This weekend is the Prefontaine Classic, and Charles Philibert-Thiboutot is ready for a big race. He’s entered in the Bowerman Mile, one of the marquis events of the weekend, and says this race is a perfect opportunity for him: “The Bowerman mile is something I’ve been looking for for a long time. I’m prepared to come through 1,500m between 3:33 and 3:35 and finish the race. I’m comfortable with the idea of going through in my PB, en route.”
The middle-distance runner hasn’t competed in the top section of a Diamond League event since 2016, but he feels ready to take on the field this weekend, which includes the likes of Timothy Cheruiyot and both Filip and Jakob Ingebrigtsen (the 1,500m Olympic gold medallist).
While Philibert-Thiboutot didn’t qualify for the 2020 Olympics, he came back from that disappointment even stronger than before. “I had an injury last spring that pushed everything back three weeks. Those three weeks were crucial. Past the qualification deadline, I was still fit, and ended up having a good end of the season,” he says. He would later run Olympic standard, just outside of the qualification window. “It sucked not making the Olympics, but it was incredibly motivating to get back to training in the fall,” he says.
While the road to summer 2022 hasn’t been perfectly smooth (he suffered a calf tear in January) Philibert-Thiboutot feels like he’s in the shape of his life. “I’m so excited for this season. We entered the year, my coach and I, looking to be competitive in both the 1,500m and 5K. We did a lot of strength along with speed development and short sprints, and it has really paid off in the long distances. I’ve smashed my personal bests in the 5K and 10K.”
Going forward, Philibert-Thiboutot will come down to run the shorter distances, primarily miles and 1,500m races. “Ideally I’d run 1,500m at Worlds and 5,000m at Commonwealth [Games]. However, as of now, my time in the 5,000m won’t be fast enough to qualify for Commonwealth. But my biggest goal remains to run the 1,500m at Worlds.”
Philibert-Thiboutot hasn’t run a personal best over 1,500m in seven years–so he’s got something to prove. “My PB is from 2015. In 2016 I ran 0.01 slower, and in 2021 I was 0.02 slower. I’ve been so close, but I haven’t broken it in years.” This weekend he’s looking to change that.
Joining Philibert-Thiboutot in the mile Saturday is fellow Canadian Will Paulson, who has already run 3:33 this spring, placing him under the qualification standard for the upcoming World Championships. “Both Will and myself have bounced back well from the disappointment of not making the Olympics,” says Philibert-Thiboutot. “Now we’re just thriving and pushing each other. I wouldn’t be surprised if we end this season within the top three Canadians of all time.
“I love that people are running well over 1,500m. I feel pushed. I’ve got less days ahead than behind me in this sport, so I’d love to help elevate the 1,500m in Canada before I’m done,” he says.
The Bowerman Mile runs at 5:39 p.m. ET on Saturday.