Dylan Wykes says his best running years were in 2011 and 2012. It was right around this time that the Kingston, Ont. native transitioned into a full-time runner, moving from Vancouver to Flagstaff, Arizona at the end of 2011 to train at high altitude. In 2012, Wykes ran 2:10:47 at the Rotterdam Marathon, finishing seventh overall. The time ranked as the second fastest in Canadian history (he’s since fallen back to fourth, behind Cam Levins, Jerome Drayton, and Reid Coolsaet) and qualified him for the 2012 London Olympics. Wykes miraculous season continued with a 20th place finish at the Olympics in a respectable time of 2:15:26. But then his success came to an abrupt stop.
“The years leading up to [the Olympics] were really hard on my body, and to qualify for London, I had to do three marathons in pretty quick succession,” he says. “They just took a toll on my body.” After the 2012 Olympics, Wykes ended up with a stress fracture in his pelvis, crippling his meteoric rise. He spent the next four years chasing after results, but the injury would flare up, forcing him to deal with the repercussions.
Wykes racing in Toronto in 2011, trailing behind Eric Gillis, and Wykes, Gillis, Reid Coolsaet and Rob Watson at the 2007 Canadian Cross-Country Championships
Wykes ramped up his training again in 2016, taking a crack at the Rio Olympics, but the attempt fell short, leaving him disillusioned with his career as a competitive runner. Instead, he devoted himself to coaching.
“I would love to make another Olympic team. I won’t deny saying that.”
Back in 2012, after the London Olympics, Wykes connected with an old, Ottawa running buddy of his, Mike Woods (you may have recently seen him competing in the Tour de France, as he has transitioned to a career as a pro cyclist). Woods was coaching a group of local athletes and asked if Wykes wanted to get involved. Together, the two created Mile2Marathon, a personal coaching service.
The Mile2Marathon crew (with Wykes far right) in Ottawa.
“The idea is to work with people of all ability levels,” Wykes says. “We build on our experience as athletes and try to help other runners by sharing that experience. We put a lot of time and energy into building a community to give people of all ability levels an opportunity to train with other people and have something that they can enjoy.” Not to mention coaching from some of Canada’s top runners. The service boasts four Olympians and multiple Canadian champions in a range of events.
After missing out on the 2016 Olympics, Wykes put his own running on the back burner. “I kind of took a step back,” he says. “I didn’t have the drive.” Instead, Wykes turned his attention to building up Mile2Marathon, which he admits “was a bit all consuming.” Occasionally, he would still go out for runs to maintain the lifestyle, but they were rare. “Sometimes I’d go a couple months without training.”
“I started running again every day and it was just something that I enjoyed.”
In 2018, however, when Wykes, along with his wife and two daughters, packed up their lives and moved from Vancouver to Ottawa, there was a sudden change in his outlook towards running. “When we moved to Ottawa last year, I was kind of reinvigorated to get back into it,” he says. “I had a bit more time where I could just focus on myself. I started running again every day and it was just something that I enjoyed. I started doing some workouts and started doing some races again.”
Although Wykes didn’t expect a second wind in his running career, he’s training hard and is slotted to race at this year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October. “I love that it’s the Canadian Championships; I love that it’s a race that Alan Brookes has put on for years,” he says. “I’ve raced it a couple times in the past, so I’m really excited to compete. I think Alan’s got a great line-up of Canadians in the race. Some young guys. Some old guys like myself and Reid, and some guys in between.” Wykes will be joined by 25 of his own Mile2Marathon athletes racing in either the marathon or half-marathon.
During the race, Wykes’ main goal is to stay competitive. He wants to finish as high up among the Canadian racers as possible. While he is reluctant to admit it, the idea of qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics is knocking at the back of his mind. “I would love to make another Olympic team. I won’t deny saying that.”
But Wykes isn’t sure he’s quite ready to hit the Olympic standard yet, and even if he was, this whole comeback is about avoiding pressure and enjoying the process. “I’ve tried to go about the last year or so without putting many expectations on myself and just enjoy the process as they say. It’s been something where I’ve really enjoyed…I don’t know what you’d call it, this last phase of my competitive running career.”
Dylan Wykes running career by the numbers
• Running for Frontenac Secondary School, Wykes won a number of OFSAA Championships, including 3,000m titles in 2000 and 2001 ( he admits that often, however, he would lose to fellow Olympian Nate Brennan).
• In 2002, he won the National Junior Cross Country Championships.
• After high school, he competed for Providence College in Rhode Island
• In 2003, he finished 49th at the NCAA Cross Country Championships.
• In 2004, he finished 15th in the 3,000m at the NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships.
• In 2004, he ran 7:58 for 3,000m in Boston.
• In 2008, he finished third at the North American, Central American, and Caribbean Cross Country Championships.
• In 2009, he finished second at the North American, Central American, and Caribbean Cross Country Championships.
• In 2010, he won the California International Marathon in a time of 2:12:39.
• In 2011, he ran 28:12 for 10,000m at Stanford University.
• In 2011, he ran 13:43 for 5,000m in Eugene, Ore.
• In 2011, he ran the NYC Half in 1:02:14, finishing 11th (two spots ahead of Reid Coolsaet, and less than two minutes back from Olympic medallists Mo Farah and Galen Rupp).
• In 2011, he finished sixth at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in a time of 2:12:56.
• In 2012, he finished sixth at the Rotterdam Marathon in 2:10:47 (the fourth fastest Canadian time ever recorded).
• In 2012, He finished 20th at the London Olympic Marathon in 2:15:26, the top Canadian.