Olympic runner returns home to Hamilton

Marathon runner Reid Coolsaet is back in the Hammer and gearing up to for another long run.
Hamiltonian and Olympic marathon runner Reid Coolsaet stands at the foot of Westdale's Churchill Park. He started running here as a high school student. (Julia Chapman/CBC)

The next milestone in Olympic marathoner Reid Coolsaet's life doesn't involve running. 

"I'm looking to buy a house over there," he said, pointing to a row of backyards that lines Westdale's Churchill Park. 

The 33-year-old Hamiltonian returned home last week from the Olympics after a little bit of traveling. 

But the London 2012 games didn't work out as Coolsaet planned. He came in 27th. 

"I already had a 25 at the World Championship so I thought top 20 was really doable," he said. "Hopefully a top 10." 

Coolsaet said he was confident at the start of the race, running the first mile at a pace that would have medaled.

But at 26 degrees, it was a hotter day than runners expected.

"I faded bad in the last 5 km, but there were guys who faded worse," he said. 

Despite a performance he wasn't that happy with, Coolsaet said the Olympics were still amazing. 

"The crowd was 10 people deep most of the time and there were people on all the overpasses," he said with a smile. "It was so loud my ears were ringing. It was like being at a rock concert." 

It may have been Coolsaet's first crack at the Olympics, but he said it felt natural for him to be there after qualifying for so many world-class races. 

Coolsaet qualified for the national cross-country team in 2005 and has seven years of competition under his belt. 

"It was a slow progression over many years [to get to the Olympics]," he said. "I've been to the World Cross-Country Championships, the Commonwealth Games and World University Games and each one of those had some aspect of the Olympics." 

In fact, his big Olympic moment didn't even happen at the Olympics. It was at time trials in September 2010 when it found out he cracked the standard.  "Qualifying was the big deal," he said. 

Back at home, Coolsaet still trains with his coach of 13 years, Dave Scott-Thomas. They met when Coolsaet started running for the University of Guelph cross-country team. 

He said he drives into Guelph about two days a week to train with Scott-Thomas. 

For the past four years, he's started calling Hamilton home again. Aside from friends and family, Coolsaet believes it's the best place to train. 

"A lot of people don't know we've got great trails [in Hamilton]," he said. 

And he's a bit of a big deal on the Dundas Valley trails. 

"The people on the trails keep up with running, so they often yell something like 'Good race, Reid!'" he said. 

Coolsaet said he's planning to run another marathon in the spring — Boston or London, which ever is first. Soon enough, fellow runners on the Dundas Valley trails could be applauding him from another Olympic performance. 

"If I'm going to do Pan Am in 2015, then why not do Rio in 2016?" he said. 

But Coolsaet said he has four years to think about it. In the week after returing from the Games, he's taking it slow. 

Today, Coolsaet is running a familiar six kilometre run. Three times around Churchill Park, where he began running as a high school student. 

Until Coolsaet gets that house, he's staying at his family's home, also a short distance from the park.  "Too bad they don't go for sale very often," he said.


Julia Chapman is a radio and television producer for CBC Toronto. With CBC since 2010, she was one of the first reporters to work out of CBC Hamilton. Julia is proud alumni of both Ryerson University and the University of Guelph. When she's not in the newsroom, Julia loves to travel and explore big cities around the globe and try out new recipes in her kitchen. Most of all, she loves exploring her hometown, Toronto, and enjoying what every pocket of the city has to offer.