Road To The Olympic Games

Growing confidence keyed Lanni Marchant's NYC Marathon success

Lanni Marchant spent a quiet day in a hotel room, nursing a sore body, brimming with confidence and reflecting on a Canadian record she set in her New York City Marathon debut.

Rehabbing sore left side tops Canadian Olympian's off-season priorities

Lanni Marchant battled a race-long headwind to finish seventh in Sunday's New York City Marathon. The 32-year-old crossed the finish line in two hours 33 minutes and 50 seconds, the fastest time ever by a Canadian woman at the event. (Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images/File)

Lanni Marchant spent a quiet Monday morning in a hotel room, nursing a sore body, brimming with confidence and reflecting on a Canadian record she set less than 24 hours earlier in her New York City Marathon debut.

She entered the 42-kilometre race not knowing what to expect from the weather and its effect on a course that spans the city's five boroughs — Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan.

When Marchant crossed the line two hours 33 minutes and 50 seconds later at a sun-splashed Central Park — the fastest time posted by a Canadian woman at the event — she was happy to place seventh and thrilled to not have to run another hill and negotiate a headwind that lasted throughout race.

"It's a brutal course," the London, Ont., runner told CBC Sports in a phone interview. "Everyone talks about the big hills and going over the bridges. There wasn't very much of the race where you weren't slightly declining, inclining or turning.

"It's a tactical, thinking course, which is why I think I enjoyed it and did well. I ran a smart race, but it was windy. There were a couple of corners I turned and it felt like I got hit in the face."

Marchant's pre-race strategy was to stay with the women's field, but she found herself running solo after 15 km when several of her competitors surged ahead. Marchant figured she would catch them later in the race and drew from her experience running the Olympic marathon this past summer in Rio, where she placed 24th in 2:33:08.

"I'm learning the distance a lot more and getting the confidence in my closing couple of kilometres that I didn't have before," said Marchant, who was administered a blood test and gave two urine samples from Thursday through Sunday.

Fast down stretch

Marchant sat 12th at the halfway mark of Sunday's race, passed emerging U.S. runner Kim Conley into ninth by the 30-km mark and moved ahead of Americans Sara Hall and Neely Gracey down the stretch.

The Canadian women's record holder was reminded of what many people had told Marchant during an unsuccessful attempt to make the 2012 Canadian Olympic team.

"They said once you run an Olympic marathon, it changes how you run marathons and I'm experiencing that now," she said. "I don't get amped up for my races, but there was just a confidence [on Sunday] that I knew not to get carried away or not worry about what others were doing in the race."

Marchant placed 14th at the 2014 Boston Marathon (2:30:34) and races in London, England and Berlin, Germany remain on her bucket list of marathon destinations, but getting her body healed is the top priority this off-season.

I'd like to be able to run a marathon and actually run hard the whole way.- Canadian marathoner Lanni Marchant on her nagging left-side injury

Since she started running elite marathons four years ago, Marchant has dealt with cramping in her left calf during competition and training. Discomfort on her left side slowed Marchant when she ran 2:28:09 — just nine seconds off her national mark — at last October's Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

Marchant has been better the past 12 months at recognizing the warning signs — namely pain in the hip, butt and quadriceps muscle — and she ran the Rio and New York City marathons without cramping in her calf.

Marchant will arrive in Toronto later this week and spend the next couple of months with physiotherapists to try to determine the nature of the injury.

"If I do specific stretches during a workout, I can [alleviate the pain], but I can't stop and stretch my leg out in the middle of a marathon," said Marchant, who has managed the problem with band-aid solutions such as regular physio and chiropractor sessions along with deep-heat massage.

"Now, [doctors] will look into whether there are problems on the nerve and vascular level. I don't want to do another four years of marathoning where I'm in the best shape of my life and wondering what my left side is going to do. I'd like to be able to run a marathon and actually run hard the whole way."

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