The 38-year-old from Brantford, Ont., raced to third place in the Rotterdam Marathon on Sunday, almost a year to the day since she broke her leg. The mom of three crossed in two hours 29 minutes 37 seconds, a time she hopes will secure her a spot on Canada's track and field team for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
"When I crossed the line and knew I had the standard (based on the 2012 Olympic standard) and was informed I was third woman, well first I vomited, then came the happy tears and smiles," Duchene said.
The mother of three broke her femur just 500 metres from the finish line of the Canadian Half Marathon Championships last April 27th, limping across the finish where she was scooped up by an official. She underwent surgery that night, needing a plate and three screws to mend the break. She was finally able to return to jogging in July.
"I was very blessed to have recovered so well," Duchene said. "My coach and I were wise and patient, focusing on marathon pace for each race, leading up to my first attempt at the 2016 Olympic standard. . . I felt no pressure going into this race, which was great."
Asami Kato of Japan won the women's race in a personal best 2:26.30.
Ethiopian Abera Kuma won the men's race, pulling away from the favourites as the pace slowed in the second half. Reid Coolsaet of Hamilton, Ont., was seventh in 2:11.24 — third fastest of his career, and a time he also hopes will earn him a spot on Canada's Olympic team.
While Athletics Canada hasn't announced qualifying standards for Rio yet, both Duchene and Coolsaet beat what had been the Canadian standards for the 2012 Games.
Duchene, who didn't make Canada's team for London, hit a nasty headwind at the 30-kilometre mark and had to make a choice: either continue on her fast pace and try to break Lanni Marchant's Canadian record of 2:28.00, or play it safe and go for a time that should hold up as the Rio standard.
"With the wind and solo running for the remaining 12 kilometres, I chose the safer option," Duchene said. "It was the right choice."
Duchene called it the best race of her career.
"I was very calm and relaxed. Every time I felt a physical struggle, I just kept the rhythm and waited for it to pass. And it did," Duchene said. "It was the first marathon where I felt 'Wow, only x km to go!' as opposed to 'Ugh, there's still x km to go.'"
Kuma won the men's race in 2:06.46. Mark Kiptoo of Kenya came second in 2:07.20 and his Kenyan teammate Bernard Koech was third in 2:08.02.
Coming off a solid winter of training, Coolsaet had been gunning for Jerome Drayton's 40-year-old record of 2:10.09, but he sprained his ankle on April 1.
"Considering I couldn't run at all one week out I'm happy that my body held up well enough to run 2:11," Coolsaet said. "I'm more satisfied than disappointed, that's for sure."
The 35-year-old said he felt "really good" through the first 36 kilometres, "at which point it got tough and then really tough for the final three kilometres."
Coolsaet, Dylan Wykes and Eric Gillis raced in London, becoming the first Canadians in an Olympic marathon since the 2000 Sydney Games.