Spring signals road races across Canada

For many, spring means drinks on the patio, but for thousands of Canadians it’s also about hitting the pavement, trails and tracks across the country for one simple yet highly rewarding activity, running.

With this comes the additional motivation of road races. Whether the goal is to get fit or achieve a personal best time, hundreds of thousands of people will sign up for road races across Canada in 2014.

The annual running season is already underway and one unique feature with road races unlike a track meet, is that recreational runners can compete in the same event as some of Canada’s best endurance athletes.

According to Michael Doyle, editor-in-chief, Canadian Running Magazine, here are a few Canadians to keep an eye on:

Lanni Marchant

Lanni Marchant

Photo via CP

Marchant, seen here after breaking the Canadian women’s record at the 2013 Toronto Waterfront Marathon, ran a time of 2:27:59. She will be in the Boston Marathon on April 21. “She’s probably our strongest marathoner right now,” Doyle said of Marchant, who could break her own national record in Boston.

Krista DuChene

Krista DuChene

Photo via Krista DuChene Running

Doyle believes DuChene to be “a threat in every race she enters” and so far in 2014 that has been the case. DuChene won Around The Bay 30k in late March in Hamilton, Ontario in a field with 9,000 runners. She then breezed through Harry’s Spring Run Off 8k in Toronto, winning by more than a minute over the next fastest female competitor. DuChene has the second best time to Marchant among Canadian women in the Marathon and she is the 2013 Canadian Half Marathon Champion (1:12:27 in Montreal).

Eric Gillis, Reid Coolsaet, Dylan Wykes

Eric Gillis, Reid Coolsaet, Dylan Wykes

The Canadian men’s marathon record was set in 1975 by Jerome Drayton and every year the watch is on to see who will finally break the elusive national mark of 2:10:09. There are several Canadians in the hunt, led by the three London 2012 marathoners Gillis, Coolsaet and Wykes (L-R) above.

In 2012, Wykes ran a 2:10:47 in the Netherlands, the second fastest time in Canadian history. Coolsaet crossed the finish line in Toronto at 2:10:55 in 2011, ahead of his soon-to-be Olympic teammate Gillis at 2:11:28. Rob Watson is another name that will be near the top of the most competitive road races.

Coolsaet will compete in the London Marathon on April 13, where Britain’s 5,000 metre and 10,000m Olympic gold medallist Mo Farah will make his marathon racing debut in a star-studded field. Also competing are world record holder Wilson Kipsang of Kenya and reigning Olympic marathon champion from Uganda, Stephen Kiprotich. Some fast times could be had.

Making Strides

While Canada doesn’t have official records yet on the total number of road race entrants, it is a common weekend sight to see start lines packed with runners, and jubilant onlookers cheering on athletes as they make their way along routes in various cities.

In the United States, data from 2012 shows 51.4 million participants and running shoe sales totalling a record high $3.04 billion that year. Distance running is a growing sport and Canada too is making strides.

Dylan Wykes

Photo: Dylan Wykes (1) at Vancouver Eastside 10k (via Canada Running Series)

Doyle uses the Canada Running Series and others as an example of the sport increasing its level of national competition by offering “cash bonuses” to top Canadians.  Elite runners are invited and brought to the races, giving them a chance to push each other against international competition in big competitions such as the Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

“The Ottawa Race Weekend events, particularly the 10K, are also fast, world class races,” Doyle said. “Vancouver’s Sun Run 10K also attracts a decent field and fast times. Without these events offering performance-based incentives to Canadians we wouldn’t have seen the growth of competitive running that’s taken place in the last few years in this country.”

Increased participation at all levels bodes well for Canada in the upcoming 2015 Pan American Games at home and at Rio 2016 Olympic Summer Games, where Doyle says Canada could potentially qualify four to (the maximum) six runners allowed in the marathon, “which would be a big deal for distance running in this country.”