Two Time Olympian Eric Gillis Confirmed for Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon by Paul Gains

TORONTO. August 6th. It gives me enormous pleasure to announce that Eric Gillis will be on the Start line of this year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Sunday, October 20th. Not only is Eric a super nice guy, and someone who has been a key player in moving Canadian  marathoning onto the world stage, but he is arguably the star of one of STWMs “Greatest Moments”! None of us who were there, or watched it on CBC, will ever forget Eric’s eyeballs-out sprint up Bay Street to the Finish Line in 2011, to cross in 2:11:28 and realize his Olympic Dream by ONE seconed. That was 42 kilometres, 195 metres, and he qualified for the London Olympic Marathon by one, amazing minuscule second…. A heartbeat away from London, but on his way.   

Will he send us all into cardiac arrest this Fall by nailing Jerome Drayton’s 2:10:09, 38-year-old Canadian National record by a second? I can’t wait to be there and see it all unfold on October 20th! Please bring me a chair and some oxygen…   

In the meantime, please enjoy and circulate Paul Gains’ latest piece, on Eric Gillis.   

Alan Brookes, Race Director       

Two Time Olympian Eric Gillis Confirmed for Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon   

by Paul Gains   

Eric's fmous sprint to the line at STWM 2011!

 Less than eleven weeks remain before the 2013 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and Canada’s Eric Gillis has announced he will be racing the IAAF Silver Label race.   

The addition of the two-time Olympian comes at a refreshing time for organisers who are noted for their tremendous support of Canadian marathoners. Just two weeks ago defending champion Sahle Warga of Ethiopia confirmed he will also be on the starting line.   

Gillis’ commitment is especially welcome. Since representing his country at the 2012 summer Olympics the 33 year old native of Antigonish, Nova Scotia has been dealing with a nagging injury. With the aid of physiotherapy specialists he is confidently training for the October 20th race where he is expecting to be counted among the money earners.   

“I am feeling good about it,” he says. “I had some issues with my hip being weak and not having proper alignment and causing muscles to be overused. It was preventing me from doing a full workout.   

“I had a great workout yesterday with a few other guys from the club. We ran 35km with some tempo running in there. Things are coming around.”   

The frustration of the past year was understandably harsh and he wondered at one point if he would continue running. A winter visit to Kenya’s high altitude training centre of Iten was meant to prepare him for the Boston Marathon. But the injury flared up and he scratched. So he entered the Ottawa marathon but had to withdraw from that one too.   

Finally, he sees the potential of running faster than his personal best of 2:11:28 which made him the seventh fastest Canadian in history. That was recorded in at Toronto Waterfront two years ago.   

“I chose not to confirm I was running Toronto until I was confident that I will be able to do the training,” Gillis said this week. “So it’s twelve weeks now. I talked to (Race Director) Alan (Brookes) last week and I told him that I am confident I will be able to compete the way I want to in Toronto. There won’t be setbacks because of this hip. It’s good to go as far as I am concerned.”   

One significant difference this time around is the absence of his training partner and Speed River Track Club training partner Reid Coolsaet. The latter was preparing to run Toronto and had his sights set on Jerome Drayton’s 38 year old national record of 2:10:09 but he broke his collarbone when he fell of his bicycle.   

“So far the workouts I have been doing I have had Nick Sunseri and Johana Karianke my friend from Kenya,” Gillis reveals. “I haven’t actually done any running by myself. Those guys have been around for previous buildups. Reid and I have been working together really well the past few years but so far on this buildup I haven’t missed him. I am sure I will.”   

Gillis laughs at his statement. The pair are very close friends if very different personalities. Whereas Coolsaet is supremely confident and not easily distracted, Gillis is the epitome of caution. To hear him speak so positively about the upcoming marathon is, therefore, astonishing.   

“I made the decision to run Toronto and I want to spend the next twelve weeks focusing on each day and getting the most out of that,” he continues. “I will know at the end of the Toronto marathon whether I achieved the most I could in that race with the training that I did or didn’t do.   

“If I do have a positive attitude about that, and I run as well as I possibly can, then it will make it much easier to keep going on to Rio 2016, striving to make my third Olympic team. If I am not able to make the Canadian record in Toronto, knowing that I did the best that I could, that’s going to help me get to the next marathon and try and get after that record again.”   

Eric has raced well at a range of distances from 10K to marathon and has been Canadian Half Marathon Champion the last 2 years in a row

The race title sponsor Scotiabank has put up a bonus of $38,000 for a Canadian record performance $1,000 for every year Drayton’s time has stood. To hear Gillis speak about it is surprising but he is quick to clarify where it stands in relation to his preparation.   

“It’s one of those huge bonuses that would amazing if it were to happen,” he reveals. “It sure makes picking Toronto, as opposed to any other marathon, a lot easier but it doesn’t change my day to day training. It doesn’t change my mileage or the workouts that (coach) Dave (Scott-Thomas) prescribes. Right now very few marathoners are going to start predicting a time twelve weeks out Some never do.”   

Over the years Gillis has been the beneficiary of Athletics Canada funding. But since he is not competing in the IAAF World Championships next week he will not be eligible for funding in 2013-2014. He maintains a part time job at a group home in Guelph and relies on appearance money from races.   

“That (Athletics Canada carding money) has been a huge support over the years,” he explains. “I have the benefit of running these big races now like Toronto so if I was to run well there that would be huge financial help. I do work a little bit still at the group home. I do some sleep-over shifts Community Living in Guelph helping people with disabilities.”   

Gillis reveals that he and Coolsaet have started a venture together that provides online coaching using computerised algorithms. It’s a website called vicsystem and was designed in Switzerland.   

Outside of his marathon training Gillis and his wife Emily are expecting their second child in November. A large part of his day is spent caring for their three year old daughter Heidi. Recently the family went on a canoeing trip on the nearby Speed River and also visited family and friends in Nova Scotia. The marathoner also involves his daughter in many of his activities.   

“I have been running with her,” he reveals with a laugh. “I told Emily that I wouldn’t push a stroller because I am a ‘professional runner’ and then I found ‘you know what’ sometimes, when I need a second run or she needs to be picked up from daycare, it’s just a whole lot easier to kill two birds with one stone.”   


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