Andrew Russell will attempt to run out from under the shadow of Olympic triathlon legend Simon Whitfield today in the 23rd Annual Times Colonist 10K.
Marilyn Arsenault is just happy to be running at all, having escaped the shadow of death.
From favourites hailing from the great running nation of Kenya, to former and aspiring Canadian Olympians, there are no shortage of compelling storylines among the elite racers who will head a heaving pack of humanity numbering more than 12,000 on the streets of Victoria.
"Simon [Whitfield] is very competitive and training with him the past three years here in Victoria has really pushed me," said Russell, among the Canadian triathletes dreaming of the 2012 London Summer Olympics, and who boasts a personal best 10K time of 31 minutes and 50 seconds.
For Arsenault, it's something else that pushes her today. Maybe it's a sense of gratitude for just being able to be on the road and running. She was already a remarkable story. As a singer with the Victoria Symphony and Pacific Opera Victoria, who didn't come to running until later in life, Arsenault became the oldest CIS varsity athlete in University of Victoria Vikes history when she made the track team at age 40 while completing her master's degree in music.
Arsenault was about to leave for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in the fall of 2010 when she began feeling unwell. It was a staph infection and she almost died from it.
"I was pretty much a goner until they finally found an antibiotic that worked," said Arsenault, now 44.
"I had 10 litres of fluid built up in me from the waist down and couldn't walk."
Less than two years later, Arsenault is now teaching running clinics with the Mindful Strides organization and placed fourth overall and was masters women's champion two weeks ago in the massive Vancouver Sun Run that attracted nearly 50,000 participants. Today it's the hometown Times Colonist 10K, next week the huge Bloomsday 12K in Spokane, Wash., and then the Boulderto-Boulder run in Colorado at the end of May.
"It took awhile but I began running again in March of 2011," said Arsenault, the 2009 Royal Victoria Half-Marathon and 2008 and 2009 B.C. cross-country women's champion, whose best time in the 10K is 35: 03.
"To place like I did in the Sun Run two weeks ago was a big deal for me, almost monumental, considering what I had been through."
The Island running community is deep in competitive and coaching talent.
For instance, Russell is coached by Victorian Jon Brown, who placed fourth in the marathon at both the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Summer Olympics. Arsenault is very much a part of that local mix and, following her illness, has reimmersed herself into running to such an extent that her singing career has been put on hold.
Victoria is known for its sports - right up to the level of the Olympics - and also for its arts scene that also approaches world class. Arsenault has found inspiration in both.
"The discipline and focus needed for success in both sports and the arts are very similar," she noted.
The Times Colonist race - Canada's second-largest 10K behind the Sun Run - begins this morning at the corner of Government and Belleville streets at 8 a.m. It snakes downtown to Fairfield, Dallas Road and James Bay before ending where it started.
The 1.5K Thrifty Foods Family Fun Run starts at 11 a.m.
Road closures are in effect.
The number of registrants is 12,490. The number in 2011 was 13,086.
On the web: www.tc10k.ca email@example.com
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