TORONTO – Lanni Marchant says the coolest thing that has happened to her since breaking the national marathon record was going for a run with a couple of Canadian musicians.
Barenaked Ladies and Whitehorse were performing in Chattanooga, Tenn., where Marchant lives, and Jim Creeggan — bassist for Barenaked Ladies — and Luke Doucet — one half of folk rock duo Whitehorse — are avid runners.
They gave Marchant tickets and backstage passes to the show. She gave the two musicians a workout.
“I was totally geeking out,” Marchant said, grinning. “I grew up listening to Barenaked Ladies.
“I toured them around Chattanooga and they surprisingly ran pretty quick. We kept it under seven-minute pace and we ran about nine miles, so about 15K. It’s hilly in Chattanooga and they hung on like troopers, so that was really cool.”
Doucet (the other half of Whitehorse is his wife Melissa McClelland) reached out to Marchant on Facebook just days after she broke Sylvia Ruegger’s 28-year-old Canadian record at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon last month.
“He said congratulations, and then said ‘When fans ask us for a jam session, we think it’s lame, so you can say no. . . but do you want to run with us?’ I was like ‘I will totally run with you.’ So I was geeking out and they were probably geeking out too.”
Marchant, a London, Ont., native who’s a practising criminal lawyer in Chattanooga, ran two hours 28 minutes at the Toronto marathon, taking 36 seconds off Ruegger’s record.
In some ways, little in her life has changed since her record run. She flew back to the U.S. the next day, and went back to work.
“I think if I’d stayed up here and maybe got caught up in the hype, it was nice to kind of go (back to the U.S.) and savour the moment and enjoy it privately,” Marchant said. “Toronto was really neat, seeing the newspapers and seeing me on them. But the moment I landed in Newark for my connection, I was incognito, nobody knew who I was again. It was kind of humbling I guess.”
In other ways, life has totally changed. There’s the prize money: she earned $8,000 plus a $28,000 bonus for her Toronto marathon performance, which she’s put toward her considerable law school debt. Her record run has also opened doors for more major races, and now there are sponsorships and agents to consider.
Marchant was back in Toronto on Friday for a 2015 Pan Am Games news conference — Loblaws was announced as the official grocery retailer and a premier partner of the Games.
“It’s a whole new world, and I’ve been calling every athlete I know, like ‘Help me,'” she said. “I never thought I’d be at this level, and I’m learning there’s a lot more that goes on behind the scenes. At the end of the day, I put my running shoes on and go run, but yeah, there’s a lot more to it than just that.
“Ignorance is bliss, and I was totally ignorant to it before, but it’s awesome, I wouldn’t change the opportunity. It was a bit much, talking on the phone a lot those first couple of days. A lot of interviews. But I love it and I want to always come back up to Canada and do events here and be relevant in the running community here.”
The 29-year-old Marchant, who famously stabbed herself with a safety pin while running at the world championships last summer (another runner insisted it would relieve her severe leg cramp. . . it didn’t), was feeling great heading into the Toronto race last month. And if she wasn’t thinking Canadian record, she said everyone close to her knew it was possible.
Most of the focus had been on the 38-year-old men’s Canadian marathon record, which Eric Gillis of Antigonish, N.S., was gunning for.
“I thought it was kind of a benefit that the pressure was on Eric for setting the record because it kind of let me fly under the radar, and be the sneaky one,” Marchant said.
She also shared the spotlight with Krista DuChene of Brantford, Ont., who had the women’s record in her sights. DuChene would also dip under the record, 32 seconds behind Marchant.
The two Canadians paced each other through 32 kilometres.
“At that point I thought ‘It’s a race now. I want it,'” Marchant said. “That’s when the race started between Krista and I. We said in all our interviews that we’re friends and we work together, but at a certain point, you have to say, ‘Now you’re my competition,’ and that point for me came at 32K. I was like ‘Love ya to death, but you’re my competition now. I’ve gotta go.'”
It wasn’t until the 41K marker of the 42.195-kilometre race that she knew she’d put enough distance on DuChene and the record was hers.
“That’s when I started to get the chillbumps, that’s when I started to get really excited, and everyone could see it on my face coming down that straightaway,” Marchant said.
Not one to deprive herself of the odd beer, she hoisted a few that night to celebrate with other runners and race organizers.
“I drink beer after a hard workout,” Marchant said. “Not every athlete does that, but for me, that’s how I unwind, that’s when I check ‘Lanni the runner’ at the door and I grab my beer, and then I’m just Lanni at that point.”
Next up for Marchant is the Chiba Ekiden Race in Japan on Nov. 23. Teams of both men and women race varied distances that total 42.195 kilometres.
The other Canadians running are Alex Genest of Lac-aux-Sables, Que., Chris Winter of Vancouver, Dylan Wykes of Kingston, Ont., Sheila Reid of Newmarket, Ont., and Nicole Sifuentes of Winnipeg. Reid Coolsaet of Hamilton, Ont., and Andrea Seccafien of Guelph, Ont., are alternates.