2012 Golden Shoe AwardsDecember 31, 2012
By Mihira Lakshman, Charles Mandel, Robyn McNeil, Donna McElligott, Noel Pain
From Olympic marathoners to age-group stars to promoters who make it all possible, Canada’s running community has several outstanding individuals. We honour eight deserving runners who have made a huge difference in our sport in the past year.
Dylan Wykes, Vancouver, B.C./Kingston, Ont.
Dylan Wykes went from wanting to quit running altogether to being Canada’s top marathoner at the London Olympics in the span of six months last year. In early March, Wykes was attempting to make the Canadian Olympic standard of 2:11:29 at the Lake Biwa Marathon in Japan. Unfortunately, stomach issues forced him to drop out after 26K. Running fans are grateful that Wykes got over the heartbreak in a hurry and regrouped for the Rotterdam Marathon a month later, where he ran 2:10:47. “The moment after I dropped out of Lake Biwa was probably the lowest I’ve felt after a race,” Wykes says, “and then after Rotterdam was probably the highest I’d felt.”
Wykes, who is from Kingston, Ont., but trains in Vancouver, marched into the London Olympic Stadium for the opening ceremonies determined to compete hard in the marathon. He wasn’t just happy to be there. The entire Canadian marathon squad - Wykes, Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis - ran conservative, but smart races in humid conditions. Wykes moved up about 60 positions over the course of the race after running around 80th place for the first 10K. He finished 20th in 2:15:26. “I was proud of the way I competed and also how well I prepared for the Olympics,” he says. “I think it could’ve been easy after having a dream come true by qualifying for the Olympics to become a bit complacent and be satisfied with just making it to the Olympics. But I set high goals for myself for the Games as well. I prepared diligently and executed well on the day on the biggest stage possible.”
Since the conclusion of the Olympics, Wykes hasn’t raced. In fact, he hasn’t been able to run as much due to some nagging aches and pains. Dating back to the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October of 2011, Wykes had attempted four marathons in a 10-month period. “I think now my body is just telling me it needs a longer break than the usual three to four weeks. I currently have no definite plans for racing in 2013. I have so many goals that I want to accomplish in the next four years - I’m currently struggling with what to attack, when.” The 29-year-old is still young in marathon terms and remains the No. 2 Canadian all-time at the distance with the goal of breaking the national record of 2:10:09. Wykes maintains a strong relationship with the running community that supports him across Canada, appearing at races and giving motivational talks.
Lanni Marchant, London, Ont.
Although she didn’t win her appeal to get on the Olympic team, Lanni Marchant still had an incredible year of racing. She burst onto the marathon scene with a surprising 2:31:50 at the Rotterdam Marathon, shaving about 12 minutes off her previous best. It forced her - along with Krista DuChene, who ran 2:32:06 in Rotterdam - into the Olympic conversation. In the end, Marchant had to accept that her Olympic dream would have to wait another four years, but she refocused on trying to drop her marathon time below 2:30.
She entered the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon with Silvia Ruegger’s Canadian record of 2:28:55 in her sights. Marchant didn’t finish the race but still ended the year as Canada’s top female marathoner, putting women’s long distance running back on the Canadian sporting map. “Pulling out of the Toronto Waterfront Marathon was the result of my body telling me it needed a break,” she says. “I never really came down in my training after Rotterdam, and then trained pretty hard through my ankle injury this summer. Once I started back to full training towards the end of the summer, I was able to get into pretty good shape, but I think the rapid increase in volume was just a little too much for my hip.”
Marchant believes that she and DuChene can do for the Canadian women’s marathon what Wykes, Coolsaet and Gillis did for the men’s event. She’s expected to be a leader on Canada’s team at the 2013 world marathon championships in Moscow. “I won’t run a spring marathon,” she says, “so I’ll be able to focus on some shorter distances and getting stronger and quicker. I’ll likely head to Kenya for a brief altitude stint, and then gear up to race the Around the Bay 30K.”
Marchant, 28, still maintains her day job as a lawyer in Chattanooga, Tenn., while running 100-mile weeks. She says the biggest change in her training last year was her consistency and the extended training camp in Kenya, both of which yielded significant results.
Marchant has built a strong fan base for her perseverance and breakthroughs in 2012. “The support I have received from the running community this past year definitely has been a highlight that has helped me make the transition to running at this level.” (Watch an extended video interview with Lanni Marchant on our website http://runningmagazine.ca/video/)
While Dylan Wykes and Lanni Marchant received our nod for the Canadian all-star Golden Shoe Award, we want to acknowledge a few of Canada’s other outstanding distance runners from 2012. Cam Levins, as you’ll read in our feature on p. TK, could easily have taken this award. His 11th place finish in the Olympic 10,000m final was one of Canada’s greatest distance running performances of all-time. Levins followed that up a few days later by finishing a respectable 14th in the 5000m. Nate Brannen showed up at the Olympics in the greatest shape of his life, but the 1500m runner had some bad luck in the semifinals, falling with 600m to go. Still, he regrouped to finish the race and a week later set the Canadian 1000m record in 2:16.52. Other distance runners who deserve an honourable mention include Melissa Bishop and Jessica Smith (the third and fourth Canadian women ever to run sub-2 for the 800m), Geoff Harris, Hilary Stellingwerff and Nicole Sifuentes.
