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Christopher Kelsall: What precipitated the change to the marathon from years competing at the top-level as a steepler?

Rob Watson: The steeplechase will always be my first love, but after a fairly disappointing and frustrating track season in 2010, I was burnt out on the steeple and needed a change. This fall I helped pace Reider (Reid Coolsaet) at the Toronto Marathon and had a blast. I have always enjoyed road racing more than the track and I figured a marathon would be fun.

CK: Did you pace him through 20 miles (32K)?

RW: The goal was 25km, but I fell short. I helped him through the half in 65:04, then got really tired really quickly and got dropped. I wish I could have helped longer, but Reid was fine on his own, he ran an awesome race. It was inspiring also, after being there to see him and Gillis rock so hard, it really made the marathon more appealing.

CK: Did you get to the finish in time to witness their excellent personal bests?

RW: I did, I was picked up by the rabbit wagon and we got dropped off at the finish line area. I climbed a tree to get the perfect view of the finish. When Reid came by I was hanging off this branch in my singlet and shorts, just fist-pumping away and going nuts. I must have looked weird. Then I jumped a few fences and such to get to Reid. I gave him a big bear hug, he had only just finished though and I think I almost killed him. I was so pumped, Reid and Eric absolutely killed it that day.

CK: Do you have a photo of you hanging in the tree, fist-pumping?

RW: (laughing) No but I wish I did. There is that awesome photo of Reid’s celebration. Just looking at that picture gives me goosebumps. Reid went through a lot with injuries and such in the couple years leading up to that race, and for him to nail that Olympic time the was he did was just perfect.  It was really inspirational.

CK: Other than that mileage quantity difference, what are some of the major adjustments you have made from middle distance to marathon training?

RW: Well basically I don’t have to do as much of the stuff I don’t like (speed work) and get to do a lot more of the training that I do like (long tempo, strength work and long runs). Although Dave will throw in some speedy stuff every now and then just to keep me on my toes. I have really enjoyed this build-up. DST and I have really been on the same page, and the energy of the group right now is pretty awesome.

CK: Are you getting any sage advice from the 2:11 and 2:12 marathoners, Coolsaet and Eric Gillis?

RW: Oh man, yeah for sure. Having two guys who have already rocked a marathon in our group has been an invaluable resource. They have so much insight and knowledge to share about the event. I have been picking their brains about every little aspect, it’s awesome. We have things pretty locked down. We also work a lot with Dr. Trent Stellingwerff, his nutritional guidance is cutting edge and he’s been amazingly helpful.

CK: Growing up in London, Ontario I assume you played hockey. How old were you when you discovered running?

RW: I did play hockey, and I was terrible. I was more of a soccer guy. Anyways, I was lucky enough to be born into a pretty active family. My Aunt Jill was in the 84’ Olympics for the Heptathlon and my older brother Pete was a running superstar. Running was always a thing that my family just did. We were always going to road races and such when I was little. I ran my first 10km road race when I was 7, our family was at a race which my older brothers were going to run and I figured I wanted to run also. My parents were hesitant at first but then figured I’d be okay. I ran the race and had fun. So between the ages of 7-12-ish I was always running road races with the family during the springtime. My Dad and Mom have both run marathons, they’re awesome. But as high school came around I didn’t really care much for running. I did cross-country in the fall, but I sucked! I was dead last at the city champs my 9th grade. I was just doing it for something to do. Then I played soccer in the spring. Eventually, I started to enjoy it more and put in some more work, and I was an okay runner by the end of high school. Things have progressed from there.

CK: Can you skateboard at all like your teammate Reid Coolsaet (world record holder in the skateboard mile).

RW: I can skateboard, but not nearly as well as Reid, he’s really good. But as a kid my older brother built a halfpipe in our back yard, so I would dink around on that a bit, it was fun. And when I was in University my main mode of transport was my longboard, I would tear around campus on that sucker.

CK: Where does the nickname ‘Destroyer’ come from?

