Start List/Liste de Départ: Rotter-DAMN! Wykes confirms, 4 Canadians seek standard.

The big news of the day is that two of Canada’s top male marathoners, Dylan Wykes and Rob Watson, will both be in the field in Rotterdam on Sunday. On the ladies side, Lanni Marchant and Krista Duchene are toeing the line in the hopes of making the standard.

So will they do it? Let’s analyse. Wykes first.

Reasons why Wykes will do it:
1. His performance in Toronto in October indicates he’s got the fitness. The conditions were crappy and he still ran well.
2. His track and shorter distance road times indicate he can run that fast.
3. His coach, Richard Lee, is notoriously conservative with races. So seems like he would not be on the line if he was not ready.

Reasons why Wykes might not do it:
1. Overwork. He raced Toronto in October, then in Japan last month. He dropped out at 26k with stomach problems. But getting out early may be to his advantage.

Reasons why Watson will do it:
1. Maturity. Perhaps not a word normally associated with Le Rob, but since Toronto, where he DNFed, and his early 2012 split with Speed River, he seems to have turned things around. He seems to think so, at least, and he would know!
2. Coaching. It’s hard to say that leaving the guy who is probably the best coach in Canada is a good coaching move, but no matter how good the coach, there’s the matter of fit. An intense and particular guy like Rob is probably well-served by working with someone who can step up and call him on his bs. Big brothers are good for that.
3. Chicks dig him. Jane Cullis believes in Watson.

Reasons why Watson won’t do it:
1. Fitness. He may just not be fast enough. 63:30 for a half marathon is probably indicative of 2:13-14. That said, Rob’s NYC Half was run in his patented FFTF style, opening in 14:19 (2:52/k), then closing in 3:03/k after that (if my calculations are correct).
2. Maturity. Can he stay away from Rotterdam’s nightlife long enough to get the race in? Just kidding, of course he can.

Now, on to the ladies. I don’t know as much about their recent race performances or preparation, but here’s what the numbers tell us.

Krista Duchene ran 1:47:03 on the tough 30k course at Around the Bay. According to McMillan, that is equivalent to just under 2:35. On March 4th, she ran 1:15:42 for a half-marathon, which equates to about a 2:39. The standard is 2:29:55. So from a pure numbers standpoint, it looks tough, but she’s been improving very quickly, and that ATB course is difficult. Also in her favour is that she has run several marathons before, her best last year at Ottawa in 2:39:07. She might pull this off.

Lanni Marchant is less known. A law student in Tennessee, but originally from London, she ran a half in 1:21:27 in the fall of 2011, and a 2:49 in Ottawa last year, which does not bode well for a run at the standard. Her 34:56 at the Zoo Run, however, is a much better performance, and might be a better indicator of her true form. But here’s the real story: she’s spent the last few months training in Iten, Kenya. ***UPDATE***Anonymous poster below says Lanni Marchant ran 1:14:06. That’s probably equivalent to about 2:35 as well.

It’s possible that all four of these runners could hit the Olympic standard on Sunday. I wouldn’t know how to calculate the odds, but it seems like Wykes has the best shot based on the stats, and that Marchant is a real wild card, having spent the winter in Kenya. I can not bet against Watson, and Duchene’s experience will serve her well. There are good reasons to be optimistic for Canadian distance running this weekend.

One last point: if, by chance we end up with 4 men and 2 women who make the Olympic standard, is it still “too hard”? Is the increase of good performances not evidence that, at the very least, these tough standards are not hurting our athletes? Sure, it’s hard to say the tough standards push them to the top–we can’t know that for sure. But I do think that an athlete who gives up the fight because the standards are too tough probably did not have the stuff to make it anyway. Cheers to these four runners who are making a last ditch effort to qualify for the Olympic games! Go get it, Canada!

You can watch the race live here, for a small fee.