By Paul Gains
Despite several course changes due to ongoing construction inside Parc Jean Drapeau the Banque Scotia 21k de Montréal has attracted a strong field intent on chasing prize money, Canada Running Series points and an early season challenge.
The event is the second stop on the eight race 2018 CRS circuit.
Leading the elite field are the two defending CRS champions, Tristan Woodfine and Leslie Sexton, who launched their 2018 CRS campaigns in victorious fashion at Toronto’s Race Roster Spring Run Off 8k, April 7th.
Canadian international Kip Kangogo, flies across the country to do battle with Woodfine and defending Montréal champion, Francois Jarry.
The personable Jarry, a McGill University student, will hop the Metro to get to the race but although he admires and respects his rivals he doesn’t intend to be the perfect host. With nothing to lose he is in a comfortable position compared to the favoured Woodfine and Kangogo. And that can often bring out the best in a competitor.
Meanwhile, Sexton will be shadowed by the woman who finished second to her in Toronto, Laura Desjardins, a practicing chiropodist, who is finding her feet in the longer distances. A late addition to the field is Sasha Gollish who, under duress, dropped out of the RRSRO 8k. The Pan Am Games 1,500m gold medalist is an accomplished distance runner and if fully fit will prove difficult to beat.
Elites to Watch:
Tristan Woodfine 24, Unattached, Cobden, Ontario
The defending CRS overall champion Woodfine is embracing a higher training volume as he prepares for the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon May 27. Dropping down and winning the Race Roster Spring Run Off 8km in Toronto was a pleasant surprise in light of the training. Even so he has a best half marathon time of 1:05:28.
Running fast over the Montréal course particularly with the addition of a few more turns is no longer the target for Woodfine who is now studying at the Ontario Health and Technology College. He intends to become a paramedic.
“It’s more about getting a good hard effort in five weeks before Ottawa,” he explains. “I am not sure who is going to be racing but if there is good competition there then that adds to the fun. Goal number one is get a good hard effort in preparation for Ottawa and if there are some fast guys to race that’s an added bonus.
“I have raced Kip a couple of times. He’s been on the Canadian running scene for many years and he is always a good competitor. I don’t know if I have ever raced Francois but anyone can have a good race on any given day so you just go out there and give it your best and see where you stack up.”
Leslie Sexton 30, London Runner, London, Ontario
Last October Sexton was crowned Canadian Marathon Champion despite an injury induced delay to the start of her 2017 season. Now, fully healthy and fit, as her recent victory in Toronto proved, she is ready to test herself over the 21k distance. Beating her personal best (1:13:13) is likely not in the cards this weekend due to the course changes.
The attraction of adding CRS points is one reason she is racing Montréal. More importantly she says is the importance of seeing how her high volume training has paid off. The race is part of a bigger picture.
“I would say even without the CRS points I would be doing a lot of CRS races anyway,” Sexton admits. “It’s just a great competitive opportunity to win prize money and get my name out there a bit more. This year I intend to do five or six races in the Series and hopefully contend for the Series win again.
“The plan for this spring was not to do a marathon but to work on my half marathon and my 10k. So the date of Montréal worked well to be a ‘goal’ half marathon and will give me about three weeks before I do the Ontario 10,000m championships. I haven’t run the Montréal course since 2012 (she was 2nd) when it was the Canadian Championships. Even with the construction, hopefully, I can still run a pretty fast time.”
Kip Kangogo 38, Lethbridge, Alberta
Always a strong competitor on the roads this Kenyan born Canadian citizen is the fastest on paper with a personal best of 1:03:22 from the 2011 Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon. Last spring he also won the Canadian Half Marathon championship in Calgary. More significantly he raced in Montreal in 2016 and won.
These days he is working six hours a day for the Lethbridge School District which he says allow him time with his wife and two young children as well as the opportunity to complete his training program. Having switched coaches he follows workouts prescribed by Kenyan Matthew Cheriuyot. He is also a Skechers Performance Canada Athlete.
