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Gillis and DuChene to Defend Titles

eric gillis - half champion

This week Athletics Canada officially launched; Canada’s road running portal. The cutting edge site is your portal to the Canadian road running community, providing access to race information, rankings, results, programs, services and resources for race directors.

Notably the site serves as the home for the 2014 Timex Series, with five events taking place this weekend in various provinces. Click here to see the upcoming calendar of events for the 2014 Timex Series.

Gillis and DuChene to Defend Canadian Half Marathon Titles in Montreal

By: Paul Gains

Canadian championship medals, lucrative prize money and a chance to run on a fast course through scenic Parc Jean Drapeau have attracted some of the best road racers to Montreal for the Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal April 27th.

The race also serves as Athletics Canada’s Canadian Half Marathon Championship and both male and female defending champions return. To top it off the race is completely sold out.

“Being the Canadian Championship, that gives it extra pizzazz to do it,” says 34 year-old Eric Gillis, a two-time Canadian Olympian who won this race in both 2013 and 2012. “Trying to get the win and winning three in a row would be pretty nice.” Gillis adds, “It’s actually a flat course and it could be fairly fast. Both times I have run there it has been windy along the water. So if we get a nice calm day I think a lot of folks can surprise themselves on that course.”

Gillis, a native of Antigonish, Nova Scotia has been a long time resident of Guelph, Ontario and is making the weekend a family affair taking the train trip with his wife and two young children. The race will also provide him with further indicators of his fitness. A week ago he won the prestigious Toronto Yonge Street 10k in 28:32.

“I think between the New York City Half Marathon, where I ran a personal best (1:03:30) and Yonge Street 10k this week, I have a pretty good indication of my fitness. My workouts, they have been going consistently, so mostly I am looking to use Montreal as a final preparation for the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon. I am confident in my fitness.  A fast time (in Montreal) wouldn’t hurt.”

Meanwhile women’s defending champion Krista DuChene must battle back from a surprise loss at Toronto Yonge Street 10k where Toronto’s Rachel Hannah blew past her with five hundred metres remaining to steal victory in 32:33.

“I am thrilled for Rachel, I really am,” DuChene admitted after the race. “It’s a huge breakthrough in her running career. She has done the work and got herself up step by step. I am honoured that she beat me. I am not one to run a race and say ‘Oh I just wasn’t in it today.’ No, she flew past me and I had nothing to give.

“So because of that and even with Erin Burrett placing third I am never going to take my competition lightly not that I ever did, but I will have to have my ‘A’ game for Montreal. I am a bit more experienced, I suppose, at the longer distances. But that doesn’t mean anything.”

Hannah, for her part, is approaching the race and a rematch with DuChene cautiously. Nevertheless she clearly has respect for the woman who represented Canada at the 2013 IAAF World Championships marathon.

“I definitely think she has a major advantage over me over double the distance,” says Hannah, a 27 year-old dietitian and Georgia State graduate. “The half marathon and marathon are obviously her specialties. I think she has one up on me. She ran 1:12:28 there last year and I don’t expect to run that fast of a time next week, but we will see how I am feeling. I will run a slower pace than her at least through half way and see how I feel.”

The step up in distance will be one of her toughest challenges. She was fifth in last year’s Montreal half marathon in 1:18:58 which she considers her debut at that distance. “My number one goal is to break my time from last year,” she concedes. “l hope that things go well and if I can run with Krista I will definitely try to.  We will just see if I can run her pace. I will try to.

“I think I just proved to myself (in Toronto Yonge Street 10k) I can do a lot more than I think I can. It has boosted my confidence level. You need that. You can be in very good shape but mentally you have to be tuned in on race day. I am definitely at a higher fitness level than last year.”

The race starts at 10:00 a.m. and should the weather cooperate we might see exceptionally fast times. But will there be a successful title defense? That’s a good question.