Colin Fewer, winner of seven straight Tely 10s, faces a strong challenge from Ontario runner
Colin Fewer crosses the finish line at the Tely 10. He has won seven Tely 10's in a row. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
It's been long on pre-race hoopla for a number of years now, but the annual Tely 10 has been coming up short on the drama metre.
Like a scene from Groundhog Day, Colin Fewer shows up, toes the start line, and scampers off to another win.
But wait. That could change Sunday, as the 85th edition of the 10-mile road race is shaping up to be a showdown between Fewer, in his quest for an eighth straight title, and an upstart mainlander, aiming to parachute into Newfoundland for the first time and leaving with the hardware from a St. John's summertime sporting staple.
Not since 2006, when Fewer outsprinted Paul McCloy down Bannerman Road to the end of the line, has there been a finish - or at least a good storyline - to have tongues wagging like the one could ensue Sunday morning.
To the casual sports fan, the name Matt Loiselle might spark questions of possible kinship to fellow Windsor, Ont. native, and former Detroit Red Wing and current Toronto Maple Leafs front office executive Claude Loiselle (he's not, by the way). But that's it.
To those within Canadian road race circles, however, Loiselle's is a familiar name. He is a two-time Canadian half-marathon champion in 2009 and '10, and runner-up in the event this year and last. He's in the running, as it were, for a spot on Canada's marathon team for next summer's world track and field championship in Moscow, and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
"He's a very credible road racer," acknowledges Fewer, who is tied with Cliff Stone and George Hillier with seven Tely 10 championships, two, ahem, fewer than the all-time leader Pat Kelly.
Loiselle, 27, moved to Toronto in 2008 to join the running team Brooks Marathon Project, a quasi-professional outfit that provided its members free housing and a vehicle. That sponsorship was scaled back last year, but Brooks still linked with Loiselle who otherwise supplements his income with an accounting job 20-25 hours per week.
Other than that, he's a full time athlete, pounding the pavement for up to 200 clicks a week as he trains to make Canada's marathon team for the worlds and Olympic Games.
At the most recent national half-marathon in Montreal in April, Loiselle was second to Eric Gillis of Guelph, Ont., who will run for Canada at the London Olympics which open next Friday. Only eight seconds separated the two.
"I was four, four-and-a-half minutes off a spot on 2012 Olympic team," Loiselle said this week. "It's kind of close, but kind of far, too. The marathon is such a long event, cutting a couple of minutes off your time from one race to the next is doable.
"I think if I could cut a couple of minutes off each year until 2016, I'll be in a good position."
Loiselle opted to run the Tely 10 this year after speaking with Fewer and two-time Tely champ women's Kate Bazeley during stops on the national road race circuit. Last year, he was in Happy Valley-Goose Bay in the days leading up to the race, brought to Labrador by the Trappers Running Club for a series of clinics and seminars.
"A couple of them were heading over here for the race, and they were raving about it," he recalls. "Colin was talking about it, so I said, 'Why not?' Fly out there and give it a shot.
"I'd never been to the Newfoundland part of the province, so this was a good excuse. It seems like a pretty cool race."
Loiselle is currently in marathon mode, training for the Toronto Waterfront race in October, where he hopes to qualify for the worlds. Last Sunday, for example, he did a 44K training run.
So is it free to say McCloy's course record of 47:04 is safe for another year?
"Maybe I'm a little tired going into this race," Loiselle said. "Not this weekend. I would have to be working more on half-marathon speed to have a crack at something like that. If I can get in the low 49-minute range, I'd be happy with that."
Fewer has enjoyed a solid 2012 season, finishing fifth in the Victoria Times Colonist race in April, a 10K event drawing 8,000-plus runners. And he was 14th overall in the 10K race at the renowned Ottawa Race Weekend, a race that drew 8,957 and was won by 2011 Boston Marathon winner Geoffrey Mutai.
But the Harbour Main native knows he will be pushed by Loiselle Sunday. And Fewer hasn't been pushed in a while.
"When Paul (McCloy) and I were racing, those were the years where there was a lot of pressure and it was always fun," he says. "It's probably my biggest challenge to date in the Tely, no disrespect to any other runners."
Fewer owns the fourth-fastest time in the Tely 10, clocking 49:48 in 2010. Last year was a wash, given the heavy rain which fell race day and the strong headwind which greeted the runners as they headed east from Paradise.
He is fit this year and says he's ready to run his fastest Tely 10.
He'll need to.
"If I'm going to have a chance at all to beat Matt, I have to run sub-50," Fewer said. "I need to put my best on the line to have a chance."
Robin Short is The Telegram's Sports Editor. He can be reached by email at email@example.com