Just in the last week I had the huge privilege to be invited to attend the citizenship ceremony of a runner that I have recently started to coach. Watching him take the oath and become officially Canadian got me thinking about what the future may now hold for our partnership having removed the elephant-in-the-room of nationality out of the equation. Given that our targets are focused long term on the marathon distance I decided to write down ideas around marathon running in Canada and what is potentially possible over the next 5 or more years.
Here is a brief summary of the current state of the men’s marathon event here in Canada.
- Current Canadian men’s marathon record: 2:10:09 set by Jerome Drayton in Fukuoka, Japan on December 7 1975. This current record has stood for 41 years.
- No Canadian men’s marathon runner has made a major championship podium or marathon major podium in the last 30 years.
The current Canadian men’s marathon record is 8 minutes slower than the current world record (Dennis Kimetto, 2:02:57, Berlin 2014).
8 minutes slower
- More than 10 serious attempts have been made to break the Canadian record in the past 5 years.
When I think of attempts to break the long standing record, one name immediately springs to mind. Reid Coolsaet (37, Hamilton, On). Here’s a short summary of his attempts.
Toronto – Oct 2011 2:10:55, Fukuoka – Dec 2013 2:11:24, London – Apr 2014 2:13:40, Rotterdam – Apr 2015 2:11:24, Berlin – Sep 2015 2:10:28, Rio Olympics – Aug 2016 2:14:58, Fukuoka – Dec 2016 2:10:55.
Besides Reid there have been others also making attempts, albeit less frequently. Two of these are Dylan Wykes and Eric Gillis. Here are their fastest efforts respectively.
Dylan Wykes (33, from Vancouver): Rotterdam – Apr 2012 2:10:47
Eric Gillis (36, from Geulph, ON): Toronto – Oct 2014 2:11:21
As you can see these guys between them have gotten close, in fact tantalisingly close. But basic observation of statistics like these highlights the importance of the psychology of breaking a long standing record. I don’t really believe that Reid or Dylan’s true max potential times are 2:10:** at all. I think they can break 2:10. But when trying to break a record its very easy to get fixed onto the numbers you are trying to break and tailoring everything you do in preparation to hit or maybe just narrowly exceed this target. Race pacing for example will generally be calculated to just break the record finishing time. However all of this constrained thinking channels the runner into a narrow psychological tunnel that ensures they will likely run very close to the target time, but mostly because the race never unfolds perfectly, just slightly fall short.
narrow psychological tunnel
As I now begin my coaching journey with my newly approved Canadian citizen runner I can’t help but observe that the door is wide open for a fresh approach. A marathon project built from the ground up not to try and break the national record but to deliberately work to extract 100% of the potential out of an athlete who’s true lifetime talent is comfortably quicker than 2:10:09. Rather than have any focus on breaking the national record the aim will be to run as fast as possible injury free with no psychological constraints. And the records, they will take care of themselves.