“Rob Watson Banking on World Championships Berth,” by Paul Gains

  • confirmed to race Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon 2012

TORONTO, July 3. When Rob Watson lines up for the 2012 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon October 14th he fully expects to run fast enough to earn a spot on Canada’s 2013 World Championships team in Moscow.

Rob powering his way to the National 10K Road Race Championship title at OASIS ZooRun 2010

It has taken an enormous amount of personal sacrifice to get to this position both physically and emotionally.

Indeed, the 28 year old native of London, Ontario has embraced a nomadic lifestyle the past year, selling all of his belongings, including his prized 1997 BMW 328i, to finance his dream of reaching his full potential in the marathon.

“Man I loved that car,” he said recently. “I named him ‘Dieter’ and we had travelled all over North America together.

“I got rid of everything I own except for my clothes, my bike and my computer. The computer died on me last week. I sold my bed, my crepe maker and my bedroom furniture. I didn’t have a lot of possessions to begin with. It was a combination of needing money and also just purging because I was moving across the country. It’s worked out well so far.”

This past spring in a last ditch effort to achieve the Olympic qualifying standard, Watson went to Rotterdam. Through 35km he was on pace to achieve the 2:11:29 standard but as he puts it he ‘blew up’ thereafter fading to 2:13:37. That race, besides lowering his previous marathon best of 2:16:17 (Houston 2011), was a milestone in his young marathoning career.

“It was a make or break race,” he explains. “If I didn’t run under 2:15 I was going to kind of back off the competitive scene. I love this sport and put my heart and soul into it but, at the same time, to put this much effort and only be a 2:15 – 2:16 guy wasn’t really worth the effort. So I really wanted to justify continuing in the sport.

Rob leading the pack at Scotiabank Vancouver Half marathon 2011

“For a day or two I was upset. But then, taking a step back, I realized I had run 2:13 and proved to myself I could be good at this sport. That was only my second full marathon buildup. It got me excited and I was happy to keep moving forward and keep working hard.”

Three years ago the graduate of Colorado State University represented Canada at the 2009 IAAF World Track and Field Championships in the 3,000m steeplechase. At the time he was a member of Speed River Track Club in Guelph, Ontario. Though he lowered his best time to 8:27.09 to qualify that wasn’t good enough to continue his monthly Sport Canada stipends. Always resourceful, to make ends meet, he maintained a crepe stand at the Guelph farmers market on weekends.

These days he calls Flagstaff, Arizona home. He has been renting a room in a friend’s house so he can take advantage of the high altitude. For several weeks he trained there with Olympic-bound marathoner Dylan Wykes and the pair got along well. He also spent some time in his old training grounds in Fort Collins, Colorado but the raging wildfires nearby prevented him from running in the foothills and so he returned to Flagstaff. He says he is very much living out of his suitcase – and loving it.

Watson parted company with Speed River coach Dave Scott-Thomas and his training partners Olympic marathoners Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis, in January of this year, while training in North Carolina. His brother Pete Watson was then coaching at UNC and agreed to help him. They communicate by emails and the occasional phone call.

The move away from Guelph took many by surprise. Watson says it was necessary for his own personal growth.

“I just kind of stagnated and I wasn’t super happy with the way things were working in Guelph,” Watson recalls. “I think Dave was pretty sick of me as well. Also, life in general wasn’t great. I am a 28 years old guy living in Guelph, which is more of a university town, so I really wasn’t getting stimulated outside of running. I had the running scene but didn’t really have much outside of that in Guelph. I wanted to make a change.”

“Pete is a great coach. When things kind of fell apart with Dave he said ‘hey man I will coach you if you want a coach.’ I said yeah, guide me through this. So I did his program through Rotterdam. It was radically different to what I had been doing and it really worked. So I am going to continue working with Pete and hopefully I will be able to work with Dylan and Richard Lee some more. They have a good thing going. Richard has a brilliant mind.”

To that end Watson plans to move to Vancouver in August. The mountains and beaches were a lure he couldn’t resist after visiting the city a couple of times. So far he hasn’t missed training with Gillis and Coolsaet. Through the buildup to the 2011 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon they had all trained together several times a week.

“I don’t really compare myself to them, they are very different runners,” Watson says of the pair who remain his friends. “Reid and Gillis are much more mature runners. They are better marathon runners than I am right now. I am young. They are professionals. They have mastered the marathon they know what they are doing. It’s great to look up to them; they have been great role models. One day I would love to be at their level but I am not there yet. I have some learning to do with the event.”

In his buildup to his Toronto date he plans an extended period of high mileage, 140 miles per week, tapering in time to be at his best on the day. He recently agreed a sponsorship deal with Asics and thanks to some meagre road race earnings and a rapidly depleting savings account he believes he can prepare adequately.

Watson plans to run the Toronto 10 mile road race (a Canada Running Series event) on Sunday August 12th as part of his preparation for the STWM. Naturally, the big goal is the marathon.

“It’s going to be fun heading into a race with a little less pressure and a little more to work with,” he declares. “The last two marathons I raced the goal has been the Olympic qualifying time of 2:11:28.

“But heading into this race I have a little more breathing space. So I am going to run a little more conservative race. But I think the way I am heading under 2:12 would be a great stepping stone. I am looking forward to working hard and hitting that goal.”

For more information on Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon see www.stwm.ca

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