“I am looking for a test to open my season and Montréal is a good place to do it,” he declares. “I have been there before (in 2016) and it’s a good environment. It has been a tough winter but I look forward to seeing where my fitness is as I start the season.”
Sasha Gollish 36, University of Toronto TC, Toronto, Ontario
A relative late comer to distance running this PhD Engineering candidate has excelled at distances from 1,500m up to the half marathon.
In 2015 she claimed the Pan Am Games 1,500m bronze. She also has a best half marathon time of 1:11:05 making her the third fastest Canadian of all time. Most recently she was Canada’s top finisher at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships finishing 30th in 1:11:52. Illness forced her to drop out of the recent Race Roster Spring Run Off but she has rebounded to join the elite field for Montréal.
Francois Jarry 24, Athlétisme Ville-Marie, Montréal, Quebec
A year ago this McGill University student emerged as one of Quebec’s finest young runners winning the Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal in 1:07:23 and then finishing 4th at the Canadian Half Marathon Championships in Calgary. Winning this race in front of his hometown supporters was, he says, one of his greatest achievements.
Now he has been rewarded by being named a Skechers Performance Canada Athlete like his rival Kip Kangogo. Clearly he respects the Canadian champion immensely.
“Oh he is going to be there? I know him. I hadn’t seen the start list yet. If he is going to be there it is not going to be easy,” he says laughing. “I saw him in Calgary last year and I know he is pretty fast. If he is in the shape he usually is then I am going to need a very big ‘pb’ to have a chance against him.
“I was doing great training big volume but that makes you more susceptible to illness. I had some sickness over Easter and took me out for about a week. Hopefully most of my fitness will stay with me. It could be a great race.”
Anne-Marie Comeau 21, Laval University, Montréal, Quebec
Growing up in Mont Ste Anne, Quebec Comeau was introduced to cross country skiing at an early age and competed internationally as a youth. But when she enrolled in accounting at Laval University in 2015 she switched to cross country running and competed for the varsity team.
Despite this absence from her chosen sport she made a last ditch effort to qualify for Canada’s team to the 2018 Winter Olympics and was successful.
“I was doing cross country running all during the fall,” she says. “I was running a lot but wasn’t training so much for skiing so I surprised myself. I was in good shape and I was fine for the Olympics.
“Skiing is very good for running but also running is very good for skiing. When I do both I feel better for both. We get way less injuries than in running; the biggest injuries we have in skiing is tendonitis in the shoulders. I had one two years ago because the double pulling is really hard on the shoulders. But we don’t have injuries on our feet and knees.
“This is my first experience in the half marathon. Because it is my first one I don’t know how to see the race, which pace to start. I think I don’t want to start too fast because I don’t know the speed I can go for 21k. I would like to do under 1:20 or 1:19 but I don’t honestly know what I can do.”
Laura Desjardins 29, Newmarket Huskies, Toronto, Ontario
Desjardins surprised many with her second place finish at the Race Roster Spring Run Off 8km a race that has given her much more confidence going into the Banque Scotia 21k de Montréal. Last October she made her debut at the half marathon distance in Toronto finishing in 1:17:24.
“I feel like I have learned something from that (RRSRO 8k) race, preparing, tapering, nutrition, rest, recovery items,” she says. “I have learned from that and I think it will help me going into the ‘Montreal Half.’
Under the direction of noted distance coach, Hugh Cameron, she has increased her training significantly this winter in preparation for the racing season. This she has done around her employment as a Chiropodist at Premier Footworks in Mississauga.
“I am relatively new to the distance training this is my first year doing higher mileage higher volume on top of doing 40 hours of work and commuting,” she explains. “It was kind of an adjustment.”
“I am getting used to this volume and intensity in training and trying to see where I stand. It’s kind of a year of experimenting with different distances and seeing how the body adapts to those races. I know there is no major world qualifier. The Scotiabank Toronto Half Marathon is a big one, the 10k championships in Ottawa.”