News & Releases >> September 17 2007

NEWS Sep 17 2007

Competitive Team Canada announced for International Team Challenge at Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon; and the prospect of even better things to come!

TORONTO. September 17th, 2007. Manager Hugh Cameron today announced his Team Canada selections for the upcoming International Team Challenge at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on September 30th. This year's team will be an all-Western affair, with three British Columbians and an Albertan carrying the Canadian colours against Team Mexico, Team GB and Team America/USA. Ryan Day of Kitimat, Jerry Ziak of Vancouver, Janelle Morrison of Fort St. John and Lisa Harvey of Calgary will make up the 2 men, 2 women Canadian squad. The teams are designated as "developmental" national teams, providing opportunities for younger, up and coming athletes to gain important international-level experience. On race day, it will be the best 3 performances to count, and the Canucks are hopeful they can dethrone the reigning champs from Mexico.

Ryan Day - photo by Stepho Chang

The 25 year old Day provides a great example of the type of athlete targeted by the Team Challenge. A member of the Secwepemc Nation, Bonaparte Band, he grew up in Northern BC playing hockey and soccer, then caught the running bug at the Terry Fox Run in 1994. From there he joined the Cross-Country and Track teams at Mount Elizabeth High School in Kitimat, and subsequently dropped his other sports.

After high school, he 'walked on' to the Simon Fraser University Track and Cross Country programmes, earning All-American standing, but eventually left the programme in late 2003 to run full-time and train for the marathon. Ryan's debut came in Ottawa in May 2004, a disappointing 2:32:21:
"it came with little success for me, but a lot of lessons learned in the race and training. My next completed marathon was in Ottawa again, in 2005, where I ran 2:19:55 for 8th overall and second Canadian, two weeks after coming second in the Canadian Half-marathon championships."

After this initial surge, Day drifted away from serious, competitive marathoning, to focus his energies on "a new passion", helping native youth in Vancouver, as a "High Risk Aboriginal Youth One to One worker". Last May, he was a key leader in a Prayer Run for World Peace, a relay run by indigenous youth from Vancouver, BC to Anchorage, Alaska. As a group, they ran 70-90 miles a day for 6 weeks leading up to World Peace and Prayer Day on the summer solstice, June 21.

Unable to shake the marathon bug, however, Day applied this year to become a full-time athlete in the Brooks Canada Distance Project, formed last summer, and led by Coach Hugh Cameron. The project is modeled after the highly successful African running camps in Kenya and Ethiopia, and more so after the camps set up in the USA at Mammoth Lakes, California, and by Brooks-Hansons Olympic Distance Project at Rochester Hills, Michigan. Hugh Cameron was well known as Canada's #1 marathon coach in the '80s, guiding the likes of Dave Edge to 2:11 performances, and Silvia Ruegger to an 8th place finish in the inaugural marathon for women at the Olympics in Los Angeles—an unknown young woman from Newtonville placing 8th in the world, right up there with legends like Joan Benoit, Grete Waitz, Ingrid Kristiansen and Rosa Mota. Ruegger's 2:28:36 that she ran at Houston in January 1985, under Cameron's tutelage, still stands as the Canadian women's national mark 22 years later.

Then came the desolation of the '90s. Perhaps discouraged by the waves of Kenyans and other African athletes, North American marathoning became pitiful. By the turn of the century, Americans were starting to question why there were none of their own on the podiums any more in the distance events. Where were the new Frank Shorters, Bill Rodgers and Joan Benoits? Things began to happen. High performance camps were established like Team Running USA at Mammoth Lakes in January 2001, and Brooks-Hansons in 2003, plus some smaller ones in places like Monterrey and Minneapolis. They were created by the private sector: in the case of Team Running USA, by Nike, the ING New York City Marathon and the Atlanta Track Club.

By Athens, the results were clear, with both Deena Kastor [bronze] and Meb Keflizighi [silver] winning Olympic marathon medals [ ]. Both were products of Mammoth Lakes. These were the first Olympic marathon medals the USA had won since 1984 [Joan Benoit], and for men since Frank Shorter in 1976. At Boston '06, Meb was 3rd overall in 2:09:56 and Brian Sell from the Hanson's team was fourth. American men took six of the top eleven places. A week later Deena won London, "the world's greatest marathon", in a new American record of 2:19:36. This January, young Californian, Ryan Hall [another Mammoth Lakes athlete, just 24 years of age] broke Mark Curp's 22 year old American Half Marathon record by more than a minute, with a remarkable 59:43 clocking at Houston; in April he ran a fabulous 2:08:24 marathon debut at London, good for 7th among the world's very best.

