I have mixed emotions about finishing 7th in 2:11:24 at the Rotterdam marathon however, I can say that I am much more satisfied than I am disappointed.
I had to laugh when I crossed the line and saw 2:11:23 (rounded up to 2:11:24). You see, I have already run 2:11:23 (’10) and 2:11:24 (’13) and was surprised the first time I ran near identical times over 42.2km. It was disappointing not to have run a PB feeling as good as I did.
It was a big relief to get a sub 2:11:29 (the 2012 Canadian Olympic standard). And considering one week earlier I couldn’t run a step I am thrilled that my leg held up good enough over the full distance.
The temperature was perfect, the pacers were solid and I had a good group aiming for 64:40 at halfway. After a hectic first 200m and slow first kilometre (3:12) our group finally took form before the 2km mark. Our group included Abdi Nageeye (Somali born Dutch runner), Adrea Lalli (former European XC champ from Italy), Raul Pacheco (Peruvian who finished 21st at 2012 Olympic marathon), Soufiane Bouchikhi (Belgian 13:33 5000m guy making his marathon debut), Asmare Abate (2:09 Ethiopian) and our two pace makers (one Kenyan and one Ethiopian), plus a random dude who didn’t last too long.
(Sea of yellow. Here is the pack about 2km into the race. Two pacers out front, Lalli and Pacheco second row, Myself and Abdi third row, Soufiane fourth row. The 2:14 pack is right behind us. And you can pick out Tristan and Winslow, the two leftmost figures in the picture.)
We clicked along at a solid pace for the majority of the first half (65:04) and the group worked well together. I could tell there was a stiff wind but got decent shelter in the group, even though I was the tall guy amongst this group.
In the pack I thought Andrea Lalli looked the strongest and Raul Pacheco looked as though he was working really hard, even early on. Abdi and Abate also looked really good, Soufiane was always in the back so I never really saw him.
(One pacer often fell behind at drink stations)
At 25km (1:17:07) I knew going under 2:10 was going to take big effort but thought maybe I could make up time in the last 7km if I felt great. Going out alone was not an option with the wind and the group was still on pace for 2:10.
At 30km I saw one of the pacers pull over and thought both were done so I took it upon myself to keep the pace honest. All of a sudden there was a gap behind me. After a while I looked back and realized one of the pacers was still going so I tucked back in.
I felt strong and kept contemplating picking up the pace myself but I didn’t want to risk blowing up as I was confident I could safely run under 2:11:29 if I played it smart.
The second pacer dropped at 35km and the wind was pretty stiff but we still had a group of four working well together. Abdi and Raul were doing most of the work up front and Abate and I were behind. I thought I’d wait until 39km and then pick up the pace if I still felt as strong.
At 36km my right lower leg (recent injury) became a real concern and my legs were getting tired. Maintaining the pace seemed a wise decision and maybe even that would become too challenging.
A little after 37km Raul put in a really fast surge that I swear was like a 34 second 200m burst. It blew the pack apart and I kept my eyes on Raul thinking I could reel him back in. Focusing on Raul I didn’t even realize right away that the other two guys weren’t with me anymore.
When we turned a corner and started into a stiff wind it became really tough and that’s when I would lose more ground to Raul. I was getting really worried that the wind was going to get the best of me but at the same time I was holding my form.
When I rounded another corner with about 600m to go I was no longer fighting the wind and I was able to really pick up the pace. It was definitely the fastest last 500m I’ve ever run in a marathon and it was confirmed with my last 2.2km split of 6:53 (which had some slow running at times).
(Just past 40km. Photo from Henri van der Sluis)
(NB teammate Michel Butter who was also training in Iten)
I just saw a tweet that said I had the third fastest split from 35km to finish (22:51). The quickest was Raul Pacheco (22:27) and the second fastest was the winner, Abera Kuma, (22:50). I think that says more about the the wind than how fast I ran seeing as my 35-40km split was 15:58.
(Wind looked fine until 10am, and then bad after 11am Weather History)
My 5km splits were:
When I reflect back on the race I’m glad I wasn’t more aggressive from 30-36km as the last 6km proved to be hard enough. However, I’m sure I could have started picking it up a few hundred meters earlier and gotten under 2:11:20, or at least under 2:11:23!
There are lots of positives to be taken from this race.
