By Paul Gains
Respect for Rachel Hannah definitely runs deep in the running community. She may never reach an Olympic medal podium, but she is a consistent force on the Canadian road racing scene, pushing the Olympians she encounters to deliver their best.
As the 35-year-old looks to the upcoming Toronto Waterfront 10K, taking place on Saturday, June 18th, it is with confidence but also with a ‘let’s see how it goes’ attitude—an approach that has carried her to the 2015 Pan American Games marathon bronze as well as an envious tally of domestic medals.
Those medals include the 2014 golds at both the Canadian 10K and Half Marathon Championships, the 2016 Canadian 10,000m Championships, and the 2017 Canadian Half Marathon Championships. Besides that hardware collection, she also finished a respectable 25th in the 2015 World Cross Country Championships in Guiyang, China, and ran a personal best marathon of 2:32:08 in Houston back in 2016. In 2014 and again in 2019, she was the overall Canada Running Series women’s champion.
Suffice it to say she is one of Canada’s best and her return to the Toronto Waterfront 10K is a celebratory moment for Canada Running Series.
She finished seventh in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon 10K in October 2021, running 34:11 that day, when in-person racing returned following Covid restrictions. The race served as the 2021 Canadian 10K Championships. This time, much will depend on how her recovery goes after her third-place finish in the BMO Vancouver Marathon on May 1st.
In Vancouver, she went out too hard, she admitted with no regret.
“I raced it the way you don't want to race a marathon,” Hannah revealed with a laugh. “I went out quite hard with the elite women. I wanted to race (Olympians) Dayna (Pidhoresky) and Lanni (Marchant). That was my race plan, but normally I wouldn’t go out at that pace.
“I think I split the half marathon almost at my PB pace, which on that course is pretty fast. If I had been pacing myself, I would have gone out at least two minutes slower. I couldn’t hold the pace, so I slowed down in the end.”
After taking a couple of easy weeks, she reported her recovery is as good as she could hope. Now her sights are firmly set on the Toronto Waterfront 10K.
“I was looking back at that (2021 Toronto Waterfront Marathon 10K) race,” she admitted during a hands-free telephone chat from her car. “I actually want to try and run faster than that. I won’t be doing as much mileage going into it. I want to focus on speed. So, I am hoping that will help. Like when I ran last year, I really hadn’t been doing workouts at that pace. It was more marathon training.
“I will have to see who is entered. I am not actually sure competition-wise so I can’t really comment on that. I would love to run under 34 minutes. If I can run 33 something, I imagine that will be in the top few. I feel I should be able to do that based on my fitness.”
Hannah spends a lot of time in her car. Twice a week she provides nutrition advice to students at the University of Guelph Health and Performance Centre, almost two hours of drive time from her home in Port Elgin. Last July, she moved to the town on Lake Huron to be with her partner, Joe, a teacher who was born and raised there. It was Joe who hung her Pan Am medal in a picture frame on the wall of their home after finding it in a box of her running memorabilia.
Two days a week she also works with Toronto-based Medcan while managing her own nutrition practice. No doubt she is applying all she learned as a nutrition student at Georgia State University where she was a scholarship athlete between 2005 and 2009.
“I am really enjoying my career,” Hannah added. “I am doing mostly sports nutrition and weight management so it’s nice I am working with more runners and athletes. It’s really nice to work with athletes.”
That’s not to say that her running isn’t a priority. Occasionally she finds training partners in Guelph but most of the time she is running solo.
“Sometimes we will have a group out for a long run,” Hannah explained. “It’s hard to coordinate with my schedule. It’s easier to do it on my own. It would be nice to have training partners for sure.”
It is quite possible that the Toronto Waterfront 10K will be another family affair for Hannah. The youngest of three sisters, their mother, Ingrid, is a Metropolitan Toronto Police officer who enjoys signing up for paid duty work at Canada Running Series races.
“She has been doing it for 20 or more years,” Hannah revealed proudly. “She does paid duties where you put your name in to do additional work above normal shifts. Sometimes she will be blocking off the roads so cars don’t hit us while we are running. She gets a lot of lip from people when she is doing that.”
Inspiration to continue past what most considered the limit of elite distance running has been presented by Malindi Elmore and Natasha Wodak, both Olympians at age 41 and 39 respectively.
“It’s hard to say. I don’t know how many more years,” Hannah stated. “I definitely want to keep competing. I don’t know that I will go past 40. At the most, probably another five years. It depends on injuries. I am still really motivated and enjoy it. I have finally figured out the training volume mix so I can stay healthy.”
Running on a course with which she is familiar—and with confidence—Hannah will be a force to contend with for all comers.
For further information and registration to the Toronto Waterfront 10K, please visit see Toronto-10K.
About Canada Running Series
Canada Running Series is Canada’s premier road race series, offering seven annual events nationwide. Since 2017, CRS’s flagship event, the TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon, has served as the Athletics Canada National Marathon Championship race and has doubled as the Olympic trials. In 2021, CRS raised $4.8 million for 260 local charities through the Charity Challenge.
Using innovation and organization as guiding principles, Canada Running Series stages great experiences for runners of all levels, from Canadian Olympians to recreational and charity runners. With a mission of “building community through the sport of running,” CRS is committed to making sport part of sustainable communities and the city-building process. For more information about Canada Running Series, please visit CanadaRunningSeries.com.
Check out our FrontPage for all the latest running and triathlon news.