By Paul Gains
Although the official announcement won't be made for another month Krista DuChene has checked all the necessary boxes and is poised to represent Canada in the 2016 Olympic marathon.
Now the 39 year old Brantford, Ontario native can look forward to racing the Toronto Waterfront 10 on Saturday June 25 without the pressure of anyone looking over her shoulder and assessing her fitness. Nevertheless, she will approach the 10km race with a specific target.
"I think itís just to throw a bit of a changeup in the pace, just try to switch it up from the half marathons that I have done," she reveals. "It will be a tune-up speed workout thatís the way we will look at it.
"In four of my last five races I have been second place. So, to be honest, if I get second again that day: whatever! I have been fit and healthy all year with injuries so who cares if I donít get the win. What matters at the end of the day is that I am healthy and fit and ready to put it all out there on August 14 (the date of the Rio Olympics marathon)."
DuChene raced several times in the winter and early spring looking to satisfy Athletics Canadaís "proof of fitness". She achieved the Olympic marathon standard with 2:29:38 in Rotterdam (April 2015) and this proof of fitness was required. After winning the Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal (April 24) she accomplished her task then managed a week off during which she admits to enjoying culinary treats. The rest was short-lived, however, as her 15 week marathon buildup toward Rio began immediately afterwards.
Although her legs will no doubt feel the effects of the extra training miles she will race to win the Toronto Waterfront 10, the newest race on the Canada Running Series calendar. She chose to run jt rather than fly across the country to compete in the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon which is on the same weekend.
"Itís an early start so I will go to Toronto Friday night," she explains. "I am there and back in less than 24 hours. There is a lot to be said for staying close to home, in your own environment, in your own bed, your own food and everything like that. I love going out to Vancouver to do that race but I think it just made sense to throw a 10k in there and also so I could focus more on those harder longer runs locally."
Amongst her fans in Rio will be husband Jonathan and her three children. They have booked tickets for the marathon finish at Copacabana Beach. Now that all three kids are in school she no longer has to wake up before sunrise to get in her training and is obviously feeling the benefit of additional sleep.
On the Toronto starting line she will face Dayna Pidhoresky, who beat her at the Vancouver First Half Marathon in February, as well as Vancouverís star masterís runner, Catherine Watkins. The latter a 44 year old rising star represented Canada at the 2015 Pan Am Games marathon where she finished a solid 8th. More recently she raced in the Ottawa 10k on May 28. She was the first Masters woman and finished 12th overall.
"I went into Ottawa feeling pretty fit but the conditions there werenít ideal for a fast time," Watkins recalls of the heat and humidity which plagued the race. "I kind of suffered in that heat. But I think in a few weeks in Toronto that is definitely my chance to go under 34 minutes again. Thatís the goal."
Watkins has seen remarkable improvement in her running career since joining up with BC Endurance Project coach Richard Lee. Among those she often trains with are 2012 Olympian Dylan Wykes, 2016 Olympic qualifier Natasha Kodak, Pidhoresky, and, when she is in Vancouver training, Canadian marathon record holder Lanni Marchant. They all live within a few kilometres of each other.
With two children in school full time Watkins is able to fit in her training while pursuing altruistic activities.
"I have been doing some volunteer work with a group out here called Street 2 Front," she reveals. "They are a school out here that works with children from the Downtown Eastside. They are kids who generally havenít made it in the regular school program. The man who runs the program has developed an amazing running program with them and has inspired them through running.
"A couple of years ago we organized a run to raise money. They took all the kids to Mount Kilimanjaro. They are doing another trip next year, to Peru to hike the Inca Trail."
While the womenís race at Toronto Waterfront 10 is compelling stuff the menís race holds great interest too. It will feature Olympians Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis.
Both represented Canada in the 2012 Olympic marathon while Gillis also ran the 10,000m at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. And with DuChene soon to become a first time Olympian there will definitely be an Olympic edge to the race.
Organizers are throwing a "Rio Send-Off" post-race party complete with Brazilian drummers and samba dancers from 8:45 a.m until 9:15 a.m. to celebrate the Olympians. There will also be presentations by the Honourable MP Peter Fonseca, himself a 1996 Olympic marathoner and the Brazilian Consul General.
For more information and to join the Olympians: Wtarefront10K.ca.