MARCH 13. While many of Canada’s leading distance runners escaped the winter with warm weather training camps Krista DuChene has endured one of the coldest spells in history in her quest for greater success.
Fit and enthused, among other goals, the Brantford, Ontario resident now has her sights set on defending her Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal title on April 27.
The race, which is celebrating its twelfth year, doubles as the Canadian Half Marathon Championship but has also attracted international performers. Two-time World Marathon Champion Catherine Ndereba of Kenya won the race in 2008 a few months before claiming the Olympic silver medal in Beijing. The race has also attracted Canadian Olympians Reid Coolsaet (2011 champion) and Eric Gillis (2012 and 2013 champion) in past years. Gillis, in fact, is aiming for his third consecutive title.
This is the fourth year Athletics Canada has awarded the race national championship status and, at the time of writing, it is 80% sold out. The capacity of 5,700 is expected to be filled easily. Organizers are also proud that over $700,000 will be raised for 50 Montreal area charities in the Scotiabank Charity Challenge.
DuChene, a 36 year old mother of three young children, beat the long standing Canadian Women’s Marathon record at the 2013 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon with a time of 2 hours 28:32, finishing 4th overall in the IAAF Silver Label race. In order to run faster still she has resorted to extraordinary measures to put in the miles these past few months.
“Twice a week I have been setting my alarm for 4:40am to be on the road by 5:00 am no matter what the weather, to get my run in, to be back to get the kids ready for school at 7am,” she reveals. “So I go to bed at a decent time. The nice thing is, I take the boys to school, and then I have a little cat nap. It has been challenging and it has got to make me stronger.
“It has been brutal but I have got no choice other than being on the treadmill five days a week. It’s so much colder, but that’s what you get when you are a mum with kids. I don’t feel sorry for myself. It’s the life I choose and I love it. But it has been rough.”
Like the majority of Canadians Spring can’t come soon enough and she is anxious to test herself against her peers. She won the Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal a year ago in a very quick time of 1:12:28 – just 19 seconds off Tara Quinn-Smith’s 2009 course record of 1:12:09 – a time widely considered a Canadian best performance on a legal course.
Her margin of victory over Dayna Pidhoresky, the 2011 CRS overall title winner, was a whopping four minutes eleven seconds.
“I am pretty bad for remembering much about a course at all, to be honest. As many times as I have done Scotiabank and any other race I just get in the zone and look at the kilometre markings,” DuChene says laughing.
“It’s certainly fun to go there to Montreal. It’s a decent course and there are other guys to run with as well as the girls. I remember running with Terry Gehl the masters runner and a couple of other people and thinking I might be close to the Canadian Record.”
DuChene does remember running through beautiful Parc Jean Drapeau and around world renowned Gilles Villeneuve Formula One Circuit. She knows that the race will give her a very real indication of how she has fared through the bitter winter. Always, she says, she wants to ‘set the bar higher’ and improve her performances. And, over the past few years she has been one of the biggest proponents of the Canada Running Series winning the overall title in 2012.
“All of the CRS courses are so well laid out, we are taken care of, and every detail is always perfect. It’s great that you never have anything to worry about,” she explains. “Once you get there you go with the flow which makes focusing on the task great. Dayna was second last year coming back from an injury. But in past years there have been a group of people that ran together and, I mean, it would be great if we had that this year.”
Apart from her training on the roads and on the treadmill at the Brantford YMCA her days are filled with domestic activities.
“I spend some time with my daughter just reading books, drink coffee, maybe take her to a play group or the library,” she reveals. “Then I volunteer at the kids school once a week, help in the classroom, then come back and have a real nap, half an hour or so. I mean, laundry, housework dishes, laundry groceries it doesn’t end.”
During the winter Olympics she was often parked in front of the television watching the women’s hockey. During her days as a student at the University of Guelph she played on the women’s varsity hockey team.
“I watched the women’s Olympic final game. It was pretty phenomenal,” she says laughing. “I sacrificed a nap that afternoon. I think it was one of the days I got up early.”
DuChene reveals she and coach Rick Mannen have been working on improving her speed and strength which will likely cause nerves in her competitors. Last year, it will be remembered, she won the hilly Harry’s Spring Run Off 8k in Toronto’s High Park in a fast time beating Kate Van Buskirk, who was a semi finalist in the 2013 World Championships 1,500m in Moscow.
Among her other Springtime ambitions is to run a fast 10,000m on the track at one of the two major California track and field meets.
“The goal was to work on my speed and strength and we have been doing that,” she says. “We might back off a little bit; I don’t want to run a fast 10k on the track and get an injury that takes me all through the summer to recover. Definitely I think I can run faster still. I am not sure what marathon I will do. Ideally I would like to do the Commonwealth Games in July but I am not sure if I will be named to the team because they are taking a smaller team.”
Clearly, the results of the Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal will reveal a lot about DuChene’s fitness. A successful defense of her Canadian Half Marathon title would be a fitting result given the harsh winter she has tolerated. At 36 she just keeps getting better.