- Kingston native to chase qualifying time and his “Olympic dreams” on flat, fast Toronto Waterfront course
- Wykes, Canada’s #3 ranked marathoner, joins #1, #2, #4 ranked men for Olympic-qualifying showdown
TORONTO. March 9th. Organizers announced today that Dylan Wykes, Canada’s #3 ranked men’s marathoner, will join Reid Coolsaet, Eric Gillis and Rob Watson of Guelph’s Speed River TFC [the #1, #2 and #4 ranked marathoners] in a showdown, a de facto Olympic Trials, at Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 16th. It will be his 5thattempt at the distance. The Kingston native, now training with Richard Lee in Vancouver, had a major breakthrough last December when he won the California International Marathon in Sacramento in 2:12:39, taking almost 3 minutes of his previous best. The challenging A+ standard for Canadian men’s marathoners wanting to get to London 2012 is 2:11:30. This time needs to be achieved in a window that began last September and extends into Spring 2012. Realistically, athletes have their best shots at it this Spring or Fall – they do not want to leave it to a last-ditch effort in 2012, that would detract from a proper preparation for the London summer Olympics. Coolsaet is the only one with the standard so far. He ran a sparkling 2:11:23 at Toronto Waterfront last Fall, the fastest marathon by a Canadian in 24 years and the fastest marathon by a Canadian ever on Canadian soil. Gillis was just behind in 2:12:08, a big PR, but agonizing seconds away from the standard, like Wykes in December. Rob Watson ran 2:16:17 for his debut in Houston on January 31st, but is expected to improve significantly on his second attempt at the classic distance. He is the current Athletics Canada Canadian 10K Road Champion and was runner-up at the National Cross Country Championships in November. All 4 men will forego a Spring marathon, setting the stage for the exciting head-to-head battle on October 16th. Scotiabank has also sweetened the pot by adding a $36,000 bonus for the first Canadian to break Jerome Drayton’s 36-year old National Record of 2:10:09.
After a strong collegiate athletics career at Providence College, Dylan ran his first marathon at Rotterdam in April 2008. Not considered an elite, invited athlete, he had to make his own way to the race, and his blog of that experience shows just how much Canadian distance runners were considered as inferior, recreational tourists a scant 3 years ago. He went to Rotterdam in the hopes of making it to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Although he ran a solid debut of 2:15:16 he was disappointed:
Unfortunately, I did not execute the race properly. People are trying to tell me I should be satisfied with that as a debut marathon. But, I am finding it hard to. I know getting the standard was going to be a challenge all along. I am obviously disappointed — the dream of being an Olympian will have to wait another 4 years.
Dylan then returned to Kingston to train with Steve Boyd, and prepare for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in late September 2008. Unfortunately, he got a warm, humid day, so despite another solid effort, he only came away with a 2:16:21. That earned him a place on the Canadian Marathon squad at the World Championships in Berlin in August 2009, which also included Reid Coolsaet – a team that was partially funded by STWM and the Ottawa Marathon. It was recognition and valuable experience for Wykes, but again he got a hot day and the result was a 2:18:00.
Then came a move to training with Richard Lee’s group in Vancouver last summer, and the big breakthrough last December in Sacramento. In a post-race interview with Christopher Kelsall of www.flotrack.org, Dylan said:
I think the experience at California International Marathon was more rewarding [than my debut in Rotterdam], mostly because this breakthrough was a long time coming and had a lot of bumps in the road, whereas Rotterdam was done more on a whim, and maybe at the time I didn’t realize how lucky I was to actually hit a good one there. CIM was also more rewarding because I actually won the race. I really can’t recall the last time I won a decent race (maybe 2007 National 10k Road Champs). So, simply winning was very, very exciting for me.
Following the breakthrough in California, Dylan returned to Vancouver to re-group with Coach Lee:
We decided, after CIM, to give my body (and mind) all the time it needed to recovery and rejuvenate before making a big push towards qualifying for London 2012. So, I’ve decided not to run a marathon this Spring. Instead I am going to be focusing on improving at other distances and raising my game by racing in some highly competitive international events at half-marathon and 10k distance.
