SPORTS

Lanni Marchant and Krista DuChene part of Canadian marathoning boom

10/18/2013 05:43 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST
TORONTO - Lanni Marchant had slowed to a stop, the left side of her body twisted in cramps, when a fellow runner reached out and handed her a safety pin.

It was during the women's marathon at the world track and field championships last summer, a day when the temperatures in Moscow reached a sizzling 35 C with the humidex. All around her, women were dropping out.

So Marchant took the pin and shoved it hard into her contorted quad muscle.

"I shoved that sucker in there," Marchant said with a laugh. "I couldn't feel (any pain from the pin), the muscle was cramping so bad. I didn't realize how deep I'd gone in until I was pulling it out, and thought ... 'Oh, whoopsies!'"

Marchant would eventually cross 44th, while Canadian teammate Krista DuChene collapsed 12 kilometres into the race, and was one of 23 women who didn't finish.

Marchant is a practising criminal lawyer in Chattanooga, Tenn., while DuChene is the mom of three kids under the age of eight. They're also Canada's fastest female marathoners — completely blowing away any notion of being too busy to work out.

The two, who will race the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Sunday, are part of a resurgence of marathoning in Canada, which hadn't had a woman run the distance at a world championship since 2003.

The Canadians' performances at the worlds in Moscow weren't pretty, but few were that afternoon.

Several women dropped out in the first five kilometres. Marchant's cramps forced to her stop numerous times.

"When it was in its spasms, the left side of my body contorted and turned, and I'd be pigeon-toed," she said. "I would be standing on the side of the road, waiting for it to stop cramping. And it would release and I'd walk and I'd jog."

The safety pin was a desperate measure.

"If you had told me to start somersaulting and it would make me feel better, I probably would have listened to you," Marchant said. "I wanted so badly to keep going. It seemed like it could work. My brain broke it down to, well acupuncture works. This could work, I understand it. It didn't work."

DuChene, 36, was taken off the course by ambulance after collapsing so hard she scraped up her arms and legs.

"Vomiting and smelling salts ... it was pretty ugly," DuChene said. "It's just so hard on your body, you don't realize it at the time because you're so head strong," she said. "You're ready to run 42 K, not 12. It was honestly my body that collapsed but my mind was still tough."

There's $28,000 on the line Sunday for any Canadian to beat Sylvia Ruegger's national record of two hours 28 minutes 36 seconds — set 28 years ago.

Marchant boasts a top time of 2:31.51, while DuChene's fastest is 2:32.05.

They ran those times despite keeping schedules that would leave most people exhausted — even without the marathon training. DuChene runs before her kids — sons Micah (seven) and Seth (five), and daughter Leah (two) — are awake, often as early as 4 a.m.

"Passion and organization are usually the two words I use to describe it," DuChene said. "I need to be organized with the kids and schedules but you have to have the passion and the drive, and I think it's a God-given gift that I can set my alarm for four o'clock and be excited to get up and run."

Marchant runs twice a day. She does her long run — two to three hours including warmup — in the morning before she heads to court, and then does a second run in the evening.

"That's what I went to school for," she said, on pursuing her law career while still competing. "My brain still needs to be doing something, and at the end of the day something could happen tomorrow and I wouldn't be able to run, I need to keep my foot in that door for as long as possible."

She takes her laptop with her whenever she travels for running, so she can continue her research for cases. The one time she didn't take it — to the Moscow world championships — she had her home broken into and her computer stolen.

"Stuff happens. Chances are I'll probably end up representing that person down the road anyway," she said with a laugh.

Marchant will be gunning for the Commonwealth Games standard on Sunday of 2:35.00. They won't make any predictions on whether a Canadian record is in the cards, learning in Moscow that no matter how well-prepared they are, anything can happen on race day.

But there is surely more to come from the two runners, who say they're proud to be a part of the Canada's current marathoning boom.

"We made the world championships and we're doing well, and as a woman, you can balance a few things at the same time," DuChene said. "It's not like Lanni and I started running and thought, we'll pave the way for Canadian running, but it's great that people look up to us, and it's an honour."

Scotiabank has put up $38,000 for any Canadian who breaks the men's national record Sunday — $1,000 for each year that Jerome Drayton's mark of 2:10.09 has stood.

Eric Gillis, a native of Antigonish, N.S., who lives in Guelph, Ont., is Canada's best bet Sunday, boasting a best time of 2:11.28. Rob Watson of Vancouver, who was 20th at the world championships, goes in with a personal best of 2:13.37.

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