News & Releases >> September 9 2008

Dylan Wykes leads strong Canadian contingent on road to Berlin, London 2012, at Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, on September 28th

Dylan Wykes

Dylan Wykes

TORONTO. September 10th, 2008. At only 25 years of age, Kingston's Dylan Wykes will lead the strongest group of Canadian marathoners we've seen in years, when more than 13,000 runners toe the line for the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on September 28th. While Canadian marathoning has lagged behind the USA and much of the world for a decade or more, multiple developments seem to be converging to create a "buzz" of excitement about the marathon distance as "the pinnacle of road running", and give us lots to cheer about at home. Dylan, with a 2:15:13 debut in Rotterdam in April, threatens to lead the charge out of Canada's distance doldrums.

The growth of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront over the past 5 years into a signature, big-city marathon culminated last year with a 2:09:30 winning time by Kenya's John Kelai. That shattered a 31-year old record that had stood since the 1976 Olympics in Montreal as the fastest marathon ever run on Canadian soil [7 years before Dylan Wykes was born]. It made the Waterfront one of only four sub 2:10 marathons in North America in 2007, and helped it earn an IAAF Silver Label for '08—one of only 5 marathons in the Americas to receive Label recognition. "Throughout the country and at various events the buzz around Toronto Waterfront is increasing dramatically this year," says John Stanton, President of the Running Room, now with more than 90 stores across Canada.

For more than 20 years, Canadian marathoners have had to read American magazines like Runner's World, Running Times, Michigan Runner or New England Runner; this year, not one but two new publications have appeared on the newsstands with Canadian Running and iRun magazine. For the first time in a generation, we have magazines that are profiling Canadian events and Canadian heroes.

Ten years after the Americans, Canadians are also setting up new, focused, funded, professional training centres like the Brooks Canada Marathon Project under Coach Hugh Cameron in Toronto, and the Speed River group in Guelph with Dave Scott-Thomas, to produce some marathon heroes. The Brooks Project, modeled on the Brooks-Hansen's project in Michigan that got Brian Sell onto the US marathon team in Beijing, has a 5-year plan, targeting London 2012. Scott-Thomas went to Beijing with athlete Eric Gillis who ran the Olympic 10,000. Another Speed River star, Reid Coolsaet, would also likely have gone in the 10k but for injury. Both are looking to move up to the marathon in 2009, along with Regina's Simon Bairu, now training full-time at the Nike distance project in Oregon.

A final, vital component is the unique private sector-Federation partnership, set up this year between the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront and Ottawa Marathons and Athletics Canada to give up-and-coming Canadian marathon stars something to run for—fully-funded places for 5 men and 5 women to represent Canada at the World Championships Marathon in Berlin next August. The World Championships are second only to the Olympics in prestige, and it's been a long time since Canada was represented there with a full team in the marathon.

"Our goal is to re-establish marathon running in Canada and partnering with the organizers of both Ottawa and Toronto Waterfront marathons was a logical step in that direction," says Martin Goulet, Athletics Canada's Chief High Performance Officer. "They have invested significant efforts in recent years to support the development of elite distance runners in this country and this is only another example of their stellar contribution to the sport."

McInnes at half marathon champs 2008

Matt McInnes finishing second in the Canadian Half-Marathon Championships at Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal, April 20th 2008

Though the selection process is complex, Ottawa '08 and '09, and Scotia Toronto Waterfront '08 are the de facto "Trials" races for the Berlin team. The winners in Ottawa and Toronto Waterfront, under 2:15 [men] and 2:34 [women], will get first selection; then 1st placers under 2:18 and 2:43; then Athletics Canada designated "rising stars" (no more than 1 man, 1 woman); then 2nd and 3rd placers under 2:18 and 2:43, will be considered for selection, in that order. [For full story, click here]

Given the incentives, and Waterfront's faster course, September 28th's Scotia Toronto Waterfront has attracted a stellar Canadian line-up, led by newcomer Dylan Wykes of Kingston and veteran Nicole Stevenson from Toronto. They'll be joined by Ottawa's Matt McInnes and Vancouver's Suzanne Evans on the 4-person "Team Canada" in the Scotiabank International Team Challenge against Team England and Team Mexico.

