Giving to the next
Despite his busy schedule, athlete Charles Philibert-Thiboutot has accepted to be co-spokesperson for the Montreal Beneva Marathon. And his involvement will not be trivial as he will be the rabbit for the half-marathon runners. If you’re aiming for a time of 1:40 (that’s between 4.40 and 4.45 min. per km), this is a privilege not to be missed!
Back from Eugene (Oregon) where he competed in the World Track and Field Championships (15th in the 1,500m and 27th in the 5,000m), he has resumed training for the North American, Central American and Caribbean Track and Field Championships to be held in the Bahamas from August 19-21, 2022. The goal? To be on the podium.
Her training is very demanding. “I run an average of 130 km per week. But it’s especially the track workouts that are hard. I run them two to three times a week, the intervals are very tough. You go from marathon pace to maximum sprint pace. The rest of the week, I do two daily runs at a recovery pace. I estimate that out of the 130 km I run weekly, 70% to 80% are done at this pace. I call this easy volume, which is between 4 min and 4 min 20 per km. The pace that the rabbit I will be running when I accompany the half marathoners on September 25.”
Charles holds an impressive number of Quebec records on indoor and outdoor tracks: 1,000 meters, 1,500 meters, the mile, 3,000 meters and 5,000 meters, to which we can also add the 10,000 meters on an outdoor track. As if that wasn’t enough, in 2022, he added the Canadian record in the 5 km road race (Boston, BAA).
“I’M A PROFESSIONAL RUNNER”
“In high school, I was nicknamed the “fast kid”. It didn’t matter what sport I was playing, I was fast, I ran in all directions, tireless. Seeing me go, my education teacher directed me towards track and field and cross-country. At first I hated it. I didn’t know how to manage my races. I would give 110% from the start, start first and then slow down little by little, with no sense of pacing. I didn’t even manage to qualify for the provincial championships. It was later, after a quick growth spurt around 16-17, that things started to improve.”
As the years went by, Charles realized that running was his sport. The good results soon came and he began to truly enjoy running.
“I realized that it was the sport I could perform best in and where I could reach the highest levels. From a young age, I dreamed of being a part of the sporting elite, no matter what the sport. With running, it became an attainable goal. I decided to join the Rouge et Or track and field club at Laval University where I met my coach who is still my coach today: Félix-Antoine Lapointe. In university, from the very first years, I reached levels that I never expected.”
By his own admission, his path is rather atypical. “In university, through training and perseverance, I became one of the best track and field athletes in Quebec, and even in Canada, in my age group. But here in Quebec, it had been a while since we had any good middle-distance runners, I didn’t really have any role models.”
So he found himself in an unknown zone. “I was breaking all the Quebec records one by one in several distances. In my fourth year of university, I stood out a bit from the rest of the runners in my club, thanks to times in the 1,500 meters that suggested an international career could be in the cards.”
It was in 2014 that the possibility of becoming a professional runner became possible. “I wasn’t alone in my lack of direction in this new adventure. My coach had never coached an athlete who reached such high times. We had to trust each other, roll up our sleeves and see how far we could push our limits.”
Did he feel supported in Quebec? His answer is unequivocal. “There is something really exceptional about Quebec sport, compared to international and the rest of Canada, and that is the love Quebecers have for their athletes. We are never short of support and encouragement.”
The rest of his journey has not been without its challenges as injuries have accompanied him for many years. “In the winter, in Quebec, I get injured (laughs)! That’s why I moved to Vancouver. I could have joined a club south of the border, but me, my coach, my physiotherapist and my sports psychologist are a dream team. I am determined to stay with them.”
Charles had his share of injuries between 2017 and 2020. “It’s been the most difficult period of my career to date. During that time, I missed, one by one, every major track and field meet.”
Four months before the Rio de Janeiro Olympics (2016), he suffered a major back injury. That’s when his physical therapist stepped in. “I was able to make games. But as soon as I came back, I had to write off all track and field worlds and the Tokyo (2021) Olympics. Unfortunately, a series of injuries and bad luck in training have deprived me of all these appointments. I really want to be at the Paris Olympics in 2024.”
Since 2021, he claims to be more consistent both in training and in his rehabilitation, avoiding injuries as a result. “My physiotherapist has a lot to do with it. We work together twice a week, a work that is mostly done in prevention.”
So far, the results are there. “We’re trying to maintain good biomechanics so that I can face my hard workouts without my body falling apart. I can now say that I am in top shape. My best international results came this summer,” says Charles, who has broken many of his personal records in several distances, including the 5,000 meters.
Charles is a humble athlete. “People are impressed with my times and the different records I hold. I’m touched by that. But I’m a professional runner, it’s my job, my whole life is geared towards it, I’m surrounded by great people who help me progress.”
But those who impress him? “The people who, despite a demanding job, family obligations and lack of resources, manage to train and run 5 km, 10 km, 21.1 km or even 42.2 km in the Montreal Beneva Marathon. I run twice a day, my days are totally dedicated to training, recovery and rehabilitation.”
He repeats: it’s his job to be a professional runner. “It’s an extremely difficult job, I admit, I’ve had my ups and downs. But what really impresses me is to see people whose job is not running give it their all and take the start of one of the events of the Montreal Beneva Marathon. They are the ones who deserve the most credit in my eyes. People may tell me they are inspired by my performance, but I realize it’s easy to perform when you dedicate yourself like I do 110%, because it’s my job.”
That’s one of the reasons he joined the marathon team. “It makes me really happy. Normally, at the end of September, I give myself a break, but this year I’ll make an exception and put on my running shoes to join the thousands of runners. I want to accompany as many of them as possible to the finish line and help them reach their goal. I have great admiration for all the runners who will be meeting at the starting line.”
Do I run with or without music?
Any favorite places for long runs?
In Quebec City, along the Saint-Charles River and on the Plains of Abraham. In Montreal, along the Lachine Canal and at the Miron quarry.
How cold does the mercury have to be to discourage me from running in winter?
I have no choice, I have to go, no matter what the conditions.
After a good workout or a competition, I spoil myself, guilt-free, with what food?
I go to McDonald’s. (Editor’s note: Charles is not sponsored by the fast food giant.)
Do I ever run on a treadmill?
The running event he wants to participate in.
The 2024 Paris Olympics.
An inspirational read?
Endure, by Alex Hutchinson and Malcolm Gladwell, published by AMPHORA.
A runner who inspires him/her?
In a word, what kind of runner is he?