When Lanni Marchant beat the Olympic marathon qualifying standard at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon last October, she had no idea she would once again be the centre of a selection controversy.
Four years ago, the runner from London, Ont., had met the Olympic standard with a strong run in Rotterdam. Her time of two hours 31 minutes 51 seconds, however, fell short of the much tougher criteria set by Athletics Canada (2:29.55). She appealed but lost and didn't go to the London Games.
Now, she's facing more hurdles in her effort to make history as the first Canadian woman to double in the 10,000 metres and the marathon at the same Olympics.
Marchant has already met the Rio qualification standards for both events.
"I'm a high-mileage 10K runner and that's why my coach and I thought I could double," she said.
In 2015, she ran in 31 minutes 46.94 seconds at the Payton Jordan Invitational 10,000 to make the standard for that distance. And since Marchant made the standards for both events in 2015, Athletics Canada requires her to demonstrate "competitive readiness."
At the IAAF world half-marathon championships in March, Marchant finished 20th in a time of 1:11.26, satisfying the criteria for the marathon. Next, she returned to Payton Jordan and ran the 10,000 in 32:10.00 to prove her fitness in the shorter event.
There's just 46 hours between the two events in Rio, but the 32-year-old runner is set on competing in both events. Marchant said she was advised by head coach Peter Eriksson to speak with the team's sports physiologist, Trent Stellingwerff, about the possibility of doing it. Stelllingwerff and Marchant, along with her personal coach, hatched a plan to simulate the racing conditions.
Dispute over test run
Last Saturday, Marchant finished fourth in the Ottawa 10K, a top-level IAAF Gold Label race. Two days later, she ran a 30-kilometre time trial at marathon pace (2:33:00) to simulate Rio racing conditions. Both she and her coach were pleased with the result and still intend to double. But Eriksson is dismissing the simulation as something he did not condone.
"That had nothing to do with me," Eriksson said. "That's not the competitive readiness that [Athletics Canada] requires."
Marchant is furious about Athletics Canada's refusal to give her an assurance that she'll be entered in both the marathon and the 10,000m in Rio.
"It was one [terrible] miscommunication if I went out and ran 30K at marathon pace for no [good] reason," said Marchant, who is also a practicing lawyer. "In fact, Peter commented that he would come and watch me do the 30K if he was in town. He can't act like he didn't know I was doing it."
Adding to her woes is the fact that the Canadian marathon team will only be announced, along with the rest of the Olympic track and field team, on July 11. Kenya, Ethiopia, the U.S. and U.K. among other nations, have already announced their marathon contingent.
Four years ago, Athletics Canada announced its marathon team for the London Olympics in May — it didn't force the athletes to wait until July.
"It's frustrating," Marchant said. "I was always up front and very clear that the 10,000 is my primary event. But given the opportunity, I'd also like to double. I am already going to be there, I am not taking a spot from another girl and I am the top-ranked Canadian marathoner."
Marchant broke a 28-year-old Canadian marathon record in Toronto in 2013 with a time of 2:28:00. There is not much difference in her training programs for the two events, she said, except for the length of her weekly long runs.
"I have shown proof of fitness standards three times, twice on the roads and once on the track. There's not a whole lot of difference in the training other than those long runs and just the mental preparedness that I would have knowing now, that I am definitely doing the marathon and definitely doing the 10,000m, as opposed to having this question mark over my head for one of the events."
Speaking to CBC Sports, Eriksson made it clear that Marchant hasn't been told she's not running the marathon, nor has she been given any indication that she will be competing in that event in Rio.
If Athletics Canada doesn't name Marchant to the marathon team on July 11, Eriksson fully expects Marchant to fight that decision. "I'd be surprised if she doesn't appeal. She's a lawyer."