Thursday, 20 October 2011

Toronto Waterfront Marathon Results 2011

Just back from a busy weekend in Toronto and for once I wasn't racing so I got to see a top level event from a different perspective. I was out there as Team Manager for the England Athletics marathon team, a role I had stepped into at relatively short notice.

A few people have asked me what the job entails and I suppose simply its to deal with any of the crap that might get in the way of the athletes performing at their best on race day. And that covers many things from the obvious of making sure that they have the right size kit to finding extra water during a press conference thats running way behing schedule and a million other small things.

Because I had raced Toronto in 2007 I was familiar with the set up which certainly helped and it also meant I got roped in to giving elite co-ordinator Cliff Cunningham a hand with a number of things. By the end of the week my 'bus monitor' skills were finely tuned and we spent part of saturday afternoon building the elite athletes pre-race holding area (above left) - if I have to assemble another camp bed...

The lead up to the race was all about one thing. Could Reid Coolsaet break Jerome Drayton's 36 year old Canadian record of 2.10.09 ? I have to say that Reid handled the media attention and expectations incredibly well. Around the hotel and on race morning he was incredibly calm and collected despite the pressures. Also on the line was Olympic selection with Eric Gillis and Dylan Wykes chasing Canada's tough 2.11.29 standard.

Come race day the weather was very difficult for fast running. Cold and with a stiff south westerly blowing off Lake Ontario gusting at times to over 50km/h. Not what you want went chasing a National Record ! I had a couple of options for race day and decided to hitch a ride on the press bus which was going to be in the lead vehicles convoy one spot in front of the TV camera vehicle (left)

The leaders went off at a real canter passing 10k in just over 30 minutes with Coolsaet tucked in the back. We were a bit surprised at first because his plan had been a more cautious pace with his own pacemaker. In the event he decided that running faster in a big group was going to give him more protection into the wind so went for it. By the turn at 12km the pacers were really working hard. The stretch back into town saw a mix of good kilometres with the wind behind/from the side and some horrible ones when the course turned back into the wind. On the press bus there was total shock at the women's half way split of 68.35 ! Blisteringly fast in good conditions but in this wind suicidal.

As the lead group was whittled down to five athletes the pace was as slow as 3.10/km in places. My friend Tadesse Abraham finally got dropped at 30 kilometers and shortly after the group was down to three. Coolsaet had yo-yoed off the back of the group but got himself back in contention 3 times which was really impressive.

In the final 6km he was even taking his turn on the front with Mungara a
nd Dawit before the wheels finally came off at 39km. He held on for just under 2.11 while the leading pair sprinted it out to the finish. What Steve Prefontaine would have called a "pure guts race".

Back in the elite lounge after the race I was a bit dismayed to see Ed Whitlock wander in soon after midday. He had set a age 80 World Best earlier in the year and it looked like he must have had a dnf. Then he dropped the bombshell that he just clocked a 3.15 !! Incredible, and he looked pretty fresh (left with Team England's Sarah Harris and Sarah Stradling).