Dylan represents a lot of the new hope and promise for Canadian marathoning. A recent graduate of Providence College, he's now back home in Kingston, studying for a Masters in Community Health at Queen's and training hard, under long-time coach Steve Boyd. As such, he's at the forefront of a wave of fine young Canadian talent "moving up" to the marathon this year and next. He tried his first marathon in April in Rotterdam, and notched an encouraging 2:15:13, despite going out too fast. He was 12th in a very strong international field at the NYC Half Marathon in July in 64:30. You can read a great journal account of Dylan's Rotterdam experience, from his arrival, to his rookie race mistakes, at www.time-to-run.com/forums/showthread.php?t=98.

I was really disappointed when I finished [in 2:15:13]…
It is definitely a hard result to swallow. This was a race where, when I was done, I didn't want there to be any 'what if's'.
Unfortunately, I did not execute the race properly—my lack of experience with the marathon really showed through. Other people are trying to tell me I should be satisfied with that as a debut marathon. But, I am finding it hard to.
I am obviously disappointed the dream of being an Olympian will have to wait another 4 years…

On a good day at Toronto Waterfront, Dylan can be well inside the 2:15 needed to guarantee him a spot on the Canadian team to Berlin; and beyond that London 2012 is not so far away:

"My goals for the Toronto Waterfront are to improve my current marathon personal best, be competitive in the top-class international field, help Canada win the International Team Challenge, and qualify for the 2009 Berlin World Cup Marathon. I am really looking forward to the race. Training has been going well. I think I'm ready for a big improvement if all the factors come together."

Behind Dylan Wykes, the Canadian men are lining up, with stronger depth and more-determined, "winning" attitudes than we've seen in a long while. Matt McInnes was second-place Canadian in Ottawa in May in 2:16:59, a PR.

"In ideal conditions, I want to run 2:14:59 at Toronto Waterfront. I already have a sub 2:18 from Ottawa, so doing it again doesn't do me too much good," said McInnes.

Gosselin at Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal 2008

James Gosselin of BCMP at the 2008 Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal

Charles Bedley, from the Brooks Canada Marathon Project, had a major breakthrough with his 2:16:27 at the California International Marathon in Sacramento last December, a five-minute PR. Waterloo's Stephen Drew debuted at Ottawa in May in 2:18:11, and is hoping the fast Waterfront course and more experience will give him the extra minute or two he needs to get a place at the World Cup. The more experienced Jim Finlayson of Victoria and Jason Warick of Saskatoon have run 2:18 and 2:19, respectively, and have a very real chance at a sub 2:18 qualifying time. BCMPs James Nielson, James "Goose" Gosselin and Mike Booth, together with Victoria's Todd Howard, are all the other side of 2:20—so far—but in with an outside chance on a good day.

It promises to be a fine battle amongst the men for the five Berlin places on the Toronto Waterfront!

On the women's side, Berlin qualification is perhaps a last chance to don a Canadian vest at a major Championship for Toronto's Nicole Stevenson. Disappointed, she was at the centre of considerable controversy over her non-selection for the Athens Games, despite having run a 2:33:37 in Houston in January '04. She's since lowered her PR to 2:32:56 in Houston '06. Missing '07 with injuries, the 35-year old Hamilton native returned to Ottawa this Spring to run a 2:41:04, for 2nd Canadian. She's a former winner of Scotia Toronto Waterfront in 2002, and definitely a local favourite.

Behind Stevenson, the women's depth is not nearly as strong as the men's, but it will be exciting to see if consistent performer, Suzanne Evans, can lower her PR of 2:45:38 by a couple of minutes, and get closer to securing a World Cup place. Behind her, veteran Canadian Olympian, Lisa Harvey [38 years] will also be trying to get her current marathon best [2:48] much more in line with her 1:15:38 half and 32:40 10,000m PRs. Lisa ran for Team Canada at Waterfront '07, placing 9th in 2:48:48.

Win or lose in the International Team Challenge at Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon '08, the race promises the best Canadian showing in years. Now there's something to run for, and some prospects to go for it. We may look back and see 2008-2009 as a watershed, a turning point for the marathon in Canada, when Canada started to catch "marathon mania" and to catch up to the rest of the world.

For a complete Men's Start List, see click here...

For online registration [until September 23rd] and spectator information, see www.torontowaterfrontmarathon.com.

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