competitively, but in the non-profit organization she and her husband founded, 2nd Recess.  Ranging from 1500m to the marathon, Natasha’s natural speed is a benefit even in the gruelling 42.2km of a marathon.  In the hopes of hitting a new personal best, LeBeaud’s high-humidity training could give her an advantage when running through the potentially cool streets of Toronto.

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon will be Live Streamed

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By Paul Gains

Running fans from around the world will once again be able to watch the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in its entirety thanks to a unique partnership between race organizers, sponsors and Astrodog Media.

Beginning at 8:15 a.m. (EDT) October 22nd viewers need only log in to STWM.ca (the race is also being carried on cbcsports.ca and athleticscanada.tv) for four hours of live coverage. There will be no geo-blocking.

The 2017 edition of this IAAF Gold Label race features the best men’s field Canada has ever seen with Kenya’s Dickson Chumba, winner of Chicago and Tokyo marathons and his countryman the defending champion Philemon Rono, taking on a strong field of Ethiopian talent. Endeshaw Negasse (also a past Tokyo winner) and Tadese Tola, like Chumba, belong to the ‘sub 2:05 club’ and will promise an exciting battle for the $25,000 first place prize money.

The women’s race is also strong. Ethiopia is sending Fatuma Sado, second here two years ago in 2:24:16, Marta Megra (2:24:32 personal best) and Sutame Asefa (2:24:00 personal best Dubai 2014) It will be left up to Angela Tanui of Kenya to upset the favoured Ethiopians. She has a best of 2:26:31 from this year’s Vienna Marathon.

The race once again serves as the Athletics Canada Marathon Championships with a new generation Canadian marathoners toeing the line.

Last year more than 74,000 viewers tuned in to view the race from 129 countries around the world. Matt Hortobayi, Executive Producer, points out that the production will again include nine broadcast cameras, three promotional cameras as well as a drone.

The talented commentary team is comprised of 2016 Canadian Olympian Krista DuChene, Michael Doyle, the editor of Canadian Running magazine and Tim Hutchings.

Hutchings is a much accomplished and extremely busy commentator having worked for NBC, Eurosport, CBC, BBC and many other television networks covering top-flight athletics since his retirement from competitive distance running. He was a two time IAAF World Cross Country silver medalist and finished 4th in the 1984 Olympic 5000m final.

“The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is deservedly regarded as a world-class event and it should be,” says Hutchings, “because Toronto is a big, powerful and beautiful city, one that oozes energy and class in so many ways and provides a wonderful backdrop for the elite races to unfold over a fast course that has produced great contests year after year.”

Hutchings relishes the opportunity to commentate on this year’s race.

“The return of the 2016 men’s champion Philemon Rono of Kenya, who will duel with one of the all-time greats in Dickson Chumba, is a match made in heaven,” he explains. “Rono won easily last year and clearly can go faster, while Chumba is consistent and has many times run faster than his compatriot. Throw in three or four others who, on paper at least, look like they can win on any given day, and we are pretty much guaranteed another quick, competitive and yet unpredictable battle.

“By contrast, the women’s elite field has less experience but equally exciting talent, while keeping us guessing as to who can deliver on the day; Ethiopia’s Sutume Asefa for example, is just 23, yet with 2:24.00 is the fastest in the race and has only run two marathons.

“Those are just two examples of head-to-heads that I’m keen to see deliver what we can expect in Toronto – memorable world-class racing, fast times and importantly, great quality pictures for myself, Krista Duchene and Michael Doyle to describe.”

New this year, select celebrity runners will be equipped with GPS trackers so they can be easily found on the course increasing the efficiency with which the motorcycle mounted cameras can find them. Of course, the elites will be followed the majority of the time. This is the seventh year that Astrodog Media has produced the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

The rest of the broadcast team reads like a who’s who of Canadian distance running with Canadian marathon record holder, Lanni Marchant, handling social media, Commonwealth 1,500m bronze medalist Kate Van Buskirk conducting finish line interviews, Pan Am Games marathon bronze medalist Rachel Hannah doing research and Reid Coolsaet, a two-time Canadian Olympian assisting with the elite athletes.

