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Lanni Marchant not likely to be allowed to run marathon in 2016 Rio Olympics

Lanni Marchant

The Canadian record-holder was informed that she’ll probably be forced to just run the 10,000m; she has qualified for both events.

Ottawa marathon

Lanni Marchant, the holder of the Canadian women’s marathon record could very well not be representing Canada in the distance at this year’s Olympic Games.

Though the qualification window is now closed, Athletics Canada will not be officially announcing the team until July 11. During a Thursday afternoon conversation with the organization’s head coach, Peter Eriksson, it was indicated to Marchant that she may just be sent to Rio to run the 10,000m.

“I just feel like Athletics Canada doesn’t want me to run an Olympic marathon,” said an upset Marchant via telephone on Thursday, noting that it felt too similar to the situation in 2012 when she was not named to the team.

Marchant qualified for both the 10,000m and the marathon last year and was aiming to compete in both in Brazil. Initially, she was faced with the possibly having to choose one or the other after hitting the standard at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

She made it clear soon after that she intended to run both distances during the Games.

The Canadian Olympic standard to qualify for the women’s marathon was 2:29:50. Athletes had from the beginning of January 2015 up until May 29 of this year to hit that time to be eligible to represent Canada. After that, Athletics Canada requires a proof of fitness from athletes before they get the go-ahead.

Each country is allowed to send three athletes. Two Canadian women have qualified: Marchant and Krista DuChene.

In Marchant’s case, she qualified at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon when she ran 2:28:09–the fastest time ran by a woman during the qualification window and just nine seconds off of the Canadian record, which she set in 2013. She did her proof of fitness during the world half-marathon championships when she ran 1:11:26, leading the Canadian team and placing in the top 20.

Then, on Monday, two days after winning the Canadian 10K championships in Ottawa, she did a 30K simulation run. That was to prove to Athletics Canada that not only was she fit enough for the marathon, but she was also fit enough to do both events back to back. (According to Marchant, Eriksson knew that this simulation run would be happening.) The marathon and 10,000m are 46 hours apart at the Olympics this year–a timeline which Athletics Canada takes issue with.

“I think in their mind, they think I can’t do both,” said Marchant. After doing the Monday simulation, she however feels confident that she can.

“I have no comment about her or anything in relation to the marathon team until July 11,” said Eriksson when reached by telephone. “Until that moment, there is nothing to say.”

The specifics of the situation are complicated. Marchant points out that she’s caught in limbo right now because, although it was strongly suggested that she won’t be running that marathon, it isn’t an explicit no. That means that she cannot begin an appeal.

It also means that if she has to wait until July 11 for confirmation of which events she will be running at the Olympics, her training is up in the air. She notes that it’s hard to plan when you don’t know what you’re planning for. “I would prepare completely differently if I was doubling,” says Marchant.

Right now, she unsurprisingly expresses disappointment. “It’s just frustrating,” she says. “What’s the point of a selection criteria if they aren’t going to be followed?”

Going forward, there is a slight hope that she does end up being named to the marathon team in July. The second best thing would be to get to start an appeal–though she says it’s not ideal do be going through with that while preparing for an Olympic 10,000m race. The worst case scenario is that she goes to Rio to run only the 10,000m and not the marathon and that’s what it’s looking like as of now.

“I’m going to be sitting there twiddling my thumbs during the marathon,” she says.

In the meantime, Marchant is continuing to raise funds to send her family to Rio to watch her run. That’s a campaign which she started on Wednesday. So far she has raised $1,640 of her $15,000 goal and expresses how grateful she is to the running community.

“It shows what a strong community we have,” she says. “Try to explain to the rest of Canada why I’m not running the marathon.”