TORONTO. July 3. It gives me enormous pleasure to make ERIC GILLIS our first Pro Athlete announcement for the 25th Anniversary running of our Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon event. Eric has been an important part of the recent history of the race. None of us who were there, or watched the broadcast, will ever forget his “eyeballs-out” sprint to the line in 2011, to achieve the qualifying standard for the London 2012 Olympic marathon by one second [see photo below]. Imagine. All that training. Racing 42.195 kilometres. And you make your Olympic dream by ONE second. One step to glory! One step away!
Eric is a marvelous ambassador for STWM, and for our sport of distance running in Canada. As a two-time Olympian he is the consummate professional — dedicated, determined and tremendously hard-working. He is a remarkably consistent performer.
Beyond that he is a wonderful role model, not just as an athlete, but as a husband, father, and someone committed to getting out in the community to make it a better place. He’s especially great with kids and schools groups. Paul Gains’ latest feature speaks to some of Eric’s skills in balancing life, family and running at the highest international levels.
GOOD LUCK to everyone training over the next few months. I look forward with excitement and anticipation to seeing all of you cross that Finish Line on Bay Street with Eric on October 19th.
Alan Brookes, Race Director.
Eric Gillis Rebuilding For 2014 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, by Paul Gains
Less is more as Eric Gillis looks ahead to the 2014 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon this coming October 19th searching for a new personal best time.
The 34 year old, who has twice represented Canada at the Olympic Games, understands the importance of taking the pedal off the metal occasionally to rebuild, not only the body, but the mind. He plans on being refreshed and replenished when he lines up for this IAAF Silver Label race for the fourth time in his career.
On May 25th he won the 2014 Canadian men’s marathon title in Ottawa to highlight a busy spring racing schedule. More recently he and his family have been spending time at his parent’s home in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. While family time has been precious when he returns to Guelph in early August he will begin the necessary buildup towards the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
“I did quite a bit of racing in the spring so I am taking a step back,” he explains. “I am getting out there once a day and putting in a solid run, then getting to the gym more and more, getting into a routine. I am putting in the work training wise, a couple of hours in the morning. That’s it for running.
“I will do a little less racing leading up to Toronto and put the emphasis on time. In Ottawa I was looking at tactics and executing my racing strategy, which was to try and run a negative split and work the back end. I felt quite good after Ottawa and felt I raced quite well. The buildup for Toronto will be more emphasis on running a personal best time and getting the most out of my training on that day time-wise.”Gillis’s three best marathon times have all been run on the Toronto course. Who doesn’t remember his Olympic qualifying mark at the 2011 edition of the race when he ran 2:11:28 to earn his place? Last year he came close to that personal best running 2:11:49. But he remembers fondly the 2010 Toronto race where he recorded 2:12:08 making a big breakthrough.
“I like the weather that I had in 2010 in Toronto which was my first time doing the Toronto race,” Gillis says. “The course is good enough to run a fast time. I enjoy turning back against the masses on Lakeshore, I enjoy that stretch.
“It’s a course that I feel I can run well on and run fast. You know what? After running it three times and, being mostly happy each time, I have the feeling I can run fast. Especially 2011 when I had my personal best on that course. The course is fine. The pavement doesn’t change but the wind that day was crazy. To run fast on a crazy windy course then ….if I were to get a day like 2010 again that would give me the opportunity to run fast. I know I have done it before and can do it again.”
As always he gives credit to the Canada Running Series team and Race Director Alan Brookes for providing a setup designed for Canadian marathoners to run fast times. The pacemakers chosen to help the elite Canadians are one factor and the enormous crowd support is another.
“I definitely felt the support with shouts of “Go Reid (Coolsaet), Go Eric” and then with the half marathon finishing and the crowds around the finish at that time,” he recalls. “There were people in 2011 who even said that they had their goal to finish the half marathon to watch me finish. That was neat. So the atmosphere is definitely supportive.”
The active ‘sabbatical’ Gillis has been taking for Toronto has also taken off some of the strain his wife Emily bears when he is in pure marathon training mode. A few years ago the couple bought some land near his parents’ home and are going to landscape it for camping purposes – a ‘back to basics’ experience for them and their two young children.
“You eat up more time when training for a marathon,” he explains. “Recovery is more important. There’s getting to bed on time at night and getting the sleep. It’s actually more work for my wife, with Emily having to get up with the kids through the night, then she’s the first one up in the morning. She did that with Ottawa. She is supportive of that and I am able to keep running because of it. That something that is a challenge but we are up for it for the next cycle.”
Despite his enviable curriculum vitae he remains well motivated according to his long time coach, Dave Scott-Thomas.
“Yes. I see the hunger as strong as ever,” the coach declares. “I think there’s a combination of forces that get people out the door running and certainly some of it, in his case, is the pragmatic element, it’s his job. He works very, very hard at it. But at the root of it, he just genuinely loves it.
“I don’t think you can ever replace that and swap things out. This has been a really fun year. He’s been in a different zone and that was conscious on both our parts. Early on we felt the Commonwealth Games was not going to fit into the program, So we wanted to make this a year of just doing everything we needed to do with his body and mind to just feel good and he has been racing through the roof and been showing up and working hard. He’s got that big grin on his face and he’s ready for more.”
Both Gillis and Scott-Thomas believe there’s a fast time in the cards whether it is in Toronto this year or elsewhere. And he is not completely satisfied with two Olympic appearances either.
“Certainly running a time in Toronto that got people excited that would give me that elation,” Gillis reveals. “Sub 2:10 is a number that I would really enjoy. It’s possible. I don’t think I can take it for granted and I don’t know when I will do it and I am certainly not predicting it in Toronto. But it’s something that would be fun for me to do. That and finishing top 16 at the 2016 Olympics would be another one that would put a smile on my face. Those are two things that, if the stars aligned, that would be quite fun.”
Gillis is the first elite athlete to be named for this year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and over the coming weeks he will be joined by some of the world’s best. All add to the competitive nature exuding from the race, a 25 year old fixture on the calendar, as a matter of fact. Gillis will revel in the excitement and hope it leads to that personal best he covets.
For More Information and to register: www.stwm.ca (next price increase is July 28th).