With a fast field assembled this year and a crackerjack broadcast team, fans around the world can certainly enjoy all the action of this year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on their smart phones, tablets or computers.

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IMPORTANT. MEDIA CREDENTIALS: For media interested in access on race weekend, including press conferences, start/finish lines and Media Centre, credentials are an absolute requirement. Please apply here: http://www.torontowaterfrontmarathon.com/media/#media

About the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon:

An IAAF Gold Label race, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is Canada’s premier, big-city running event, the Athletics Canada National Marathon Championships, and the Grand Finale of the 7-race Canada Running Series. In 2016 it attracted 26,000 participants from 70 countries, raised $3.24 million for 182 charities through the Scotiabank Charity Challenge, and contributed an estimated $35 million to the local economy. The livestream broadcast was watched by more than 72,000 viewers from 129 countries. http://STWM.ca

Remembering Ed Whitlock at Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

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By Paul Gains

As the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon quickly approaches, organizers have revealed plans to honour a man who was a critical and inspirational part of the event for years but who, sadly, passed away seven months ago.

Ed Whitlock was 86 when he succumbed to prostate cancer on March 13th.

Over the years Ed defied aging to set world age-class records that perhaps will never be broken and which astonished runners around the globe. He also developed a close relationship with Toronto Waterfront, turning up for press conferences in his suit and tie whenever he was asked, and supplying the mantra which Race Director Alan Brookes eagerly adopted: “Don’t limit yourself.”

Ed, as he was known to the thousands who queued up to meet him at races, or, who ran alongside him, was the oldest man to beat three hours for the marathon when he ran 2:52:47 at age 69. But that was only the beginning.

A World Masters’ 70+ record followed when he ran 2:59:10 at age 72 in 2003 at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, and became the first and only septuagenarian to go under the magic 3-hour mark. He took that out of sight with a 2:54:49 at age 73 at the 2004 event. Indeed, as Brookes is fond of saying, Toronto Waterfront was “Ed’s race”. As his fame spread globally, Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon took off, almost tripling in numbers between 2003 and 2005, then earning first an IAAF Silver Label, then the coveted IAAF Gold Label.

2012 Scotiabank Toronto Marathon, October 14, 2012. Photo credit: Victor Sailer/Canada Running Series

Ed went on to set World Masters’ marathon records for age 75+, 80+ and most recently 85+ with a time of 3:56:38 last October 16th, 2016 in Toronto. In all, he set roughly 25 World Masters’ records over distances from 1,500m to the marathon. All this success meant that Ed was the subject of innumerable magazine and newspaper interviews and adored by runners of all abilities. It was a conundrum for him as he was as humble as much as he was talented.

“I don’t know how to respond to them. Well how do you respond to that?” he said with a laugh on one occasion. “I suppose it’s nice for people to say I inspire them but I am somewhat embarrassed and I don’t know what the appropriate response is to that.

“I don’t consider myself to be an inspiring person. I am not one to stand up on the stage and say ‘you all can do this.’”

No doubt he would be a little embarrassed then by what Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon organizers have planned to remember him.

With the blessing of his family, a #RememberingEd Signing wall at the Runners’ Expo is to be set up along with a display of memorabilia including Ed’s famous singlets, shoes, medals, trophies and photos, courtesy of the Whitlock family and the Milton Hall of Fame.

Also at the Runners’ Expo, noted chalk artist, Victor Fraser, will do a live drawing of Ed using a photo taken at the 2003 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

At the 8:45 a.m. race start there will be a minute’s silence in his memory. That will be followed by perhaps the most exciting element in this tribute, the inclusion of three designated pacemakers who will take runners through to the finish in three of Ed’s most recognized world marathon record times: 2:54:49 (age 73), 3:15:54 (age 80) and 3:56:38 (age 85).

Ed Whitlock Pacer bibs. Meet the Pacers this Sat Oct 21st at the International Friendship Run – Enercare Centre, Hall B at 9 a.m.

