Eric Gillis is a 36-year-old father of two from Antigonish, Nova Scotia, and a twotime Olympian. Training out of Guelph, Ontario, Gillis has a sweet for McDonalds (after he’s finished his race, not before).
Mark: How are you feeling? No aches or pains? Nothing that’s causing you any concern?
Eric: Always little tiny aches and pains, but they’re all manageable. I’ve been feeling as good mechanically as I have since I started marathoning five or six years ago. That’s a nice feather in the cap to have right now.
Mark: How does it feel for you to be going to the Olympics yet again? Describe what you’re feeling right now.
Eric: The Olympics is like no other event. It’s the big one. It’s intimidating, especially the first, but now I feel like with my third time going in and second time doing the marathon, I’m really dialed into the performance aspect: getting there and having specific goals. I’m as focused as I’ve ever been going into this competition.
Mark: In a way, it must free you up to be focused on this as just another competition rather than some new threshold or milestone that you’ve achieve because you’re going to this incredible event.
Eric: Definitely. There’s less unknowns. As you said, it does free up some energy to focus on the here and now – focused on what I need to do to set up. When I got the news that I’m going to my third Olympics, that was exciting for a day—then back to work, taking it day by day, seeing how fit I can get for Rio.
Mark: Getting back to your Olympic experience, there are some Canadians who will be experiences that for the first time, including Lanni Marchant and Krista DuChene. What would you tell them?
Eric: It’s a competition, deep competition. And you have to learn how take the attention and use it in a positive way because everyone is excited and happy for us. We need to learn to take that excitement and use it to our advantage – and hopefully take that into the race with us to enjoy the moment.
Mark: What else have you enjoyed from your Olympic moments?
Eric: You know, I really enjoyed sitting in the athlete’s village in the housing apartment complexes that we stay in, we were watching track and the events on the TV, then Cam Levins, who competed in the 10,000 meters, he just gets off the couch and heads over to his race that was within the hour. For him to leave, walk over, warm up and then watch him compete, who was just sitting on the couch beside us…for me, that was as special as going to any event. I didn’t need to be in the stadium.
Mark: What’s your goal for Rio? What are you thinking about?
Eric: I ran 2:12:20 in the London Olympics. I’d like to improve on that. That was a warmer day – I got the experience from racing in warm weather. I’m pretty dialed in to executing a race plan that sets me up for, hopefully, a significantly lower placing that 22nd. But, just appreciating whatever happens on race day. I’m going to be ready to finish and say, “That was the best marathon I’ve ever run.” To do that at Rio, would be huge.