By Paul Gains
(10-Aug) -- Elite marathoners have many options to chase fast times each fall. Olympian Dayna Pidhoresky has chosen the TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 15th, where she will seek her second Athletics Canada title in four years. The 36-year-old Vancouver resident was the first Canadian finisher at this event in 2019, crossing the line in a then personal best 2:29:03 and was rewarded with an automatic position on Canada's Tokyo Olympic marathon squad. She loves running in Toronto.
"I think for me it's helpful that it's familiar," Pidhoresky said in an interview. "The travel is familiar, the course is familiar, so it sort of takes the guess work out of that part. If you are doing an overseas fall marathon that can be part of that stress which is from just not knowing what to expect.
"In this case Toronto is a race I have lined up for many times in the past. And also, it's not a slow course; I know I can run fast there. I have run fast before. I do hope to run faster than I have before."
Originally from Tecumseh, a town near Windsor, Ontario, she and her husband Josh Seifarth have been living in Vancouver for ten years now. Although she has raced many times in the U.S. and represented Canada at the 2017 World Championships as well as at the Tokyo Olympics, domestic races have been a large part of her curriculum vitae. Indeed, she won both the 2022 and 2023 Vancouver Marathons, the latter in 2:34:27.
Pidhoresky realizes that winning a Canadian title earns an additional 45 World Athletics Ranking points on top of points awarded for a finishing time. Those extra points could be worth more than four minutes to her. In other words, if she equals her personal best in Toronto and wins the Canadian title she would earn 1187 WA points - the same as if she had run 2:24:35 at another race. That would put her in contention for a spot on Canadaís team for next year's Paris Olympics. It would mean everything if she were successful.
"Yeah, absolutely. I feel that is one of the reasons I am working so hard," she said. "It's really to try and get on another Olympic team. I feel I have unfinished business at the Olympics. It's not about placing it's about leaving there feeling I was able to do my best on the day."
On her flight to Tokyo for the Olympic Games two years ago she and Josh were seated near someone who tested positive for COVID. That resulted in an enforced confinement inside their Gifu hotel room for several days during which they were not allowed to leave the room. She endured a further isolation in Sapporo; not ideal preparation for the biggest race of her life.
Team officials brought her a stationary bicycle intended to replace her running. Already nursing a tendon injury she was a shadow of herself when it came time to run the Olympic marathon in Sapporo. She struggled home in 73rd place. The memories are bitter. A good race in Toronto would go a long way to reducing the disappointment of two years ago.
Recently, she began her buildup towards Toronto and in contrast to previous years she is in good health.
"So far it is going well," she said. "We are doing a 12-week build so we have just begun. The first week of the build I ran 161 km. For us it's about week after week of solid mileage so if we can have several weeks in a row at 180 km and, I can keep grinding through that kind of training, it really works well for me."
Most of her training is done alone with Seifarth accompanying her on the long 38-40 km runs on a bicycle. He carries drinks for her so that they donít need to put out tables during training. A mid-week interval or fartlek session is done with some of the other athletes he coaches.
Surprisingly the subject of Toronto's prize money doesn't come up in conversation. There is CAD 130,000 prize money available with the winners each receiving CAD 20,000. Included in this purse is CAD 8,000 for the male and female Canadian champions as well as a share of the overall purse should they finish in the top-8 overall. Its only when the subject is raised that she comments.
"I did go into this year thinking I didn't want to be chasing prize money because I am really focused on running as fast as I can," she said, "and sometimes that means not worrying about making money. "Last year I was focused on trying to win money and this year I just need to run as fast as I can. Maybe that means going to races where there is no way I can make money and instead I am losing money to run a fast time. I think that it would be nice to come home with a little check though."
A year and a half ago the couple bought a condominium in Vancouver close to ideal training terrain at the University of British Columbia and Pacific Spirit Park. Seifarth started an automotive software company called Visifii working out of a home office. Pidhoresky contributes a few hours a week between training, physiotherapy, massage therapy and strength training sessions. And she has other interests which she finds soothing.
"Sometimes I bake; I do enjoy baking these days," she said with a laugh. "I have a friend who live in the building right besides ours and we will bake. Then our husbands will eat 95% of what we bake. So it's sort of perfect."