The volunteer pacemakers are from local running clubs and crews: Nick Croker from Black Lungs Toronto (2:54); Noel Guy from Longboat Roadrunners (3:15) and Ben Kaplan from iRun assuming the 3:56 pacemaking duty. Kaplan is writing a book on Ed tentatively entitled “The Master.”

In the words of Alan Brookes, with whom Ed had a close relationship: “This year’s race is going to be very emotional. No Ed. But he’ll be with us. He’ll be with us forever. He’s part of our DNA, of who we are, and what we’ve all achieved together — for our event, our sport, our city, our country and running worldwide. We just have to carry the torch from here, and never limit ourselves. Join us in #RememberingEd”

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For further information: www.STWM.ca

IMPORTANT. MEDIA CREDENTIALS: For media interested in access on race weekend, including press conferences, start/finish lines and Media Centre, credentials are an absolute requirement. Please apply here: http://www.torontowaterfrontmarathon.com/media/#media

About the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon:

An IAAF Gold Label race, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is Canada’s premier, big-city running event, the Athletics Canada National Marathon Championships, and the Grand Finale of the 7-race Canada Running Series. In 2016 it attracted 26,000 participants from 70 countries, raised $3.24 million for 182 charities through the Scotiabank Charity Challenge, and contributed an estimated $35 million to the local economy. The livestream broadcast was watched by more than 72,000 viewers from 129 countries. http://STWM.ca

How to Prep for Race Day. By John Stanton, Founder of Running Room.

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By John Stanton, Founder of Running Room. 

As race day approaches, you may have a few questions on final training and race strategy. Here are some thoughts from founder of Running Room, John Stanton.

At running events and expos, I am frequently asked: “What is the bare minimum I need to run to prepare for a big race?”

The answer is: you need to run four times a week. Two of these runs are simply for base training, while the other two should be high-quality runs with a focus on speed and stamina. The quality runs should consist of a tempo speed run and a weekend long slow endurance run.

For a tempo workout, begin and end with a 1K warm-up and 1K cool-down. The kilometres in between (ranging from 5 to 10K) should be run at a pace about 15 to 30 seconds slower than your current 5K race pace. Tempo runs help your body and mind adapt to running at an uncomfortable pace. They help increase your VO2 Max (your body’s ability to take in and utilize oxygen at the muscle layer to make energy), as well as push out your lactate threshold (the point at which you feel that burning sensation in your legs from the lactic acid). These workouts will make you a more efficient runner and improve your ability to fight off fatigue.

To teach your body that you can pull out some speed when needed, add a short burst to your tempo runs. During your weekly tempo session, include a repeat that is 60 to 90 seconds faster than your projected race day pace. The faster running over a shorter period of time will build your confidence and add some snap to your leg turnover rate, while minimizing your injury risk.

Your long slow run is just that: long, slow distance. Your pace should be about 60 to 90 seconds slower than your projected race pace. Doing your long runs at a slower pace helps your body build endurance without wearing it down. Most running injuries come from running too fast—I have yet to hear of a runner becoming injured from running too slow. The purpose of the long run is to introduce your body to the rigours of running for an extended period of time, so be disciplined about the slower pace required for these workouts.

The two weekly base training or “maintenance” runs are short runs of 3 to 5K. These are as much for your head as they are for your body, and they should be run at a comfortable pace.

They are designed to keep your total weekly base miles up and act as recovery runs to keep your legs loose and limber.

Following this four-runs-per-week program is useful, especially when you’re trying to balance your personal, professional and community activities and still find time to run.

Race Strategy

There are three strategies for race day:

  • Start hard and fast and fade in the later stages of the race.
  • Start slow and run a faster second half of the race.
  • Run the whole race at a steady consistent pace.

My recommendation is to run the whole race at an even pace. This approach will, in theory, produce the best times for the runner. Start too fast, and you will discover an early and deep fatigue created from early oxygen debt. Running the final stages of the race is a challenge because of the deep fatigue. For the best recovery, start slow and build into the race. Your optimum time may not be achieved, but your post-race recovery will be improved. It makes for the most comfortable race. Even pacing will give you the best race results.