RW: I wish there was some awesome story to go with this nickname, but sadly the story is quite lame. It happened when I first moved to Guelph and a friend of the scene (Ben Gerson) called the house, he called me Robert. But my real name is Robin and I hate it when people call me Robert (I generally hate it when people call me Robin also). So I said “don’t call me Robert” and Ben said, “Well what should I call you?” So I quickly thought of a cool name, and I said “Call me Destroyer” and then Ben started calling me Destroyer, and it caught on. So it is lame that I gave myself my own nickname, but at least it is a pretty cool nickname.

CK: It is not lame if you made the demand with a steely-eyed Clint Eastwood glare and a clenched-jaw growl.

RW: I like to think that’s the way it went down. I definitely had the glare going, but it was delivered over the phone, so the effect may have been lost.

CK: Well if you emote, it comes across through the phone. Currently, as of January 18th, you have some time on your hands as you are in marathon taper mode. Are you champing at the bit? Any interesting behavior changes?

RW: Man, I am definitely ready to roll. I am not a fan of the taper at all. I just feel lazy and lethargic during it. It is a mental thing for sure. At least this week I still get to put in 100 miles or so, but next week will be brutal. My behavior has remained pretty constant, just more time to think about the race and get ready to get down on the 30th.

[January 28th]

CK: Ok Rob, just a few days until the marathon. The media is starting to talk about your race, Canadian Running Magazine has an online article up. How are you feeling at this time, getting excited for your debut?

RW: Well, I think I am good to go. The taper has been smooth, the legs are itching to go and my mind is clear and focused.  I have been getting some amazing support and encouragement from friends, family and even strangers these last couple of days. It has been very cool. Can’t wait to lace up the ole’ NB’s and take a little tour of the streets of Houston!

Post Race

CK: Congratulations on your first marathon race. It appears that you ran the first half on pace for 2:11. Although you did not hit standard, 2:16 is a good start to a marathon career. How are you feeling about the result?

RW: Thanks Chris! Yeah, I am somewhat disappointed with my overall time, I didn’t achieve my time goals and I think I am capable of much more than that. But I also think that there are a lot of positives that I can take out of the race. Just getting through that and experiencing everything the marathon has to offer will make the next one better.

CK: Are you going to take your new level of aerobic fitness and race track this spring?

RW: Yes, for sure. I’m going to take a few days off here and then try to get ready to hit up a solid 10,000m on the track and also try to bring down my 5000m pb. It will be interesting to see how the body reacts after the pounding it’s taken over these last couple months. I’m excited to get back in it.

CK: Can you take readers through the race?

RW: Certainly. Everything was perfect leading up to the race. The Houston Race organizers were fantastic, everyone was so nice and helpful. They took great care of us. Race day weather was a little humid and wet, the road was a little slick at times but overall the conditions were fine.

So the race starts and after the first few miles, I didn’t feel as good as I thought I would. I didn’t feel terrible or anything but it just wasn’t coming along as smoothly as I anticipated. I briefly considered backing off a bit, but then decided to just stick to the plan in hopes that my legs would come around as I got into the race. At around 6 miles I was able to settle in and find a rhythm,  but it just didn’t feel right, maybe I was thinking too much and I wasn’t relaxed or something. I got to halfway in good time but I knew it was only a matter of time until things were just going to start sucking.  I wish I was more positive mentally here because once negative thoughts enter the head it’s only a matter of time till your downfall. I made it to 18 miles still @ 5:00 miles then the 5:20’s and 5:30’s started to come and I hit that wall. I’ll tell ya, those last 6 miles were the most unpleasant 6 miles I have ever run, man it hurt so bad. I was suffering greatly, I just couldn’t do anything physically, I was reduced to a shuffle, man that sucked! (sorry for the pity party I’m throwing myself here). So then I finished in 2:16:17. 2:16 the ugly way 65:27/70:50 ughh.

I’m pretty bummed right now, but I am also somewhat encouraged. I was able to hold goal pace for 30km on a day where I certainly wasn’t feeling the greatest and I got to experience that feeling that only the last few miles of a marathon can bring.  I can’t wait to get back at it and try it again. even though the Marathon just kicked my ass, and it kicked my ass hard. I think I have fallen in love with the event. I’m gonna work harder and I’ll be better prepared next time. Toronto Scotiabank Marathon 2011 is going to be a rocking day. Go River (Speed River Track Club)!

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