“Dayna Pidhoresky – Canada’s Leading Road Racer,” by Paul Gains

Dayna cruising through 5K alongside Grenadier Pond at Harry's Spring Run Off 2011

TORONTO. March 14th.

Few might have predicted Dayna Pidhoresky would develop into one of Canada’s most promising long distance runners when she ran for the University of Windsor Lancers until two years ago.

Indeed, a 14th place finish in the 2009 Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) cross country championships was the highlight of her collegiate career and hardly an indicator of the marvelous potential in those feet. Now she is poised to defend the Canada Running Series overall title she won last year.

Her 2011 season included CRS victories at the Harry’s Spring Run Off 8K and the Toronto Yonge Street 10K, as well as a second place finish at the Banque Scotia 21K de Montreal. All three races figure prominently on her 2012 race calendar.

“Of course,” she says laughing, “I am hoping to be able to do most of the CRS races I did last year. I hope that I can get enough points to repeat as champion.”

Following a brief warm weather training camp in Florida the 25 year old from Tecumseh, Ontario will race in Hamilton’s Around the Bay 30km race then launch her CRS season the following week with the Harry’s Spring Run Off 8km April 7th. She accomplished that double last year.

“The Harry’s Race is very hilly and I think my training in Florida prepares me for that because it’s pretty hilly in Clermont, Florida,” she reveals. “I am excited for it. But an 8k is not a distance I race often. So I am hoping I will feel o.k. after ‘Around the Bay’ and be able to run like I did last year.”

A year ago she won Around the Bay and then came back to win the Harry’s race, a major fundraiser for prostate cancer research, in High Park by a whopping 37 seconds margin.

Dayna powering her way through the snow in Guelph for 2nd place at the 2010 AC National XC Championships

Pidhoresky studied Biology and Psychology at Windsor and has Bachelor degrees in both subjects. She had planned to go back to school to earn her Master’s degree and then begin a career but, after graduating, she quickly developed into a national class runner finishing 2nd at the 2010 Canadian Cross Country Championships in Guelph and 3rd last November.

“I guess I must credit my coach (Josh Seifarth), just the workouts, the way he has approached by training,” she declares. “He has really helped me take that next step forward. I am able to do the longer distances. I guess we have been working together for two and a half years now since the summer after university.

“Denis Fairall coached me at the University of Windsor he is a great coach as well but I just think I am better at the longer distances.”

The longer the better, it seems. At the moment she is virtually peerless at the half marathon distance. She won the 2010 Detroit Free Press Half marathon in an eye catching 1:13:15 and then, as if to underscore her position, she then won the 2011 Niagara Falls Half Marathon in 1:11:45. The time was under Tara Quinn-Smith’s Canadian record 1:12:09 and, had it not been for the fact it’s a point to point course, would have been her first national record.

Results like these have set tongues wagging as to what she might achieve in the full marathon distance. Plans for more education and a career have been temporarily put on hold while she explores this exciting potential. Though she is sponsored by Mizuno she works full time at Windsor’s New Balance store.

“I know my parents, at first, were sort of uneasy about that (running): ‘stay in school, get a real job,’ but this last year, seeing how successful it has been, they are a lot more supportive now,” she reveals. “I think it’s one of those things where you enjoy what you are doing and you are taking a chance at it because the future is…..it’s sort of, this one chance to do something great. I guess it’s a chance you have to take and you have to do it.”

The Pidhoresky family were delighted when she was selected for Canada’s Chiba Ekiden team – her first national team. The race was held in Chiba, Japan last November, and involves teams of six running 5km, 10km or 7.195km legs making up the full marathon distance. Also on the Canadian team was 2008 Olympian Taylor Milne. The experience of being on the team and spending time with two time Olympic 1,500m runner Thelma Wright, the team manager, proved beneficial.

“It was lots of fun. I had a great time, I would go back and do that again in a heartbeat,” she admits with a laugh. “Our team was a lot of fun and we all got along really well and the experience of racing international athletes was something I hadn’t really had a lot of doing. I’d like to get better at learning how to run after a long flight. I still managed to have a good run.

“There was an Australian runner, Georgie Clarke; I had read about her in Running Times magazine, she had run the Olympics 1,500 at the age of 16. She was there. I was so shocked because I had her picture on the title page of a phys Ed project in high school. I just chose a bunch of runners and she was one of them.”

Dayna breaks the tape at Oasis ZooRun 2011 (arguably her best performance of 2011), to become AC National 10K Champion and book her place on the Canadian Team to the Chiba Ekiden Relay in Japan.

The most important lesson, however, was that she belonged at the international level. Confidence can make a great deal of difference in distance running.

“I learned that I am not far off. I sort of belong in that competition and that’s a confidence booster,” Pidhoresky admits. “My leg was 5km which is not exactly my best event, and not something I had been training for. But I wasn’t last! It gives you confidence. I don’t have experience racing with people. A lot of times there’s no people around to push me (in a race). So I think that race I could have done a little bit better trying to respond. You are not going to learn that until you have more experience.”

Despite the nine hour return flight from Tokyo’s Narita Airport to Vancouver she managed a 3rd place finish in the Canadian Cross Country Championships just four days after the Ekiden. Not bad for a young lady from the small Ontario town of Tecumseh.

Pidhoresky attended Tecumseh High School before the University of Windsor. She ran cross country in the fall – a commendable 5th at the Ontario high school championships as a junior – and track in the spring. Summers were spent playing soccer.

“I played club soccer because my school didn’t usually have a team,” she remembers. “Throughout high school I played soccer in the summer. I probably trained more than a lot of kids and usually we trained with a school down the street from us in Windsor. There were a few girls from there we were able to hook up with to train.”

From these humble beginnings Pidhoresky is now on the brink of making her marathon debut sometime this year. She had designs on New York but realizes the five boroughs course is not kind to debutantes. The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon remains a distinct possibility. Regardless she is also aware that she will need to raise her weekly mileage above what she has been covering in training. Peak mileage, she reveals, is about 145km in a week.

“I have thought about it,” she says quietly. “The marathon distance scares me. It’s hard for me to imagine. I didn’t feel particularly fresh when I finished the half marathon and it’s hard for me to imagine running that again and not dying.

“I think it always depends on the course and the conditions. I think there’s a chance in the next few years I could break 2:30, which would be amazing. I am not sure I could do that in my first one but I think it indicates a pretty decent marathon in the future.”

A decent marathon is indeed in the cards but first there’s the more immediate task of defending her Harry’s Spring Run Off title April 7th and ultimately the coveted Canada Running Series individual title. Clearly she’s a different and more experienced athlete than she was a year ago. The prospects are exciting.

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