Trail Blazer: Jeremy Bradford, Michael Gaudet (Prince Edward Island)
As Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island might seem tiny - until you try to run it from tip to tip. Jeremy Bradford confirmed that last August when, having covered the Island’s 273.4 km length in less than 48 hours on foot, he greeted his mother at the finish with the words: “That’s a big island.” Bradford barely cemented the first record for running P.E.I. from end to end in 46.5 hours when Islander Michael Gaudet, who helped Bradford plan his run, ran the length of the small province even faster - in a shade over 42 hours. Bradford says of Gaudet, “Being able to call him a friend is one of the greatest outcomes of this whole adventure as he really is a remarkable person.”
The same might be said of Bradford himself. A Canadian born in Burlington, Ont., Bradford currently calls Denver, Colo., home, where he works as a marketing analyst. Bradford, 35, started running as a New Year’s resolution in 2009, losing over 30 pounds and within five months completing his first marathon in a time of 3:45:46. That was only a hint of things to come. Since then, Bradford has run 12 100-milers, 12 50-milers, one 50K, 11 marathons, 14 half-marathons and many shorter races. This year alone he won five out of six 100-mile races he entered, as well as the Rocky Mountain Double Marathon in Wyoming this past summer. Traversing P.E.I., though, is his proudest accomplishment. “The P.E.I. run was without a doubt the most life-changing running experience I’ve had to date,” Bradford says.
While visiting P.E.I., the Island’s natural beauty captivated Bradford. Subsequently learning of the stone-crushed surface on the Confederation Trail, he decided he wanted to tackle the challenge of running P.E.I. tip-to-tip. On August 12, he left Tignish at 5:05 a.m., finishing in Elmira on Aug. 14 at 3:31 a.m. In between, Bradford ran non-stop, with the exception of one extended break on the afternoon of the second day when he changed clothes and sat for some time with a bag of ice on his head, trying to beat the heat. “It was hot. It was humid,” Bradford recalled. “I was chafing like I’d never chafed before.”
Bradford fuelled up on Honey Stinger waffles, Hammer gels, water, Gatorade and the odd Tim Horton’s sandwich. For Bradford, the other highlight came from meeting Gaudet, a 59-year-old runner and provincial government worker who divides his time between Darnley, P.E.I., in the summer and Charlottetown over the winter. Although Gaudet viewed the tip-to-tip run as a personal challenge, he also hoped it would bring attention to the Confederation Trail, which he calls a “provincial treasure.” Like Bradford, Gaudet already had experience running ultras and marathons, completing three and nine of each respectively. On September 21, he left Tignish with many local runners and athletes accompanying him for part of the run.
Gaudet’s nutriton differed substantially from Bradford’s during the run. The Islander took in 300 calories of Hammer Perpetuem per hour, and then ate a wildly varied diet, including peanut butter and jam sandwiches, chicken sandwiches, dates, sweet potatoes and 24 fresh oysters. “This always put a smile on everyone when I offered them an oyster,” Gaudet says with a laugh, adding that the salt and minerals provided a great energy boost.
Even with oysters fuelling his run, at one point it looked as if Gaudet wouldn’t complete the distance. With 25K left, the running had become a fast walk. And after a period of rain let up, Gaudet overheated to the point where, as he stripped off his gear, he lost consciousness. When he came to, Gaudet want to know if the run was over, only to be told he had 15K left. Again, like Bradford, after having covered the equivalent of six ultras back-to-back, Gaudet found his arrival at Elmira an emotional experience.
Citing Christopher MacDougall’s book Born to Run as a major influence, Gaudet says running with Island friends who’d accomplished distances of 100 miles impressed him with not only their stories, but with their character and their “zest for life,” - a characteristic both Bradford and Gaudet appear to share.
Community Pillar: Stacy Chesnutt and Michelle Kempton, founders of United by Running (Dartmouth, N.S.)
The women behind Dartmouth, N.S.’s United by Running are trying to make running a more social activity, bridging the gap between the elites and the beginners. It’s common to finish a race, eat a bagel, and then head home alone. Michelle Kempton and Stacy Chesnutt wanted to change that, founding United by Running, a race management company, in the spring of 2011. Kempton began running four years ago with the goal of losing weight and is co-founder of Heart & Sole, Dartmouth’s largest running club. Chesnutt is a triathlete who’s completed seven Ironman races and 30 marathons in the past 24 years. Together, they hoped to unite runners regardless of experience, distance, or pace. “Ironically, at the same time that I was winning races,” Chesnutt says, “Michelle and I created our race series that doesn’t focus on being the fastest runner, but instead celebrates that you are a runner - regardless of where you finish in the race. We’ve redefined what ‘good time’ means at a race,” she adds. “We believe for most it’s not defined by their chip time or finish place.”
