© Copyright – 2013 – Athletics Illustrated
Canadian steeplechaser Chris Winter, of Vancouver, BC competed in the 2013 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, which took place in Bydgoszcz, Poland on Sunday, the 24th of March. He finished in 33rd position and second Canadian, which helped Team Canada finish ninth overall. His finishing time was 34:15, exactly one and a half minutes off of first place and 19 seconds behind teammate Mohammed Ahmed of St. Catherines, Ontario. Ahmed finished 22nd overall.
After two years of injury, Winter began to display his fitness again on Saturday, October 27th 2012 where he out-gunned Geoff Martinson for the win at the British Columbia Cross Country Championships. Martinson, no slouch himself had competed in the 2011 Daegu World Track and Field Championships and narrowly missed competing in the 2012 London Games in the 1500m distance.
Again, Winter showed improvement finishing eighth overall at the North American, Central American and Caribbean Cross Country Championships in Mandeville, Jamaica, where he helped Team Canada to a second-place finish. Teammate Cameron Levins finished second overall.
Winter trained with Speed River Track and Field Club in Guelph, Ontario and continues to be coached by Speed River’s head coach, Dave Scott-Thomas. Winter also ran for the NCAA Div 1 University of Oregon Ducks. Prior to arriving at the University of Oregon, he was a two-time member of Team Canada competing in the World Junior Championships teams in both cross-country and track and field and was a three-time top-five finisher in the Pac-10 Championships steeplechase.
Winter’s 3000m steeple personal best is 8:28.46.
Christopher Kelsall: You must be excited to have run so well at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, can you take me through the race? What was going through your mind when you knew you were going to finish as well as you did?
Chris Winter: Worlds was a fantastic experience, I was really looking forward to this trip as I had competed at two World Cross Country Championships as a junior and my performances there were really quite terrible. Since then I have grown a ton as a runner and I was really looking forward to getting back to a world cross country championship event and putting my best performance out there.
In the race itself, I have rarely felt so good. The start of the race was absolutely nuts with everyone trying to get out and establish a good position. That in combination with the mud, snow and obstacles on the course, it all made for a very chaotic opening kilometre. I was able to survive this first km and found myself already in the top half of the field. I then just focused on settling in and tried to establish a rhythm on a course that did everything it could to try and break it. This worked great as I methodically moved up through the field until I was in the top 35. It was a bit surreal as I looked around and realized that I was no longer running with Europeans and North Americans but that I had worked myself up into a group that contained Kenyans, Ethiopians, Algerians, etc. I found that I was able to comfortably maintain this position and still felt strong through 10km. That’s the point where the race really began. I found myself on the tail end of a large group through the final loop and when we came down the hill for the final time and turned into the home stretch I found that I still had a kick and was able to catch a couple of guys over the final 100 meters.
Overall, it’s hard to tell what this race means for the coming track season, but I am feeling really strong and I am really excited to turn my attention to the track and to qualify for the World’s this summer in Moscow.
CK: What are your key races coming up for the spring and early summer?
CW: This spring and early summer is going to be very exciting and busy! I have a couple of weeks now where I will look to get in a solid training block before I open up with a steeplechase at the Payton Jordan Invitational meet at Stanford. From there I’ll be off to Japan to race a steeple at the Kawasaki World Challenge Meet which should give me a great opportunity to go after the world championship “A” standard. Then it’ll be back to North America for a couple of races including the Oxy Invite and the Speed River Inferno on Guelph’s new track at the end of May. Then I’ll be focused on putting together a great race at Nationals in Moncton. At the very least I’ll be racking up some serious air miles!
CK: You have dealt with a number of injuries over the previous two years, yes? Can you talk about the experience of the past two years being injury-plagued?
CW: My injuries are hopefully a thing of the past, and although they were some of the toughest times I have faced as an athlete, they also taught me the most about myself. I discovered how hard I could work and just how badly I want to excel at this sport. I also used this time to work on my weaknesses and develop my strength. There were too many days spent on the elliptical machine, in the pool, on the bike or just sitting on the sidelines while my friends, training partners and competitors trained and raced. These days turned into weeks then months and finally years, but no matter how depressed I was, I just used it for motivation. And, when I finally started to get healthy I found that I had a great new perspective. I knew what I had sacrificed to be on each and every start line that I made it to and I found myself not taking anything for granted. I told myself that I should be smiling on every start line because I know how much work I put in just to be there. Now two years later I still have this passion and I am more motivated than ever to chase my dreams!
CK: The Speed River Inferno looks like it will be an exciting event this year.
CW: We are all VERY excited about this event! Guelph for a long time has been “Canada’s Running Capital” but it was kind of a lie as the city lacked the facilities. With the new stadium, Guelph can finally honestly call itself Canada’s Running Capital. And, with the new track, the Speed River Inferno is shaping up to be a great meet to go after fast times here in Canada. We are looking at getting some really fast distance races going, especially in the men’s and women’s 1500 and Steeplechase. Both Alex Genest and I are looking to run the World Championship “A” standard this year and the Inferno provides us with a great venue to go after it here at home in Canada.
CK: Sounds like you have a full slate, any potential National Track League (NTL) meets?
CW: Word on the street is that Edmonton will have a Steeplechase this year. This is really exciting as the steeplechase has been missing from the NTL since its inception. I love the idea of being able to run fast here in Canada, and between the Inferno and the NTL, I should have a couple of great opportunities.
CK: It appears you are not taking your health and your new level of fitness for granted.
CW: Absolutely not! One thing I know is just how quickly it can all be taken away. I just take my running one day at a time and focus on the week ahead. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have big long-term goals, but I just try to focus on taking care of what I have to do today and I know that if I do this, good things will happen!