An interview with Tristan Woodfine, Canada's first finisher in London
Photography by Virgin Money London Marathon
Tristan Woodfine surprised everyone in 2019 when he placed 11th in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2:13:16, making him second Canadian and notably placing him ahead of Canada’s chief marathon hopeful, Cam Levins. Since then, despite lockdowns and the uncertainty of a tumultuous racing calendar, he’s continued to train hard, and this last weekend in apocalyptic conditions in London he placed 14th, running 2:10:51, well inside the Olympic qualifying standard of 2:11:30. Now back in quarantine in the Ottawa Valley, we caught up with him to learn more about his performance in London.
Can you explain a little about yourself? Where you're from, some career highlights, your route into running etc?
I grew up in a small town in the Ottawa Valley in Ontario, and ended up coming back to the valley after university, where my fiance and I live now. It's a great place to train since it's so quiet and the community is very supportive and tight knit. I had originally started out my athletics career as a triathlete during highschool but also competing in cross country and track. While in University in 2013, I decided to just focus solely on running.
How did the opportunity to race in London come about?
The opportunity to race in London was a stroke of luck. I had managed to secure a spot for the original date in April. Once the event got postponed to October, the head of elite athletes sent an email saying any athletes part of the original April start list could have a spot in the October race. I accepted the spot again and even when World Athletics announced all Olympic qualifications would be suspended until Dec 1st, I decided to still race it. I was just grateful to have a race on the calendar. The good luck came when in August they announced that they would open the qualification window earlier for the marathon and times from London could be used for Olympic qualification.
I saw on instagram you were running some pretty wild workouts in the lead-up to the race - a 10,000m PR, followed by 25x400m at threshold sounds brutal. How was your build-up with everything going on around covid?
That 10k + 25x400 workout was probably one of the tougher ones I did this build. Training in general had actually been pretty easy for me during covid, since the valley has endless quiet roads. Most mornings while running I won't even run into a single car, so training wasn't disrupted at all! We actually used the hiatus from racing to really try and push the training and workouts to a new level. No group to train with around here, but my fiance does bike with me for some of the longer workouts.
The weekend of the race was wet in the extreme, even by British standards. Did you have any worries about the weather and how that might affect performance?
I was never too worried about the conditions going into race day. Going into London I felt very confident in my fitness. Based on how workouts had gone in the last 5-6 weeks, I felt that even in poor conditions I could still run standard.
How did the race go? Did it feel unusual to race so far on a circuit?
The race went well, but I would say it was one of the toughest marathons I've ever run. Right from the start I just couldn't seem to get comfortable. In any other marathon I've run, I've been able to mentally check out for the first half and just relax. But this time I found that I really had to stay engaged the entire time or I risked falling off pace, I think this was in part due to the weather conditions. Going around the 2.1k circuit actually felt ok since we had chosen to do most of my long runs on a 1.8km loop in preparation for the race. We had also done a number of track workouts that totalled around 20k or so of work so that also made 2k loops seem long!
You crossed the line in 2:10:15, well inside the qualifying standard for Tokyo. Was there much opportunity to celebrate afterwards, or was it straight back into the bubble?
It was straight back to the bubble after the race so there wasn't much in terms of celebration afterwards. To be honest I'm usually feeling completely wrecked after a marathon, so the celebrations started once I got home and had some time to recover.
Now you've got the time, what do your next ten months or so look like? Are you able to make any race plans at this stage, or is it too up in the air?
All I know right now is two weeks of recovery and quarantine. After that is unknown. I put everything into London this year and didn't think past that. I just wanted to focus on executing this race well, since I figured it may be one of my only opportunities to try and qualify for the Olympics!
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