January 26th. Off to Houston tomorrow for what promises to be a colossal weekend! Chris [Fagel], our STWM/CRS Course Director is going, for what will be his 3rd year as Stan Cobourn’s Assistant Course Director on Sunday morning, and Charlotte and I will work the STWM booth at the Expo on Friday and Saturday, before getting to enjoy all the excitement of race day. Charlotte usually helps around the Start area, and I hang off the back of the Press truck, watching all the action unfold — at “point of sweat” as our friends at Gatorade would say. I’ll be Tweeting all morning so you can follow the race along with me if you sign up to follow me.
The American media will undoubtedly focus on the US Half Marathon Championships starring Ryan Hall, with great depth in both men’s and women’s races; and on American Brett Gotcher hoping to improve on his impressive debut of 2:10:36 in last year’s marathon. The world media will likely focus on Teshome Gelana’s return to chase his course record from last year, of 2:07:37.
Even though we’ll be tracking Teshome with interest, as yet ANOTHER STWM alumni [STWM2010, 6th in 2:09:31], our REAL interest as Canucks will be in Rob “The Destroyer” Watson!
Houston is a special place for us Canadians. And we’ve been an important part of the major international event that Houston Marathon is. Silvia Ruegger ran her Canadian Women’s National Record of 2:28:36 there in 1985 — a record that still stands today, a quarter of a century later. Peter Fonseca won Houston in 1995 [2:11:52]. In 2009, Andrew Smith of the Brooks Canada Marathon Project took 3 minutes off his previous best to run 2:16:18 for 5th place male; and Thornhill’s Lioudmila Kortchaguina came back from 2 years of frustrating injuries that forced her out of the Beijing Olympics and her dream of running for Canada, to record an impressive 2:30:43 clocking, good for 3rd place female.
Last year, Speed River Track Club’s Eric Gillis made his much anticipated marathon debut in Houston with a sparkling 2:13:52 — something I commented on in my Janaury 6th post, “2010 Marathon year in Review.” (see Highlight #1). Eric’s performance just kicked the year off perfectly, it set the bar and the tone for the year. As Mahira Lakshman wrote, “it created a BUZZ” in Canadian marathoning that we hadn’t had in years. The rest of the year then went from strength to strength.
Rob Watson is also one of the great group of distance runners emerging from SRTC in Guelph, training with Coach Dave Scott-Thomas. An aggressive runner, Rob has stregth and determination from his steeplechase and cross-country background that he brings to the marathon. Some of you may rember that Rob was Reid Coolsaet’s pacer at last September’s STWM. He got Reid to 22k in good shape, so that his clubmate could go onto record the fastest time ever by a Canuck on Canadian soil. Reid’s 2:11:23 also got him an Olympic marathon qualifying time for London 2012. Three weeks later, Rob claimed some bragging rights of his own, taking the AC Canadian National 10K Championships at OASIS ZooRun (read Mihira Lakshman’s in-depth Race Report). Then, in his high-mileage build up to Houston, he was 2nd in the Canadian National XC Championships in Guelph on November 27th, after setting all the early, strong pace. On Boxing Day in Hamilton, he “destroyed” the field in the 90th Annual 10 Mile Race. He ran a new course record of 48:39 to win by a full 2 minutes over Andrew Smith. His time was also 1 minute 31 seconds quicker than Eric Gillis’ time the previous year, when Eric also used the Boxing Day race as his Houston prep.
Is Rob ready for Houston on Sunday? Will “The Destroyer” be patient or will he charge to the front? Though Rob has been sequestered in North Carolina doing his final preparation since the Hamilton race, we managed to catch up with Coach Dave Scott-Thomas and ask him some of these questions:
Rob doesn’t do anything halfway and the Houston Marathon is not going to be an exception. The goal is not to go gently into the goodnight of marathoning, and we’re looking to show Rob deserves to be considered as a candidate for the Canadian 2012 [Olympic] team. Rob is a refreshingly colourful charcter, but don’t be misled. He is professional, clear-minded and absolutely committed to an organized race plan. His preparation so far has been superb and I believe he has put in more mileage than any elite Canadian in recent years. The controllable has been controlled; now it is down to the variables of race day and Rob’s will, a factor I have absolute confidence in.
Will Rob better Eric’s time from Houston 2010? Or will he find out how tough the marathon can be, and be sitting on the sidewalk at 35k like Simon in New York? We’re pumped already. Hope you’ll follow us to Houston on Twitter. Go Rob Go!