With everything on the line for London 2012, it has made the selection of the right Fall marathon critical.
In the end, we’ve chosen Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront. There are plenty of marathons in North America, Europe, and Japan that I now have the opportunity to run and considered racing, because on paper they appear to be great races. But, in the end it was not a difficult decision to commit to running STWM2011. I know that [Race Director] Alan [Brookes] and everyone involved in STWM 2011 are 100% committed to seeing Canadians run fast and will do everything in their power to help me and others attain our goals on October 16th.
The course is fast. I also like the new date (now three weeks later than in the past). I think it is going to eliminate the possibility of a hot and humid day affecting performances. The level of competition in this event has also been fantastic over the past few years. The depth of the elite field is tremendous. Hopefully that depth will help pull me along to a fast time.
It also appears that after the victory in Sacramento – not just the breakthrough time – Dylan is filled with confidence.
I am hoping to keep the ball rolling and cut another big chunk off my PB at STWM2011. Running under the Canadian Olympic Standard (2:11:29) will be my primary goal. I’d certainly like to place as high as possible in the race, but everything will be secondary to the goal of running the Olympic Standard.
He is also looking forward to the head-to-head competition with Reid Coolsaet, Eric Gillis and Rob Watson, and in a Canadian race. As he told Chris Kelsall in December:
It’s pretty cool there are so many Canadian guys running so well. It’s a really great thing for running in Canada. I remember talking toArt Boileau a little while ago and we were chatting about how well Reid and Eric ran at Toronto Waterfront last Fall. He was saying how back in his day, when a lot of guys were running fast, he used other Canadians’ good results to motivate him to train harder and race faster. I think we are seeing that happening now, sort of that. “If he can do it, why can’t I?” mentality. And I definitely think there is a good possibility that we’ll see 5 guys running very fast over the next few years and see a significant revision of the top-5 all-time list.
I’m good friends with all the Guelph guys, so it’s kind of hard to view them as my competition. And Simon[Bairu] is someone who has always been way ahead of me any time we’ve raced. But, I guess I’ve sort of shown I can compete near to their level in the marathon now.
According to Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Race Director Alan Brookes, “we are absolutely thrilled to add Dylan to the mix for October 16th. He is a long-time friend, alumni and supporter of STWM. His career has really taken off with the race in Sacramento, so he has great momentum, and confidence. It also sets up a Canadian duel amongst the best 4 Canadian marathoners we’ve had in two decades, and it’s not in Chicago or New York, but at home, on the streets of Canada’s largest metropolis. This is a marvellous, mouth-watering treat for everyone in Canadian marathoning and our sport.”
It would also appear that all of the stars have aligned, as Coolsaet, Wykes, Gillis and Watson will face each other in a number of preliminary bouts at home and abroad this spring and summer, as the tension builds towards the showdown for all the Olympic dreams and marbles on Toronto Waterfront. Dylan and Reid will face off in New York at the NYC Half Marathon on March 20th, as part of a strong international field. They are likely to have another go at the Sporting Life Toronto 10K on May 1st– Dylan is confirmed; Reid strongly “considering”. Reid and Rob will do battle with Athletics Toronto’s Matt Loiselle and Andrew Smith in Montreal on April 17th, for the Canadian Half Marathon Championship title at Banque Scotia 21K de Montreal. That same day, Dylan and Eric Gillis will duel it out at the Vancouver SunRun 10K.
“What an absolutely captivating year it’s going to be,” said Brookes, who added that talks are ongoing with Simon Bairu to secure his participation for October 16th. This would bring all 5 Canadian Olympic contenders onto the Start line to set up what Brookes suggests could be the best Canadian marathon race of all time.
Online entry for Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon & Half-marathon on October 16th is now available at http://www.torontowaterfrontmarathon.com/en/register.htm