SPORTS

Strong training has Canadians Gillis, Marchant confident ahead of marathon

10/17/2014 06:40 EDT | Updated 12/17/2014 05:59 EST
TORONTO - When Canada's top marathoners gather, talk of national records is unavoidable.

For Eric Gillis, the talk is about him taking another stab at the 39-year-old men's mark, the oldest record on the Canadian track and field books. For Lanni Marchant, it's the pressure of topping the Canadian women's mark she set last season.

Gillis and Marchant both say they're in top racing condition. With weather conditions expected to be ideal, records could fall at Sunday's Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

"I'm happy with my fitness level, happy with my workouts that have gone as well as they ever have," Gillis said at Friday's pre-race news conference. "I'm enjoying running as much as I have ever ... a lot of things have gone right in this buildup.

"You know what, if I go out in a quick enough pace and I'm feeling good on that day, I'll take a run at 2:10."

Jerome Drayton's Canadian record, which dates back to 1975, is two hours 10 minutes nine seconds.

Gillis's best time is 2:11.28 set at the Scotiabank race in Toronto in 2011.

Dylan Wykes — who's injured — holds the second-fastest Canadian marathon mark of 2:10:47, set in 2012.

Marchant, who's coming off a fourth-place finish at the Commonwealth Games, broke Sylvia Ruegger’s 28-year-old Canadian women's mark last year in Toronto, running 2:28.00.

The 30-year-old from London, Ont., who is a practising criminal lawyer in Chattanooga, Tenn., said it's impossible to escape talk of her record when she's back home in Canada.

"Everybody asks about it, right?" she said. "If I could be let to forget about it, I probably wouldn't feel any pressure at all. And I knew coming here, if I wanted to avoid it completely, I would have done Berlin or Chicago or New York, just kind of avoided this altogether. But I wanted to race in Toronto so I knew that was something that came along with it, with people asking questions: are you going to go after your own record?"

"This one's all for fun," she added. "If I break my own record, fantastic, if I don't, hopefully it's still a good one and a positive experience."

Marchant said that after the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, she was scrolling through social media and was impressed by the people who had stayed up late or got up early to watch her race there.

"I kind of felt I owed it to everybody to come back to Toronto," she said. "If I'm going to try to run fast, do it here. If I'm going to have a fun one and high-five the crowds, then I'm going to do it with Canadian crowds."

The day after her race in Glasgow, Marchant was back on her laptop doing research for a court of appeals case. She has become a master of mixing her sport and her law career, and said throwing herself back into her work after a major race is a great way to transition back into normal life.

"If I run that day, great, and if I don't, 'Oh well, it takes the pressure off, because my lawyer hat is on and that's what I'm supposed to be doing," she said.

A typical day has her train in the morning and then either head into the office or to court and stay home and do research.

"Sometimes I'll go to coffee shops if I find it's hard to get focused at home. The benefit of being at home is if I have to do a Skype call, I'm business up top and casual on the body," she said, laughing.

She trains again before dinner, then pulls out the computer for more research in the evenings.

"I'm not big on TV. I like court of appeals cases, because it's like my own episode of 'Law and Order SVU,' or 'Law and Order Criminal Intent.' I have the crime, I have the investigation, I have the trial. And so I just read through that."

The 34-year-old Gillis said the expected start-time temperature of about 3 or 4 C should be ideal.

"The cooler the better, so around four to six degrees would be optimal for a fast time," he said. "You don't overheat out there, it's the wind that really comes into play when temperatures are perfect like this."

As for the Canadian record, Gillis admitted he'll be disappointed if it doesn't fall before he retires.

"To be honest, it would be really disappointing if neither Reid (Coolsaet, his injured training partner) or I got it," he said. "Frankly, it's been something that we've thought about, and it's been talked about a lot. It's one of those added things that keeps us motivated, and looking at more specific times than just running a personal best.

"It's a good goal, it's achievable, within grasp, but still very difficult. You just hope for that dream day."

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