Track and Field·Preview

New York City Marathon 'refreshing, motivating' for Lanni Marchant

Lanni Marchant, who finished 24th in the women's marathon at the Rio Olympics, will join fellow Canadians Rob Watson and Marilyn Arsenault in running the New York City Marathon for the first time on Sunday (CBCSports.ca, 9 a.m. ET).

Fellow Canadians Rob Watson, Marilyn Arsenault also running on Sunday

Lanni Marchant will run the New York City Marathon for the first time on Sunday. The 32-year-old from London, Ont., turned down the event last year to run an Olympic qualifier for Rio, where she became the first Canadian woman to run the 10,000-metre and marathon at the same Olympics. (Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The thought of running the world's largest marathon for the first time and grinding through an unforgiving 42-kilometre course on a sometime wonky left leg excites Canada's Lanni Marchant.

The London, Ont., runner is one of three Canadians gearing up for their first New York City Marathon on Sunday (CBCSports.ca, 9 a.m. ET). Vancouver's Rob Watson and Marilyn Arsenault, the two-time defending Whistler Half Marathon champion from Victoria, will also be among the 50,000-plus participants from more than 120 countries.

Marchant, 32, turned down the NYC event last year to run an Olympic qualifier for Rio, where she became the first Canadian woman to run the 10,000-metre and marathon at the same Olympics.

Running the Rio marathon excited me about running the distance again and showed me there is a lot more left in me to learn about the distance.- Canadian women's record holder Lanni Marchant

She finished 24th in the marathon in two hours 33 minutes eight seconds, a little more than five minutes slower than her Canadian record of 2:28:00, set in 2013.

"Running the Rio marathon excited me about running the distance again and showed me there is a lot more left in me to learn about the distance," Marchant, who has run the Boston Marathon and has London and Berlin on her bucket list, told CBC Sports this week.

"I have a lot of strength that I didn't know I had. It was a positive experience and I'm hoping to build on that with every marathon."

As for her left side "that wants to flare up and not co-operate," Marchant is learning to better manage it during races and has realized with each of the 10 or so marathons she has raced that she deserves to compete against the world's top women runners.

Keitany tries to defend title

Recovered from a chest infection, Marchant considers the challenge of the New York marathon, which is run through the city's five boroughs — Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan — both refreshing and motivating.

"This kind of ignorance is bliss," said Marchant, whose sister Samantha is in Brooklyn this weekend on business while her mom Mary Lou and other sister Shannon are staying with her. "Women have run fast on [this course] because they've run smart and there's an excitement with that."

Kenya's Mary Keitany will be attempting to win the $100,000 US top prize and her third consecutive NYC Marathon following titles in London in 2011 and 2012. Boston, Chicago, Berlin and Tokyo are the other World Marathon Majors.

Mary Keitany of Kenya reacts as she crosses the finish line, winning the professional women's athlete division in the the New York City Marathon for a second straight year on Nov. 1, 2015. (Kathy Willens/Associated Press/File)

Other female contenders include fellow Kenyans Gladys Cherono, the 2015 Berlin Marathon champion, and Joyce Chepkirui, who finished third at this year's Boston Marathon.

"The main goal is to put myself in a position that I can be competitive, hopefully within the top 10 or 12 women," Marchant said. "It's a pretty deep field."

Like Marchant, the 33-year-old Watson is excited to run his first New York City Marathon after finishing 21st in a disappointing 2:18:45 at the London Marathon in April.

'I want to have fun out there'

"It's America's biggest, greatest city. I've been here several times and I just love the vibe," Watson told CBC Sports by phone Friday following a tune-up run through Central Park. "As a fan of the sport of running, it's one of those races you have to do."

Watson, who forgot his running watch at home, is looking forward to "taking in the moment" since his focus at previous marathons has been about reaching a specific finishing time for an Olympic or world championship qualifier.

"I always had that stress on me. As weird as it sounds, I want to have fun out there [Sunday]. I'm just here to run to the best of my ability," said the native of London, Ont., whose support group in New York consists of his girlfriend and some friends in Brooklyn.

"I was trying to do everything perfect [at the London Marathon] and I wasn't enjoying the process," said Watson, who ran a personal best 2:13:29 at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2013. "The training for [New York] hasn't been as intense but I've enjoyed the process quite a bit.

"This city is very warm and proud of this event," continued Watson, "and I just want to take in the experience."

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