For Reid Coolsaet, it would have been the icing on the cake, but he'll take the cake nevertheless.
The 32-year-old Hamilton native won the 118th running of the Around the Bay Road Race, becoming the first Hamiltonian to win the event since Gord Dickson in 1976.
Coolsaet finished the 30K run in a time of 1:33:20, one minute off the course record set by Alene Reta of Ethiopia, who ran the course in 1:32:22 in 2010.
"I'm happy I won, that was the main goal," Coolsaet told AM900 CHML, moments after the win.
"The second goal was to possibly set a course record. I suffered a bit with a cramp from the 22 to 24K mark so I lost a lot of time there. I was feeling good at the end, but I wasn't fast enough."
Coolsaet, who will be a member of Canada's Olympic Marathon team this summer in London, finished ahead of Terrence Attema of Smithville (1:35:04). Giittah Manchuria of Oakville was third (1:37:24).
Coolsaet was setting a possible record-breaking pace when he ran into trouble.
"Physically I had to slow down," he admitted. "The pain was in my diaphragm. When you're breathing hard, you use it a lot, so I had to slow down my breathing, regroup and start chasing the pace again."
Still, he loved taking part in the historic hometown event. "To race in Hamilton is amazing," he said. "I don't get a chance to do it all that often and for people to appreciate my performance makes it really special."
In a twist of irony, Coolsaet battled for the lead with a friend, and roommate.
"Hosea Kibet Rutto came in a couple of days ago from Kenya and is staying with me," Coolsaet said. "He set the pace for the first 20K, and actually had a bit of a gap on me, but with him setting the pace, we dropped everyone else and it was just the two of us. I think I passed him around 21K. Then I suffered a bit for it, but we got rid of the pack quickly."
Coolsaet said his strategy heading into the race was simple.
"If it's a competitive race, you're just trying to drop your competitors and try to be as tough as you can," he said, "but in my case I was trying to chase that (record) time, so every step I'm thinking push, push, push and don't lose time."
Any celebration Coolsaet had planned, was muted, due to his training schedule.
"My training group (Speed River from Guelph, Ontario) and I leave right away for Flagstaff, Arizona, for a month of altitude training," Coolsaet said. "Then, I'll do a 10K in Toronto, one in Ottawa, the Vancouver half marathon at the end of June, then get ready for the Olympics."
The women's winner was Krista DuChene of Brantford, who clocked 1:47:03. Last year's first-place finisher, Dayna Pidhoresky of Tecumseh, Ontario, placed second in 1:50:48. Lisa Avery of Orillia was third (1:54:43).
DuChene had to battle physical pain and mental anguish to get the victory.
"It's been a weekend of emotions," she said. "My cousin died a week ago today and we just had her funeral two days ago. I'm just so glad God has blessed me with this gift of being able to run and be a mom. I was overcome with emotion. My parents both died of cancer and this was my mom's sister. It was her daughter. We were both the same age, our moms were expecting us at the same time. I read the tribute at her funeral, so it works well for me to have this emotion behind me. We had my son's birthday yesterday. I'm so blessed to have three healthy kids and a wonderful husband."
The 35-year-old says she was honored to participate in the race and raise funds for St. Joseph's Healthcare in Hamilton.
"I couldn't help but think when I was running, how many people can't even walk and there's so much they can't do, so it's great we have organizations like St. Joe's that help other people," she said.
In addition to running, DuChene works as a dietician. Time management is a crucial part of her life.
"I have a 6-year-old, a 4-year old and a baby who just turned one a week ago. When you put supper in the oven at 5, and you have one hour to run, you run pretty fast, because if it burns, you're in trouble," she said with a laugh.
DuChene told AM900 CHML News that having a bit of a "home field advantage" was beneficial.
"I've run this course before several times, but never in conditions like this (7C/45F) at the start," she said. "It's usually raining or snowing, and I say to people, this race is a lot tougher than any marathon. Those last 10K, they hurt. People ask me what I think about when I'm running. I think, everyone is hurting just as much as me. I'm not going to be the one to slow it down."
She also says, a familiar face gave her added motivation.
"Before the race, I said, 'I knew Dayna Pidhoresky was going to be out there, so I'm not going to be anywhere near her.' So guess what, we ran the first 10K together, and then I had a little lead after the running station, and around 15 I knew I was a little bit ahead. I always tell people, listen to your body. Sometime your body takes you faster, and your mind is saying, 'No, no, that's not your pace.'"
Coolsaet and DuChene received checks for $4,000 each.
In the 5K race, Alexander Hinton from Guelph took first place, finishing the Bay and Back Course in just 14:50.4. Kate VanBuskirk from Brampton took the 5K women's trophy home in 16:45.0.
NO LOSERS ON THIS DAY
* The final numbers from race organizers show that the Around the Bay just keeps getting more popular. A total of 11,586 people took part in the event, including 214 from the United States.
Included in that number were 155 from New York State, 29 from Michigan and one from Hawaii.
Kenya was represented with five athletes, while Chile, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Switzerland and Barbados each had one participant.
* St. Joseph's Healthcare Foundation also came away a big winner. The Foundation had set a lofty goal of raising $240,000 in pledges for the 2012 signature fundraising event. Over $260 thousand was raised.
Next year's race takes place Sunday, March 24.
Ted Michaels is the host of the Fifth Quarter on AM900 CHML.
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