Lanni Marchant is the face of Canadian women’s distance running. The 32-year old practicing lawyer holds the fastest Canadian marathon time (2:28) and is within a hair of her training partner, Natasha Wodak’s Canadian record at 10,000-metre (31:41:59).
Most recently, Lanni delivered a top-Canadian performance at the the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) Gold Label 10K race in Ottawa. As the top Canadian woman in the field, it seemed like a no-brainer that she would compete in both the 10,000-metre and marathon events at the Rio Olympics.
Despite her accomplishments, Athletics Canada, the Canadian equivalent of USATF, has yet to determine if Marchant will be competing for Canada in either event. What gives?
What We Know
Marchant is the only runner who has met the Canadian Rio 2016 standard for both the Marathon and the 10,000-metre events, and is only one of two Canadian women who have met the standard for the marathon. Unlike in the United States where the marathon team is selected based on the results of the Olympic Marathon Trials, Athletics Canada sets its own qualification standards for the Olympics, and athletes must meet the standard within a certain window, or demonstrate “proof of fitness” if they met the qualification outside of the qualifying period. For 2016, the qualifying period for the marathon was January 1, 2015 to May 29, 2016, and for the 10,000-metre, January 1, 2015 to July 10, 2016.
In October 2015 at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Marchant met the Canadian marathon standard for Rio with a 2:28:09. Given that she met the standard before the qualifying period, Athletics Canada requires her to demonstrate “competitive readiness” before July 10. For Marchant, it appears that her 1:11:26 performance and 20th place finish at the half-marathon championships in Cardiff in March satisfied that requirement for the marathon event and her 32:10 at the Payton Jordon Invitational for the 10,000-metre. According to her blog, Marchant has been clear in her intentions to run both distances at the Olympics.
Given that there’s a short window of recovery time, 46 hours to be exact, between the 10,000-metre and marathon events in Rio, Marchant completed a simulation workout while she was competing in Ottawa recently. On the Monday after her Saturday evening 10K race, Marchant ran a marathon pace 30K along Ottawa’s Rideau Canal to simulate her Rio plans. At this point, it’s unclear if this workout was endorsed by her coach, and Head Coach of Athletics Canada, Peter Eriksson.
While Athletics Canada has neither confirmed nor denied her participation in both events, Eriksson tweeted, “Lanni has not been told she can’t run the marathon, this is misleading information. All decisions will be made by the NTC [National Team Committee] after Trial.” No further statements have been released by Athletics Canada.
While most countries have named their athletes for Rio, Athletics Canada plans to name the Canadian team on July 11 in Edmonton, Alberta. In 2012, Athletics Canada announced the team for London in May. While it makes for some added suspense, one does wonder, why make the athletes wait this time around, leaving their training plans in limbo?
For Lanni, this uncertainty is all too familiar. In 2012 she ran a 2:31, faster than the Olympic standard of 2:37, but fell short of the arguably high 2012 Canadian Olympic standard of 2:29:55. Despite the experience she would have gained in London, Athletics Canada did not send her, or any Canadian female for that matter. Marchant appealed Athletics Canada’s decision and lost.
Public Support for Marchant
In the meantime, the public has raised their pitchforks in defense of Lanni, with #LetLanniRun trending among Canada’s running community. This outrage has been fueled by negatively-charged headlines in the news cycle, suggesting it’s unlikely she will compete. Canadians want to see her in both events come August, so much so that supporters are raising money to to send her big family, including all six siblings, to Rio to cheer her on.
Given that she will undoubtedly be headed to Rio for at least one event, why not let her run both? The only argument that seems to make sense is that she could compromise her performance in one of the events if competing in both, thus reducing the chances of earning a medal for Canada. But this is not a question of her taking someone else’s place; only Lanni and Krista Duchene have met the marathon standard, so theoretically speaking, she wouldn’t be bumping anyone else’s chance of medaling either. Whether or not her marathon performance could be weakened by racing a hard 10k, Canada has nothing to lose by letting her go for it, so the issue remains that it will be difficult for Athletics Canada to spin why an athlete who has met all standards would be denied to compete in an event.
For now, the countdown is on to July 11, when Athletics Canada will name the Rio athletics team. As for me, I’m remaining positive that Athletics Canada will make the right decision in their deliberations and name Lanni Marchant for both events. And if not, stay tuned for the follow-up rant! As the fastest Canadian distance runner it would be a huge disappointment not to have Lanni representing Canada in both events in August.
Do you think Athletics Canada has an obligation to let Lanni run? Do you think her performance in one event could be compromised by the other?