The clock is ticking ever closer to Beijing.
And still, the question remains: Will Canada go a second straight Summer Games without representation in the marathon, the most classic of Olympic events?
Matthew McInnes and Lioudmila Kortchaguina took their latest shot at reaching the Athletics Canada qualifying standard during yesterday's ING Ottawa Marathon, which also doubled as the Canadian marathon championships.
While both repeated as national champs, they clearly had their eyes on the clock. And McInnes, for one, couldn't hide his feelings about the 2:18:06 time he posted -- well over the 2:14 Olympic standard.
"I was happy to win the Canadian championship, but I was a little bit disappointed with my time," said McInnes, 32, a Toronto native who's moving to the capital on Canada Day to accept a position as a radiologist at the Ottawa Hospital (his wife, Tina, is an Ottawa native and graduate of Immaculata High School).
The qualifying period for Beijing still has at least a year to run. So, as McInnes puts it, "this was certainly not the last chance."
But, as in the run-up to the 2004 Athens Games, marathoners remain frustrated with the stringent standard Athletics Canada is requiring them to achieve. It's one full minute faster than the international A standard.
"I don't think we're being realistic," said McInnes, whose personal best is 2:17:39. "I just don't understand why we decide we need to make our qualification standards faster than Kenya's or Ethiopia's or the United States.
"All the marathoning powers go by the international standards and for some reason, we decide to make ours faster. The logic doesn't make a lot of sense to me, but they're working on a different set of logic."
There's a chance Canada could follow the international standard in choosing its Beijing team, but McInnes said that "is yet to be determined."
MOMMY'S BIGGEST FAN
Kortchaguina had special company at the finish line after her women's marathon win -- her nine-year-old daughter, Polina, who soaked up every moment of it, eagerly joining her mother in victory photos. "It was good," she said. "I was happy because I could be on TV and be in the newspapers." But Kortchaguina isn't sure yet whether her "No. 1 fan" might follow her into road racing. "She's more of a swimmer," she said. Polina's advice for her mother before the race? "Mama, have a good time."
CHAMPION'S ROLE CALL
National championships were also held for wheelchair marathoners yesterday. Top finishers included Michael Filteau of St-Jean-Baptiste, Que. (1:38:30.1), and Danielle Roy of Sherbrooke, Que. (1:58: 45.7), paraplegic, and Clayton Gerein of Pilot Butte, Sask., quadriplegic .... ING Half Marathon champs were Rejean Chiasson of Ottawa (1:12:25.2) and Saskatoon's Brandi Pozniak (1:19:58.6) ... For complete results of all races, log on to www.sportstats.ca RACE WEEKEND BITS
Chris Baron's reaction after setting a world record for skipping his way through a marathon: "I can hardly catch my breath. Wow, what a workout!" ... With 8,861 entries, the ING Half Marathon was the most popular of the six Race Weekend events. Yesterday's ING Marathon attracted 3,691 participants ... Three Ottawa Athletic Club Racing Team members cracked the coveted three-hour barrier for the marathon: Liz Maguire, 2:53: 43.1, who finished ninth overall among women; Michelle Schuler, 2:57:18.8 (12th) and Susanne Russell, 2:59:07.1 (16th).