Angela Tanui Flying Kenyan Flag at Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

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By Paul Gains

A strong contingent of Ethiopian runners will make their way across the Atlantic to compete in this year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and so it falls upon Angela Tanui to be the Kenyan ‘flag bearer’ at this IAAF Gold Label race.

Tanui will not shy from the important role she finds herself in when she toes the line October 22nd. The rivalry between the East African neighbours is legendary and longstanding, particularly in Toronto. Ethiopian women have been victorious here seven of the last ten years. But as an indication of how close the rivalry is, the Course and Canadian All-comers Women’s record is 2:22:43, held jointly by Sharon Cherop KEN (2010) and Koren Jelala Yal ETH (2011) who ran identical times.

“Off course, yes, as a Kenyan I always want to make Kenya proud of me,” the 25 year old Tanui says of the matter.

Best known for her success at the shorter distances – last year she set personal bests of 31:26 in the 10k and a stunning 1:07:16 for the half marathon – she made her marathon debut earlier this year with a clocking of 2:26:31 at the Vienna Marathon. That was good enough for 5th place. She admits learning much from her experience.

“I learnt that the marathon is a calculation race which needs a smart mind,” she reveals. “I have increased the mileage per week and have planned an extra-long run (35 kilometres) compared to the last marathon preparation.

“My expectation is to run a personal best. With the debut in Vienna I am confident I learned a lot and can really improve. I can’t tell (by how much) but that is my inner prayer. Of course, the training was tougher and I will arrive much better prepared for this event in Toronto.”

Tanui is from a large family in Uasin-Gishu county, around 60 kilometres from Iten, where she is living and training. She has two brothers and four sisters one of whom, Euliter, is also runner and lives with her in Iten. Tanui’s boyfriend, Elijah Tirop, with whom she also shares her home, will accompany her to Toronto as he will perform pacemaking duties for the elite men.

Among her training partners are a trio of past Toronto racers, Ishhimael Chemtan (2015 men’s champion), Rebecca Chesir (3rd in 2016) and Sharon Cherop (2010 winner).  They are all represented by Demadonna Athletic Promotions, an Italian sports agency.

“I spoke of the race with them and they told me that it is a non-predictable race which varies according to the weather conditions,” she says of her reconnaissance.

Although she spends much of her time training and recovering, Tanui enjoys relaxing while watching Nigerian movies. And like many of her compatriots and training partners she is also a football fan.

“I am a fan and supporter of Manchester United and my favourite player is (Javier) Chicharito (Hernandez) even if he is not playing for Manchester this year,” she adds.

Although she is just 25 years old and conceivably has another five to ten years of running in her she has already had thoughts of what life might look like upon retirement.

“I would like to be a coach,” she says. “I’m accumulating a lot of experience in the field and would like one day to share my knowledge with the young runners of my village in order to give them the opportunity to improve their lifestyle and have an income from this activity.”

The future is certainly bright and she is only just beginning her marathon career. Suddenly, though she must carry the honour of her nation on the world stage. The question remains whether she can unsettle the Ethiopians on the streets of Toronto and carve out a victory. Her countrymen will be watching.

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For further information and to join Angela on the Start line, www.STWM.ca

IMPORTANT – MEDIA CREDENTIALS: For media interested in access on race weekend, including press conferences, start/finish lines and Media Centre, credentials are an absolute requirement. Please apply here: http://www.torontowaterfrontmarathon.com/media/#media

About the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon:

An IAAF Gold Label race, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is Canada’s premier, big-city running event, the Athletics Canada National Marathon Championships, and the Grand Finale of the 7-race Canada Running Series. In 2016 it attracted 26,000 participants from 70 countries, raised $3.24 million for 182 charities through the Scotiabank Charity Challenge, and contributed an estimated $35 million to the local economy. The livestream broadcast was watched by more than 72,000 viewers from 129 countries. http://STWM.ca

What Elite Athletes Eat: Marathon Edition

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For anyone racing a marathon, either for their first or fiftieth time, the pre-race dinner is always a hot topic.

What should you eat?

What should you avoid?

Is carb-loading really all it’s cracked up to be?

