What You Talkin’ ‘Bout Gillis?


    Though he’s a three time Olympian seemingly incapable of running a bad marathon, Eric Gillis hasn’t run out of goals and aspirations. This summer, he hopes to represent Canada for the first time at the World Championships in London. He admits never having made an appearance at Worlds “…is unusual for someone who’s made three Olympics,” but he’s hoping to change that.

    Before London, however, Eric will take to the start line of the Boston Marathon, which he says, “…has been on my bucket list of marathons before I even completed my first.” Eric recalls, “Growing up in Nova Scotia, we got the local Boston channels, which covered the race live.”

    “There’s something different about watching Boston than any other marathon,” he adds. “The history makes it more than just a race. It’s an event.” Canadian running history is also very much intertwined with Boston, with icons like Jerome Drayton, Tom Longboat, and Johnny Miles claiming victories. Eric’s fellow Antigonish native Ronald MacDonald (yes, that is actually his name), was also the winner of the 2nd Boston Marathon in 1898.

    Before he takes on Heartbreak Hill, Eric shared some thoughts and wisdom on running and life.

    First, we asked Eric to complete some open ended sentences.

    The person who has taught me the most about running is….

    Speed River, the club. Being in a bigger club, there’s lots of experience to be shared. My coach, Dave Scott-Thomas, sets a great example in being generous with his time and I’ve learned a lot from many different training partners over the years.

    As an athlete, one thing I’ve definitely gotten better at as I’ve gotten older is…

    The ability to put a run/workout/race in perspective. Emotion factors less into my training and I now spend more time working on the flow of training than how it felt in any one particular session.

    As an athlete, one thing that’s definitely become more difficult as I’ve gotten older is…

    Believing that I’m going to hit the track again and set a PB in anything.

    I’ll know that competing as an elite runner is no longer for me when…

    I no longer find nuance in it.

    The thing that no one tells you about competing in the Olympics is…

    You’re NOT going to be able to focus on competing at the Olympics unless you take some time to STOP thinking about competing at the Olympics.

    Attempting a Sub-2:00 marathon on an F1 racetrack is…

    Not going to draw the same crowd as an F1 race!

    One book that every runner should read is…

    GRIT by Angela Duckworth.

    What I’ll remember most about Ed Whitlock is…

    His smile.

    The most humbling distance to race is…

    5000m on the track. It’s relatively short, so I think my brain continuously overestimated how fast I could go out, but it’s long enough that going out quick really hurts between 3-4k. That usual left me slowing down in the last k.

    Something about being a runner I’ll never get tired of is…

    Working on form while easy running.

    The one thing you gotta do in order to have a successful spring race season is…

    Pick ONE race that’s your “goal race.” This one is going to get you out the door more often through the winter by visualizing yourself on the line. You’re standing there, interested in how you’re going to do, based on the work you’ve put in, and the priority you’ve made it. It’s that feeling that you’re after even more than the finishing time, though a PB never hurts too.

    We finished up by throwing out some words and phrases and asking Eric the first thing that came to mind.

    Reid Coolsaet – trains with purpose

    Lanni Marchant – Canadian marathon record holder

    Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon – hometown race

    Training in Canadian winter – makes one appreciate other three seasons

    Tapering – hardest part of a marathon build

    Bacon – vegetarian by 40

    Good luck in Boston, Eric!