by Paul Gains
A little over a year has passed since Krista DuChene struggled across the finish line of the Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal with what would be diagnosed as a broken femur – a potentially career ending injury.
Yet, this 38 year old mother of three is now poised to represent Canada at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
On April 12th of this year DuChene finished 3rd at the Rotterdam Marathon with a time of 2:29:38 beating the Olympic standard by twelve seconds.
The miraculous comeback has afforded her the luxury of going into her next marathon, not having to chase standards, but to run the race the way she wants to. Accordingly, the Brantford, Ontario native has chosen to run the 2015 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon October 18th.
The event is the only IAAF Gold Label marathon in Canada and this year will also serve as the Athletics Canada National Championship Marathon.
“You know it’s an absolute wonderful feeling to have that standard so early in the qualifying period,” she declares, “and just to be able to sit back and reflect, and let it soak in, and make wise decisions moving forward, as opposed to panicking and thinking ‘oh what race am I going to do now to get the standard.’
“But, at the same time, I am not taking that for granted. Certainly we do have a couple of women who are making their mark and I have to watch out for them if they do run faster than my 2:29:38.”
DuChene is fully aware that she has beaten the odds, so to speak, being much nearer to 40 than most of her competitors and being able to recover from an extraordinary fracture. There surely were times where she wondered about her future as an elite marathon runner.
“You know it all comes down to my faith, everyday,” DuChene explains. “I knew it was part of a bigger plan. I had peace in the hospital. I had my share of crying. That was difficult but, not once did I have this fear or panic that something better wouldn’t come of it. I didn’t know what it would be.
“I said, the day after surgery, it would take two years to run my next marathon. Two days after surgery I knew I could do it in one year. I didn’t think I would get the standard on my first try; I was fully mentally prepared for three tries. I think that is why my recovery from Rotterdam was longer this time. Physically I was fine but emotionally, just understanding and reflecting on the significance of the previous year, was pretty hard to grasp. So I really needed to take the time to emotionally recover from it in a good year.”
The decision to run Toronto and forego an opportunity to represent Canada at either the Pan American Games or the World Championships in Beijing was a difficult one for the athlete and her coach, Rick Mannen. They consulted and reflected and ultimately decided that she should completely recover from Rotterdam and build up gradually for a fall marathon. The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon was a natural choice.
The Toronto race has been good to her. It was the scene of her assault on Sylvia Ruegger’s then 28 year old Canadian record of 2:28:36 in 2013. Though she did dip under the time with her 2:28:32 personal best she was beaten to the line by Lanni Marchant’s 2:28:00. And, she doesn’t have to think long and hard for reasons to return to the event.
“There are numerous things I can say I love about the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon,” DuChene reveals. “Number one (race director) Alan Brookes and his amazing Canada Running Series team. I call it my home marathon because it is close in distance; I don’t need to travel. Family and friends are close, the crowd is fun. The comfort and the familiarity of the race, the international field, it’s our national championship and it’s an IAAF Gold Label event. That’s probably more than a half dozen reasons.
“There’s no pressure for me to hit a certain time. At the same time, I can maybe go for a faster time and be a bit more risky with that. I still tend to be an even paced, conservative, runner going out at a pace I think I can hold to the end. The nice thing after making the decision to not do a summer marathon I just kind of went right back to the bottom and I am going to slowly build a base and get my routine back, thin out the sweets a bit, increase the mileage and intensity in a really gradual way.”
Two of her three children are currently in school and the youngest, at 4, will start school next september which will give her a little more freedom. For the past several years she has risen at 5:00 a.m., even in the coldest winter months, to run before her husband Jonathan, leaves for work. Then she would often run on the treadmill at the Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre while her daughter was in childcare on site.
With the luxury of building up for Toronto ever so gradually DuChene could well be in a position to beat her personal best and challenge Marchant’s national record. The Rotterdam performance was inhibited somewhat by windy conditions and the lack of a pacemaker for the latter stages of the race. She’s proven she can beat the odds time and time again. Maybe a record is in the cards October 18th.