The last 12.2km was my strongest ever in a marathon, especially considering the wind. Aerobically I felt great and I have some training ideas about how to improve my durability/endurance for the last 12.2km. Another good thing to take away is that I was seeded 14th and finished 7th (partly due to the aggression of the first pack).
It was good to see Rob Winslow run 2:19:00 and John Mason run a 2:24:41 (both PB’s). Tristan debuted in 2:27, which means he had a tough one out there, but at the young age of 21 has lots more time. Also, Krista Duchene ran 2:29 for her second fastest time ever, remarkable after fracturing her femur last April.
The IAAF standard for the 2016 Olympics hasn’t been published as of yet even though the qualifying window has been open since January 1. Waiting on IAAF, Athletics Canada’s standard isn’t out yet either. I can only assume it won’t be any faster than 2012 as other T&F standards have not gotten tougher. If 2:11:24 is under the standard I would have to maintain a top 3 time in Canada and prove fitness next spring to ensure my selection to the Olympics.
Since my return from injury in September I’ve had a lot of help along the way from these wonderful people:
DST – I feel as though “coach” doesn’t describe all he’s done, but for simplicity, that’s his title
Speed River training group – Marathoners Eric Gillis, John Mason, Nick Sunseri, Robert Winslow, Mark Vollmer, Scott Arnald and Tristan Woodfine. Plus all the track/XC guys I get to train with.
Iten training groups – Mainly Gilbert Kirwa and Mark Rotich
Trent Stellingwerff – Exercise Physiologist and Nutritionist
Chris Layne (Total Sports) and Chris Moulton – Huge help behind the scenes as managers
Brenda Scott-Thomas – Physiotherapist (Speed River Physiotherapy in Guelph)
Jeroen Deen – Physiotherapist in Iten. Came through big time by squeezing me in when I sustained injury in final 12 days, including last minute tune-up in Rotterdam
Marco Lozej – Chiropractor (HPC UofG)
Brendan Cleary – Acupuncture (Ontario Migraine Clinic)
Lance Dawson, Marcell Meresz, Devon Truscott, Dan Ngetich – Massage therapists
Jim Marano (Peak Performance in Grimsby) – Chiropodist
Applied Biomechanics in Guelph – Heel lifts
Dr. Margo Mountjoy – Doctor
Lisa Veloce – Sports Phychologist
New Balance – Continued support with the best gear
CEP – The ultimate in compression socks
7Systems – Multi vitamins
Ciele – Running hats
Last, but not least!
Family, Friends, Marie – Couldn’t ask for a better support crew
(Jeroen Deen going to work on John at the hotel)
A few side stories:
My roommate at the meet hotel was Abayneh Ayele from Ethiopia, a really nice guy who has lived in Japan for the past three years. He was making his marathon debut and told me he planned on running in the 64:40 group with me. I never saw him in the race. He ended up going out with the leaders and finishing 4th in 2:09:21.
When I first walked into our room the first thing I noticed was that there was only one bed. I went to the meet organizers and asked if they had a double room available instead of a single. Apparently they thought I wanted to move out and have my own room as they didn’t show any concern and told me they were tight for rooms. I went down to the front desk and explained my situation, they understood and moved us into a room with two beds right away. When I went back to the organizers to tell them we had moved rooms they finally understood my predicament and were happy that we could get two beds.
(Upon entering hotel room with one bed)
Two years ago when I dropped out of Rotterdam I walked the last 5km. There was one person I had a conversation with on that walk, Andrea Lalli. He was just there watching a friend and came up jogging behind me. He asked what happened and we both thought we would run a future edition of Rotterdam. Somewhere between 31-34km Andrea’s diaphragm got the best of him and he dropped off our pack and he didn’t finish. I never asked him if he walked the final 5km.
Rotterdam marathon knows that athletes want to go there and run fast. For that reason they have the upper hand and don’t offer the second tier runners much. Even though I finished 7th it wasn’t good enough for any prize money or even to get my flights fully covered. I’m not complaining though, if I wanted to make money there are many opportunities out there, I’m just showing the reality of our sport.
(I got to see more of Rotterdam this year since our hotel was in the city centre this time. Cool city!)
John and I hit up the Stroopwafel stand (on the right) post-marathon
It’s crazy how fast things can change. One moment I’m getting really excited to race and the next I’m wondering if I’ll even make it to the start line.