We may not have the exact answers, but what we’ve learned over time is that it’s best to eat what you’re used to, and that a carbohydrate-rich meal is a go-to for most runners.  There is a large Canadian elite contingent coming to race at the Canadian Marathon Championships at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, so we took the chance to ask them what fuels their fire the night before a big race.

Sami Jibril: When I’m out of town, maintaining a routine diet has its challenges. I personally try to pack at least one meal and snacks for long out of town races but when its not possible, and I am stuck in an airport with limited food options, I need to be flexible. I understand unhealthy food is better than no food, but healthy food (good fuel) is even better.

The most important factors I consider for selecting meals is food that is high in carbohydrates and easy to digest. The simpler the foods the better, and nothing unfamiliar.

Living in the Toronto and running STWM I have the luxury to eat a personal homemade meal the night before my race. I typically eat a heavy meatless pasta/spaghetti dinner with lots of veggies and I binge on fruits for dessert.

Leslie Sexton: My go-to meal before long runs and workouts when I’m at home is usually beef or chicken kabobs with grilled vegetables (splashed with a bit of olive oil and balsamic vinegar) and linguine with pesto sauce. I love cooking on the BBQ during the summer because it adds a bit of flavour and usually requires less clean-up. And of course some chocolate for dessert!

Kevin Coffey:  The last supper isn’t much of a change from the usual meal before a focused long run. I never experiment with new foods and I try to keep the fibre as low as I can.  For my last meal before a big race, I will have Thai gluten free stir fry rice noodles with a simple tomato sauce and half a serving of chicken (60g-75g of carbohydrate) with a refreshing glass of sports drink (30g carbohydrate). I have found gluten free pasta works best for my stomach and it often has less fibre than whole wheat.

Catherine Watkins: My favourite pre-race food is simply chicken or salmon with brown rice and veggies. For the marathon, I’ll go heavier on the rice and lighter on the veggies!  If it’s a shorter race and out of town I find sushi is a great pre-race food. Usually a salmon roll, tuna roll, and avocado roll.

Natasha LeBeaud Anzures: Before a race, I love to have a giant veggie-packed salad topped with my all-time favorite food: beets.  I love a big serving of brown race pasta (I have Celiac disease, so I cannot have any gluten) with marinara sauce and a side of salmon.

Trevor Hofbauer: My pre-race meal while traveling is pasta with a cream sauce and chicken. Regular pasta with a tomato sauce is an appropriate alternative as well.  For STWM, I’m actually bringing my pre-race dinner with me from Guelph. It will be my staple carbohydrate meal; cornmeal, sweet potato, chicken breast.

John Mason: The night and even through the week leading up to the race I eat a lot of bread.  I eat a lot of bread in general, but even more in the last few days heading into a marathon.  In 2015 before STWM I ate 4 loaves of bread in the last 36 hours leading into the race, an entire loaf of bread for dinner as I was strolling the streets of Toronto.  Bread and butter really is my marathon “bread and butter”.

Cam Levins To Race ‘Half’ at Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

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By Paul Gains

In what could be a massive boost for Canadian marathoning, Cam Levins has announced he will tackle the half marathon at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon October 22nd.

The former Canadian 10,000m record holder at 27:07.92 has extraordinary credentials on the track, and coupled with his appetite for high mileage training volume it is only a matter of time before he makes an impact in the full marathon distance. His debut at the half marathon in Toronto is a giant leap towards that goal.

Now 28 years old, the native of Black Creek, B.C. had surgery in July 2016 to correct ongoing problems in his foot. Since then he has been especially cautious though he has set an ambitious goal for Toronto.

“My plan is to go out with the marathon pace group at 63 minutes,” he reveals. “What I would like to do is try and qualify for the 2018 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships. So whatever it takes to do that at the very least and if I am feeling good (I will) knock it out of the park. That’s sort of my main goal going into this.”

At a Portland Twilight meet in June, Levins took to the track and ran 5000m in 14:10.92 which is almost a minute slower than his personal best. But it was a starting point.  In August, he raced the Beach to Beacon 10K in 29:24. More recently, he won the Canadian 5K Championship. Being selected to represent Canada at the half-marathon championships in Valencia, Spain, on March 24th, is therefore, a tangible goal.

