Marathoner Marchant Out To Prove A Point

Lanni Marchant wants to run under 2:30 at the Toronto Marathon. Photo: Soconsports

She wasn’t allowed on the Canadian Olympic squad.

Used with permission from Race Results Weekly.

It is a personal inner quest that drives Lanni Marchant to the starting line of the 2012 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 14th.

The 28-year-old London, Ont., native was acknowledged by fellow athletes when she achieved the Olympic ‘A’ standard in Rotterdam last April – in a personal best time of 2:31:51 – but it is Athletics Canada with whom she has a quarrel.

The sport governing body had imposed a superior standard of 2:29:55 for women to earn their place in the London Olympic team. Only three Canadian women in history have ever beaten that time. Marchant and her friend Krista DuChene, who ran 2:32:06 in Rotterdam,  appealed all the way to the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada to be added to the team under the ‘rising star’ category. Ultimately they were denied.

“I want to run 2:29:55 or better,” Marchant declares, “just to show Athletics Canada that they were wrong – especially in light of the recent announcement that they named other athletes as ‘rising stars’ under exceptional circumstances –  who haven’t even met the ‘rising star’ criteria. I think that’s the goal for Krista (DuChene) and I to get under 2:30 and show they were wrong about us and it was a mistake to leave us off the team.

“In the back of our minds,  if we keep chunking off time, we might as well try and chunk off enough time for a new Canadian Record. Nothing would be sweeter than accomplishing that then really showing ‘AC’ and Canada as a whole that women’s marathoning is on the rise and people need to give us the attention.”

The national record of 2:28:36 was set by Sylvia Ruegger at the 1985 Houston Marathon when Marchant was barely nine months old. With such a challenging target the question must be asked, is she capable?

“I think just having pacers there will help,” says Marchant. “Obviously I am not certain who Alan [Brookes] is bringing in for the women’s race in general. If he is going to have some women chasing faster times then he will obviously have pacers.

“It will be ideal to have pacers going for a sub 2:30 sub 2:29 or sub 2:28. Line us up with some pacers so we are not out there like we were in Rotterdam, trying to push through on our own. Unless he can strap a jet pack to my back there’s nothing more we can ask for.”

Marchant laughs at her joke but its no laughing matter that she has had to overcome many impediments to get where she it today.

After graduating from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a law degree she went to work at a local law firm where she conducted research. The firm, she says, encouraged her to pursue her Olympic dreams and supported her decision to spend part of the winter training in Kenya while working part time for them.

“I worked while I was over there [in Kenya] doing research and sending memos,” she says, “and then I got back and was told I was too distracted by my running and I needed to pursue running, which took me by surprise, as you can imagine.”

Marchant says she had interned for the firm and believed she had more of a personal relationship than a business one. She claims she was told via an email on the day she flew to Rotterdam, her birthday, that she should choose between running and law.

“It would have been nice to have a conversation to discuss it more,” she continues. “It was something I anticipated discussing more after Rotterdam. I had wanted to keep it on the back burner until after Rotterdam.

“After Rotterdam, when I was coming back,  I didn’t have a job or a place to stay. So I kind of kept that quiet. Now that I am back in the south and looking for work I am staying with friends in White, Georgia, forty-five minutes north of Atlanta.”

Despite dropping out of the Scotiabank Vancouver Half Marathon (June 24th) after four kilometres with a tight calf Marchant believes she is in great shape.  Between bouts of cross training in a nearby river or on her favourite pair of rollerblades she is racking up the miles, some 160km a week.

“I definitely know I can go faster (than Rotterdam),” she insists. “That race kind of told me I am able to run faster. How fast that is there’s no way of knowing. I definitely know my body is capable of faster and capable of training harder.

“That was my third marathon so I am still learning. I am still learning about fueling. Krista is the one who taught me how to carbo load for that race over the three days once we got to the hotel. She told me how many bagels I needed to consume from the moment I arrived until race day. So I am definitely capable of more.”

Aside from achieving her personal best in Rotterdam she has made the standard to be selected for the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow. Clearly she would like to see other Canadian women join her and DuChene at worlds.

“Krista and I are lining up and I hope that several other distance specialists lining up chasing marathon times that will get them to worlds,” she declares before a parting shot at her perceived adversary.  “Athletics Canada need to step up with support for us.”

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