By Paul Gains
Canada's Dylan Wykes will make his third appearance at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon with the fingers on both hands crossed, hoping that medical doctors are precise.
The IAAF Silver Label race is scheduled for Sunday October 19th. Wykes' wife, Francine, is due to give birth to the couple's first child five days later. The couple met while attending Providence College on track and field scholarships.
Two years ago Wykes rose to number two on the Canadian all time marathon rankings list with a 2:10:47 performance at the Rotterdam marathon. Only Jerome Drayton's thirty-nine year old Canadian record (2:10:08) is superior.
But Wykes, a 31 year old Kingston, Ontario native, who now resides in Vancouver, would like nothing better than to claim that record. Given the circumstances his decision to commit to the Toronto race - where he will join fellow Canadian Olympian Eric Gillis on the start line - was not an easy one to make.
"I want to be present for the birth of the baby," Wykes declares, "I was trying to decide whether it was worth risking not being there by going to Toronto and also where my head would be mentally if I was in Toronto and Francine went into labour in Vancouver while I was away. Francine and I discussed things; if we were both going to be comfortable with me not being there; just trying to see what might have been options. That was the main consideration.
"Her parents are in Cambridge. We talked about the possibility of (her having the baby there) but we are pretty set up here in Vancouver now and we decided it would be better to stay in Vancouver. And, Francine's parents are going to come out while I am in Toronto."
Two years ago he was Canada's top finisher in the 2012 Olympic marathon finishing 20th in 2:15:26. That was his fourth marathon start in ten months. The Rotterdam race had been his third attempt at the Olympic qualifying standard. After achieving his Olympic dream even his coach, Richard Lee, wondered if he would ever sacrifice so much to run a fast marathon again.
"I think a lot of it for me was knowing the commitment that it takes and the sacrifices you have to make to make something like a Canadian record or an Olympic team," Wykes reveals. "It's huge. There have been times since then that I have questioned whether or not it would be worthwhile pushing through that again.
"Since April (of this year) I feel I am getting into a training groove with the group in Vancouver again and it feels like is something I am motivated to do again. I can sense that getting to that fitness is something I can achieve again. So, I am motivated."
While he trained alone for most of his 2012 Olympic quest he has since been joined by Canadian internationals Rob Watson and Kelly Wiebe, all under the guidance of the head coach of the BC Endurance Project, Richard Lee. Already the results have been superb. A late entry to the Vancouver Sun Run 10k he finished a surprising second there in 29:11. Most significantly, on June 22nd he won the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon in 1:03:51.
"I had no training partners at all (before London) I did almost all my training on my own leading up to London," he admits. "It's good (having partners), it's definitely part of what has helped my motivation to have this training group. The way I did it before I was doing everything by myself. That was hard to stay motivated. So it's good to have guys like Rob and Kelly out there.
"We have kind of done a pre-buildup to the buildup and increased the mileage a bit. I went through some ups and downs after the half (Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon) but I am coming through it now. We should be doing our hardest training over the next five or six weeks."
Wykes admits he watched the recent Commonwealth Games with great interest. Australia's Michael Shelley claimed gold in 2:11:15 ahead of five East African athletes. The result at once had Wykes asking himself, 'what if?'
"It was funny because the guy that won was a guy I wanted to key off at the Olympics because he has got some good results at championships," says the Canadian star. "I ended up being a little ambitious (in London) and was maybe 30 seconds ahead of him at halfway. Sure enough, he came past me and beat me by a minute. He came 16th. So I have followed his career. I was watching the Glasgow race thinking, I could be in there. but, it is what it is."
Only one race is planned, prior to Toronto, the Vancouver Eastside 10km which is also part of the Canada Running Series. It's a race he won last year. His and coach Lee's reasoning is to limit the amount of travel that can disrupt the final preparations for the marathon.
It will be good to get in a bunch of training," he adds. "I am not sure of the value of racing while you are in marathon training, to see where your fitness is, because it doesn't really tell you a lot. You can try and rest but you are still tired from the (marathon) training. But it's good to go through the motions of racing and realizing you are going to do this for real five weeks later."
Drawing inspiration from American Meb Keflezighi who won this year's Boston Marathon aged 38, Wykes believes he has a few more years in him, at least to get through another Olympic cycle, possibly two. But again motivation will factor into the equation.
"I really just want to get the most out of myself as I can," he declares. "Obviously the Canadian Record falls into that. It just so happens that 2:10 is a barrier I would like to break and the Canadian Record falls within that. That's huge, I would love to improve on my finish at the London Olympics, make another Olympic team. I look at guys who have finished in the top 10 in past years and I'd like to get to that level. That would be something that would be a nice touch."
But, for now, Wykes realizes running his first marathon in two years is the next challenge on the roads along with becoming a father for the first time. Combining the two is something he will be discussing with his rival, Eric Gillis, a father of two.
"A guy like Eric he has spent the best part of his career as a father," says Wykes with a laugh, "I'm sure he will have a lot of words of wisdom for me, how to prioritize things. It will be change in my life and, definitely, a shock to the system."
For further information and entry into this year's Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon events see STWM.ca.