Friday, May 31, 2013

On the State of Canadian Marathoning

The Canadian Marathon Championships took place last weekend. Yes, Our NATION'S CHAMPIONSHIPS took place last weekend. How many of you participated? How many of you know who won? Who was our top marathoner? Did you even know it was happening?

It's okay if you answered no to a lot of those questions. Not many people care. Which is a shame.

Taking place in out nation's capital of Ottawa, the championship race is one of the most beautiful races in Canada. Yet, there were two other large Canadian marathons that weekend and a great half marathon the week after. Both the Calgary Marathon and the Saskatchewan Marathon took place that weekend and the Whistler Half is this coming weekend. Why so many races grouped so close to what should be the be-all and end-all of Marathons in Canada? Our national championships have fallen to the way-side. Our top marathoners often don't put it on their schedule, or they run it just for a meager sum of money that barely covers the cost of the trip for west coasters. The Marathon was won by internet blogging phenom Robin Watson of Le Blog Du Rob fame (you can check out his hilarious blog here) who was the top Canadian finisher in 2:18:33, yest still 10 minutes behind the top two finishers from Ethiopia and Kenya. With a 2:13:37 personal best marathon to his name, he could have been up with the top finishers. But having run the Boston Marathon just six weeks prior, one wouldn't expect him to even race, much less compete. In fact, he was scheduled to run the 10k, but the night before, after looking at who was in the race and the prize money up for grabs, he opted into the Marathon. Now, 2:18 is very respectable, but for our national championship there really wasn't anyone to challenge Rob for it. Our national championship, which boasts more than 40,000 runners through the weekend's events, went out with a whimper rather than a boom.
Rob after earning Canadian Champion title
This past week much noise has been made around this fall's Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM) as Scotiabank has put up $38,000 to any Canadian who breaks Jerome Drayton 38-year-old Canadian Record. At the time he set his mark (1975), Drayton was the number one ranked Marathoner in the world, which many, top Canadian Marathoner Reid Coolsaet included, say is why the record has stood for so long.

Drayton during his record-setting run at Fukuoka in 1975
Reid Coolsaet, one of Canada's premiere Marathoners has already tossed his hat in for a chance to tackle the longest standing Canadian track record. Although compared to a lot of track races and even simple appearance fees that many track athletes make, $38,000 for a professional marathoner is a lot of money. A LOT. Almost 7 times more than was offered at our National championships. And this has been considered the premier event in Canadian marathoning as of late. It was used as qualifying for our top three marathoners for last summer's Olympics, and now with the mystique of the past couple of year's results and the big incentive to break the Canadian record, the Scotiabank marathon has become the race that draws out the best Canadian distance athletes. Perhaps this is the event to label the Canadian Marathon Championships? The prestige is already there, why not give it that extra push into something great? True, most marathoners create their yearly-plan or strive to enter a certain race(s) each year, but why can't our national championship be one of them?
Coolsaet after obtaining Olympic qualifying standard in the 2011 edition of the STWM
Why not create an event that all runners want to go to? Our National Championships should be a display of our nation's best runners. Some serious thought needs to be given to time of the year, the course, and the competition when creating the national Marathon championship. Make it big. Make it exciting. Make it so that not just the best want to run it, but everyone wants to run it. Why would you not want to say that you raced the fastest men and women in our country? Or even raced the fastest people on the planet? Our National Marathon can be so much more. We could make it great if we wanted to. Televise it, or at least have significant media coverage. We may not be the most populace nation in the world, but we love our sports almost more than anyone else. Running creates more revenue than soccer world wide; the most popular sport in the world is second to running. It's time to re-think the way we have set up our championship event and create a world-class championship that brings out the best in Canada?

No comments:

Post a Comment