Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Candians for Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Olympian Eric Gillis, from the Speed River Track Club in Guelph, is confirmed to headline a strong Canadian challenge amongst the professional athletes competing for more than $200,000 in prize monies and bonuses at this Fall's Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on September 26th. Gillis will be joined by clubmate Reid Coolsaet and Matt Loiselle from the BROOKS Canada Marathon Project, promising the best Canadian showing at the marathon distance in at least a decade. Equally intriguing, they will duel it out on Canadian soil.

After representing Canada in the 10,000m in the Beijing Games, the 30 year old Gillis moved up to the marathon distance and ran a sparkling debut of 2:13:52 in Houston on January 17th. It was the second-fastest marathon debut by a Canadian, and with the last 2 miles both run in 4 minutes and 50 seconds, it strongly suggested that there's more in the tank. According to CBCs Mihira Lakshman, "While [the] result [didn't] crack the front pages of Canadian sports'sections, it has created a buzz around the marathon that hasn't been seen in years."

Since then, there has been great speculation as to where and when Gillis will run his next marathon, and whether it will be on Canadian soil. "After researching the options for my next marathon,"said Gillis, "I decided to run the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront because it has an excellent international reputation as a flat, fast and well-organized event. Plus with a mix of both elite and recreational athletes it offers a competitive edge but still maintains great energy and atmosphere. And Toronto has the added bonus of allowing me to compete on home turf. I find racing in my own country, near where I live and train, is a great boost. The support from a local crowd is incomparable to anything I could get elsewhere.”

For added excitement, Scotiabank has put up a new Canadian Record bonus: $1,000 for every year that Jerome Drayton's national record of 2:10:09 has stood, if the record is broken at Scotia Toronto Waterfront. That means that if Gillis can eclipse Drayton's mark set in Fukuoka Japan in 1975, he'll take home an extra $35,000. Eric will also be shooting to achieve a Qualifying Standard for the London 2012 Olympic Games marathon.

Gillis will be joined on the start line by Speed River teammate, Reid Coolsaet. A member of 15 national teams, the 31 year old Hamiltonian has better PRs than Gillis at 1500m [3:40.38 to 3:44.89], 5000m [13:21.53 to 13:36.78] and 10,000m [27:56.92 to 28:07.19] – at every distance except for the marathon. He moved up to the marathon last year, without any specific marathon training, yet still managed a 2:17:10 to claim the Canadian Championship in Ottawa in May. That earned him a place on the Canadian Marathon squad for the World Championships in Berlin last August where he was again first Canadian in 2:16:53. His plan was to make 2010 his last year on the track, with the hopes of representing Canada in the 10,000m in the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October; he would then move completely to the marathon in 2011, to focus on winning a place at the London Olympics. A niggling achilles-tendon injury this Spring, however, set him back, making it difficult for him to recover full fitness in time for the track season. In early May, "I eventually came to the conclusion that it's no longer in my best interest. At this point in my running career I'm not interested in doing anything half-ass and if I were to focus on track this summer I would be rushing my preparation." Now training with focus and determination for the 42k distance, with resident-Kenyans Josephat Ongeri and David Karanja in Hamilton as well as Eric Gillis and Coach Dave Scott-Thomas in Guelph, Reid expects to push his teammate to the limit on the Toronto Waterfront's flat, fast course and set a big PR.

Joining the Speed River twosome, Matt Loiselle of the Brooks Canada Marathon Project in Toronto has selected Toronto Waterfront for his first complete marathon, making this the strongest Canadian men's marathon line-up in more than a decade. Just 25 years old, Loiselle has been the Canadian Half Marathon Champion for both 2009 and 2010, with a PR of 64:10 that he ran in Montreal to claim the title in April '09. He then went on to represent Canada in the IAAF World Half Marathon in Birmingham where he again ran under 65 minutes last Fall. "Scotia Toronto Waterfront should be a great race this year. If the weather cooperates, I'm sure we can all run fast,"says Loiselle.

"We are really excited and honoured to have a Canadian marathoner of Eric's calibre on the Start line for Scotia Toronto Waterfront,"said Race Director Alan Brookes. "And to have Reid and Matt with him too is even more enthralling. It has been such a long time since we've had such Canadian talent in the marathon, and to have them all racing together IN Canada will be such an inspiration for all of us. It's part of our vision to build a major, world-marathon for Toronto, but one that supports and provides an international stage for Canadians. Gillis, Coolsaet and Loiselle are going to give the international athletes a tough day, and it will be marvellous if they can scare or take out Drayton's 35-year-old national record! I hope Canadians will come out in big numbers to run with them and to cheer for them on race day. We really want them to have a big home-course advantage. "

For further information and to register, STWM.ca.