The comeback has been mounted with an enormous change in his coaching situation. In July he left the Nike Oregon Project, the Alberto Salazar coached group which includes Olympic medalists Mo Farah, Matthew Centrowitz and Galen Rupp, to return to his former college coach, Eric Houle of Southern Utah University.

Reuniting with Houle, who is a proponent of very high training volumes, has seen him head up to Utah’s high altitude for weeks at a time. Cedar City is at roughly 6,000 feet above sea level and some of his longer runs have taken place at 9,000 feet.

“I spent all of July, a bit of June and a bit of August up there getting on the same page as Coach Houle,” he explains. “I don’t feel necessarily the need to be there right now. I think he understands where I am. He continues to give me workouts from a distance. I have been able to train with Ryan Vail here. My plan is to hop back and forth.”

Levins also moved homes during the summer and discovered, to his delight, that American marathoner Ryan Vail was a neighbour. They have been training together up until Vail’s 8th place finish at the Berlin Marathon on September 24th. Levins is relatively pleased with his training.

“I think it’s coming along pretty well, some hiccups here and there,” Levins says. “I feel pretty good about it. It has just been forward momentum, not incredibly fast, but I think I am continuing to improve, so I am happy with that.

“Coach Houle and I have agreed to that (high mileage) and we have been doing it as much as I have been able to. That’s the idea for sure. I have done some 20 mile runs pretty consistently. I live just a couple of blocks from Ryan Vail and he has been a fantastic training partner.”

Levins had originally entertained the idea of running a full marathon but realized he must contain his enthusiasm somewhat. He credits Eric Houle for providing a solid ground on which to build for the future.

“Coach Houle and I think one of the big reasons it works is that we have a really good athlete-coach relationship which I didn’t realize was so important until I left (Utah),” he explains. “I didn’t realize how good ours was. Now, going back, there is a lot of trust there.

“If he tells me to do something, whether I have a discussion about it or not, I will do it. And, he will listen to me. The communication is there. He certainly believes in me. I trust him and if he pushes back on it, its ok. It’s a good dynamic, ultimately, that I just never really developed with the coaching of the Oregon Project.”

Leaving the Nike Oregon Project meant leaving Nike. Running fans have noticed him racing in all sorts of clothing, often his 2012 Canadian Olympic singlet and a variety of training shoes.

“I am wearing just whatever I want,” he declares. “I have run in some Nike and I have run in some Altra shoes just because my buddy runs for their company. But really I will run in whatever I feel like.”

For the most part, his foot is no longer troubling him although he sometimes feels an ache. He had been told that it might take a year or more for the pain to be completely gone. He puts this down to nerve damage from the surgery. But he is optimistic about the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. The half marathon distance will prove a good test of his fitness level and provide an indication of what he might expect in 2018.

“I am looking forward to a good track season next year. That is my plan right now, and using that strength and fitness to go into a marathon and knock it out of the park next year,” he says before unleashing specific goals.

“I want to qualify for the World Indoors. My focus will be at the 3000m and mile. Outdoors the 5K and 10K are obviously the big ones for me. I am not counting out anything.”

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For more information and to join Cam at this year’s race: http://STWM.ca

About the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon:

An IAAF Gold Label race, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is Canada’s premier, big-city running event, the Athletics Canada National Marathon Championships, and the Grand Finale of the 7-race Canada Running Series. In 2016 it attracted 26,000 participants from 70 countries, raised $3.24 million for 182 charities through the Scotiabank Charity Challenge, and contributed an estimated $35 million to the local economy. The livestream broadcast was watched by more than 72,000 viewers from 129 countries. http://STWM.ca

 

 

Catherine Watkins Chasing Canadian Masters’ Marathon Record

By | Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon | No Comments

By Paul Gains

If things go according to plan, Catherine Watkins will be a new Canadian Masters’ record holder in the marathon come October 22nd.

