Lanni Marchant was taking her first steps when Oshawa, Ont., native Sylvia Ruegger set Canada’s record time in the women’s marathon in 1985.
On Sunday, the 28-year-old took that mark and beat it.
Marchant set the new Canadian record at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon with a time of two hours 28 minutes, besting Ruegger’s mark of 2:28:36. Krista DuChene of Brantford, Ont., crossed the finish line 32 seconds after her Canadian teammate, clocking in at 2:28:32 to also beat Ruegger’s time.
“The day was perfect. Both Krista and I ran perfect. I am ecstatic right now,” Marchant said after the race. “I think Sylvia Ruegger was ready for Canadian women to take that jump and set a new record.”
Marchant will take home $8,000 in prize money plus a $28,000 bonus for her record-breaking time.
The London, Ont., native placed 44th at the women’s marathon at the world track and field championships in Moscow last summer after experiencing significant cramping in the left side of her body.
She said she thought about her experience in Moscow during the Toronto race.
“My calves didn’t cramp as bad as the worlds, but they definitely started to hurt. ... After the first 10 kilometres I though, ‘OK, you are feeling alright. Stay with the group until 20 km.’ And then 20 km came and then 30 km,” Marchant said.
“I guess about 33 km or 34 km in, I kind of pulled away from Krista and I was (thinking), ‘I have to keep going.’ The worlds was in the back of mind, and with a flip of a switch things can go wrong. So I thought ‘take control, stay patient.“’
Prior to the Moscow event, Canada had not had a woman run the distance at a world championship since 2003. Marchant and DuChene represent a resurgence in the sport among Canadian women.
DuChene, who clocked a personal best at the Toronto event, said she was happy to be running alongside Marchant through most of the race.
“It’s ideal — someone right beside you pushing you,” she said. “It’s phenomenal for women in this sport. I have no regrets, I left everything out there.”
Natasha Wodak of Port Moody, B.C., ran a 2:35:16 in her marathon debut.
Eric Gillis of Antigonish, N.S., was the top Canadian male in 2:11:47, while Rob Watson of London, Ont., set a personal best of 2:13:27.
Gillis was the favourite to win the $38,000 bonus offered to anyone who could break the Canadian men’s record of 2:10:09 set by Jerome Drayton 38 years ago.
“Somewhere in the last five kilometres I really slowed down,” Gillis said. “I had the best first half of a race I have ever had.
“I had amazing pacers that took me to 30 km on Canadian record pace, and today showed me that I am going to have to get stronger for that last 12 km.”
In the men’s race, Deressa Chimsa from Ethiopia finished first with a time of 2:07:05, the fastest time ever run on Canadian soil, while Flomena Cheyech became the new women’s champion with a time of 2:25:13.