The first hurdle to a faster finish for members of Mile2Marathon is usually a mental one. Once the Vancouver-based runner determines they want to improve their speed, they’ll likely get nudged to the club by friends or the internet. Just before committing, that self-doubt will make them hesitate: “Am I really good enough to train with Olympians? Won’t these elite runners balk at my current form?” But then they join a Tuesday night run, and so much fun is had, that any remaining indecision melts away with the post-run freezies.
“My only exposure to Dylan Wykes was as a professional runner, Olympian and third-fastest marathoner in Canadian history,” says Devon McGuire. “So without any other context, I was very intimidated by his accomplishments, calibre and placement. I figured he’d look at me as this slow, recreational momrunner. This was obviously not the case.”
Dylan Wykes created the club with Michael Woods back in 2013. Wykes, a member of the 2012 Canadian Olympic Team at the London Games, where he placed 20th in the marathon, and Woods, an elite track runner turned pro cyclist, competed in the men’s road race at Rio in 2016. As their clientele grew, so did the crew (they now have four other elite-level coaches). Four years later the once online-only club can expect between 15 to 40 people at their Tuesday and Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings.
“What we have learned as elites is applicable to everyone,” says Wykes. “It’s important to be smart about your approach, and more isn’t always better. We like to get to know our athletes and find out what motivates them, and then structure a personalized approach.”
McGuire joined M2M at the end of 2014 when she set her sights on qualifying for the Boston Marathon. Over two-and-a-half years, she dropped her marathon time from 3:55 to 3:21, saw her half-marathon time drop from 1:43 to 1:34, ran Boston, ran her first 50k ultra – and enjoyed a couple podium finishes along the way.
“Our specialty is making people as fast as they can through proper training,” says Rob Watson, a M2M coach who represented Canada at the 2013 World Championships in the marathon. “To be successful as a runner you need to trust yourself and your instincts. And have fun. People can have fun and run fast at the same time, it’s not mutually exclusive.” McGuire can attest to that. “The M2M guys have cultivated such a great atmosphere of fun and camaraderie that they attract these kinds of people. Everyone involved is so supportive of one another, right from the Olympians and elites down to the mom training for her first 10k,” says McGuire. “There is hard work, structure and dedication but also a ton of jokes and laughs.”
The Vancouver running community is diverse, competitive, close and fortunate. Running with M2M may mean meeting in a Kitsilano parking lot, taking in the city’s magnificent vistas and finishing with the sunset. Or gruelling hills along pine-lined streets or tempo runs around the track. Freezies are a given on hot days.
“I would want to emphasize that personal coaching isn’t just for elites, professionals or “fast” guys,” says McGuire. “If anyone is on the fence about it – please put the apprehension aside and give it a try. I can 100 percent confirm that both Dylan and Rob are super down-to-earth, approachable guys; two of the best I’ve met in this community.”