Fri, September 20, 2013

Canadian marathoners struggle in Olympic heat

By CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency


Canadians Reid Coolsaet and Dylan Wykes showed well in the men's marathon Sunday at the 2012 Olympic Summer Games in London. (DAVE ABEL/QMI AGENCY)

On a hot day for distance running, the participants in the men’s Olympic marathon fell out, one by one. By the time they had hit the 30-kilometre mark of the 42K race, a dozen runners had fallen by the scenic wayside.

Left standing, after surprise winner Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda crossed the finish line, as it has for the last 36 years, was Jerome Drayton’s Canadian record for the marathon.

That Drayton’s record endured was not a surprise, given the conditions.

Kiprotich had a time of two hours, eight minutes and one second.

The three Canadians in the men’s marathon Sunday — the first Canadian men in the marathon since 2000 — turned in strong performances with Reid Coolsaet, Eric Gillis and Dylan Wykes all finishing in the top 30.

Wykes was 20th in 2:15:26, Gillis was 22nd in 2:16 and Coolsaet, who said he struggled with the heat, was 27th in 2:16:29.

With the temperature around 24 C, there was no way anybody was going to threaten Drayton’s record of 2:10:8.4, which was set on Dec. 7, 1975 in Fukuoka, Japan.

For two generations of Canadian distance runners, it has stood as unassailable as Canada’s oldest record.

But Gillis, from Antigonish, NS, said Canada’s marathoners are on the upswing and have Drayton’s record in their sights.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of if it’s going to happen. Someone is going to break the Canadian record in a matter of time, in a year or two,” said the 32-year-old.

Coolsaet said the Canadian men’s marathoners are on the rise.

“We had three in the top 30 (Sunday). It’s come a long way and hopefully we can keep the tradition going and the young guys come up and keep on pushing the pace, pushing the boundaries,” he said.

Gillis said he likes the feeling in the Canadian distance running camp these days. There’s a number of them now and they can feed off each other and defray expectations.

“The vibe for distance running in London this year inside the Olympic team was strong. Cam Levins (11th in the 10K here) and Mo (Mohammed Ahmed, 18th here in the 10K), with those guys coming up and then the three of us here, Canada can cheer for a team and not just one runner. It really took the pressure off us individually,” he said.

What didn’t take the pressure off was the weather. Marathoners like the temperature between 5 C and 12 C.

“It was brutal,” said Wykes, who owns the second-fastest Canadian time in the marathon (2:10:47). “I tried to run conservative because I didn’t think other people would respect the weather. I didn’t even end up running conservative. I blew up a lot myself. I think only one or two guys passed me in the last half and I probably passed a good 15 and another five or 10 just dropped out.”

The 29-year old from Kingston, Ont. said he was happy with his race.

“Nineteenth would have been nice, get in the teens. I put every ounce into it,” he said. “I was trying to kick the last 400 metres. There was nothing (left) from about 22 miles, the third time into the twisty section just absolutely killed me. I just could not move at all. It was brutal.”

Coolsaet, from Hamilton, Ont. said he was “bonking,” near the end of the race, or hitting the wall. His stomach was upset, which made it hard for him to consume the fuel he needed.

“I just couldn’t take in what I needed to take in,” he said. “I’ve had problems in the heat. I don’t regret going out as fast as I did.

“I think I paced myself pretty well. If I could have just taken in the drinks I needed to take in, maybe it would have been better. You always have that point where it starts getting tougher, but it got exponentially tougher than any marathon I’ve run.”

Gillis was hoping for a top 16 finish, but said he was satisfied with 22nd.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

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