Running a personal best in a world championships marathon is a lot to expect, but Reid Coolsaet did it when he finished 25th in Saturday's race at the world track and field championships in Berlin.
The Hamilton native's time of 2:16:53 was marginally better than his debut marathon in Ottawa on May 24th (2:17:09), and it was accomplished during the midday heat.
Most city marathons start early in the morning to ensure cooler temperatures (and to minimize traffic tie-ups), but the Berlin 2009 organizers chose to start this event at 11:45 a.m. local time — very considerate for journalists who don't like to get out of bed, but dangerous for the runners.
Medics were kept busy assisting those who had succumbed to the heat. It was 18 C at the start, but temperatures climbed into the mid-20's very quickly. Twenty-one of the 91 starters failed to finish.
Coolsaet ran most of the way with teammate Dylan Wykes who wound up in 33rd place in a time of 2:18:00. He was satisfied with his performance, though he had a faster time at the back of his mind.
"It went pretty well but it got really hot really fast after 30 kilometres," Coolsaet said. "I think the heat took its toll and my legs took a pounding.
"We really helped each other. [Dylan] made a move at halfway and I hesitated a little bit, and then decided to go with him. Maybe I should have waited a little longer but it was good. Everybody was slowing down in the last 10 km. Only a few people caught up to me. I am pretty sure everybody slowed down. It was pretty hot."
Coolsaet missed the 2008 Olympics after injuring his sciatic nerve. He slipped on ice at a high altitude training camp in Albuquerque, N.M., two years ago.
The injury lingered and cost him the better part of a year. But he chose to run the Ottawa marathon which doubled as the Canadian marathon championship. That qualified him for the Canadian team. He realizes now that the gap between the two marathons was short.
"Ninety days is not ideal," he said. "I would have liked two more months but under the circumstances I couldn't do anything else. At the start of the year I couldn't even walk and to be at the world championships eight months later, well I am pretty happy with that."
The marathoners had attended the Canadian team's pre-world championship training camp.
Wykes ran a personal best of 2:15:16 last year at the Rotterdam marathon and improved his PB in the 10,000 metres with 28:58.49 at a meet in California in April. This marathon, he believes, was a progressive step.
"A great experience but it was hard," he declared. "This weather is not ideal; it got rough out there. Tough today. Reid and I were able to work together for 35 km, which was great. I tried to keep the head up.
"For me it's about the experience. At 26, it's my third marathon. It's definitely good experience. I mean, time? Just throw it out the window. It's about place. I just tried to hold on. I think maybe only five guys passed me in the last 10 km."
Kirui wins gold
Kenya's Abel Kirui set a championship record of 2:06:54 to win the gold medal, beating his teammate Emmanuel Mutai (2:07:48). The bronze went to Tsegay Kebede of Ethiopia who also won bronze at the 2008 Olympic Games.
Earlier this year Kirui finished third at the Rotterdam marathon in 2:05:04, so this victory was not unexpected. With Robert Cheruiyot finishing fifth in 2:10:46, Kenya won the team competition. The times of each country's top three finishers were added to get a team finish.
Andrew Smith of Toronto was Canada's third best finisher in a time of 2:24:48 to help the nation to an 11th-place finish in the team competition. Smith placed 53rd overall. Giitah Macharia, the Kenyan born runner from Oakville, Ont., was the only other Canadian entrant, finishing 56th in 2:25:40.