One of the few events on the 2020 Canadian road racing calendar was held in Waterloo, Ont., over the weekend, and 16 runners made up the small but fast field. Chris Balestrini of London, Ont., and Montreal’s Melanie Myrand took the wins at the Fast is Fun Marathon, crossing the line in 2:17:05 and 2:38:14, respectively. This was a huge PB for Balestrini, but that was unfortunately not the case for Myrand, and while a win is a win, she did not accomplish her goal of running the 2:29:30 Olympic standard.
Before the run, Myrand told Canadian Running that she hoped to run Olympic standard in Waterloo. Had she met this goal, the run wouldn’t have counted toward Olympic qualification (due to a lack of doping control), but Myrand said she wasn’t too concerned with running an official qualifying time. Instead, she simply wanted to run it for herself. “There are so many fast marathoners in Canada right now,” she told CRM. “My goal isn’t to make the Olympics anymore, my goal is just to run the standard.”
The conditions on Sunday were less than ideal, though, and Myrand fell short of a sub-2:30 run. After the race, she posted on Instagram, explaining that, after the halfway point, she realized that her hopes of an Olympic-standard run were shot. Still, she powered forward, shifting her sights to a sub-2:40 result. “It’s not what I wanted but I still have a smile for so many reasons,” she wrote.
A massive PB
Balestrini has had a stellar fall so far. In late September, he ran a pair of PBs (albeit unofficial ones), first with a 1:04:24 half-marathon followed by a 14:22 road 5K. Now, he has added a marathon PB to his list of accomplishments in the past few weeks. His 2:17:05 finish in Waterloo was more than two minutes faster than his previous best of 2:19:40, which he ran at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon last October. He says he didn’t have any specific time goals going into the race — he just wanted to beat his PB.
“I knew I was in better shape than I was before Toronto,” he says. “I wanted to run a PB and get to the halfway mark and feel like I could take off.” He explains that in his previous two marathons (Rotterdam and STWM), he ran sizeable positive splits. In Rotterdam, he was through half in 1:07:16, only to fade to a 2:22:10 finish. In Toronto, he took a more conservative approach, running the first 21K in 1:08:28, but this was still too quick, and he ran a positive split for his 2:19:40 result. This race, he ran almost identical half-marathons back to back, negative splitting by four seconds.
“This is the slowest I’ve gone in any of my marathons to start,” he says. “But I think my fastest 5K was my last 5K. Maybe that means I went out too slowly or maybe it means I went out just right. I guess I won’t know until I try something different next race.”
For the first half of the race, Balestrini had his teammate Phil Parrot-Migas pacing him, but from 24K until the finish, he was running alone. The weather also made for a more difficult run, and he says it rained the entire time. He doesn’t know when his next race will be (he’s signed up for the Houston Marathon in January, but he says he’s “not counting on it happening in any world that we live in now”), but based on his result in Waterloo, he says he believes he can lower his PB even more.
“I definitely feel fit, and with the rain and going solo from 24K, I know there’s definitely more in the tank,” he says. “If I can get into an elite race with people I can work with later in the run, I know I can go faster.”
Full results from the Fast is Fun Marathon can be found here.