at the races “This was one of the most epic races ever.” Reid Coolsaet’s Top...

“This was one of the most epic races ever.” Reid Coolsaet’s Top Five Runs

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On Sunday, Reid Coolsaet will race the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. A two-time Olympian, Coolsaet is also a huge fan of the sport, and here he gives us his top five race finishes of all-time. (Note: Kipchoge’s feat last Saturday does not make the list. According to Coolsaet: “I am a fan of his 2-hour attempts. But on those cases there was never a doubt who would be first across the line. Time trialling is impressive and interesting, but not as exciting as watching runners battle it out to the line.”) What are Reid’s all-time favourite battles? Here we go. . . the Reid Coolsaet top five.

5. Moh Ahmed at the 2019 World Champs 5000m. Moh took the lead with 3 laps to go in his bid for a medal. He had four runners hot on his heels, and he had to dispatch two of them for a medal. He wasn’t able to pull away from them and Ingrebriston passed him before the bell. He got clipped and put off balance more than once in the final lap and a half. With 200m, he was in fourth and he looked as though he had already played his last card. Yet he dug even deeper and put himself into the bronze medal position in the final 100m.

4. Callum Hawkins, World Champs Marathon 2019. Hawkins finished 4th at the World Champs marathon in 2017 and has been focused on getting on the podium ever since. In 2018 at the Commonwealth Games marathon, Hawkins had the win all but wrapped up until he succumbed to the heat and collapsed just after the 40km mark. It took Hawkins many months to recover from that heat exhaustion. However, two years after the London World Champs he was lined up in the heat of Doha for another crack at a medal. Halfway, Hawkins was in 17th place and trailing the leaders. The lead pack had distanced themselves pretty well from the rest of the competition and Hawkins was not in the lead pack of six at 35km, but he was looming in the background and making inroads. By 40km, Hawkins had taken over the lead and was making a bid to win the race. Perhaps the energy to catch the leaders was too much and the Ethiopians made a strong move with Lelisa winning and Geremew taking second. Kipruto took the bronze with Hawkins in 4th, once again. Many people wondered if Hawkins would compete again on the same level after his famous collapse. Not only did he regain his form, but he ran well in brutal heat.

3. Jenny Simpson, World Champs 1500, 2011. Jenny became a professional runner in 2010 and started to focus more on the 1500m than the steeplechase. At the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, she was not favourited for a medal. She was in a pack of seven, not in the top three coming around the final bend. She kicked for home and came away with the win. One of the reasons that win sticks out to me is how surprised Jenny was when it sank in that she won the world championships. Her eyes beam wide open in disbelief when she looks up at the scoreboard. 

2. Bekele vs Tadesse Word Champs 5000m 2009. Kenenisa Bekele, the 5000m and 10,000m world record holder from Ethiopia. Zerseney Tadesse, the world record holder in the half marathon from Eritrea. It should also be noted that at the World Cross-Country Championships in 2007, Tadesse handed Bekele his first loss after winning ten straight senior XC titles. Tadesse’s tactic was to try and run the kick out of Bekele and he started to press the pace before halfway. With four laps to go everyone else had been dropped by Tadesse’s relentless pace and it was only Bekele on his heels. Just after the bell, Bekele finally moved around Tadesse and kicked for the gold. Even though Tadesse didn’t win, he committed to running a fast pace, which was his best bet to beat Bekele. 

1. Eliud Kipchoge vs Bekele vs Guerrouj, World Champs 5000m 2003. This was one of the most ever epic races. It was billed as Kenenisa Bekele, the 2003 10,000m world champ versus Hicham El Guerrouj, the 2003 1500m world champion. Bekele set a fast pace from the start knowing El Guerrouj had better leg speed. After 3km, a young Eliud Kipchoge took over the pace-making, probably as a sacrificial lamb for the other three, more experienced Kenyans in the lead pack. Bekele re-took the lead, but the pace had been slowing ever so slightly and then El Guerrouj took to the front with just over two laps to go and dramatically upped the pace. With 200m to go, it looked as though El Guerrouj was going to win the race—already at the front with a lead. Down the home straight it was a three-way battle between El Guerrouj, Kipchoge and Bekele, with Kipchoge taking the win over El Guerrouj by inches.

Bonus race! Olympian Eric Gillis on Reid Coolsaet, 2011 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. Reid was fit enough to break the Canadian record heading in. On race day, we had some conditions that were not favourable for that happening and he made the most of it, changing plans the night before. I was rooming with him and he went and chatted with [coach] Dave just before bed and discussed going out with the leaders. He came back and told me and I was already almost asleep, and it didn’t surprise me. But that’s what he did! At 32k, someone yelled, “Reid is in the lead!” I ran my own fastest kilometre of the race in that next one, then one of my slowest the preceding. Reid went on the break 2:11 for the first time and I think finished third overall. That was a pretty damn gutsy race from a pretty damn gutsy racer!