Former marathon record holder Lanni Marchant is on the comeback trail — in Saskatoon

Lanni Marchant never imagined she would have to stop running in order to run fast.

The 34-year-old Olympian and former Canadian women’s marathon record holder underwent hip surgery in May 2018 and has spent the ensuing months focussing on recovery, strength training and technique.

Marchant is from London, Ont., but much of her rehab work is being done in Saskatoon, where she is working with sport physiotherapist Bruce Craven who was described to her as a “movement whisperer.”

Marchant made her first trip to Saskatoon in August 2018, three months after her surgery. She was off crutches and had been cross-training four hours a day. She had packed her aqua-jogging belt and clothes so she could bike and train on the ElliptiGO, but Craven told her to take it easy and walk instead.

“Had he tried to tell me that in 2016 or 2017 I wouldn’t have listened, I wouldn’t have believed that I could accomplish what I wanted to in running by stopping and by not cross training to maintain fitness or some illusion of fitness,” Marchant said.

Marchant’s sessions with Craven focus on proper running form heavy lifting. Running has been incorporated into her training plan slowly.

“If I’m going to get back to a point where I can run well and hopefully compete at some level, I have to just respect the process,” Marchant said. “I’m going to get frustrated with some of it sometime, but there’s no rushing to the finish line in this.”

Marchant went for her first post-surgery walk-run in September 2018 and has slowly been upping her mileage since. Though still on a run-walk program, she now runs up to 15 kilometres on recovery days and can hit sub-3:15-minutes-per-kilometre pace on kilometre repeats.

“It’s going to be a long time before I see 100-mile weeks I feel like, but any run I do is quality,” she said.

Craven has drilled into Marchant the importance of taking rest days and of doing recovery runs slowly. Marchant used to do her recovery runs at four-minute-per-kilometre pace. Now she’s not allowed to run faster than five minutes per kilometre.

She’s also been doing more strength training than ever before. Weightlifting used to be part of her training, but she stopped in 2016 when she was gearing up to run the 10,000 metres and marathon in the Rio Olympics and struggling with health issues that she later learned stemmed from an infected cyst around a kidney stone.

“I fell into the trap. In reality, we should have probably canned half my running workouts and just put me in the gym doing my strength program,” she says in hindsight.

Before Christmas, the slight athlete was deadlifting 100 pounds, something she says is in line with the new trend toward incorporating heavy lifting into marathon training.

“The biggest shock was how big my butt got once I started working with Bruce,” Marchant says with a laugh.

“Right now, I’m lifting in-shape Lanni, which is like 100 to 105 pounds. My goal is, as I get to in-shape Lanni, I need to be able to lift out-of-shape Lanni, which is like 115 pounds.”

Marchant has not raced since early 2018 and says she’s thinking about eventual comeback races, but will try to fly under the radar whenever she’s ready to line up for her first race back.

“Yes, I’m looking to do some races. But I probably won’t do any big ones or ones that really garner much attention because I kind of don’t really want it just yet,” she said.

She says she still hopes to represent Canada at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. As for the distance she hopes to chase? “Whatever my body will let me do,” she says.

— Andrea Hill (Editor, Brainsport Times)