The 46-year-old from Vancouver has set the women’s 45 years+ standard of 2:40:20 as her target when she lines up for the 2017 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. That time was set by fellow British Columbian, Marilyn Arsenault at Toronto Waterfront event four years ago.

“That’s the goal,” she acknowledges with a smile. “I do think everything will have to fall into place for that to happen. It will have to be one of those days where everything goes well. I know I am physically capable of it but, if it’s windy or it’s hot, obviously that will alter that.

“I would be disappointed if the day was the right day and I felt like I should have run the time that I think I can run. I would definitely be disappointed. I know enough about the marathon and a lot of it is getting to the start line healthy. But anything can happen on the day. I have had mixed experiences in the marathon, ‘GI’ or weather-related issues.”

Two years ago Watkins won the Eugene Marathon in a personal best time of 2:42:35. She was also the Masters’ winner at the Houston Marathon earlier that same year. And, when a place on Canada’s Pan Am Games team opened up, she answered the call, finishing 8th in her first international Games. But like all Masters competitors she faces the constant aging process which makes training more difficult and recovery even more of a challenge.

“Eventually there is going to be slowing down,” she concedes. “But for the longer events the half marathon and marathon, that kind of training has a little more longevity for me. I find where I am slowing is definitely in the shorter distances. It has been harder to get the intensity, like in the 5k and 10k, I have noticed it a bit.”

Nevertheless, her Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon buildup has been encouraging. Healthy, and training consistently at 130 kilometres a week, she ran superbly at the recent Under Armour Eastside 10k in Vancouver, finishing in a time of 35:43 on a challenging course.

“I was actually really, really happy with that because it was in the middle of marathon training,” she adds. “So it’s hard to know how a 10k will go when you are in the middle of marathon training. I just felt really strong and consistent. I ‘even split’ the course and it was kind of a tough course to do that on. I ran 17:50 and 17:50 for my 5ks and it’s not really a fast course it was probably closer to a low 35 effort overall. So, I feel I am really in a good spot.”

With her two daughters in middle school she is able to do the necessary ‘pre-hab’ stretching and warm-ups prior to getting out for her training runs.

“I end up doing 45 minutes to an hour of rolling and physio before I head out the door and then in the evening more rolling and stretching,” she says of the technique which incorporates the use of massage balls.  “I am getting massages weekly and physio treatments every couple of weeks to keep everything on track. Gone are the days when I can just lace up the shoes and go for a run.”

Watkins laughs at her last statement. Clearly she is relishing her career in Masters’ running. A sponsorship from Oiselle was one of her rewards and just last weekend she spent time with other elite athletes and staff at a retreat in Sonoma, California. The break was a little relief from the constant training she has been doing with coach Richard Lee of the BC Endurance Project and fellow marathoner Kevin Coffey.

“It’s actually been going really well,” she says of her buildup. “When we first started out I thought ‘oh my gosh how am I going to do a marathon?’ as you always do when you start. The last few weeks everything has started to click at the perfect time. It has been good. I have got my last huge workout coming up this weekend, 37km I think, on Saturday.

“Richard comes on his bike and carries my bottles so I can practice feeding. This is great. That’s one of the hardest things to practice on your own, being able to drink at that pace and get the fueling. I am still practicing. I think I wear as much as I drink!”

An avid reader of books, Watkins is a member of a book club which meets every four to six weeks. The rest of her time is taken up with parenting two active girls. When possible, she admits with a laugh, she enjoys nap time.

It will be all business though when she arrives in Toronto for the Waterfront Marathon. There are records to be broken and should ideal conditions prevail the name Catherine Watkins could be in the record book.

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For more information and to join Catherine in this year’s race:  www.stwm.ca

About the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon:

An IAAF Gold Label race, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is Canada’s premier, big-city running event, the Athletics Canada National Marathon Championships, and the Grand Finale of the 7-race Canada Running Series. In 2016 it attracted 26,000 participants from 70 countries, raised $3.24 million for 182 charities through the Scotiabank Charity Challenge, and contributed an estimated $35 million to the local economy. The livestream broadcast was watched by more than 72,000 viewers from 129 countries. http://STWM.ca

 

 

Uganda’s Alex Chesakit Racing at Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

By | Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon | No Comments

By Paul Gains

East African runners have dominated the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon the past two decades, but one thing this IAAF Gold Label race has never had is a Ugandan victor.