Throughout the first three months this year my training has been better than expected. On Monday (March 30) I had a fantastic session feeling as good as I ever have. And then on April 1st I twisted my ankle and my momentum hit a big wall.
April 1 – Eleven days to go.
I twisted my right ankle mid-way through my morning run and didn’t think much of it. In the last few kilometres I could feel my lower leg tightening up. It was a little uncomfortable but nothing too concerning.
On my afternoon run I could tell that it was more serious than “a little uncomfortable” and I cut my run short.
April 2 – Ten days to go.
I know I shouldn’t run today. Typically when I have a little injury such as this a day off is all that’s needed. In fact I’ve already done this twice in the past few months where I swapped my scheduled day off for when I needed it. This time it will be an extra day off, but at this point it’s fine. I went in the pool for 30 minutes to feel like I was doing something.
April 3 – Nine days to go.
I had a session scheduled in the morning but I didn’t want my first run back to be hard. I was cautious about running so I ran 1km down the road turned back. I did this four times and my leg felt pretty good. It actually felt a little better afterwards. The pain in my peroneus is barely there although my calf is tight now, most likely from compensating.
Since I felt better after my run I figured I was in the clear and could resume my program and the little aches would work themselves out. I completed the session and felt fine. However, on the cool-down my peroneus and calf felt uncomfortable, just like it had two days earlier. Back to square one.
I was able to get in to see Jeroen Deen for physiotherapy. He massaged the area and used a Tecar machine.
April 4 – Eight days to go.
I decided to run at 8:30 instead of 6:30 to give myself more time to get activated. Right off the bat my leg felt tight but hoped it was loosen-up. It only got worse. 1km into the run I had to call it. I turned around and hobbled back.
Not being able to run eight days from a marathon is less than ideal. However I’m confident that this injury can clear in a day or two if I’m smart about it.
April 5 – One week to go.
This morning my peroneus still felt sore and tender. The good news is that everything else in that area feels better. I decided to not even test it. I was going a little stir crazy so I went for a walk around town.
For x-training I went in the pool for 35 minutes in the morning. In the afternoon I planned on another 35 min but a thunderstorm rolled through 15 minutes in. I suppose 50 minutes on the day if fine for one week out.
Given my situation I’m still optimistic and positive that this injury can clear and I can be ready to go for Rotterdam. There is naturally some doubt as I’m not even able to run one week out from race day.
April 6 – Six days to go.
I woke up this morning and could tell right away there was improvement with my peroneus. I went on a 40 minute walk to see how that felt. Walking was fine.
Should I run today? What if I can run and feel good? Then I can get back on track! What if I run and set my recovery further back? Am I trying to run just to test it out? Am I being impatient?
In the end I decided on a little run. I started with 500m out and 500m back and the assessed how my leg felt. I ended up repeating that five times and felt as though I could have run longer but I didn’t want to risk too much this morning, maybe I will run again this afternoon.
Later in the day I got physiotherapy and Jeroen advised me to let the treatment work its way out and only pool run in the afternoon. After 40 minutes of pool running it felt a little better.
April 7 – Five days to go.
If I had been feeling normal and I woke up with my peroneus feeling like it did today I would very worried. However, I’m pretty excited with how it feels, as there is noticeable improvement from yesterday. It’s all relative.
This morning I ventured as far out as 1.5 km down the road. I went out and back twice for a 6km run. I’m happy with the way it’s progressing and I am more confident that I won’t have to resort to plan B (Hannover Marathon on April 19). Coincidently on my run I stopped to say hi to one of my training partners who is pacing Hannover.
This afternoon my run felt close to normal. I feel as though I turned a corner this afternoon. Relief.
I still need to be careful and not overdo it. After the run tomorrow morning I’ll be traveling and won’t run again until Thursday evening shake-out in Rotterdam.
April 8 – 4 Days to go.
I managed 16km this morning with a few short pickups to mimic marathon effort and marathon pace. A little tightness in the area but given where it was a few days ago and that I have a few more days to go, no complaints.
Finally I can post this blog. I didn’t want to post anything until things were much better. It might seem as tough I’m posting a big excuse leading into the race. However, my motivation to write about my experience is to give an example of how tough this sport can be. I invested a lot of time into this race and even money (2 trips to Kenya out of my pocket) and it almost didn’t happen. If I had sustained this injury about 5 days later there’s no way I could toe the line and I would have had to scramble to find another race. Even as it stands there are no guarantees that I’m healed enough for 42.2km.
