At the start of 2020, Jim Dyck expected to compete at the World Masters Athletics Championships in Toronto in July. Because of COVID-19, that of course didn’t end up happening, but he decided to treat the season like any other. Even when it looked like the 2020 track season would come and go without any races being run, he told himself that could change, and that if it didn’t, he would just run time trials instead. As it turned out, Dyck did get a few chances to race, and he made use of all the work he did throughout the spring, ultimately breaking M55 Canadian masters records in the 800m and 1,500m.
Dyck first started running in high school, and after catching the eye of collegiate coaches, he eventually accepted a scholarship to run at the University of Manitoba. He had a successful university career, winning four team national track championships and an individual silver medal in the 600m. After university, he drifted away from the track, but years later, when he turned 40, he decided to give road racing a try.
“I wanted to get back into running and did some marathon training without any knowledge of how to do it properly,” he says. “I ran my first marathon in New York City. I ran 3:11. It was the most horrible experience I’d ever had.” Dyck told himself that was the end of his marathon career, but then he found out that his result in New York had qualified him for the Boston Marathon. Realizing what an incredible opportunity this was, he brushed aside thoughts of retirement and began training for another 42K race.
“I trained a bit more and learned bit more,” he says. “I ended up running a 3:02. Wanting to break three hours, he signed up for the Chicago Marathon, where he smashed his PB and ran 2:44. “I finally figured out the proper formula,” he says. At this point, he decided to complete the World Marathon Majors circuit, which at the time consisted of Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City (Tokyo was added in 2013).
He ran 2:43 at the Berlin Marathon, which remains his PB at the distance, and finished his round of the World Marathon Majors in London in 2012, where he recorded a 2:47. “By then I was tapped out with marathon training,” he says. He still wanted to run, though, and so he joined the masters community.
Dyck has spent the last several years in the masters track scene, and in late 2018, he joined a team coached by Dave Reid. Some of Dyck’s new teammates include Olympian Matt Hughes, Commonwealth Games medallist and host of The Shakeout Podcast Kate Van Buskirk and elite marathoner Paddy Birch. “Working with them has been really good for me, and it’s one of the reasons I’ve been able to have a good season this year.”
With months of solid training under his belt, coming into the summer, Dyck says national records were “sort of” on his radar. “I just turned 55, and when you’re starting a new age group, you look and see what’s there. I for sure thought the 800m record was something I could hit.” The time to beat in the M55 category was 2:07.1, and in a pair of July time trials, Dyck ran 2:06 and 2:04. He says he believed that he could “get a good crack” at the record if he got a chance to race.
When that chance came in late August at a race in Bolton, Ont., he took advantage of it and ran 2:04.2 for a new M55 national record. A few weeks later, Dyck lined up in a 1,500m race in St. Catharines, Ont., where he set his second record of the season with a 4:22.25, beating the previous record by more than three seconds.
Even though he’s clearly on a roll, he says he’s done for the season. “There is one more race, another 800m, that I could’ve entered, but my body needs to rest up a little bit,” he says. After some downtime, he’ll start to build toward the cross-country season, which he hopes will be able to go ahead with at least a few races. From there, he’ll see what the 2021 season holds and whether there will be any indoor races in Ontario. If there are, he says he has a few more national records in his sights, but for now, he’s happy to keep running and take any racing opportunities he can get in the meantime.