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Lanni Marchant: Growing Up a Multi-Sport Athlete

Lanni Marchant will be the fastest finisher from the Rio 2016 Olympic marathon in the professional women’s field at the TCS New York City Marathon on Sunday, November 6.

In Rio, she became the first Canadian to attempt and complete both the 10,000 meters and the marathon at the same Olympic Games.

Two days after finishing 25th in the 10,000 meters in Rio, Marchant mustered up enough strength to take on the marathon, clocking a 2:33:08 to take 24th place.

“I was really happy with the patience I had in that race,” Marchant said of her second performance. “It was definitely the smartest I’ve ever run a marathon.”

Marchant, who could be a dark horse in the women’s field in New York City with one of the top five personal-best times (2:28:00), has spent her final month of TCS New York City Marathon training in Flagstaff, AZ, where she has worked out alongside 2014 NYC Half champion Sally Kipyego of Kenya.

“My coach and I were having a talk about what I wanted to do after Rio,” she said. “We felt I should start doing my bucket list races, so when the opportunity came for me to do New York, I thought, why not? It’s a good way to cap off a good year.”

She adds: “I’m definitely still fit from Rio, but New York is its own beast of a course, so I’m just going to prepare as best as I can. This is a tighter turnaround that I normally have for the marathon distance, but I’m excited.”

Marchant has become a transcendent figure for running in Canada; she’s a role model for runners of all ages. She talks candidly about body image, and youth runners and their parents line up to take selfies with her at events.

When not on the roads, Marchant works as a criminal defense attorney in Tennessee—quite the contrasting lifestyle to her childhood, having grown up as an intense figure skater in Ontario while also competing in cross country and track and field.

Her mother was a figure skating coach, and Marchant had always thought that if she were to ever make it to the Olympics, it’d be on the ice.

But during her high school years—the prime of a career for most female figure skaters—Marchant chose the roads over the ice, knowing she could earn a college scholarship through running and that she was almost already considered “washed out” in the figure skating world.

“I always ran to stay in shape for figure skating, so it seemed like a natural transition,” she said. “The work ethic I developed in figure skating definitely translated to the work ethic I have in running. I think having both sports as a kid gave me options when I got older.”

Marchant feels that parents shouldn’t hold their children to just one sport; she is living proof of why, having made the Olympics in what was once her “second” sport.

“It’s important for kids to know you can change your mind and change your path,” she said. 

From time to time, Marchant does, however, still miss figure skating.

“I really liked performing,” she said. “I didn’t like that I was judged on the performance necessarily, but it was a lot of fun. You’d do these ice shows with a big ta-da at the end of every season. You got to show your tricks that weren’t necessarily things you would do in competition.”

Marchant may no longer need spins and tricks to get the job done, but if her run through New York City’s five boroughs goes how the rest of her season has, then spectators should prepare for a stirring grand finale.

“I don’t think I’ll be dancing at the finish line, but it will definitely be my big ta-da of the season,” she said.

By Stuart Lieberman

GET YOUR STORIES ON. Read more inspiring stories from runners chronicling their journeys to the TCS New York City Marathon starting line.

TUNE IN. The 2016 TCS New York City Marathon will be televised live on Sunday, November 6, on WABC-TV, Channel 7 in the New York tri-state area from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. ET, and for the rest of the nation on ESPN2 from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET.