By Elio Elia
On Oct. 4, Tristan Woodfine of the Ottawa Valley bested his personal marathon record by 2 minutes and 25 seconds and also beat the Canadian Olympic Committee’s (COC) qualifying standard time of 2:11:30, an accomplishment that follows a summer of hard work.
“I am definitely happy with the result. I feel I got the most out of myself, which is all you can do,” said Woodfine, who clocked in at 2:10:51 at the finish of the London Marathon.
The finish was “definitely” the best in Woodfine’s career so far, he said.
His coach, Greg Kealey, felt just as joyous about Woodfine breaking the standard.
“Obviously it was a great moment, it has been a focus for three years,” Kealey said.
The coach said Tristan’s constant will to improve in recent years has been key to his development.
Dating back to the 2018 Ottawa Marathon, Woodfine has trimmed 8 minutes off his race time. He also showed constant improvements, cutting minutes in races in Houston and Toronto last year before beating the Olympic standard in London.
“That consistency and progression shows there is more potential,” emphasized Kealey, who first started coaching Woodfine as a teenager with his Bytown Storm Triathlon Club.
Woodfine, meanwhile, says he considers the 2018 Ottawa Marathon to be the most pivotal moment in his career.
“While it wasn’t my fastest marathon, (I was) able to run well under difficult circumstances. (It) showed me that I may have the potential to run the Olympic standard,” he said.
Given the recent trajectory of his career, the 27-year-old now believes he’s got a shot at the Olympics. To make it to the Games, Woodfine believes there’s one thing he needs to do: keep training.
“My main goal is to keep learning, improving and see how fast I can be at the marathon distance. There are always little things that can be improved. Right now (I’m) taking a rest, but in the next week or two I’ll talk with Greg and discuss the things we will try and improve moving forward,” Woodfine said.
Now that he’s broken the COC standard, Woodfine will be entered in a pool of athletes that Canada’s Olympic team will choose from. Only one other Canadian has broken the standard so far and the Olympic team has two spots to fill. Other Canadian runners still have months until the team is selected to break the standard and put themselves into consideration.
Kealey, who coached Woodfine from 2007 to 2011 and again from 2017 until now, says that Woodfine’s acceleration can partly be credited to fixing his running form, which the coach said had turned poor in the years they didn’t train together.
“When I started working with Tristan three years ago his run form had changed considerably, and he was not running very efficiently.” Kealey said.
Woodfine and Kealey had stopped training together when the marathoner left to attend university in Guelph. Kealey said they kept in touch before Woodfine eventually got back in touch with him when he was leaving Guelph and looking for a new coach.
“He had experienced some tough years with injuries and performances he was not happy with. I was more than happy to work with him again,” Kealey said.
The coach credits Woodfine for being mentally strong and being able to endure the struggle of overcoming the challenge.
“There are always times when doubt creeps into your mind but it’s important to stay positive and keep doing the work,” Kealey says.
And from the moment Kealey took Woodfine on once more, they did just that.
“We took about six months working on improving his cadence and posture and establishing a consistent rhythm. Once we had those issues worked out, he has improved consistently.” said Kealey.