HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Ottawa Lions Track and Field Club coach Kirk Dillabaugh recently presented Elana Tyman, Jackson Roy and Sebastian Cino with an interesting challenge for their final workout of the 2021 track season.
Dillabaugh asked the three middle- and long-distance runners to become sprinters, form a relay team and see if they could run fast enough to match or beat Moh Ahmed’s Canadian outdoor 5,000-metre record of 12 minutes, 47.191 seconds.
“When I arrived and announced we would be breaking the 5,000-metre record today, I got some confused looks,” Dillabaugh wrote in an email. “But they figured it out pretty quickly. They are a smart group.”
The sole goal of this Paarlauf Relay, the technical track term for a relay involving two or more runners, was to better one of Ahmed’s three national track records, which also includes the 3,000 and 10,000 metres.
Only days before, Ahmed was the talk of Canadian track circles as he won the Tokyo Summer Olympic men’s 5,000-metre silver medal in 12:58.61. Earlier, he was sixth over 10,000 metres in 27:47.76.
Tyman, Roy and Cino jumped at the novel idea, which the three young, inspiring athletes labelled as fun, a formidable challenge and a memorable occasion before they enter university (Tyman and Roy, both University of Ottawa; Cino, University of British Columbia).
The baton-passing relay saw Tyman run 100 metres before Cino and Roy would sprint 200 metres each. They did that 10 times. But Cino and Roy had a reduced rest period as they jogged back 100 metres to prepare for their next pass.
“It was incredibly difficult,” wrote Tyman, 18, who entered athletics as a sprinter and is now a middle-distance runner. “I remember already thinking after the first or second 100-metre leg I sprinted: ‘This is going to be hard.’
“But then Kirk yelled after a few laps how we were ahead of pace and it definitely boosted my confidence.”
Roy, 19, has done enough training as an 800- and 1,500-metre runner at the Terry Fox Athletic Facility that he knows running 200 metres 10 times in a workout isn’t that straining. But this was special.
“Chasing the record with my training partners and friends definitely motivated me,” he explained in an email interview. “I couldn’t let up for any rep as I would be bringing the whole team down with me.
“I kind of felt a ‘race’ vibe from this workout that I don’t normally feel at practice. With COVID, I’ve been missing this feeling quite a bit, so it felt great to be chasing this goal with my training partners.”
Cino, who typically runs distances of 1,500 to 5,000 metres, found the relay exercise “surprisingly hard.” But the 18-year-old discovered a new appreciation for the five-kilometre race on the track.
“Chasing after the record time showed how insane the national record truly is,” Cino wrote in an email. “Running five kilometres with every 200 metres in under 31 seconds is crazy.
“Trying to run that pace (even in a relay) showed how impressive the record really is. The thing that made the workout very difficult was the limited rest. My rest ended up being just over 45 seconds (after each leg).”
Roy estimated he was running about 30 seconds, give or take one or two seconds, for his 200-metre runs, which was a “pretty fast pace” and would place it somewhere between his 800-metre and 1,500-metre pace.
“The hard part was the rest,” he added. “Jogging back 100 metres to catch my exchange pretty much took up the whole rest (especially when I had to jog on a straightaway as opposed to cutting through the field when I ended on a bend).
“I couldn’t really catch my breath that well, so I definitely felt more fatigued during some of the later reps than I would’ve liked. I also remember it being pretty windy on the backstretch of the track.”
So, how well did the Tyman, Cino and Roy relay squad do? Extremely well. Ahmed’s Canadian men’s outdoor 5,000-metre record is 12:47.191 and the teenage trio finished less than four seconds back at 12:50.97 (and over seven seconds ahead of his Tokyo performance).
During his record run 13 months ago in Portland, Oregon, Ahmed ran a 32.08 opening 200 metres, held steady with 1:01 to 1:02 400s from 600 to 2,200 metres, followed with four 1:01s until 3,800 and finished rather quickly – 1:00.31, 59.48 and 57.45.
The Tyman, Cino and Roy relay express had an opening 400 metres of 58 seconds, stayed fast with 1:00 to 1:01 400s from 800 to 2,000 metres, fell back with 400s of 1:02.95 to 1:04.33 through 3,600 metres and finished with a 58.62 400.
“The fact we managed to come so close to that record together is insane,” Tyman continued. “The experience also gave me an even higher appreciation for how hard Olympic-/world-level athletes work.
“I’ve always had so much respect for those athletes, but trying it myself especially with a team, makes their individual feats and training all the more impressive.”
“I was very happy with the relay,” Cino said. “The biggest thing I learned from this was how incredible Olympic athletes truly are.”
“I have a newfound respect for our Olympians,” Roy echoed. “It is insane how Moh Ahmed (kept) up this pace without stopping. I’m already a pretty decent runner and I was struggling to run 2,000 metres with breaks, let alone 5,000 metres.”
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.