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Louttit going the distance

Squamish runner sets sights on mountain running championship, marathon win



Jason Louttit didn't have any expectations going into last weekend's BMO Vancouver Marathon. He was coming off an illness and a round of antibiotics a week earlier, and as a result of his illness he hasn't been training as much as usual - unless you include six laps of the high point on the Squamish Chief in six days in just over an hour.

"A group of five of us took off (in the Vancouver marathon), three Kenyans, myself and another Canadian runner - the same guy who passed me in the last two kilometres of a Canadian Marathon Championships," said Louttit. "I told myself that I wouldn't let him do it again. I wasn't worrying too much about the Kenyan runners, but I was thinking that it was rainy and wet and they tighten up in those conditions."

Louttit found his pace and was in fourth place heading into Stanley Park, where he pulled ahead of another runner and into third place. A few kilometres later he pulled into second place, where he remained to the finish. A time of 2:25:46 was not a personal best, but given his illness Louttit was happy.

I ran a 2:24 in January at a Rock'n'Roll Marathon in Arizona, and a 2:24 last June in Seattle, but I put in a lot more mileage going into those races. Before Seattle I was running 140 miles a week, while I built up for this with hardly any mileage," said Louttit.

The result gives the 36-year-old runner confidence heading into the Canadian Mountain Running Championships in Canmore in June, where he hopes to be selected to the Canadian team once again. He has represented Canada four times previously at the World Mountain Running Championships, which take place this summer in Slovakia.

Loutitt also has his eye on a few more races, road and trail, and wants to win an event in the summer to go with his win at the Canadian Snowshoe Running Championships over the winter. The Canadian Mountain Running title is a big goal, says Loutitt, and he wants to better his previous second place finish in the Victoria Marathon.

"I have a lot of respect for athletes that can race both winter and summer, like (Olympic flag bearer) Clara Hughes who won medals on the bike, and then medals in speed skating," said Louttit.

"I actually started running because it was my weakness. I played hockey for 22 years, I played soccer for 12 years. Right now running is my thing, but I like to mix it up and run trails and on the road."

He's also seriously looking at the Mind Over Mountain Adventure Race in Squamish on May 22, despite the fact that he doesn't own a bike and hasn't been mountain biking in about two years. Still, he has a lot of trail running experience and that might be enough to win on the 50 km course.

Loutitt would love to represent Canada on the international stage like an Olympics, but said it's unlikely given the current state of running in Canada. He has paid his way to the world mountain running championship every year and noted that Canada didn't event send a marathoner to the Games in Beijing or Athens despite the fact that they made the minimum qualification.

"Athletes have to rank in the top-12 (of an Olympic sport) to be funded, which also means our athletes aren't getting any experience or opportunity," he noted. "It's hard to break the barrier from a locally successful athlete to being the top 12 in the world. Last year I think over 400 runners in Kenya ran faster than 2:12 (marathons), and no one in Canada has run faster than 2:12 in 25 or 26 years. There's no way to bridge the gap unless we allow the athletes to represent us. (In Athens) a Canadian woman was 30 seconds behind qualifying, and we never let her go."

Loutitt hails from Trail, B.C. originally, has spent time in the military and is proudly Metis - part aboriginal, where he says he inherited some natural ability as a runner. "In aboriginal culture our chiefs were our runners," he said. He loves living in Squamish and all the opportunities for training year-round.

He also runs the Service Canada branch, and ran the Vancouver Marathon in his Team Canada singlet from the mountain running championships last year.

"Everybody was yelling 'go Canada,' but it had extra meaning for me because that's my employer," laughed Loutitt.

Lately he's been running from his home in downtown Squamish to the gate of Garibaldi Park and back, which takes him about three hours. Soon he says he'll start running past the gate into the park, and can't wait to explore.

"There are so many trails and options out there for running, and even though I live in downtown it doesn't take that long to get out there," he said. "It's a great place. I came here because of that opportunity and the community, the more I meet people from Sea to Sky the more I realize how amazingly incredible it is."