My goal is to achieve the Olympic standard. Of course I don’t know what that is. The IAAF hasn’t released it even though the qualifying window is open. That in turns puts AC in a tough position to publish their standard. It’s a weird position to be in but right now I’m just glad I’m able to race.
Now I need to get my head back into racing and convince myself this is a blessing in disguise (I have not other choice). There’s enough time for that in the next few days.
Tonight I fly to Nairobi. Tomorrow I fly to Amsterdam. The plan is to race within 72 hours of coming down from altitude.
Weather looks alright in Guelph lately. Perhaps I should have stayed in Kenya through February and returned to Guelph in March. Would have saved me a couple of flights! Oh well.
Training is going well and I’m seeking out a couple of asphalt runs a week to get used to the surface. I went down to Eldoret (2100m) on Monday for a 35km run with 26km at marathon-effort on a, relatively, flat paved road. It’s hard to tell exactly what pace I should run with the altitude and hills (plus wind that day). However, the effort feels right and according to a friend who looked up Daniels’ altitude conversion charts I was right where I should be. For my specific sessions, which differ from what the groups do, I recruit a few Kenyans to keep me company. On this particular session I had three guys run with me. They only managed to keep up for 13 of 26km but then jumped in and out of the van to run with me for a few km here and there throughout the second half. Afterwards I learned that two days before one guy ran 38km and the other did a trail marathon (Rift Valley Marathon). I think they thought they would still be able to keep up with the mzungu despite the quick turnaround.
On Thursday I joined the ‘Boston’ group for 25 x 1 minute / 1 minute rest. The route these guys do is a big net uphill. It’s been really windy here the past week (which means rainy season is approaching) and that gives me a little more motivation to tuck in the front pack and not lose contact.
In between hard sessions I’m keeping my runs easy, making sure not to overdo it. I’m avoiding running with the Kenyans a lot of the time to make sure recovery runs are just that, recovery runs. One ‘easy’ day I met up with them and they took off faster than 3:40/km right off the bat. I let them go after 2km and then the women came by and they too were going faster than I wanted. The funny thing is that the fastest marathoner in the group that day (2:09 guy) was at the back of the women’s pack. He knows he can’t push hard 5 days a week.
Check out the article on Eric, Dave and me in Impact Magazine http://www.impactmagazine.ca
Monday was a sad day at the camp. When I was having breakfast I heard that CPR was being given to a Canadian. There were already a lot of people in and around Ethan’s room so I didn’t want to get in the way. And when I saw Ethan (runner from Halifax) walking with Denise Robson (marathoner from Halifax) I was relieved, although they both looked really worried and shaken up. And then someone informed me that it was Cliff being taken care of in Ethan’s room.
Cliff and Ethan had just returned from their early morning walk when all of a sudden Cliff collapsed. Ethan, who was untying his shoes, was able to catch him. He yelled for help and started administering CPR. Other athletes and coaches who heard Ethan cry for help were on the scene right away.
An Irish doctor staying in Iten arrived at the camp pretty quickly as well as an ambulance. As much as everyone tried, in the end it was Cliff’s time to go.
Cliff Mathews was a running coach in Halifax (coach to Ethan and Denise) and although I only got to know him in the past couple of weeks he was an easy guy to talk to. For the most part my interaction with Cliff was really casual, talking about running and whatnot. On Saturday night however we got talking about lots of things and the two of us stuck around the dinner table and continued chatting after everyone left.
Cliff was an interesting guy who collected art and antiques. We talked about the antique markets close to Guelph and Hamilton that he would travel to. How he had recently acquired and sold a Maud Lewis painting, And how he almost got his hands on a Tom Thompson.
Last Tuesday at the track he was talking to a bunch of Kenyan runners (including a 2:04 guy and a two-time world champion). I went over to see what he was talking about. He was telling them about periodization, recovery and nutrition (a few things most Kenyans could improve on). Even though Cliff didn’t have high coaching credentials he knew his stuff and was humble in his delivery. The Kenyans showed him much respect for the time he took to help them out.
Cliff seemed really happy the last couple of weeks and was really connecting with the running community here. If the last two weeks represents the way he interacted with others I can’t even imagine the scope and depth with which he touched the running community in Halifax over the years.
