A personal best this Sunday at Japans Lake Biwa Mainchuri Marathon could secure Dylan Wykes his place at the 2012 London Summer Games.
The 28-year-old Kitsilano resident is racing for one of three spots on the national team and must run the fastest 42 kilometres of his life, two hours, 11 minutes and 29 seconds, to meet the Canadian Olympic standard.
The fastest hes covered that distance is 2:12:39, a mere 70 seconds off the qualifying time, but Wykes is hitting his stride right when it counts.
In his final race before the Olympic time trial on a miserable Vancouver morning, Wykes set a new course record in the First Half Marathon Feb. 12. He bettered the record he set just one year ago by 17 seconds and finished in 1:04:22.
I thought I had a chance at it, he said, resting after the race. I knew I was in better shape than last year and I was hoping, if the day was OK, and if I was feeling OK, that Id be able to do it.
Wykes didnt push his limit but treated the half marathon as preparation for the Olympic qualifier this weekend.
I tried to hold a little bit back, probably 95 per cent. In the back of my mind, knowing I will racing in Japan in three weeks time, I held it back.
In January he won an Arizona half marathon in 1:02:38, beating the pack by nearly six minutes.
Japan presents a do-or-die opportunity for Wykes to qualify for his first Olympic Games.
In 2010 Wykes moved to Vancouver from Kingston, Ont. and now splits his training between the rain forest and 7,200 feet above sea level in Flagstaff, Ariz. The graduate of Providence College competed in the marathon for Canada at the 2009 IAAF World Championships and placed 33rd.
Two Canadian marathon runners have already punched their ticket to the Summer Games. Wykes wants to join the ranks of Hamiltons Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis of Antigonish, N.S., two training partners at the Speed River Track Club in Guelph, Ont.
He failed to meet the Canadian Olympic standard time at the Scotiabank Toronto Marathon but despite the disappointing results that windy morning, he continued training and with his Vancouver coach, Richard Lee, refocused on the upcoming qualifying race in Japan.
I have over a minute that I have to improve but I think Im going to be close. Its going to be good, he said. I just have to stay focused and run smart for the fist 30k and then be as tough as nails in that last five or six miles and give it everything. Training has gone really well. I think Ive got a good shot at it.
Wykes is capable of much more, said Peter Butler, the co-founder of Forerunners and an Olympian who in 1985 ran the marathon in 2:10:56, still the third fastest time of any Canadian.
Dylan has got the potential to run a Canadian record, which is 2:10:09maybe not this year but in the next couple of years, said Butler, who can recite marathon times and records from the past 30 years as if they were tattooed on his hand.
The Canadian record was set in 1975.
Over 42 km, a distance few Canadians will ever run consecutively and if they ever do, will take four or more hours to complete, Wykes is aiming to skim from his time 70 tormenting seconds.
Butler explains how fast the worlds top marathoners run.
You should go to a track, a [400-metre] regulation track, and try to run one lap at 74, 75 seconds and then imagine running 104 [laps] with no recovery, he said.
Wykes, who is sponsored by Mizuno and can be seen at the Forerunners store on West Fourth Avenue, said, Its almost 20 kilometres an hour that were running at. When youre at that pace, youre almost at your limit the whole time.