Olympians to Run Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon, by Paul Gains

Two members of Canada’s 2012 Olympic marathon team will line up at the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon June 24th in their final race before the London Olympics.

Jubilant Eric Gillis & Reid Coolsaet after running the standard to put themselves on the Canadian Olympic team for London, at last October's Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Eric Gillis and Reid Coolsaet have prepared meticulously for the games since achieving the qualifying standard at last year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Coolsaet was 3rd on that occasion (2:10:55) with Gillis 4th (2:11:28). Since then they have enjoyed the benefits of a high altitude training camp in Flagstaff, Arizona.

Coolsaet also spent six weeks in Kenya running with some of that country’s top runners. There has only been one minor setback, he says. A recent bout of bronchitis forced the 32 year from Hamilton, Ontario to pull out of a 10km race in Ottawa but now he is ready to test himself in Vancouver.

“Training has been going well since I had bronchitis,” Coolsaet reveals. “I just needed to take the intensity out for a couple of weeks. I had a workout on Monday and it was one of those workouts that told me that I have nothing to worry about. I was a little worried I was behind the ball but now I know I am a little ahead at this point.”

Kip Kanagogo knows that winning feeling in Vancouver, having won the last 3 editions of SVHM!

That can only mean bad news for the elite field assembled for the race which includes defending champion Kip Kangogo (1:03:22), Rob Watson, who ran a personal best of 2:13:37 at Rotterdam Marathon in the spring, as well as Gillis.

“I am looking for a solid effort,” says Coolsaet. “The course is downhill then has a pretty big uphill coming across the Burrard Street Bridge. It will be different. I am looking forward to it. I am not fixated on a certain time. Definitely, I am running against the guys I usually run against so I am definitely looking for the win.”

The two Olympians have focused on training as much as 240 kilometres a week in a buildup for London but have occasionally raced to break up the monotony of their training regime and to test their fitness levels.

Coolsaet beat the Kenyan born Kangogo at the Toronto Yonge Street 10km (April 22nd) while Gillis was the victor at the Banque Scotia 21km de Montreal (April 29th).

Kangogo currently leads the Canada Running Series overall standings and is always a fierce competitor. Winning the series is one of his season’s goals. Another is performing well at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October where he wants to solidify a place in the Canadian team for the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow. He is hoping to receive Canadian citizenship, if not later this year, then early in 2013.

If conditions are right the 2007 course record held by Patrick Nthiwa (Kenya) of 1:03:10 could fall.

The women’s race features two candidates for the Canadian marathon team Lanni Marchant and Krista Duchene, who both ran so well at the 2012 Rotterdam Marathon.

Marchant of London, Ontario finished 5th in that race in a time of 2:31:50 while Duchene ran 2:32:06 for 7th. Both achieved the IAAF qualifying standard of 2:37:00 but fell short of the much tougher Athletics Canada standard of 2:29:55. They have since appealed to be added to the Canadian Olympic team as ‘rising stars’.

“I was surprised,” Marchant said of her Rotterdam performance. “I knew I was fit. I had run a decent half in Atlanta a few weeks before so I knew I would run substantially faster than I had in Chicago. But I was still a bit surprised I actually made it happen and ran a pretty fast time.

“I crossed the finish line and it was emotional. I was happy for the time I ran but immediately had a bit of a letdown with ‘oh jeez, like, if I do get named to the team it’s not going to be an easy way of doing it.’”

Marchant raced in the Bolder Boulder 10km in Colorado on May 28th finishing 11th in a time of 35:02 which, considering the altitude and the hilly course, was a good effort. Since the race she has been staying with Canadian born British Olympian, Kathy Butler in Nederland, Colorado getting some high altitude training in before heading to Vancouver.

“I feel like if I can keep my training the way it’s been going I’d like to run a fairly quick time,” she reveals, “dip under 1:13 or maybe go under 1:12 if it’s a fast enough course and fast enough day. But really I have no way of knowing because when you are training at altitude you modify everything. So I really don’t know what kind of shape I will be in.”

“The last month I have been keeping my frustration low and dealing with the appeal as one thing and my goals over the next year as something completely separate. I am using the momentum I built from Rotterdam to keep me training, to keep me progressing and moving forward.”

Lioudmila Kortchaguina set the course record of 1:10:46 here in 2003. The overall winners receive $1,500 each with an additional $1,000 on offer for a course record.

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