Cliff talking with a local athlete at Kamariny track.
One week ago I raced the Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington. The race was, in fact, chilly at -6C but quite balmy compared to -18C last year on race day. Luckily the roads were clear, the wind was calm and the course is flat.
Leading up to the race I didn’t have a time goal, I figured I would wait until race morning to see what the conditions would be like. In the past I’ve run 63:11, 63:15, 63:16 (3:00/km) before marathons. I ended up with 63:36 (3:01/km) and was pleased with the effort considering the extra clothes and solo effort. This is a positive result heading into Rotterdam Marathon (Yep, running Rotterdam).
In the 5 weeks leading up to the Chilly Half I wasn’t able to hit marathon pace outdoors on long efforts due to the wintry conditions. Only on the treadmill did I hit the specific paces. The race confirmed I was in the shape I believed I was in despite not having my GPS agree with my effort.
A few days before the race I decided to head back to Kenya for the final 5.5 weeks leading up to Rotterdam. I can be more sure of the weather in Kenya and there are a few athletes here I know training for marathons on April 12 (Rotterdam, Paris and Brighton). Speed River will be sending a crew to Rotterdam, John Mason, Robert Winslow, Nick Sunseri, Tristan Woodfine and I will all be racing. Unfortunately Eric missed a couple weeks of running and decided not to race Rotterdam on compromised training.
I got to Iten on Wednesday night and so far it’s just been easy running and strides. It seems a lot of the guys I was training with in January are hitting the track hard these days. There are some local guys who will follow my program and I’ll also mix in group fartleks and long-runs. I felt great coming off my last stint in Iten and have to make sure I don’t overdo it here.
I’ve never raced a marathon directly from altitude. The downside is that I won’t be able to hit race pace on tempo runs here but after hitting the right rhythm at the Chilly Half gives me confidence that it’s the effort that is most important. The other challenge up here will be making sure I get enough running on paved roads as there aren’t many and the dirt paths are much nicer.
At first I thought I was going to have a 2hr time difference between Iten and Rotterdam but they don’t have daylight savings time here so it looks like it will only be a one hour time difference.
I really just came back for the barber shop.
John Mason appreciation picture.
Future champions enjoying a care package from Canada.
These roads will do.
It’s been a while, I had to wait for my fingers to thaw in order to type a blog, somehow -6C feels ‘warm’ now. Actually I couldn’t think of anything interesting to write about, and I still don’t, but thought I’d throw a training update out there and let y’all know I’m racing a half marathon next weekend.
Earlier in the week I had an over-distance run of 44km with an 11km pickup from 28 to 39km. It was -13C, almost no snow on the roads, little wind and sunny so it was actually quite nice out, relatively speaking. We had to put our bottles in a insulated bag (with a hot water bottle in there) in order to keep our drinks in a liquid state. With all the gear one typically wears in frigid temps I know I’m not going to see the exact paces I would like and I just have to trust I’m getting in the appropriate effort.
I’ve contemplated going somewhere else to train but I’m actually dealing with the cold weather fine. As long as it doesn’t snow much in the next 7 weeks it will be alright in Guelph. It’s good to be running with the Speed River guys as a bunch of us are focused on the same mid-April marathon. Since returning to low altitude in late January I’ve upped my weekly volume, hitting a high of 220km this week.
Yesterday four of us did a 32km run on snowy roads. The footing wasn’t too bad in the beginning and we were chatting a lot. The whole time it was snowing quite a bit and the footing got worse as the snow piled up. In the final third of the run our legs got heavy and the chatter died down. With less than 2km to go a snowplow came by and cleared the road. It was crazy how different, and good, it felt to run normally again. Those are the runs that we tell ourselves are making us tough, anything to justify slogging along for that long.
Tomorrow it’s supposed to plunge back below -20C, which means another treadmill session.
Next Sunday, March 1, I’m going to race the Chilly Half Marathon in Burlington, ON. This is going to be a fitness test and a chance to get on closed roads in a race atmosphere. Right now the weather looks like it will warm up a bit, maybe I’ll be able to actually run marathon race pace outside.
On March 15th a bunch of us from Speed River are going to High Park for a Harry’s Spring Run-off free training run put on by the fine people at Canada Running Series. There are 8km and 5km group runs planned for all levels.
Here are some random pics I took on my flight from Nairobi to Amsterdam a month ago.
