By Paul Gains
Rob Watson has always been known as a free spirit, someone who accepts whatever results he achieves on the roads and on the track.
Mostly those results have been impressive.
Twice he has represented Canada at the IAAF World Track and Field Championships running the 3,000m steeplechase at the 2009 Berlin championships and the marathon in Moscow in 2013. A year ago he was crowned Canadian Marathon Champion.
Now he is counting on achieving the Olympic qualifying standard at the Virgin London Marathon. At the age of 32 he knows his time amongst the upper echelon is limited.
"Itís my last chance to qualify for the Olympics," he admits. "I haven't really planned my running career past London. If I do well in London and, I am fortunate enough to qualify for the Olympics then, obviously, I will aim towards that. I don't know where I will go with it. Itís London or bust pretty much.
"The London marathon is April 24 and that is what all the training is aiming toward. That will be my last shot at getting an Olympic qualifier so we are putting all our eggs in one basket."
Together with his coach/brother Pete Watson he has mapped out his path to the Olympics which includes the Modo Spring Run Off 8k on Sunday March 20th. Training is, by his own admission, proceeding as he had hoped.
"Itís going quite well, quite well," he reveals. "I am pretty fit. I qualified for the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff, Wales (March 26th) so all systems are go. The Modo 8k is kind of like a Ďblow out the carboní race. I like to always get a shorter faster one in before the actual (championship) race."
Watson grew up in London, Ontario then attended Colorado State University on an athletics scholarship. For several years he trained with the Speed River Track Club in Guelph, Ontario before selling many of his belongings and moving out west to Vancouver. He is currently living in the Kitsilano Beach area with his girlfriend, Genevieve.
"I am right down in West Kits near Jericho Beach," he explains. "Itís about a half kilometre run to Jericho Beach. When they hold the Canadian Cross Country Championships here, itís at Jericho Beach.
"Itís a great location. Dylan Wykes lives about two hundred metres away, Luc Bruchet is around the corner. Chris Winter is right up the street. There is a good group of us runners down here in this neighbourhood."
Watson was pleased to learn that Music Heals is the featured charity in this yearís Modo 8k, being a huge music lover himself. In fact, the Executive Director, Chris Brandt, will be among those who toe the starting line but with slightly different expectations. Brandt says he is delighted the charity will again benefit from the association with Canada Running Series.
"Most of the music charities in Canada focus on music education," he declares. "We are one of only two that I know of that focus exclusively on music therapy.
"Music Heals raises money and awareness for music therapy in Canada. We are based in Vancouver and we fund programs across the country that provide music therapy for everything from kids to palliative, seniors, autism, dementia, burn units, AIDS and HIV, bereavement rehabilitation and a whole bunch more."
On March 5th seventy two bars across the country participated in a fundraiser whereby they donated $1 from each cover charge collected to Music Heals. Brandt points out that, in its three year existence, the charity has signed cheques in support of various music therapy programs to the tune of $500,000.
Watson himself attends as many concerts as he can fit in. A big fan of musicians like Chuck Ragan, Hothouse Music, Bad Religion and the Canadian band Propagandhi he is also one of the few elite runners who actually listens to music on some of his training runs.
"Sometimes, when I am going for an easy run I will tell my girlfriend ĎI am going to listen to music for a whileí then strap that on and go for a jog down the beach," Watson reveals.
"Generally when I train itís faster, louder stuff. I am a huge fan of the early 90's skate punk scene. Loud and fast when I am training. When I am home itís a little more low key. Anything with a guitar, you can't go wrong."
Genevieve doesnít necessarily share his music tastes.
"I took her to one of the Progagandhi shows," he says with a laugh. "She didn't know what was going on. There is a good mosh pit and people kind of dance around and go a little crazy. I try to behave now that I am a little bit older. I don't want to get injured. I try to behave; sometimes it doesn't work."
Watson expects the Modo 8k field will be a strong one and he will have a fight for the victory even if he hasnít studied the competition.
"I know that (Trevor) Hofbauer is coming so I think he will be one of the stronger runners," he says. "I donít know who else is coming.
"Itís a good race. If itís a nice day I would like to get out there and run under 24 (minutes) for sure. Ď23 midí would be a nice. I am just going to go out there and blow the doors off and run as hard as I can."
The field got a lot stronger with the addition of 2012 Canadian Olympian Dylan Wykes who confirmed his entry late Wednesday. He has been battling some injuries lately. Canadian international Terrence Attema is also confirmed. Meanwhile, Dayna Pidhoresky, the 2011 overall Canada Running Series champion, leads the womenís field.
For More information and to register: CanadaRunningSeries.com.