The London Marathon on Sunday, April 24 will be Canadian and fan-favourite Rob Watson‘s biggest race of his life as he looks to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games. Watson, with a lifetime best of 2:13:29 (Toronto, 2013), needs to run 2:12:50 or faster to be eligible for the Canadian Olympic team.

“I am frigging pumped and ready, but also nervous,” says Watson. “There is a lot riding on this race.”

Start times (April 24)

Women’s elite: 9:15 a.m. local time (4:15 a.m. EDT).
Men’s elite: 10 a.m. local time (5 a.m. EDT).

The relevant Athletics Canada qualifying period ends on May 29, 2016. Watson, 32, has been in Europe for a month training in preparation for Sunday’s race in an effort to reduce the effects of pre-race travel from his Vancouver residence.

READ THE WOMEN’S PREVIEW HERE.

Watson’s thoughts ahead of the London Marathon

How he’s gotten to this point: “There really wasn’t a single workout that got me too pumped – I’ve just had a very consistent build over the past several months. I have been rolling steady and that is good for the head. I have had some pretty gnarly Mondays where coach had me doing two hard workouts in one day. We’d do a fast 8K tempo in the morning and then some shorter faster intervals in the evening. It got to where I’d run a 24:30 8K in the morning feeling quite chill, then I’d do something like 10 to 12 times 1K at night averaging 2:58K off one-minute rest. Those days would end up being over 40K of running, they were exhausting but I really liked them.”

RELATED: Rob Watson’s signature marathon workout.

His race day kicks: “Gonna be racing in the Mizuno Hitogami that Dylan Wykes gave me. I’m not sponsored at the moment so it’s been fun testing out new shoes. It was a close call between the Adidas Adios and the Mizunos, but I nailed a really solid workout in the Mizunos one day and that was that.”

On whether London will be his final race: “To be honest, I think London is it. I have put all I have mentally and physically into this one, having said that, if it doesn’t go well I may be on a flight to Ottawa come the end of may.”

The Ottawa Marathon falls on the last day to qualify for the Olympics in the marathon. So far, Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis have Athletics Canada men’s qualifying standard in the marathon.

Watson has had a very good leadup to London, less arguably his run at the IAAF world half-marathon championships, which were run in poor and slow conditions. At the Houston half-marathon in January, he ran 1:03:58. Prior to that he won three consecutive road races including the Vancouver Fall Classic, Boxing Day 10-miler, and the Pioneer 8K.

As can be seen in the below Facebook post, the London Marathon will have five different pace groups for the men, and three for the women. Watson will be tucking in with the 2:11 marathon group. Running in a group provides athletes with a positive mental boost as well as the ability to draft off other athletes.

The men’s race is absolutely loaded with talent including the world record holder, one of the world’s greatest track athletes, the former world record holder, and the defending London Marathon champion.

Who to watch for plus “did you know?”

Kenenisa Bekele: He’s the 5,000m and 10,000m world record holder and arguably the best track athlete ever but he hasn’t finished a race since 2014. Did you know that Bekele owns his own personal 400m track in Ethiopia?
Eliud Kipchoge: The defending champion. Did you know that between training runs he cleans toilets?
Stanley Biwott: Winner of the New York City Marathon. Did you know that he worked on a dairy farm in Kenya before winning NYC in the fall?
Dennis Kimetto: World record holder in the marathon. Did you know that his age was at one point misreported as being 10 years younger that he actually is?
Ghirmay Ghebreslassie: Defending world champion. Did you know that he’s only 20 and, despite his last name, is unrelated to running great Haile Gebrselassie?
Wilson Kipsang: The former world record holder. Did you know that he leads an athlete’s union against doping in Kenya?

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