experience of championship runners is pure gold
Sports folks are learning to take the good with the bad.
There is absolutely no denying that removing
the element of competition from the standard fare of pretty
much every single athlete in the country was going to
present its fair share of challenges, straining the motivation
and engagement of hundreds of thousands of kids from coast
To compound that with the fact that even
trying to maintain a reasonable training regimen has been
multiple times more difficult than a typical non-pandemic
season has forced athletes and coaches alike to search
for new and creative ways to keep their eyes on the prize.
If there is perhaps a silver lining, it
might lie in the fact that busy schedules, usually a given
for those who would self-identify with the paragraphs
above, are far more the exception than the norm.
People have more time on their hands.
Track North Athletic Club head coach Darren
Jermyn, who gathered ultra accomplished runners and one-time
locals Andrew Ellerton, Ross Proudfoot, Kaitlyn (Tallman)
Toohey and Kerry MacKelvie (Lisa Labrecque was unable
to attend the first zoominar) for the first of three on-line
sessions late last week, summarized the benefits of the
current environment nicely.
"Everybody has free time - nobody
had trouble making time for that session," he noted.
And what a session it was.
Over the course of a couple of hours,
the quartet, who have posted results that rank with the
very best in their peer group in their particular distance
of choice, shared candid thoughts on a variety of aspects
of training, from mileage to intensity, from elevation
"Our current athletes were just over
the moon, knowing that they could pick the brain of those
athletes," added Jermyn. "And, I'll be honest,
it was something I wanted for myself."
"I've learned a ton coaching over
20 years, but it's always good to re-hash things, to get
The very genesis to this endeavour is
rooted in a fall campaign that served to surprise the
long-time Track North coaching tandem of Jermyn and Dick
"Even though we were training through
the pandemic, we actually had some pretty decent success,"
said Jermyn. "We got quite fit and I realized that
by not having an indoor track season to key on, we might
lose a bit of focus going into the next cross-country
season, which was still a long time away."
"We thought about focusing on an
event distance that would contribute to some faster work
in the winter and spring, but would also be a good build
up for the cross-country season in 2021," Jermyn
"The cross-country team at Laurentian
is looking to be quite deep again, particularly on the
men's side, and we have some elite women as well."
In terms of session specifics, an unofficial
20-second PB in the 5km posted by 2020 Athletic Ontario
(Central Region) Cross Country champion Keon Wallingford,
rabbited on the Laurentian track by teammmate Alexander
Fishbein-Ouimet provided a bit of a light bulb moment
for the organizer.
"Watching the team approach to that
PB, it got me thinking that instead of just having athletes
feeling like they are training on their own, which they
are doing a lot right now, what if we had a team approach
where multiple coaches got together and athletes could
help pull each other through," said Jermyn.
"We were looking for a way to help
keep everybody focused, coaches included. We are used
to interacting with our athletes."
If there was a relevation of sorts to
the project, it was the caliber of athlete that Jermyn
and company could avail themselves to. "When you
look back and you realize who we had in our club and the
level at which they have run at, it's impressive."
In 2011, Confederation Secondary graduate
Andrew Ellerton covered the 800m in a time of 1:45.04,
a clocking that still ranks as the fourth fastest time
ever posted by a Canadian at that distance.
Proudfoot is a three-time national cross-country
champion. MacKelvie, a former CIAU gold medal winner,
took home silver at the National Masters XC Championships
Labrecque is a Big Ten champion from her
time with the Michigan Wolverines, and later represented
Canada at the World XC Championships. Toohey was part
of an NCAA XC banner winning team while running with the
When all is said and done, the goal of
the project is to elevate 90% of current club members
to a personal best time in the 5km, a goal, that if reached,
could then lead the group to featuring as many as six
runners who would crack the Canadian Top-50 list (per
sex) in the past five years.
In order to attain that status, men would
have to cover 5000m in a time of 14:44, while the ladies
could cross the line in 17:41 or faster. "We have
about eight athletes that could crack some really fast
times," said Jermyn.
"And if you have several athletes
running that fast, that will breed more success."
With one session in the books, Jermyn
was pleased to note an immediate and positive impact from
the knowledge that was shared.
"We sometimes have a mentality that
there is a right way to train," he said. "One
of my biggest takeaways was that our athletes know that
there are a lot of variations, that you can train differently
than the athlete beside you."
"We sometimes have to individualize
"I think another think that stood
out was the different methods that each of the athletes
used to stay healthy," Jermyn continued. "I
was a little concerned that there might be a huge emphasis
"I was so pleased to hear Ross and
Andrew say that their best performances occured when they
were healthy. Taking a rest day, taking a little more
time for recovery is not a bad thing."
"The runner's mentality is not always
the rational one," he added with a laugh. "It's
often more about getting the run in rather than listening
to my body."
As much as anything, Jermyn was pleased
to add different voices to the conversation.
"Dick and I can talk about training
for eight hours on a bus trip, there and back, but we
rarely sit down with five other coaches and pick their
brains. To hear their experience was gold."
And mining that gold may have just been
made a tad easier by virtue of a COVID-19 virus that has
completely slowed down the world of sports.