Running downhill is fun, but it doesn't make running down the opposition easy, Reid Coolsaet found out Sunday.
The 32-year-old Hamiltonian, who will tackle the London Olympic marathon course this summer, won his second consecutive Yonge Street 10K run in Toronto, in a sprint to overtake Kenyan native Kip Kangogo of Lethbridge, Alta., in a final desperate push in the closing downhill section.
"There was more doubt than confidence in that," said Coolsaet, who along with Eric Gillis of Antigonish, N.S., beat the Canadian Olympic Committee's qualifying A-standard for the Olympic marathon last fall.
"I didn't feel good with 500 metres to go. I didn't think I'd catch him. With 200 metres to go, Kip had a 10-metre lead on me. Luckily, there was just enough real estate left," Coolsaet said.
Coolsaet won the 10-kilometre tune-up for the Olympics in 28 minutes 35.7 seconds, just three-tenths ahead of Kangogo. "It was slower than last year, but I'm happy – and lucky – to come away with the win."
Last spring, Coolsaet won the downhill race in 28:08.0. In another sprint, he beat Gillis by three-tenths and Kangogo was third. Racing downhill plays a role in Coolsaet's marathon strategy. He likes the quick leg turnover and the sensation of going fast and he takes that with him into the marathon.
"It's preparation for London. I'd run a 30K and took on Toronto just to see what I had left," he said of winning the Around the Bay 30-kilometre race March 25 in Hamilton. Then followed a high-altitude training camp at Flagstaff, Ariz., with his coach Dave Scott-Thomas, members of his Speed River track club from Guelph, Ont., and Dylan Wykes of Kingston. (Wykes owns the fastest time by an active Canadian marathoner after running 2:10:47 at the Rotterdam marathon last week. Coolsaet was top Canadian at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon last fall at 2:10:55.) "There's no words to describe Reid's going to the Olympics. It's been a long journey," his mother, Susan Coolsaet, said. "We've got our plane tickets and hotel booked. Fortunately, you don't have to buy tickets to see the marathon, it happens in the streets."
Working at high efficiency at high altitude in Flagstaff was not unlike the 16 weeks Coolsaet spent training in Kenya this winter. His training group included Kenyan runners with marathon times of 2:06 and 2:07 – times that would set records in Canada, but common for distance-running Africans.
The first six finishers in the marathon in London on Sunday – from Kenya, Ethiopia and Morocco – were bunched from Kenyan Wilson Kipsang's winning time of 2:04:44 to 2:07:56.
Kenya native Wesley Korir – the husband of the winner in Yonge Street's female division, Tarah McKay Korir – has a personal best of 2:06:16. Korir, who was on hand to cheer Tarah and to present the women's medals, won the Boston Marathon last week.
Tarah Korir, who divides her time between her St. Clements, Ont., home and Wesley Korir's home country of Kenya, finished in 32:06.1, well ahead of Brampton, Ont., runner Kate Van Buskirk in 32:24.3. Rivals since their high school days, both will try to make the Canadian Olympic track squad.
In the he wheelchair division, Richard Vander Wal of Toronto powered to the line in 23:38.4, almost four minutes ahead of Wes Vick of London, Ont.
Kathy Tremblay, 29, of Montreal won her first World Cup race in Ishigaki, Japan, while 22-year-old rookie, Sarah-Anne Brault of Winnipeg took bronze for her first World Cup podium.
Tremblay, battling to qualify for Canada's 2012 Olympic team, led all three legs of competition and won by 20 seconds over Aileen Morrison of Ireland in 2:05:38.
"I think I'm just going to cry when I realize what happened," said Tremblay, winning for the first time in a 17-year career. Brault, 25 seconds back, made her name when she knocked off Paula Findlay of Edmonton to win the 2011 Canadian championship.
In the men's race, Brent McMahon of Victoria was top Canadian in eighth spot, 30 seconds behind winner David Hauss of France.
At the London Aquatics Centre, Canada was one of eight teams to qualify for the London Olympics in a test event, along with host Britain, Australia, China, Egypt, Japan, Russia and Spain.
Canada, led by veteran Marie-Pier Boudreau-Gagnon of Rivière-du-Loup, Que., and Élise Marcotte of L'Ancienne-Lorette, Que., and will also challenge for the podium in the duet. They will be joined by Australia, Austria, Brazil, China, Czech Republic, Egypt, France, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, North Korea, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United States.
Russia was a clear winner in both duet and team qualifying.