By Paul Gains
Two of Canada’s Olympic marathoners have confirmed their entry into the Toronto Waterfront 10, the newest race in the Canada Running Series.
Eric Gillis, who has satisfied all the criteria to represent Canada at the Rio Olympics, his third successive Olympic Games, will tackle Speed River Track Club teammate and training partner Reid Coolsaet over this scenic and very fast 10 kilometre course on June 25th. Their addition is welcomed by race director, Alan Brookes.
"We are thrilled and excited for this race to be a Rio sendoff for some of our favourite Canada Running Series stars," says Brookes. "I am sure the Toronto running community will come out in force to give them a proper send-off."
The pair, both 36 years of age now, have similar but different objectives for the race which is expected to draw around 7,000 runners.
"You know what? A solid effort is important to me," Gillis reveals. "The fastest time I can run on that course, in those conditions, is important to me. So (it’s not just) going out there and just getting the win or just getting a race in. I am expecting it to be warmer come June 25 and it’s always tougher, when it is warmer, to get a fast time but in the conditions I'd like to run as fast as I can on that course.
"It’s a new course, a new time of the year for that race but you know what? It’s consistent; as always it’s a Canada Running Series race and CRS races are great to be part of. So I am excited to try their brand newest event and it is close to home too."
Coolsaet, who met the Athletics Canada Olympic qualifying standard with his 2:10:28 clocking at the 2015 Berlin Marathon - the second fastest Canadian performance ever - has been suffering since March from an impinged nerve in his lower back. Because his qualifying time was recorded in 2015 he must still satisfy a ‘proof of fitness’ and knows his result here will be watched closely by Athletics Canada’s head coach, Peter Eriksson.
"Oh yeah it’s been super frustrating," Coolsaet who ran the 2012 Olympic marathon admits. "I have been injured since the beginning of March and now that I know what it is, I am making good progress and I am optimistic that I can turn things around the next few weeks and have a proper buildup for Rio. And, if I am training hard and getting ready for Rio, I am definitely going to want to run some races as well.
"I am sure Toronto Waterfront 10 will play into the mix; any race I do from now until July 10 will be scrutinized and if it goes well, will my seal my selection to the team."
Gillis has had the luxury of easing back from a busy spring schedule during which he proved fitness with a 6th place finish in the Berlin Half Marathon (1:03:42) and then won the Vancouver Sun Run 10k in a quick 28:52. Reading bedtime stories to his two young children is a regular occurrence in his household these days. Meanwhile, Coolsaet has been fitting between two and four appointments for massage, physiotherapy and acupuncture into his weekly regimen.
"I am running about 100 and 120 km a week then supplementing what I can't do on the elliptical and on the bike," Coolsaet explains. "For me Waterfront 10 is just about being race sharp and breaking up the training and just having another good effort close to home before Rio.
"I have been doing a lot of volume and doing my intensity on the elliptical so I really don’t know what kind of running shape I will be in. Any sort of hard effort will be a test and a race more so than a big workout."
Still, whenever he races Coolsaet can be counted on to produce a solid effort. Earlier in the spring he represented Canada at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff and, under dreadful weather conditions, and, with his back seizing up the last third of the race, he still managed 1:04:56. And with a personal best of 27:56.92 for 10,000m he has the ability to race with the best in the world when fully fit.
These days he has been busier than usual because he must drive to the Guelph YMCA to do his cross training and also commute to therapy appointments. On top of this he and his girlfriend, Marie, have bought a house in Hamilton where he grew up.
"The last six weeks there has been a lot of house hunting on the internet and then going to open houses," he reveals. "This past week we bought one. I suspect once we move in I will be pretty busy with doing ‘new house stuff’ trying to save money by doing it myself.
"When I do have some downtime I like to pay attention to cycling and skateboarding. Right now I am kind of following the Giro d'Italia and other times watching skateboard videos on the internet."
Coolsaet will commute to Guelph for workouts with Speed River Track Club. With five weeks remaining until the Toronto Waterfront 10 he will be gradually reaching peak fitness.
"I think my main concern will be putting in a solid effort that would really be a time-based goal and then it depends on who shows up," he reveals. "Hopefully, it will be a good competition and I will want to win. Eric is going to be there. Depending on where we are in training we might push each other and go for a good time, then race it at the end like we have done before."
A new course. Two inspirational Canadian Olympians. What better way to introduce Toronto’s newest 10 kilometre road race?
For More Information and to join Eric and Reid on the start line: CanadaRunningSeries.com.