Summer Sports

Canada's Eric Gillis, Krista DuChene place 5th at Toronto Marathon

Canada's Eric Gillis and Krista DuChene both finished fifth in their respective divisions at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Sunday.
Eric Gillis of Antigonish, N.S., was fifth in the Toronto Waterfront marathon on Sunday, and 10th at the Rio Olympics event in August. (Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press)

The oldest record on Canada's track and field books — Jerome Drayton's 41-year-old marathon mark — is another day older.

Eight weeks after his 10th-place finish at the Rio Olympics, Eric Gillis believed he had a decent shot at Drayton's elusive mark. But the humidity, slick roads, and nagging knee pain played havoc with his morning, and the Canadian finished fifth at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, more than two minutes off record pace.

The 36-year-old from Antigonish, N.S., knew by the 25-kilometre mark it wouldn't be a record-breaking day.

"I couldn't open up my stride after I got a sore knee," Gillis said. "I was focused on getting that sorted out, then it was more just a comfort thing, I wanted my knee to feel better. It never did.

"Then the last 10K, was thinking 'I'm not on pace for barely anything. And my knee hurts. I just want to get home.'

"But I'm glad I did this, it was a good learning experience," he added. "It's disappointing. Disappointing, but no regrets."

Gillis crossed in two hours 13 minutes 44 seconds to win the Canadian men's title. Drayton's record is 2:10.09. There was a bonus of $41,000 — $1,000 for every year the record has stood — for a record run.

Kenya's Philemon Rono was first in 2:08:27.

Krista DuChene of Brantford, Ont., who made her Olympic debut in Rio nine weeks ago, won the women's Canadian title, and finished fifth overall in 2:34.02. Rachel Hannah of Toronto was right behind her in sixth, while Dayna Pidhoresky of Tecumseh, Ont., was seventh.

"I really wanted this win, this was my year, with Rio and then deciding to do this," DuChene said. "I wanted a national championship again. I knew with the conditions, that there's no way fast times were going to happen, so it was all about being patient and using my marathon experience."

Shure Demise of Ethiopia won the gold in 2:25.18.

'Harsh standards' still an issue

Gillis and DuChene took a risk running two marathons just two months apart. But Gillis, whose 10th in Rio was Canada's best Olympic finish since Drayton was sixth in 1976 in Montreal, said he'd do it again. Now, the two plan to take a well-earned rest. DuChene spoke dreamily about looking forward to eating pecan tarts and chocolate chip cookies.

The 39-year-old mother of three joined the chorus of angry voices about Athletics Canada's tough marathon standards for the 2017 world championships announced a few days earlier. The women must run 2:29.50, prompting frustration among Canada's best.

Sunday's conditions, DuChene said, just weren't conducive to fast times.

"I think this is a wakeup call for the harsh standards that were set. I was in easily 2:30 shape or faster," said DuChene. "Whether they'll reconsider I don't know, but it's a little bit ridiculous that I was the first person and I didn't even make the standard. I didn't even make the B let alone the A, so that speaks for itself. Humidity is a silent killer."

There were a couple of world records on the day. Ed Whitlock of Milton, Ont., shattered the world mark in the 85-90 category, running 3:56.38. The previous record was 4:34.55.

The 85-year-old holder of numerous world marks joked at the post-race news conference about the pressure to break another.

"I don't want to disgrace myself, I suppose," said Whitlock.

When asked the age of his teal running singlet and scuffed running shoes, Whitlock said he couldn't remember.

"They're well-aged," he said, prompting laughter.

Canadian Calum Neff broke the world record for running with a stroller, pushing his four-year-old daughter Alessandra to a time of 2:31.26 — the fifth fastest Canadian man on the day.

He recently broke the half-marathon stroller mark running with a younger daughter.

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