Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Marathon man Booth gunning for No. 5

Defending champion ready to fight for title

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Over the past year, Michael Booth's life has taken on a more hectic tone, what with graduation around the corner and setting up a new business -- Massage Athletica, Sports Massage Therapy.

Add to that the loss of his coach and mentor Chris McCubbins to leukemia in August 2009, and it wouldn't be surprising if Booth's training may have suffered a little.

Still, the 31-year-old defending Manitoba Marathon champion says he'll be at the start line at 7 a.m. Sunday to defend the title he won last year in two hours 32.33 minutes. It was his fourth Manitoba victory, having won in 2005, 2006 and 2007.

"Unfortunately I haven't done as much (training) as I wanted to," he said. "The training runs have been kind of hit and miss.

"In past years it has been in my head that I'd be going in, and I am going to win this. This year it's a little different, but at the end of the day, I'm a competitor, so as soon as the gun goes off I am going to fight as hard as I can."

Booth and McCubbins, an Olympic 10,000-metre runner and Pan Am Games gold medallist in the 3,000-metre steeplechase in 1967 in Winnipeg, had worked together for 10 years.

"I was lucky and I kind of got him young in my career," recalled Booth, adding McCubbins' death hit him hard. "He used to always say, 'if you are a 10,000-metre runner, and you can't run your last 400 metres in under 53 seconds, you have no chance of winning an Olympic medal.' "

Booth translated McCubbins' 10,000 metres edict to the marathon, saying, "If I can't run a mile in four minutes, how am I going to run 26 miles at five minutes (per mile)?

"He just wasn't a coach to me, he was a friend who instilled a real work ethic in me. There is nobody who was more humble out there, or as hard a worker as Chris.

"When I went into massage therapy training (at the Therapy College of Manitoba) a couple of years ago, I knew I wanted to open up a business for myself, but I also really wanted to work with athletes. When I was training full time in Toronto, we had a team of therapists working with us.

"This year I will have three sponsored athletes, who will get unlimited access to the facility. When I was training full time, it was $85 per treatment, and when you have to go see chiropractors, massage, physiotherapy, it becomes really expensive."

On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile (three minutes 59.4 seconds) a milestone considered by most to be untouchable. The next milestone to tumble, says Booth will be the two-hour marathon, pointing to Kenyan Geoffrey Mutai's world-best time of 2:03.02 in the Boston Marathon in April.

"If you had asked me a few years ago, I'd have said it's not going to happen in my lifetime," he said with a chuckle, "but the pace people are running now is incredible."

With Manitoba's record time of 2:13.53, set in 1981 by Californian Dennis Rinde, it's unlikely the two-hour barrier is going to fall on Sunday.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 18, 2011 C1

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