TORONTO. March 19th. Following his London Olympic marathon performance last August Eric Gillis lost his enthusiasm for running.
That’s completely understandable – after all, it was his second consecutive Olympic Games in a Canadian vest. Thankfully it was a temporary lapse and the 33 year old now wishes it known that he is ready to compete again at the highest level beginning with the Toronto Yonge Street 10km (April 21st).
“I didn’t have specific goals for the fall,” he explains. “I was struggling with some on again, off again injuries. I didn’t really focus, I didn’t want to push it. But now I am getting hungry to get out there again, after not racing for six months, and getting back on the line.
“That’s why I do it to get out there and compete. I enjoy running and training but I don’t want to be a full time athlete who trains and never races. The Toronto Yonge Street 10k will be a good test.”
The Antigonish, Nova Scotia native returned this month from a seven week high altitude training camp in Kenya with long time training partner and fellow Olympian, Reid Coolsaet.
“It was my first time in Kenya,” says Gillis. “I was there for seven weeks so I got in a variety of training, When I first got there I wasn’t running but the cross training facilities where we were staying were excellent. They had a pool, a bike, a rower, an elliptical machine and so I got in two weeks of cross training and then I slowly got back into running.
“Right now I feel like I am in a good position to start a marathon buildup. I am fairly fit, and healthy and for the most part, what I am happy about is that I am healthy and happy right now.”
Gillis had intended to run the Boston marathon but a nagging inflammation in his hip required some physiotherapy and a slow return to marathon training. Hence the decision to tackle the Toronto Yonge Street 10km – a race with more than a quarter century of history.
He will face Kenya’s talented Kip Kangogo who resides in Lethbridge, Alberta while awaiting Canadian citizenship. Asked how he feels about tackling such a formidable opponent in his first race of the year Gillis thinks for a moment.
“Is he running the Toronto Yonge Street 10k for sure?” Gillis deadpans. “I might go to the Vancouver then to avoid him.
“Just joking. I kind of thought he would go to Vancouver Sun Run as it’s the same day. I think he is a good competitor, that’s why I joke about avoiding him. Kip is a ‘legit 10k runner.’
Gillis is certainly very familiar with the capabilities of Kangogo. Their paths have crossed several times on the road and on the track. Two years ago Kangogo chased Reid Coolsaet and Gillis across the line at the 2011 Toronto Yonge Street 10km. Coolsaet won in 28:08.0 while Gillis ran a road best 10k of 28:08.3. Kangogo was right on their heels recording a time of 28:09.4.
Gillis remembers waking up in the hotel room he was sharing with Coolsaet not sure of his objective for the day. A proponent of the Canada Running Series he was grateful to have a race close to home but he wasn’t prepared for such a fast time.
“I was rooming with Reid,” he recalls. “He gave me his race plan when he woke up. He was going to go and try to run a fast time and take advantage of the downhill.
“I had just won the Vancouver Sun Run and I was focusing on the Ottawa 10k so that year I thought the Toronto Yonge Street 10km would be a race I could go out compete and have some fun. But when he said he wanted to run fast I had to make up my mind whether I was going to go with him. He pushed a lot in that race. Reid, myself and Kip were able to get fast times.”
A year ago Kangogo was leading into the final home straight only to have Coolsaet pip him at the finish line (see VIDEO of thrilling finish!). Although the defending champion will not be racing this year he will be at the finish line to greet the winners. Kangogo, meanwhile, will be heading to Toronto hoping to catch Gillis vulnerable. But the Speed River Track Club veteran has a reputation to uphold.
“I think for the most part my objective will be to race,” Gillis admits. “Afterwards I will look at my time and what my effort was. It’s like a reality check to see what kind of fitness I am in. You can gage fitness by workouts but a race is a race.
“With my marathon buildup I will have more mileage in my legs than I did when I ran it in 2011 so that year I could go for time more and focus on running fast. This year it will be about tactics and running fast with a lot of mileage in my legs.”
With a personal best marathon time of 2:11:28 Gillis is doing everything in his power to get below 2:10. He sees the shorter races as a chance to compete against Canada’s best.
“Other than the marathon and half marathon with road 10k’s I don’t generally look at times,” he concedes. “It’s more a competition to go out there and place. The faster you run the better you will place.
“Time is an aspect of running fast. I treat 10k’s like cross country I look at who else is in the race and how do I beat them. So I am not training and doing workouts and thinking about a goal. It’s about getting in the best possible shape I can get in.”
The Toronto Yonge Street 10km will be richer for Gillis’ presence. And it promises to be quiet a duel between the two time Olympian and Kenya’s Kip Kangogo. Seems like we will find out just how hungry Gillis is.
For more information and race registration: http://www.canadarunningseries.com/toronto10k/index.htm