This piece is part two of our coverage of the “Meet the Elites” conference held at Toronto’s Marriott Hotel this past Friday, introducing the elite field for this year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM). The first part can be read here. Here, we meet the elite Canadian women who will lace up on October 16th.
Before 2016, the last time Canada sent a runner to the Olympic Women’s Marathon was 1996. This year, two Canadian women stood at the start line in Rio.
Before 2015, a Canadian woman had never won a medal for the Pan-Am Games Marathon until Rachel Hannah changed that fact when the games were held in Toronto that year.
Hannah will return to familiar territory on October 16th alongside Krista DuChene, one of Canada’s women in Rio, and Leslie Sexton, an emerging force in Canadian women’s running.
While Canada has never lacked for female talent in distance running, these three women are at the helm of something of a renaissance that will make women’s running in this country a privilege to watch in the coming years. Given the qualities that each embodies, it’s easy to see why.
Krista DuChene isn’t cut from a template. She forges her own path, which initially didn’t include running. DuChene – 35th in the Rio Women’s Marathon – played varsity hockey for the University of Guelph and turned to running only after graduation. She ran her first marathon in 2002 in a time of 3:28. As of 2016, she is the second fastest woman in Canadian marathon history and an Olympian, the latter achieved following a broken femur in 2014.
Krista holds a strong sense of confidence in her ability to rise to new challenges. In her own words, “I played hockey with the boys when I was a kid. I’ve never been afraid to be the first person to do something.” Indeed, she was the first Canadian woman to qualify for the Olympic marathon since 1996. Her progression since that first marathon is phenomenal, having taken an hour off that 3:28. Nothing, it seems, makes her want to stop.
With a smile but with no hesitation when asked, Leslie Sexton answers that she is absolutely competitive. She wants the best out of herself. When she ran her first marathon in a time of 2:39, she knew that she had more in her. Last year in Houston, she posted a personal best of 2:33, a performance that gave her validation and signified that, “I wasn’t wasting my time at the distance.”
Leslie draws inspiration from her contemporaries like Lanni Marchant and Kirsta DuChene as well as the growing run clubs across the country, which she says have played a big role in taking women’s running to new heights by allowing women to pursue distance running beyond high school and university. That support powers her own goals, which includes being among the best in her discipline.
She states bluntly that she hopes to follow in the footsteps of Marchant and DuChene and run in the 2:20s and represent Canada on a grand scale at next year’s World Championships in Athletics, which will be held in London.
The competitiveness extends to the online world. Sexton is a self-proclaimed “Strava addict” who doesn’t take kindly to being knocked off the top of the standings. Ultimately, though, her openness about her training is a matter of illustrating that elite runners often struggle, but that the work can never be neglected and in turn receiving that same support from others.
Recently victorious at the Vancouver Eastside 10K, Leslie’s combination of fierce work ethic and ambition makes her mention alongside names like Krista DuChene and Rachel Hannah fully justified.
Rachel Hannah set her half marathon personal best at STWM last year. Along a very similar course at the 2015 Pan-Am Games, she gave Canada its first medal in the Women’s Marathon. Coming back to familiar territory at this year’s STWM, she hopes to add another personal best for what will be her fourth marathon. Rachel says that she is “excited to be a among the most competitive field in STWM history.”
She’ll be riding a serious wave of momentum coming into the race, already turning in a PB at the distance earlier this year at the Chevron Houston Marathon (2:32:09). At the time of the conference, she was coming off two consecutive wins at the Toronto Island Run 10K and the Canada Army Run in Ottawa.
Within the last two years, in fact, Hannah has added PBs at every distance from the 5,000m to the marathon. It’s evidence of her commitment, along with the fact that she attends in the conference in her running gear and is off for an easy 10K once it wraps up.
Look for each of these incredible women to be among the highlights of the 2016 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
- Ravi Singh (@ravimatsingh)