Lake Turkana (Kenya) in the distance
Nile through outskirts of Khartoum, Sudan
Nile, just North of Khartoum
Lake Nasser is a man made lake on the nile, close to Abu Simbel, Egypt.
Crop circles in the middle of Sahara Desert
Nile in the distance, close to Luxor, Egypt
Mediterranean Sea, about 125km East of Alexandria, Egypt
It had been a long time since I’ve raced and I got quite a re-introduction with a XC meet in Belgium. I chose to race the Hannut Lotto Cross Cup on my way home from Kenya. I previously raced here in 2011 after training in Kenya and had a great experience, finishing 5th.
Once again I planned a race on the way home from Kenya to offset the two long flights (Nairobi to Europe 8 hours, Europe to Toronto 7 hours) and test my fitness.
After rain and snow in the days prior to the race the Hannut course was really muddy and I had to borrow some 12mm pins before the race (which were still on the short side). I was confident in my fitness going into the race, although not so much in my ability in sloppy conditions.
When the gun went off I couldn’t keep up with the leaders even though my plan was to go out hard. It felt like I was just spinning in the mud. I didn’t even make it into the top 20 as the course turned right into a bottleneck. At that point I had to slow down because of the traffic. Right off the bat I made it a lot harder to hit my goal of top 3.
At first it was hard to pass guys because there were a lot of bodies fighting for these positions but I knew if I could just pass 10 guys then I would be clear of the masses.
I was making decent headway until about 1500m into the race when I went down on a corner. A few guys went past me and I lost precious ground to the leaders. When I got back up to my feet my gloves were caked in mud and heavy so I chucked them.
By 3 km into the race I was in the top 10, not too far behind a pack. The top 2 were pulling away from everyone else. When I was able to run on areas with less slop I would gain on the pack. Other times I would stay constant, or lose ground through muddy patches.
During the race my breathing and energy felt controlled but I still had trouble closing the gap to the guys in front of me. As the race progressed to the last few km I could tell other guys ahead were struggling and I was gaining. From 8km to 9km I went from 8th to 4th with my sights set on the Kenyan in 3rd. I was making ground on 3rd place but with 200m left to the finish and in some heavy slop I knew I wouldn’t catch him. Perhaps I let up a little thinking I could do no better than fourth and all of a sudden I was in a race for the fourth spot.
The Kenyan-born Belgian whipped past me with only meters to go and then let up ever so slightly before the line and I tried to out-lean him to no avail. Four years on and I finished 5th, once again, in Hannut.
Although the conditions didn’t suit my strengths it was a lot of fun as I’ve never raced in mud like that before. The inside of my legs are bruised just from my feet flailing into my calfs and knees from the unpredictable terrain.
On one hand I think it may have been better for me to choose a race that’s more similar to racing a marathon on the roads. But this race ended up challenging me in other ways, which may also be beneficial to the marathon. One challenge was that I had to be mentally engaged the whole race. Any little lapse and I was slipping or losing ground, there was no cruise control. Every step had to be deliberate.
After the race I stayed with my friends, JP and Steph, and we watched the broadcast of the race. They only used stationary cameras but it was perfect, much better than one camera on the leader(s). You could see the whole race play out and caught most of the top 15 during each race.
On the course there were three little hurdles, which we encountered six times. The hurdles make the race more interesting for spectators and athletes. Now that I was a spectator, watching the recoded broadcast, I could catch all the action. In the beginning my arms were flailing up in the air while seasoned veterans were not even breaking stride over the hurdles. By the end my technique improved a lot.
Here are the first and second finishers going over the hurdles
The Kenyan training camp was one of my best in terms of developing fitness. I started off with less fitness than most years but I came out feeling the best I ever have after a stint in Iten. I think I found the right amount of volume for me when training at a hilly 2400m (8000 feet). In the previous two years I was running too much and although not feeling too beat up because of the soft running surface I think I was digging a hole. This time around I was executing the tough sessions a little better.