It seems they’re on to something. United by Running launched 3 races in the 2012 season: Sole Sisters (a women’s-only 5K), Maritime Race Weekend (a two-day event featuring 5K and 10K races, along with a half-marathon and marathon) and the Lucky 7 Relay (a team event where three runners each run 7K legs). Both Sole Sisters and Maritime Race Weekend sold out well in advance and registration for November’s Lucky 7 Relay is expected to reach capacity. There are already waiting lists for next season’s races.
Runners seem to appreciate the work Kempton and Chesnutt put into their events from course design to promoting a positive race atmosphere to unique t-shirts and medals. There’s even prize money for the elites. “It was by far the best running event I have ever attended,” says Dartmouth’s Katie Bent, of her experience at Maritime Race Weekend. “It was so organized and everything went so smoothly.” Barry Morshead, another local runner, says it’s nice to have such a range of options on the Halifax running scene. “It was a nice change of pace,” says Morshead, “Michelle and her partner Stacy have done a wonderful job with the community.”
Coach: Janice McCaffrey, Adrenaline Rush (Calgary)
When you’ve been a three-time Olympian and at the top of your sport in three different events, you might not think coaching a recreational runner to qualify for the Boston Marathon would be a big deal. But it is for Janice McCaffrey, the founder of Adrenaline Rush, a group of about 50 focused and fun-loving runners in Calgary. They range in age from 26 to 66 and include podiatrists, sport therapists, doctors and homemakers. “You know how exciting it is to get someone to qualify for Boston, or to help them get a PB in a 10K?” asks McCaffrey, 2001 Canadian masters marathon champion. “They might as well have made the Olympic team, it’s their Olympics. When they race, I’ve got knots in my stomach,” says McCaffrey, who is often glued to her phone on race weekends waiting for her athletes’ results.
McCaffrey could be considered the ultimate coach. She has the Olympic experience: competing in the Women’s 10K race walk in 1992 in Barcelona (six weeks following the birth of her second child), again in 1996 in Atlanta, and the 20K race walk in 2000 in Sydney, at the age of 40. McCaffrey has also raced in three separate Commonwealth Games and continues to compete as a masters athlete in marathon with a 2:45:52 personal best. She also does triathlons. McCaffrey still holds the Canadian record for the 10K and 20K race walk, but perhaps her greatest attribute as a coach is her experience as a professional psychologist. “I like people. I love the one-on-one and getting into people’s heads. And I like people’s problems or challenges. So that doesn’t frustrate me the way I imagine it might for some coaches who just wish the difficult ones would go away.”
With each athlete, McCaffrey breaks down the event into several sections and helps the runner visualize them. She goes over how to fuel for the race and analyzes what the challenges will be. She says she respects the athletes as if they were going to the Olympics and helps them cope with the pre-race anxiety. “I was the most nervous athlete, off in the bushes throwing up before every race without fail because of nerves. Back in the 1970s, we didn’t know a lot of sport psychology.”
Part-time adminstrative assistant and homemaker Patty Trimble, 44, met McCaffrey in a triathlon swim group. Trimble has completed Ironman and 70.3s, but having McCaffrey as a running coach has made Trimble a better runner and helped her to qualify for Boston. “Her approach has helped me with perseverence and mental toughness in other aspects of my life,” Trimble says. The workouts are constantly changing and they’re tough. McCaffrey often does them with the group. “I love making up workouts, making them more challenging, and being creative. You’ve got to keep switching things up and applying new stresses in order to get better. I’m always reading the latest research and applying it, trying to raise the bar,” McCaffrey says.
Securing McCaffrey as a coach in Calgary, these days, can be a significant challenge. She interviews her athletes to make sure they work with the chemistry of the group. There’s a competitive spirit, she says, but not to the detriment of anyone taking part. The athletes are a key part of the daily ongoing support for each other.
Masters Master: Myriam Grenon (Longeuil, Que.)
Many runners excel in their younger years and when they’re older, they run recreationally or can only hope for age-group bests. But Myriam Grenon of Longeuil, Que., is running her best in her 40s. Grenon is proud to have beaten all of her personal bests in the past few years. “I have the inclination and motivation to excel,” she says. Active in her younger years, she took a break when she had children but returned to running and started training with the Quebec running Club, Les Vainquers (The Winners) in 2004. In 2007 when she was 39, Grenon had a new set of personal bests. Somehow she manged to fit in high-mileage weeks and two-a-day runs with the busy life of a mother and her job. Grenon won the 2012 Canadian masters titles in the marathon (2:49:38) and half-marathon (1:19:46); she was also the fastest Quebec female marathoner overall in 2012.
“With age, I listen a little more,” she says. “I’m able to adjust according to my fatigue level, work and family. I have other priorities than running. I have a wonderful family and a job that I love.” Her advice to other masters runners is that experience is a great asset in a race. Grenon likes to run no more than two to three marathons a year and runs on a variety of different surfaces: trails, cross-country, track and roads. She also includes other sports in her routine such as biking, swimming, yoga, tennis and the gym.