By June 10, 2024Elite Athletes

By Paul Gains 

Erin Mawhinney will defend her Under Armour Toronto 10K title Saturday June 15th the next stop on the 2024 Canada Running Series. 

A year ago, the Hamilton resident won the race, which traces Toronto’s scenic Lake Shore Boulevard, in a personal best of 33 minutes 34 seconds. The result was a pleasant surprise and confirmed her arrival as one of Canada’s elite road racers. 

“I would like to take a stab at defending my title I know there are some fast girls running,” the 27 year old says before adding, ”Truthfully I have struggled with some low iron the past couple of weeks. But being able to defend the win would be great. Running close to 33 minutes flat would also be great at this time. 

Despite the medical hiccup – which is now behind her – Mawhinney has followed coach Reid Coolsaet’s training program closely and has gradually increased her training volume. Indeed, she has had weeks where she has run as much as 160km while working full-time as a nursing consultant. 

Mawhinney completed her Master of Nursing degree last year after spending six years nursing in the intensive care unit at Hamilton’s St Joseph’s Hospital. Combining long, demanding shifts with her training program was challenging but she credits Coolsaet, a two-time Canadian Olympian, with providing a flexible plan. 

“I did straight night shifts and I found that sticking on straight nights was a little bit easier for running,” she remembers. “I found the flipping back and forth between days and night was sort of chaotic. 

“I would let Reid know and he was great with being flexible. I worked a lot of overtime during Covid because we were overwhelmed in the ICU during that time. There would be some days where I was too tired to double. There were even times when I had to sleep at the hospital between shifts because there was a risk of exposure in my apartment building.” 

In addition to winning the 2023 Under Armour Toronto 10K Mawhinney captured first place in the 2023 TCS Toronto Waterfront Half Marathon last October (1:13:50). Now she and Coolsaet are targeting a possible marathon debut this coming fall. 

“We are thinking TCS Toronto Waterfront in the fall will be my marathon debut so that is the main focus for the rest of the year,” she reveals. 

Recently Mawhinney’s concerns for the homeless crisis in the Hamilton neighbourhood she has called home the past seven years resulted in her penning an essay on her observations. Her advocacy is paying off. 

“A big win recently was having City Housing Hamilton approve a new public health nurse role I proposed to them,” she adds. “(It is) to help those in higher social-need subsidized housing keep their tenancy and avoid needing to use the emergency room.” 

Among those lining up against her Saturday are 2015 Pan Am Games marathon bronze medalist, Rachel Hannah, who was 3rd in the 2024 Ottawa Marathon last month and, most significantly, was 3rd in the Under Armour Toronto 10K last year and last year’s runner-up, Salome Nyirarukundo the 26 year-old Rwandan who has made Ottawa her home. 

The men’s field is led by Andrew Davies, a second-year law student at the University of British Columbia. Although his 10k best is 29:32 last month he ran a superb 10,000m on the track recording 28:34.63. 

“If you get one of the really fast road courses I definitely feel you can be just as fast, maybe even faster, on the roads (than on the track) with the new shoes,” he declares. 

The 23-year-old Davies claims, however, he will focus more on the competition than on recording a fast time. 

“I am not really going to focus on the time too much,” Davies, who hails from Sarnia, Ontario, says. “I have been transitioning now to focus on the 5,000m leading to the track Nationals at the end of the month. I will focus on racing whoever else is (at the Toronto 10k). I am not going in with a time goal. 

“My 5,000m PB (13:37.39) is three years old and I would like to lower that into the (low) 13:30’s and run Nationals and then in the fall I’d like to run as well as I can in the Canadian cross country championships. I was 4th there this past year. If I could medal there that would be awesome.” 

The fastest performer in the men’s field is Lee Wesselius whose personal best 29:13 earned him 7th in the 2021 Canadian 10k Championships held on a slightly modified Toronto Waterfront course. Also racing is Rob Kanko who was 3rd in the 2023 Under Armour Toronto 10K in a personal best of 30:02. 

The race will once again serve as the Canadian Masters 10k championships. Baghdad Rachem will defend the title he won a year ago on this same course. The Verdun, Quebec resident won that day in 32:05 beating 44-year-old Reid Coolsaet by 13 seconds. 

Edmonton’s Jay Smith finished 3rd in 2023 in 39:23 and leads the female master’s division entries.