With Vincent Rousseau after the race (PB’s of 13:10, 27:23, 2:07:20)
1 26 TASAMA DAME 87 ETH sen NA 32:52
2 25 BIRHANU YEMATAW BALEW BRN sen NA 32:54
3 39 BETT BERNARD 93 KEN sen NA 33:30
4 2 KIMELI ISAAC 94 BEL sen OEH 25 33:33
5 24 COOLSAET REID 79 CAN sen NA 33:34
6 7 DE BOCK THOMAS 91 BEL sen OEH 20 33:39
7 27 TAYLOR JONATHAN 87 GBR sen NA 33:45
8 4 BASEMANS DRIES 92 BEL sen DCLA 17 34:07
9 8 STROOBANTS JESSE 80 BEL sen DCLA 34:15
10 29 LACY DEAN GBR sen NA 34:17
11 6 RUELL KIM 87 BEL sen RESC 13 34:19
12 1 EL HACHIMI ABDELHADI 74 BEL sen RFCL 34:25
This week Gord Dickson, a legendary Canadian runner, passed away at the age of 83. Obituary.
1960 Olympic Marathon (Rome)
1959 Boston Marathon, 3rd
5-time winner of Around the Bay 30km
6-time Canadian marathon Champ
3-time Canadian XC Champ
1959 Pan-Am Games Marathon, 3rd
2:21:51 marathon PB – 1958 (when Gord set his PB the WR for the marathon was 2:17:39)
I first met Gord Dickson at a road race in Fergus, ON over 10 years ago. He had driven a couple of Kenyans from Hamilton to the race. I suspected he was once a runner himself but I had no idea of his accomplishments, he wasn’t one to boast.
In 2008 I moved back to Hamilton and started running with a few Kenyans (Thomas Omwenga, Josephat Ongeri and David Karanja). Since I was the only Speed River athlete training for the marathon in 2009 I decided to stay in Hamilton longer than the three months I had initially planned for. Over the next few years I would run into Gord many times.
The Kenyans referred to Gord as ‘coach’ but he was much more than just a coach for these guys. He would also act as their agent to get them into races, drive them to races and help them out with many of life’s challenges for a Kenyan immigrating to Canada.
Gord also coached many other runners and you could usually find him at the McMaster track in the evenings with a stopwatch. I would do my easy runs and pass by there to chat for a bit. It was during these conversations where I was privy to great running stories of the 50’s and 60’s as well as encouraging words about my own running.
A few stories that stick out…
There used to be a 30 mile race from Guelph to Hamilton that Gord won (perhaps more than once). This intrigued me as I’ve made that drive countless times and biked it a few times as well. It was common for Olympic level marathoners to dabble in road races longer than 42km back in the day. It’s fascinating to hear about the racing schedules runners did back then.
Within half a year of moving back to Hamilton I broke my foot and didn’t run for 3 months. Gord was relieved that I didn’t have a plaster cast and had a removable air cast. When he was in a cast he got in the pool for exercise and, naturally, some water seeped in. When he finally got the cast removed he said his foot looked like a “dead fish”. It had been waterlogged for weeks and, on top of that, atrophied. To strengthen his foot and test it out Gord walked the 30km from Hamilton to Brantford. After that he was ready to resume training.
I can’t remember the length of the loop (about 120m) and the exact distances (LONG) but when the snow or ice piled too high he would run in the underground parking lot at these apartments in Hamilton. He had training partners to accompany him for these long runs.
Gord had many stories about hot races where everyone would run much slower than what they were capable of. This is because these guys rarely took in more than water, if even water. There wasn’t much out on the courses in the 50’s and if they were lucky enough to get some refreshments it was rarely enough. Since then much more is known about hydration and fuelling. The way these guys had to slog it to the finish line would make for good TV these days.
Gord was always very supportive and encouraging about my running and would often give advice, but never in a “I know what’s right” kind of way. It was more learning from his career and how I could use that info to further mine.
In late November Gord emailed me about Kenya. We talked on the phone for a while about him and his wife taking a trip to Kenya this winter. He said he always wanted to go and in the past few years his health wasn’t good enough but he was feeling better and saw a window for overseas travel. We talked about staying in Nairobi for a couple of days to rest from the travel and see the Giraffe Centre and other sights. Then travel to Iten to check out a Kenyan running hub and watch some track and fartlek sessions. Once in Kenya I emailed him some information about Nairobi and his wife, Sheilah, responded that Gord was in the hospital with very aggressive pancreatic cancer. One week later Gord passed away. He will be missed, RIP.
Here are portraits of Gord Dickson taken decades apart. (courtesy of George Aitkin)
Gord winning the 1964 Around the Bay 30km