Canadians have continued to flounder and wallow in the marathon basement until last July when Mike Dyon, himself a past 2:14 marathoner and brother Paul, owners of Brooks Canada, set up the new Brooks Canada Distance Project, with $1.5 million funding guaranteed over 5 years. Hugh Cameron, Mike's old coach, was named head of the project. Cameron had been absent from the country in the '90s, transferred by Kodak from Toronto to Rochester, returning in 2001 and taking early retirement in '03. Gradually, Cameron has built up a team of 9 full-time athletes from across the country; just last week, the Dyons purchased a $1 million house on High Park Avenue to accommodate the athletes, and the set-up phase was complete.

Over the summer, Ryan Day's application was accepted, and he moved permanently to Toronto and the BCDP on September 5th. He will complete his final preparations for Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon under Coach Cameron, and lead Team Canada on the day. It will be exciting to see what happens not only on the 30th, but also over the next few years. Can the BCDP replicate the US success over a 5-year period? Can Cameron produce results not only in the International Team Challenge at Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront, but also get someone on the podium for London, or even just someone to qualify for the Olympic Marathon in 2012?!

Jerry Ziak

At 31, Jerry Ziak is also a determined "up and comer". In his own words, "my goal for 2007/08 is to make the transition from a national to an international-level athlete; specifically, to qualify for the Beijing Olympics in the 10000 metres or marathon".

Jerry trains with Marek Jedrzejek and the Kajaks Club at UBC in Vancouver. Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront '07 will be his marathon debut. He's hoping he can translate his Half Marathon best of 65:22 into the marathon equivalent of around 2:17:45 or better:

It has been in my plans for a while to debut in the marathon this fall. The past year has been dedicated to a higher overall volume and a greater emphasis on threshold and marathon paced training than ever before with 5k-10k races used more as speed training than as goals in themselves. I'm training to run a 3:10 pace for my first marathon.

And things seem to be on track! Two weeks ago Jerry wrote:

My training is going well. Before having a few days of lower mileage in the last week I recorded my highest 3 week mileage total ever (390 miles) and felt strong throughout with my workouts getting faster each week with no additional effort. This weekend I'll be running the Nanaimo Harbour City Half Marathon as a marathon pace session and "water cup grabbing" practice. I'm hoping that with minimal cutback in volume I can run around 1:07:30 without difficulty. The course is a net uphill on the way out of town and net downhill back so I'm thinking that this should be equivalent to going through in under 1:07:00 on a course like Toronto Waterfront.

Ziak won the Harbour City Half comfortably by 30 seconds, but a tad slower than planned in 68:10. Yet he was more 90 seconds clear of hometown favourite Steve Osaduik, who ran 2:16:49 in winning Royal Victoria Marathon last October—a good rival to have soundly defeated!

Janelle Morrison

Janelle Morrison of Fort St. John also fits the developing athlete mould nicely. The 29 year old will be running her 4th marathon on September 30th. At Ottawa this Spring, Janelle ran 2:54:24, in an international-class race, a time that was a 9 minute improvement over her previous outing when she won a regional, national race at the Edmonton Marathon in August 2006 in 3:03. She has recently moved to Calgary to train under Canadian distance coach Mike Van Tighem, and she's hoping he can help her continue her development with something close to a 2:45 on the Toronto Waterfront. On August 12th she placed 3rd woman in the ING Edmonton Half in 1:21:08—a time that indicates she should continue her improvement, but perhaps closer to 2:50 rather than 2:45.

Lisa Harvey - photo by Inge Johnson

Lisa Harvey, the final member of Team Canada '07, is an experienced veteran, but very much new to the marathon. The 37 year old Calgarian has represented Canada 7 times at the World Cross Country Championships between 1989 and 2002, and in the 10000m at the '92 Olympics in Barcelona. She placed 3rd in the world Championships 10000m in 1991 in Tokyo, and was 4th in the same race in Stuttgart 2 years later. She has a 10000m PR of 32:23. Over the past few years she has moved up to the half marathon distance, running her best of 1:15:38 in May 2005, then coming 14th in the World Championships Half in Edmonton in October '05.

This year, Lisa tried the big move up to the full marathon and didn't have a good time! She ran 2:48:56 at ING Ottawa in late May, good for 6th, but a big disappointment. Determined to master the distance, she bounced back with an impressive 2nd place finish at the Scotiabank Vancouver Half in late June in 1:15:45, she defended her title at the Telly Ten in St. John's in August, and shared the winners' podium with Jerry Ziak in Nanaimo last weekend. She says she's ready for Toronto Waterfront. If she can adjust to the 42km, she could improve her Ottawa time by 10 minutes, and give Team Canada a good chance against the Mexicans and strong British teams.

Team Canada is hopeful of a good performance in the International Team Challenge at this year's Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon; the hope is that will be the beginning of greater things to come over the next 5 years to London.