Road To The Olympic Games

Track and Field·Preview

Canada's Krista DuChene set to conquer feared hills of Boston Marathon

A rainy forecast for the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday has Canada's Krista DuChene smiling after she flourished in last year's wet, cold and windy conditions, charging late to finish third overall in the women's race.

42-year-old from Brantford, Ont., placed 3rd in women's race last year

Krista DuChene of Brantford, Ont., is ready for her third Boston Marathon on Monday after placing third out of nearly 14,000 women last year in wet, cold and windy conditions. Rain is again forecasted for the oldest annual marathon. (Cole Burston/Canadian Press/File)

Krista DuChene has had her share of broken bones in 17 years of marathon running, yet still managed to be surprised during the most recent injury scare.

Celebrating her 42nd birthday this past Jan. 9, she dropped a plate on one of her feet while getting a piece of cake.

"I ended up in emergency because I thought I broke my foot. It was that bad," recalls the Brantford, Ont., resident. "We were to leave on a [family] ski trip the next day and I didn't think dropping a plate on my foot would interfere with that.

"It was a bit of shock and disappointment, but fortunately my foot was fine and I only had to take a day off before resuming running."

DuChene mixed in some skiing in Banff, Alta., with her husband Jonathan and three kids — Micah, 13, Seth, 11, and Leah, 8 — while continuing to train for the 123rd Boston Marathon on Monday.

Earlier this year, Vancouver's Rachel Cliff dropped a cutting board on one of her toes during her build for the Nagoya Women's Marathon in Japan, where she set a Canadian record on March 10. So, perhaps something special is also in store for DuChene at the oldest annual marathon in the world.

Late charge

"Well, I don't know about a record, but hopefully a good performance," says DuChene, whose goals for her third Boston run remain the same as last year — running under two hours 40 minutes and placing top three in the masters (40-and-over) division and top 15 among women.

A year ago, DuChene sat 10th through 35 kilometres before charging late in the rain, cold and wind of Boston, finishing third out of nearly 14,000 women in 2:44:20. She made up substantial ground down the stretch in the 42.2km race but ran out of time in an attempt to join Jacqueline Gareau (1980) as the only Canadians to have won in Boston.

Canada's Krista DuChene, pictured here running in the rain and cold of last year's Boston Marathon, crossed the line in two hours 44 minutes 12 seconds on Monday, eight seconds faster than a year ago. (Ryan McBride/AFP/Getty Images/File)

"When the two American women passed me — Sarah Sellers and Rachel Hyland — they woke me up to realize I could go harder," DuChene, who earned $40,000 US for her performance, says. "When the crowd was cheering and it was so exciting at the end, I was able to dig deep, concentrate and have tunnel vision. I think my last kilometre was my fastest of all 42."

Monday's elite women's race is scheduled for 9:32 a.m. ET, with rain and 45 km/h wind gusts in the forecast.

"I do better than others in those [poor] conditions," says DuChene, Canada's lone elite runner – male or female – in Boston. "With the East Africans and some of the other runners who train in a warmer climate, me running through the crazy winter we had puts me in a good spot to tough it out and not even look at my watch because it doesn't matter."

World champs, Olympics in future?

Besides the weather, a healthy DuChene will be challenged by the many hills in Boston, including several in the first 32 km and three before Newton's well-known Heartbreak Hill and its 91-foot climb. In March, she ran the Around the Bay Road Race in Hamilton for a 10th time, a 30 km event which has hills similar to Boston.

I'm not ready to say I'm done, I want to focus on trail races or something.— Canadian marathon runner Krista DuChene on the possibility of racing at the 2020 Olympics
"You have to be patient at the beginning [of the race] when you feel good and you have to be controlled, in terms of your pace and emotions," says the 2016 Olympian, who included several hills in her general training runs. "Doing Around the Bay prepares me mentally for what's to come [on Monday]."

After Boston, DuChene hopes to run the marathon at the world track and field championships in Doha, Qatar, in September but will let her coach, Dave Scott-Thomas, decide. She is one of eight Canadian women who have met the 2:37:00 qualifying standard after clocking 2:36:46 at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon last October.

From there, DuChene hasn't ruled out trying to run under 2:29:30, the new women's qualifying time for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

"I'm not ready to say I'm done, I want to focus on trail races or something," Duchene, who ran a personal-best 2:28:32 in 2013, says of next year's Summer Games. "At 42, and looking at how competitive distance running is in Canada right now, I'm fine to accept the fact that my 2:28 days are maybe gone.

Trio of Canadian wheelchair racers in Boston

"My marathon pace workouts [for Boston] were very consistent and deeper than ever before. However, I don't have the speed I used to have. I would definitely have to focus on speed as a priority [for Tokyo]."

In Boston, Canada will also have three athletes in the push rim wheelchair division: Ottawa's Josh Cassidy and Tristan Smyth of Lake Country, B.C., on the men's side as well as Diane Roy of Sherbrooke, Que.

Cassidy and Smyth finished 1-2 at the 34th annual Los Angeles Marathon in March. A two-time Paralympian, the 34-year-old Cassidy broke the wheelchair world record at the 2012 Boston Marathon in 1:18:25 to beat 10-time champion Ernst van Dyk of South Africa.

Smyth, 32, was fourth in the marathon at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and helped Canada to a bronze medal in the 4x400-metre wheelchair relay in 2016 at his Paralympic debut in Rio.

Roy is a five-time Paralympic medallist who has won six world championship medals. At her fifth Commonwealth Games a year ago, the 48-year-old captured bronze in the 1,500.

About the Author

Doug Harrison has covered the professional and amateur scene as a senior writer for CBC Sports since 2003. Previously, the Burlington, Ont., native covered the NHL and other leagues for Follow the award-winning journalist @harrisoncbc

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