In the days after he failed to qualify for the Summer Olympics at a marathon in Japan the first week of March, long-distance runner Dylan Wykes returned to the road for solace.
The sport had defeated him, but it was still therapy for the Kitsilano resident.
“I tried to realize that it wasn’t the end of the world and that I could potentially have other opportunities to qualify for the Olympics. For some reason, just getting out and running was therapeutic for me, it always is good no matter what is going on,” he said this week from Kingston, Ont. where he grew up and where his family lives.
“I kept running every day, some days just going easy for an hour or so.”
Wykes also got inked. The 28-year-old, former NCAA Div. 1 athlete tattooed these lines from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar on his right shoulder: “Now bid me run and I will strive with things impossible.”
“I’m not even much of a Shakespeare guy,” he admitted, but Wykes was right to believe the tattoo “seemed fitting.”
Last month he smashed his personal best time and at a marathon in the Netherlands, not only came close to besting the Canadian record, which has stood for 37 years, but also qualified for the London Summer Games.
After he failed to even reach the finish line in Japan, Wykes was understandably low. His coach, Vancouver’s Richard Lee, applied his own kind of therapy.
“Going into Japan he was for sure in the best shape of his life and hoping to do some pretty special things,” Lee told the Canadian Press. “When I picked him up on the Monday after the race, it was like talking to a brick wall, he had totally shut down. I had lost my patience, he had just come so far and gotten so close, I could not let him walk away without giving it another shot. It wasn’t a pleasant talk, I pulled out all the stops… At the end, I said this talk has either been a kick in the pants or a kick in the head, it was up to him to decide which it is.”
Wykes decided to give it another go. He secured a late entry to the Rotterdam Marathon and on April 15, crammed his six-foot-four frame along a crowded start line of other Olympic hopefuls. His mindset was still vulnerable.
“I wasn’t all that confident heading into the race,” he said. Japan had been dismal and his most recent training not as smooth as he’d have liked. “I just wasn’t 100 per cent pumped up.”
To punch a ticket to London, Wykes had to cover 42.1 kilometres in two hours, 11 minutes and 29 seconds. He had to shave 70 seconds—a seemingly insignificant 1.7 seconds each kilometre—off his best time of 2:12.39. He finished the race in 2:10.47. He was going to London.
Wykes had an auspicious start. He was clipped and fell right out of the blocks. Through 30 km, he kept pace with a Dutch runner who was aiming for a 2:10.00 finish. His legs felt heavy early on and then he settled in.
“I saw the clock at 40km—2:03.55—and knew I was really on for it,” he wrote, figuring he had 7:30 minutes to run 2.2 km to meet the standard. “I was moving well at this point. I stopped looking at my watch and just hit it as hard as I could […] I sprinted hard the next 200m and then the last 200m, well let’s just say I enjoyed that bit—numerous fist pumps.”
Consider it a test run for London, where three Canadians will set their sights on the men’s national marathon record. Wykes said each one has a shot, if the conditions are favourable.
He’ll be back in the Netherlands to run the marathon again.
“I like the course in Rotterdam. It treated me well. If every course could be on that course, I’d be happy.”