Alex Chesakit is hoping to upset the favoured Kenyans and Ethiopians when he lines up for this year’s event on October 22nd.

The 36 year-old native of Kapchorwa in Uganda’s eastern highlands ran a personal best of 2:11:01 at the 2016 Cape Town Marathon and credits the influence of 2012 Olympic Marathon Champion Stephen Kiprotich for his success.

“Stephen inspired me a lot,” says Chesakit of his famous countryman, who was also crowned the 2013 IAAF World Marathon Champion. “I am expecting a win and to run a good time in the marathon very soon.

“Stephen is the key athlete in Uganda, and Kapchorwa specifically, and a role model for the new generation like Joshua Cheptegei and other youngsters who are coming up now. I always train with Stephen when he’s at home in Kapchorwa.”

Cheptegei, of course, is the young Ugandan who pushed the British superstar Mo Farah all the way to the line in the 2017 World Championship 10,000m final before settling for the silver medal.

Kiprotich’s Olympic gold medal, Uganda’s first since John Akii-Bua’s 400m hurdles gold at the 1972 Munich Olympics, launched a newfound interest in distance running. And, when the nation’s capital, Kampala, hosted the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in March this year massive crowds came out to support their heroes.

It is precisely because of the growing interest in running that in November of last year Global Sports opened a training camp in Kapchorwa on Mount Elgon. Global manages Kiprotich as well as 2016 Olympic champion, Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya. The primary purpose of the new camp is to further develop talent in the region which has produced a string of international level distance runners. Most are preparing for the track but there more whose attention is focused completely on the half marathon and marathon distances.

Two full time coaches, a massage therapist – all Ugandans – work under a mentor coach from the Netherlands named Andy Ruiter here. At present they are working with about fifteen athletes most of whom are competing on the track still. Training there has lifted Chesakit’s expectations substantially.

“I live just outside the camp, but I am mostly there during the week especially when there is a key training session like track, fartlek, a long run and tempo runs,” he explains. “My house is near the track so when we go for a track workout I walk from home and meet the guys there.”

At home he has a family, a wife and three young children. Running, he says, is a means to provide a good lifestyle for them.

“Every marathon you run you take a new experience home and we try to improve for the next,” he says of his career to date.

“In Toronto I am hoping to break 2:10:00 for the first time which will help me to qualify for Commonwealth Games. I missed the World Championships in London due to visa issues. I was supposed to compete but the visa arrived too late.”

Like most East African runners Chesakit treats running as a profession and he realizes that time is fleeting.

“My goal is through running to secure finance for my family but ultimately to inspire many young talents in the sport,” Chesakit admits.

“I hope to compete for another ten years and my desire is to be a coach after retirement and help the new generation to get opportunities in life and show them the right way.”

The Toronto field is the strongest ever assembled in Canada with Kenyans Dickson Chumba, a past Chicago and Tokyo marathon winner, and defending Toronto champion, Philemon Rono already confirmed. Ethiopia will counter through the very talented duo of Solomon Deksisa, (2:06:22 at the 2016 Rotterdam Marathon) and Endeshaw Negesse, the 2015 Tokyo Marathon champion who has a personal best of 2:04:52.

Against such opposition, Chesakit will have his hands full. But the vision of being the first Ugandan to stand on the podium is a powerful one for this talented marathon runner.

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For more information and to join Alex Chesakit at this year’s race: http://STWM.ca

About the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon:

An IAAF Gold Label race, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is Canada’s premier, big-city running event, the Athletics Canada National Marathon Championships, and the Grand Finale of the 7-race Canada Running Series. In 2016 it attracted 26,000 participants from 70 countries, raised $3.24 million for 182 charities through the Scotiabank Charity Challenge, and contributed an estimated $35 million to the local economy. The livestream broadcast was watched by more than 72,000 viewers from 129 countries. http://STWM.ca