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Last Chance At London: Exclusive Interview With Dylan Wykes

The Canadian hopeful has one shot left to qualify for his country's Olympic marathon team.

The Canadian hopeful has one shot left to qualify for his country’s Olympic marathon team.

Many records have been broken in the marathon as more and more talented track athletes forgo racing on the oval for chasing fast times on the roads. This includes Dylan Wykes, originally of Kingston, Ontario, who debuted in the marathon at the tender age of 24, running 2:15:16 at Rotterdam in 2008. Now 28, Wykes has lowered his personal best to 2:12:39. The Providence College alum also competed in the marathon for Canada at the 2009 IAAF World Championships, where he placed 33rd.

Related: Wykes Runs Away With Half-Marathon Title In Arizona

But on March 4, Wykes faces a do-or-die situation at the Lake Biwa Marathon in Japan, where he hopes to run under the Canadian Olympic standard of 2:11:29 and secure his spot on the 2012 team that will compete in London. At the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October, he faded to a disappointing 2:12:56 finish.

We spoke with Wykes from the rarefied air of Flagstaff, Ariz., where he’s been training for his final attempt to qualify for the Games. So far Wykes seems to be right on track, as he captured the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Half Marathon title on January 15 in 1:02:38, winning by nearly six minutes. What is your mindset going into your race in Japan?

Dylan Wykes: Just to try and get after the standard. I only have one goal, you know: to meet the Canadian standard. So that’s been my focus, and that’s what I’m going to be focusing on.

How have you dealt with the pressure in your preparations?

I think I’ve put the most pressure on myself, more than anyone else. To be honest, I’ve been trying to keep things pretty low-key, and focus on what I have to do. I’ve just been trying to focus on my own training and get to a point where running the standard is realistic. So I’ve just been trying to focus my energies there, and not worry too much about the pressure.

Since missing the standard in October, how have you rebounded from that disappointment to refocus?

It was definitely disappointing. I looked at Scotiabank as my Olympic Trials, so to speak, and I really wanted to get the standard there on that day, so it definitely took me a while to get back into things and wrap my head around the idea of going through another cycle of training for a marathon. But my coach was on top of things straight-away, and he had a plan and tried to make me realize that my race in Toronto definitely wasn’t a failure. If anything, it was a step in the right direction and we had to keep building on the training that I’d done over the last couple years, and hopefully get fit enough to get the job done in Japan.

What is the importance of making a trip to the Olympics?

It’s something that, even as a kid, you dream of. I don’t think I necessarily as a kid thought of being an Olympian in running, but in general, you think how cool it would be to be an Olympian. Since I’ve gotten into running, that’s been a huge goal of mine. You have time goals and stuff like that, but being an Olympian is something that’s the pinnacle of our sport, in my opinion. To be able to make the Canadian team would be pretty special.

How does a good tune-up like your half marathon a few weeks back give you confidence as you look ahead to race day?

It’s hard when you’re training for a marathon, when you do a race, whether the tune-up race gives you a lot of information or doesn’t. I know people can go out and run a really good half marathon in their build-ups, and then they don’t seem to be able to put it together on the day. But that race for me in Arizona, it was what I was looking for. I wanted to run under 63 minutes, and I did that. So it definitely tells me I’m heading in the right direction for Biwa. I can’t read too much into it and sit back now and tell myself I’m ready to go; I think there’s still work to be done in the coming weeks.

Some marathoners look at this standard and approach it not so much as a race, but as a day to run the standard, and worry about racing at the Olympics. Will you approach your race similarly?

I tend to get out and race pretty aggressive, so I’ll probably give myself a bit of a buffer in terms of pace that I want to go. I just have to feel it out. I think you have to go out pretty aggressively in order to run 2:11:30. If you look at the American Olympic Trials, guys like Brett Gotcher and Andrew Carlson, they would have gotten the Canadian Olympic standard, right? But they were out in about 64:30 for halfway, so I think that’s the way everyone realizes how to race the marathon these days. I don’t actually know what that’s going to mean, if I’m in a pack or I’m going to be out on my own, but I’m just going to have to take it as it comes and hope that everything comes together on the day.


About The Author:

Jon Gugala is a freelance writer based in Santa Cruz, California. His work has appeared in Running Times, Runner’s World, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @JonGugala.