“Simon Bairu Withdraws From Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon,” by Paul Gains

“Simon Bairu Withdraws From Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon,” by Paul Gains

TORONTO. September 20th. Simon Bairu announced Tuesday his decision to pull out of the 2011 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.  It caps a difficult year for the 28 year old native of Regina, Saskatchewan.

His credentials at shorter distances are undisputed. Indeed, a 12th place finish in the IAAF World Cross Country Championships and a Canadian 10,000m record of 27:23 in April 2010 preceded his buildup for his eagerly awaited marathon debut. But he dropped out of New York last November and was taken by ambulance to hospital. And his more recent results also indicated he was not the same athlete of a year ago.

 He struggled to a 19th place finish at the Falmouth Road Race in Massachusetts, August 14th then, on September 5th, he dropped out of the New Haven 20km. 

“The decision was made last weekend but I kind of knew after the New Haven 20km (September 5th),” he said during a telephone interview Tuesday. “I was in denial you could say. But [coach Jerry Schumacher] and I never made a decision until this weekend. Basically I know that I am fit. The workouts were coming along well; they were maybe a couple of seconds off per mile from where I was last year. I knew the biggest problem was fatigue.” 

Bairu recently did a 16 mile tempo run, a test he had done a year ago in his buildup to his marathon debut in New York City. Again, things didn’t go as well as he would have liked. 

“Before New York we were jogging it running 4:58 miles,” he reveals. “This time after about 10 miles my legs were starting to come apart. At that point we knew this was not going to be. No way in three weeks I was going to be ready to run a marathon.” 

“What disappoints me is that I don’t really get a lot of chances to run in Canada and I had that opportunity to qualify for the Olympics in Toronto in front of friends and family. That was something that was really driving me in my training the last couple of months. So that is probably the most disappointing aspect of it for me.” 

Bairu admits he has one chance to achieve the Olympic standard and says he is leaning towards December’s Fukuoka Marathon in Japan. 

“It’s an early, tentative plan,” he admits. “It makes the most sense to get an early marathon in. I am fit now. That has never been a concern. I am not injured. Fukuoka is the next viable one and that is why we considered that one. It doesn’t mean that’s the one I am going to do. With the marathon you only really have one shot at it. Whichever one I do is the one that gives me the best opportunity to qualify [for the Olympics].” 

His training partner, Tim Nelson, is preparing for the 2012 Houston Marathon in January which is another option but at this point it is Fukuoka that resonates in Bairu’s mind despite the nine hour trans-Pacific flight and time zone change. 

While Bairu mulls over his limited options several proven Canadian marathoners, Reid Coolsaet, Eric Gillis, Dylan Wykes and Rob Watson will likely not lose any sleep over his decision. They have prepared for their unofficial Olympic ‘trial’ as best they can. 

It remains to be seen if Bairu taps his enormous potential at the classic distance or whether he joins a host of other Canadians who have tried their hand and come up short. Asked if his New York experience taught him a lesson in respect for the distance he nods in agreement. 

“I know first hand how gruelling the marathon can be and you have to be on top of your game,” he concludes.  “You have to be healthy and fit to tackle a 2:10 marathon. So in that sense, yeah, I have a lot of respect for it.”

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