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Lanni Marchant shelves retirement: 'There's still a lot more I want to do'

After taking stock of her athletic career last off-season, Lanni Marchant turned down an invite to run the women's marathon at this summer's world track and field championships. Instead, the Canadian Olympian will race the 10,000 metres and focus on bucket-list races.

Canadian women's marathon record holder to run 10,000m at world championships

Canada's Lanni Marchant has decided with her coach Dave Mills to run the 10,000 metres, not the marathon, at the world track and field championships in August. "I didn’t feel confident enough in the marathon that I should be stealing someone else's spot," says the 2016 Olympian. (Source: Matt Ryb Pictures)

​A month ago, Lanni Marchant was sitting at her Toronto residence, pondering her athletic future after doctors removed a stent one week following kidney stone surgery.

Was the Canadian women's record holder in the marathon and half-marathon set to retire after a 24th-place performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics, and seventh-place showing in her New York City Marathon debut?

"It would have been easy to say I went to the Olympics and ran well in New York," she says, "and now I'm tired of being sick and tired and I'm going to be a lawyer. But I decided … there's still a lot more I want to do in my sport."

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Marchant's off-season was anything but memorable.

  • She worked for two months with physiotherapists and strength coaches on her mechanics after four years of pain in her hip, butt and quadriceps muscle led to cramping in her left calf during competition and training.
  • Her father, Roly, died suddenly, though not unexpectedly after battling health issues.
  • And Marchant dealt with on and off kidney problems, starting in November, before she was told in May a kidney stone needed to be removed.

"I had never had a season like this when you get one thing under control and something else goes," the 33-year-old practising lawyer told CBC Sports over the phone earlier this week. "I look at [fellow marathoners] Krista DuChene and Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis and Dylan Wykes. They've always pulled out these great performances but then they've also had to miss chunks of a season [due to injury] and make the tough decision whether to push through [the pain].

"I've never had to make those decisions, so it's been a steep learning curve."

The immense respect Marchant has for her teammates also made it easier for her to decline last week's invitation from Athletics Canada to run the marathon at the world track and field championships set for Aug. 4-13 in London, England.

Toronto's Rachel Hannah, Tarah Korir of St. Clements, Ont., and Vancouver's Dayna Pidhoresky will represent Canada on the women's team.

After consulting with her coach Dave Mills, Marchant decided to compete in the women's 10,000 metres but first must race the 5,000 at the Canadian championships in Ottawa on July 6 to secure her spot.

"I feel very confident in both events," said Marchant of the 10,000 and marathon, both of which she ran in Rio, "but I didn't feel confident enough in the marathon that I should be stealing someone else's spot. All three of those ladies earned that spot. We're in good hands with those girls.

"The goals now are different," added Marchant, whose lifetime bests include 31 minutes 46.94 seconds in the 10,000 and two hours 28 minutes in the marathon. "If I get to represent Canada, that's fantastic. But I also want to see how fast I can go and chase some bucket-list races."

Marchant, who recently signed a deal to become Under Armour's first professional runner in Canada, has her sights set on the Sept. 24 Berlin Marathon.

"I want to have fun running and don't want to go to Berlin to run 2:35," she said. "If I'm going to Berlin, I'm going there to go after sub-2:28."

On June 24, the London, Ont., native will participate in the 22nd annual Pride and Remembrance Run in Toronto as the 2015 Pan Am Games bronze medallist continues to build stamina for worlds.

"I'm really excited about it," said Marchant, adding her mom, Mary Lou, runs five-kilometre races and might join her. "It's not your big race against the world's best, but I want to feel more and more like I'm part of the [Toronto] community.

Slow progression for Coolsaet

"Toronto has been good to me with the performances I've had here in the past, and there's such a strong running community here."

Meanwhile, Coolsaet also declined the invitation to run the marathon at worlds after dealing with osteonecrosis in the fourth metatarsal bone in his left foot, a disease caused by reduced blood flow to bones in the joints.

"It was most likely caused by tight tendons," Coolsaet, who was sidelined four months, said in an email to CBC Sports. "A follow-up MRI in May showed revascularization [the restoration of blood circulation].

"I've been able to run for the last month and I'm feeling less discomfort each week, but progression is slow as I'm still dealing with tendon problems."

A two-time Olympian, Coolsaet said the earliest he would run a marathon is mid-October and left open the possibility of running the Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Oct. 22.


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