The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon has historically presented an opportunity for young Canadian athletes to test themselves against the world’s best. Some have gone on to represent this country at the Olympics or World Championships.
The latest in this line of potential world beaters is Kelly Wiebe. Six months ago he was seriously ill and hospitalized. Now he is looking for a fast marathon debut at this IAAF Silver Label Race on Sunday October 19th.
Is Kelly Wiebe Next in Long Line of Elite Canadian Marathoners? By Paul Gains
Kelly breaks the tape at this year’s Modo Spring Run Off 8k in Stanley Park, Vancouver, almost a minute ahead of the competition. March 23. Photo. Steve Tomlinson, Marathon-Photos.com
TORONTO. September 10th. Over its twenty five year history the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon has provided a launching pad for the careers of many Canadian athletes. The latest prodigy appears to be Kelly Wiebe.
The 25 year old from Swift Current, Saskatchewan moved to Vancouver sixteen months ago to train with the head coach of the BC Endurance Project, Richard Lee, and his talented group of elites. The group includes Dylan Wykes and Rob Watson both of whom having represented Canada at the IAAF World Championships. Wykes also raced in the 2012 London Olympics.
Wiebe, who was a member of the Canadian team at both the 2011 and 2013 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, will make his marathon debut in Toronto, October 19th. The event has earned an IAAF Silver Label every year since the inception of the program in 2008. In common parlance he is jumping in with both feet.
“Originally we were going to focus on the 10,000m and we did a little bit,” says Wiebe, a graduate of the University of Regina’s Environmental Engineering program. “But I started doing longer workouts with Dylan and Rob and I took it really well. Things were really moving along.
“Richard said ‘it wouldn’t hurt to get a marathon under your belt at a young age.’ I consider 25 a younger age for marathon running. He said it would be a good experience moving forward. I still want to run the 10,000m at the Pan Am Games hopefully next summer. I think the main focus will be the marathon at the 2015 World Championships and the Olympics.”
Watson will be lining up at the race but Wykes is a recent scratch having succumbed to a stress fracture in his ankle. Both have been sharing invaluable information with their younger training partner.
Kelly cruising to victory, past Siwash Rock, at this Spring’s Modo SRO 8k. Photo: Inge Johnson, Canada Running Series
“I can’t thank those guys enough,” Wiebe declares. “They have helped me out hugely in the marathon. I talk to Dylan a lot about what he does in preparation, what he does day of, everything. I talk to him about everything to do with the marathon. He has helped me out a ton and I really used this experience in this buildup along with the stuff Richard has been telling me.
“I think Richard is a great coach, the best marathon coach we have in Canada. They have taught me a lot.”
Lee has always taken a pretty conservative approach when it comes to predicting what his athletes might be capable of running on a given day. And, it seems he has wisely put the reins on Wiebe despite some pretty amazing workouts in the past couple of months. Consequently, Wiebe has more modest goals for Toronto.
“I don’t want to say I am going to run 2:10, 2:11 or 2:12, there’s no sense in putting that kind of pressure on myself in my first marathon,” he reasons. “But, realistically, I think I am in really good shape, and I think I can pull off something pretty spectacular given the right conditions. But I think I am going to be gunning for a 2:16 somewhere around there for my first marathon.”
By way of comparison Wykes, who is Canada’s second fastest man in history at 2:10:47, debuted with a time of 2:15:16 in 2008.
While coach and athlete take a sensible approach to Wiebe’s Toronto preparation there are others who practically salivate at the prospects of this talented young man lining up in a world class field. Remarkably, there was a time, not so long away, when he wondered if he was ever going to lace up his shoes again.
While training in Santa Cruz, California last April he experienced an unusual pain in his groin. Within days he developed a fever and became deathly ill. Having flown to the training camp without purchasing medical insurance he was in a bind.
“I ended up flying back to Vancouver for treatment,” he remembers. “They found out I had a blood infection and also a blood clot in the adductor muscle which was the source of the infection. It was causing extreme pain. I was on antibiotics in the hospital for three weeks and then another week and a half on “IV’ at home and then pills after that. So I was out for a long time from beginning of April to the end of May.”
Under the circumstances Wiebe’s present fitness is extraordinary. He believes he was in the best shape of his life prior to the illness and that just maybe his body needed a rest.
“It was almost unexpected how fast I came back but I think it’s one of those things where my body needed rest,” he reasons. “Looking back I had been training really, really hard through university without a break. This gave me a chance for total complete break.
“I didn’t do any exercise for four weeks. When I did get back I did pool running. My body did take a good break and also obviously the infection was out of my body and who knows how long that had been in my body. So we are extremely pleased with how fast I had come around. All the residual mileage over the years, it’s not that hard to understand. It comes back quick. I have run so many miles over the last six years.”
The move to Vancouver was a complete adjustment from his experience living in Saskatchewan. But he has been fortunate to receive a stipend from the Reed Athletics Fund, a program initiated by the 2007 IAAF World Championship 800m silver medalist, Gary Reed.
“Rent alone is probably twice as expensive as it is back home in Saskatchewan,” he says, “but I am supported by a few groups one of them being the Reed Athletics Fund. They try to sponsor up and coming athletes who are in need of financial support who are looking to compete at Olympics or world championship.
“I was lucky when I moved out here to be accepted as one of their sponsored athletes. They give me a monthly allowance to help pay for rent and my training. I am also sponsored by Saucony. That helps and I earn a little at road races. I also work at Forerunners part time. It’s still not easy.”
With four more weeks of training Wiebe is on the right path to be the next in a line of Canadians enjoying marathon running success. The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon could very well be the scene of something special.