Matt Loiselle drove the Tely 10 race course Saturday night to get an idea of the route, and then on Sunday morning blew the doors off 3,581 competitors, cruising to an easy victory in the 85th annual edition of the storied race.
The 27-year-old from Windsor, Ont., who now makes his home in Toronto, blitzed through the Paradise-to-St. John’s, via Mount Pearl, course in 48:09.
Only one other runner has gone faster in the Tely 10 — Paul McCloy, with his course record 47:04 in 1985 and a 47:54 showing in 1993.
Loiselle led from start to finish, foiling Colin Fewer’s assault on Pat Kelly’s all-time record of nine straight Tely 10 titles.
Fewer now settles into the record books second on the all-time consecutive win streak with Cliff Stone and George Hillier, all with seven apiece.
“I admire any guy (who wins) consecutively,” said Fewer.
“It’s not easy to do. Paul (McCloy) and I had a battle one year (2006), I nearly collapsed in 2009 at the finish line.
“Every year is a treasure and it’s always something good to do. It would have been nice to go after the record, but hey, maybe all my wins are not done yet.”
Loiselle arrived in St. John’s — his first time in Newfoundland — Friday night and went over the course Saturday. Initially, he thought it was an uphill run.
“It was definitely a very fast, downhill course,” he said Sunday.
Loiselle is one Canada’s top five or 10 distance runners, an athlete who will be competing in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October in an effort to win a spot on Canada’s team for the world track and field championship in Moscow next summer.
He’s also planning on having a stab at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“I just led from the gun, and kept trying to push it,” he said. “I didn’t think I’d get close to 48 minutes. I would have been content with 49-something at this point in my training.
“I’ve been training been pretty hard (upwards of 200 kilometres a week). I was hurting a little bit at the end, trying to push to get under 48 minutes. Maybe next time.”
Gorgeous blue skies prevailed Sunday morning for a near-perfect Tely 10 race day. Temperatures for the 8 a.m. start were in the 15-degree range, but quickly jumped to 22 degrees by mid-morning. Light winds from the west gusted at only 22 kilometres per hour.
Loiselle was consistently punching 4:50 miles through the race, but admitted hitting a snag at the dreaded Mile 7, as Topsail Road meets Cornwall Ave.
There, he said, his split for the mile was over five minutes.
“Between seven and eight,” he said, “there’s a little uphill, but after that, it’s smooth sailing.
“I was struggling a bit at that point,” said Loiselle. “That was my only mile over five minutes. That was the toughest part.”
Fewer ran a great race, too. It’s just that his 49:43, the fifth fastest time ever recorded in the Tely 10 and his personal best in the race, came with Loiselle bolting across Topsail Road.
“I thought I executed pretty good today,” Fewer said.
“I know Matt from the running circles, and he’s a fantastic runner. I guess I was sort of hoping maybe he’d back off a bit, but he went out hard.
“I went through the first six miles at a sub-five-minute mile and that’s the best I’ve ever went through.”
Graydon Snider of Halifax finished third in 51:11, while John Angelopolous of St. John’s placed fourth in 52:21. Brent Addison of Hammonds Plains, N.S. rounded out the top five in 52:58.
Loiselle is, for all intents and purposes, a quasi-professional runner. He moved to Toronto from Windsor in 2008 to join a club called the Brooks Marathon Project. The club provided housing and a vehicle.
That came to an end in last year so, to supplement his income, Loiselle has taken an accounting job 20-25 hours per week.
The rest of his time is spent running, preparing for berths on Canada’s national teams.
“I just think that if I could run more and do more, I could run faster,” said Fewer.
“I still think my best races are in my body and I’m working to get to the level where Matt is.
“Those are the guys in the country just ahead of me, and it keeps you motivated. You talk about winning Tely 10 titles, winning this and that, but I’m always aspiring to be better.”
Still, though, it’s got to be hard going up against someone who’s punching in 200 clicks a week, vs your 100.
Kind of like, to use one analogy, an amateur hockey team taking on pros.
“It’s unfortunate, I guess, there isn’t a deep training group in St. John’s for me to run with, to push you,” Fewer said.
“Matt trains with the top guys in the country, and those guys pick each other up. When you train in a group, you do run faster. I don’t have that at my disposal.
“I guess I use the old adage, ‘to be No. 1, you train like you’re No. 2.’ I always keep that in mind. When the going gets tough, and it’s a cold winter day, and you’re doing repeat miles somewhere, you’ve got to think of that.”
Fewer may have to contend with more national-calibre runners next year, if Loiselle has his way.
Loiselle fell in love with the Tely 10, and will be singing its praises to other runners when he gets home.
“It’s a perfect day, an awesome course, a great crowd,” he said.
“A lot of courses, even in Toronto, you’re running and you’re hearing the crickets chirping. Not here. Everyone’s out, 8 o’clock Sunday morning. It’s amazing, especially at the end. I definitely want to come back again.”
Unless he’s destined for the world championship. And if that happens?
“Then I will definitely be back at some point in time,” he said before adding with a grin, “but maybe I won’t spread the word to too many of my competitors because I’d like to keep winning it.
“Yeah, I’ll definitely tell people in Toronto and back home in Windsor to come out here. It’s a wonderful event.”
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