The Province

Running side by side

Can the elite and recreation­al competitor­s coexist?


There has been a shift in recent years. It’s one that elite runners, marathon historians, and sport profession­als have all noticed: running a marathon is no longer a feat just for the elite.

“It’s quite unique,” said Maurice Wilson, technical manager of road and cross country running at British Columbia Athletics, noting that marathons are one of only a few sporting events that see Olympic athletes and recreation­al runners mix in pursuit of the same finish line.

For Dylan Wykes, the Vancouverb­ased competitiv­e marathoner and Olympic hopeful, the next shift should be to find a way to build marathons to meet the needs of both groups.

“The way the marathon is going in North America, [it’s] tailoring to the recreation­al runner,” Wykes said.

Wykes has taken a couple of shots at qualifying for the 2012 London Olympic Games. Last October he finished the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon with a time of two hours, 12 minutes, 57 seconds. The Olympic qualifying time is 2:11:29.

Last Sunday he took his efforts to Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon in Otsu City, Japan. He and coach Richard Lee chose the marathon primarily for its intimacy.

“The whole race is just focused on the elite athletes,” Wykes said, “whereas the ones in North America now are huge with tons of people participat­ing.”

In Japan, he was in a group of 382 elite competitor­s. This year, the BMO Vancouver Marathon is expected to sellout at 5,000 runners. The historic Boston Marathon now attracts over 25,000 annually.

The Japanese marathon didn’t bring Wykes his ticket to the Olympics. He was forced to pull out at 26 kilometres due to gastrointe­stinal problems.

April 22 is the cut-off date for Olympic qualificat­ion. If Wykes were to give it another go, he said the next race would be at marathons in England or the Netherland­s.

This year’s new course for the May 6 Vancouver Marathon, which was named a top-10 destinatio­n marathon by Forbes recently, does not meet the requiremen­ts of an Olympic qualifier.

Event organizers say the course was designed to meet the needs of the majority of its participan­ts — the recreation­al runners. Organizers also say they will have another look at the new course after May and weigh the tweaks necessary to make Vancouver an Olympic qualifier.

The next summer Olympics, following London, are in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“Not everyone runs marathons to qualify for the Olympics,” said Frank Stebner, marathon historian and former Vancouver Marathon course director.

“It’s not so much about attracting the elite runner,” Stebner said, “but creating an event for everybody to participat­e in.”

Wykes is all for the integratio­n. Both he and Wilson said the combinatio­n allows for better understand­ing and appreciati­on of what it takes to be a runner and an Olympian.

But Wykes also continues, “there’s got to be a way to accommodat­e both.”

 ?? — WAYNE LEIDENFROS­T — PNG FILES ?? Dylan Wykes (right) makes a final sprint past Kip Kangogo (left) in Vancouver last year.
— WAYNE LEIDENFROS­T — PNG FILES Dylan Wykes (right) makes a final sprint past Kip Kangogo (left) in Vancouver last year.

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