The men’s gold medallist at the 2015 Montreal Oasis Rock’n’roll Marathon leaves nothing to chance. Patient, disciplined, methodical, he explains what running has meant to his life and the steps that brought him to the top of the podium.
1. How did running enter your life?
I’ve always been athletic. I started playing winter hockey at the age of three and summer tennis around five. I was greatly influenced by my father who practiced both these sports. At 12, I was teaching tennis, then I pursued both activities until I turned 25. At the same time, around 22 years old, I became interested in endurance sports, especially canoe races. I turned to running two years later. In 2007, I entered a half-marathon and finished with a time of 1 hour 23 mins; I came in fifteen out of 350 runners. That’s when I realized I seriously wanted to compete in this sport.
2. You have two children. How do you succeed in juggling both training and family life?
I have to admit it’s the hardest part to manage. Both my wife and I work full-time, so with two kids, you need to be creative to find the time needed to train. For example, at lunchtime, I take an hour and a half so I can run 15 km: one hour to train, 10 minutes to shower, and 20 minutes to eat. After work, I put my son Leo in his stroller, then off we go to run another 10 to 15 km with him. Meanwhile, my wife prepares dinner while taking care of our oldest, our daughter Mahélie. I keep to this routine Monday through Friday. On weekends, I run an intense 30 to 35 km on Saturdays, then a slower-paced 20 km on Sundays. I train between six and nine a.m. so I can spend time with my family the rest of the day.
3. What was your goal for the Oasis Rock’nRoll Marathon?
It was the podium. I was aiming for third place, so I was doubly thrilled to finish first!
4. How did you prepare both mentally and physically?
It’s certainly a work in progress. I always plan several weeks ahead. I start by running 100 to 120 km per week, then I increase to 200 km, but without bringing too much intensity to it, in other words more slow-speed running. Then when I reach my maximum distance, I go down to around 170 km per week but I increase the intensity, I run faster and longer. That’s when I truly get in shape. Two weeks before the event, I reduce my training to help recovery and to improve my level of fitness before the race.
5. Any more difficult moments during the race that stand out?
Yes, there were two. The first took place around the 25th km. We were four front-runners at the beginning, then at the 20th km, we fell to three. At the 25th km, the pace stepped up a little and I asked myself if I should keep up. I decided to go with it. The second time was around km 32. A second runner fell back and out of the top group, so only two of us remained. At the 37th km, the other runner left tried to speed up to move in front of me. Again I hesitated. Then finally I followed suit and eventually, he had to slow his pace. That’s when I was able to dig for that little extra push to finish ahead.
6. Do you have a mantra or a thought that helps you persevere through training or important races?
There are different things. First, you have to love what you do. That’s fundamental. It can’t become a hardship, even though it’s normal when you don’t always feel like it. Personally, I always bring music with me. It helps me a great deal, and provides the motivation I need to keep training. Otherwise I would say it’s all about pushing yourself to the limit. In the beginning, your level of fitness plays a major role, then the psychology kicks in, and ultimately it turns into an almost spiritual experience. You have to search for that inner motivation.
7. You have mentioned in the past that Marcel Jobin, the former Olympic race walker, was your mentor. What role has he played in your success?
He was more an advisor than a trainer. He was there to share his own experience with me. He had won at the highest levels. I have full confidence in him. He provided good advice which I followed: how to conduct trainings, how to not panic during a race, etc. You could say he has been my advisor but also my motivator.
8. How did your children react when you won first place?
My youngest is only 18 months old, so he wasn’t that aware. My five-year-old daughter, she was more conscious of it. She wasn’t on site but at her grandparents, so she saw me on TV. I’m told her reaction was pretty intense!
9. How was life after the marathon and what are your next steps?
After the marathon, I had a full month rest. I don’t usually stop like that, but I had really pushed my training to the max. Then I’ve started back but for muscle building. When you run, you become very thin. I’m preparing for cross-country skiing season which keeps me in shape throughout winter. I start running again around end of January, beginning of February. But for now, I have no precise plans for 2016.
10. What’s the best advice you could give somebody who wants to start running?
The most important thing is to start gradually. Marathons — and the training they require — represent a long-haul adventure. Before they enter a marathon, beginners need to run shorter 5, 10 and 21.1 km races; they need to be patient. Endurance improves with age: at 34, I’m getting my best results ever. Most marathon runners reach their best times between the ages of 30 and 40. You can never give up.
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