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Canadian Olympian Andrea Seccafien to debut at Tokyo Marathon

Seccafien has had a tough two years fighting her way back from injuries. Now, she's training on her own and ready to take on the marathon

Andrea Seccafien Photo by: Kevin Morris

After reaching the Tokyo Olympic 5,000m final in 2021, the next two years were a whirlwind for Canadian 10,000m record holder Andrea Seccafien. The 33-year-old suffered a root meniscus tear in early 2022, then a stress fracture in 2023, and at times, contemplated calling it a career to go back to school. She felt like she was missing something and had one final box to check as a runner: the marathon.

“The plan has always been to move up to the marathon,” says Seccafien. “I will be running the Tokyo Marathon on March 3.”

Seccafien told Canadian Running that she wants to be on the Canadian Olympic team for the marathon in Paris: “The Olympic standard [2:26:50] is the goal in Tokyo. I would not be running the marathon if my coach and I did not think it was possible.”

There were a lot of changes for Seccafien last year, who moved from Melbourne, Australia, to Portland, Ore., and back to Melbourne. She left Nike Bowerman Track Club in November 2023 after two years of training under coach Jerry Schumacher. She joined the group with fellow Canadian Lucia Stafford in November 2021 (who also subsequently left the club). 

Seccafien says she left Bowerman on good terms. “It wasn’t anything with Jerry; I just did not have a community in Portland or Eugene,” she says. “My life was in Australia, and not in the U.S.” Seccafien is the ninth woman to leave Bowerman Track Club in the past two years, leaving the team with only two women on their roster, according to their website.

Andrea Seccafien
Andrea Seccafien (right) at the 2023 TD Beach to Beacon 10K road race. Photo: Kevin Morris

When asked about the downfall of the Bowerman team and the timeline around Shelby Houlihan’s doping suspension, Seccafien said that Gabriela DeBues-Stafford was the only athlete who left for that reason specifically: “No one else thought that way about Shelby,” she says. “Everyone in the club has been open with each other’s decision, and I think everyone left for many different reasons.”

“When I joined, I thought running the marathon there would work with Bowerman. Jerry doesn’t have time to coach a marathoner; you’d essentially be training on your own,” says Seccafien. Schumacher took a role with the Oregon Ducks group in Eugene, Ore. (two hours from Portland) while still coaching the Bowerman group. “It’s now a totally different environment than when I joined.”

Since returning to Melbourne, Seccafien has begun working remotely with Canadian physiologist and coach Trent Stellingwerff, who also coaches Olympians Natasha Wodak and DeBues-Stafford. “I wanted to find someone willing to coach me remotely and to give me some stability in my life again,” she says. “Trent calls the shots on mileage, and I just follow his plan. Our training is based more on intensity rather than miles.”

Andrea Seccafien
Seccafien competing for Canada at the 2017 World Championships in London. Photo: Claus Andersen

Seccafien says she now does most of her training on her own, with her partner, Jamie, occasionally joining her on the bike. “Like everyone, I’ve started doing double threshold workouts, and Jamie, who’s an exercise physiologist, will test my blood lactate.”

Seccafien told Canadian Running that training has not been easy. “There were a lot of lows. I felt like I had retired at times,” says Seccafien. “I could not put any load on my knee for four months to recover from my meniscus surgery… I could only swim, but could not kick my legs.”

She says it was great when she was finally able to run again, but shortly after, she got a stress fracture –another huge low. “Now, I’m just trying to stay consistent and take things as they come,” she says. Seccafien is seven weeks out from the 2024 Tokyo Marathon, where she will be in the elite field alongside Chicago and London marathon champ Sifan Hassan, whom Seccafien last ran against in the 5,000m final at the Tokyo Olympics (where Hassan won gold).

Eliud Kipchoge and Sifan Hassan will headline 2024 Tokyo Marathon

The Guelph, Ont., native, who has made Melbourne home for the past few years, felt the 2024 Tokyo Marathon was the perfect place to make her debut. “In Tokyo, you know you’re going to be taken care of, which takes out a lot of stress and uncertainty for me,” says Seccafien. With two spots on the Canadian Olympic team for the marathon still open, Seccafien and her coach think she can be wearing a Canadian singlet in Paris.

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