“Whatever the best athletes in the world are doing is what I want to be chasing after.”
working as an attorney in Tennessee when she set the record in Toronto five years ago. Krista Du Chene also dipped under Ruegger’s time that day with a 2:28:32 personal best.
Their performances were somewhat c at hart ic a f ter t he disappoint ment t he previous year, when, despite having achieved the Olympic qualifying standard, they were both left off the Canadian team bound for the London Olympics. “I feel very similar to Silvia when she set the record. She thought that would be a catalyst for women who follow to run faster,” Marchant says. “It lasted 28 years.” Marchant says she’s still hopeful that we will see more Canadian females running the marathon in the 2:30 range or under. Although she doesn’t dwell on trying to better her time, Krista Du Chene, now 41, continues to excel at the distance while providing inspiration to women across the country. Under dreadful conditions she finished a stunning third in the 2018 Boston Marathon, ahead of 2017 New York champion Shalane Flanagan and the defending Boston champion, Edna Kiplagat of Kenya.
“I definitely think that I am an encouragement,” says Du Chene, a mother of three young children. “Moreso for my experience, but also my age and balancing a family and a career along with running.”
Du Chene’s Boston performance attracted much attention, and rightly so. But many of today’s runners may not realize that Jacquie Gareau of L ’ annonciation, Quebec won the 1980 Boston Marathon and finished second on two subsequent occasions. The petite Quebecois athlete also finished fifth in the f irst iaaf World Championship marathon in Helsinki, in 1983.
Canadians have also kept pace in the science of marathoning. In the 1970s, marathoners on the eve of a race would shake the carbon out of cola drinks to prepare a fuel. It was many years later when a Canadian marathoner, Brian Maxwell, together with his wife, Jennifer, manufactured Power Bar, which launched an entire industry. Maxwell, who grew up in Toronto and was educated at the University of California at Berkeley, was ranked among the world’s top three marathoners. He finished third in the 1977 Boston Marathon behind Drayton, running 2:14:43. In a sign of Canada’s relative marathon wealth at that time, he was selected for the 1980 Olympic team, along with Don Howieson and Mike Creary. Unfortunately, the Canadian government joined the United-States-led boycott of those Moscow Games because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
Boycotts and selection controversies not withstanding, Canadian marathoning is in good shape as we look to the future. Reid Coolsaet, Krista Du Chene and Lanni Marchant retain their ambition, and there are several athletes following in their footsteps. Pan Am Games bronze medallist Rachel Hannah, who has a personal best of 2:32:09 (Houston 2016), Dayna P idhoresky (2:36:08, Ottawa 2017) and Leslie Sexton (2:33:23, Toronto 2015) lead the next generation on the women’s side.
Although several Canadian men have thrown their hat in the ring with exploratory sub-2:20 performances in recent years, it is Cam Levins whose name is most widely bandied about. Levins ran a Canadian 10,000m record of 27:07.51 three years ago, 50 seconds faster than Coolsaet has ever run and more than a minute faster than Jerome Drayton’s 28:13.17. It is not surprising then that this 29-year-old’s marathon debut is eagerly awaited.
But injuries have plagued Levins. His 62:15 clocking at the 2018 iaaf World Half-Marathon Championships in Valencia demonstrates he is on the right path. “I certainly have lofty goals,” Levins says, “but I will be realistic when I get closer to my first marathon. Ultimately, whatever event I do, I want to be competitive at the highest level.
“Whatever the best athletes in the world are doing is what I want to be chasing after.” Paul Gains is a full-time freelance journalist. Gains has covered eleven outdoor IAAF World Championships and five Summer Olympic Games for media such as The New York Times, the Globe and Mail and the CBC. CORRECTION In Paul Gain’s Brandon McBride feature in our last issue. We wrote: “McBride is hoping to win Canada’s first middle-distance Olympic track medal since 1936.” However, Bill Crothers won the Olympic 800m silver medal at the 1964 Summer Olympics.