In case you missed it, Canada’s Rachel Hannah ran a pretty big PB at the Houston Marathon on Jan. 17. Hannah, who represented Canada in the women’s marathon during the Pan Am Games, bested her 2:33:30 PB set last year in Ottawa by 81 seconds on the weekend. She finished sixth and was the top Canadian with her 2:32:09 marathon. While she was aiming for the 2:29:50 Olympic standard, Hannah is happy with her PB from her third time running the distance. Here’s what you didn’t know about Rachel Hannah or her big Houston race:
1. Hannah went to school down south— she attended Georgia State University and so in Houston, the southern accents brought her back. Hearing the cheers from the crowd, she got a little nostalgic during the marathon. “It brought back memories of people cheering me on in college,” she said.
2. The night before her races, Hannah keeps things as low key as possible. For her, that usually means reading articles about sport nutrition. She’s not a big TV watcher–in fact, she doesn’t even own one.
3. Hannah is a big coffee drinker. She’s a three-cups-a-day kind of girl but leading into her races, she does her best to cut down. On race morning, she usually will have one cup of coffee along with a banana, soy milk, sometimes oatmeal with yogurt or some sunflower seed butter for some healthy fat. Hannah doesn’t eat wheat so most toasts and bagels are a no-go.
4. She was randomly selected for testing after Houston. The whole testing process of having someone collect samples was a little bit awkward for her at first but not anymore. “I’ve gotten used to it,” she says of a stranger having to watch her pee in a cup.
5. The day after Houston, she did a shake-out run on paths near the course. She and her coach, Dave, did about an hour and a half of really easy running. “It was probably one of my slowest runs to date,” she says.
6. Hannah usually sticks around the day after the race to explore the city she’s in and see the sights. “We try to see some part of the city to take in the culture,” says Hannah. In Houston, after the race she went to the museum district and went for some Mexican food.
7. This was her third marathon. Her first was in Ottawa last year and her second was when she ran for Team Canada at the Pan Am Games in Toronto. Not only was this her fastest, it was also the least damaging on her body. “It’s getting easier to cover the distance,” she says adding that she had food-timing problems in her past two marathons. “I had no stomach issues, I felt very good and I had energy.”
8. Hannah is working towards earning a International Olympic Committee diploma in sports nutrition. This will help her learn more about fuelling properly for the sport. She’s got two years to complete 1,200 hours.
9. She gets negative thoughts during her races, too. In Houston, when she realized she was off pace for meeting the standard, she had to combat her thoughts to keep going. “I just tried to regroup and take it one kilometre at a time,” she said. She tells herself to relax, focuses on her cadence and just takes the marathon station-by-station.
10. She’s kind of in love with the marathon. “It’s really challenging so that makes it more rewarding in the end,” she says.
11. The community aspect is what she loves best about the marathon. “It brings people together,” says Hannah. “Someone can just walk out the door and cheer you on.”
12. She’s still setting her sights on Rio. Whether that’s for the marathon or for the 10,000m, she doesn’t yet know. Being an Olympic year, she’s just going to keep running fast and hope to qualify. “I’m progressing, I’m one step closer and there’s still time. The number one goal is to qualify for the 10,000m or marathon,” says Hannah.