Cornell Grad Sage Canaday Ready For The Trials
4 Years Removed From Being The Youngest Entrant, Canaday Is Looking To Improve On His 2:16:52 PR At Age 26
By: Zeb Lang
January 12, 2011
Three Cornell University alumni will be competing at the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon this Saturday (January 14th) in Houston. All three won Ivy League Heptagonal conference titles on the track and competed in the NCAA Championships in cross-country during their Cornell undergraduate careers. This three-part series features Max King '02 (2:15:34 PR), Sage Canaday '09 (2:16:52 PR), and Zach Hine '09 (2:16:54 PR) as they put the final touches on their marathon preparation.
Sage Canaday is no stranger to the Trials marathon. Four years ago as a Cornell junior, Sage ran in the front of the field in the early part of the race in New York City’s Central Park. He stopped at 5 miles for good reason - he was scheduled to compete for Cornell the next weekend at the NCAA Northeast Regional cross-country championships, where he went on to qualify for the NCAA Championships held the following week. This weekend's race will be Sage's seventh marathon, earning him "veteran" status at the age of 26. Despite his young age, Canaday feels a "little old at 26" and looks to make the most of his second Trials race. "At the next Olympic Trials, I'll be 30 ... will my career go that long?" he wonders.
With nearly 20,000 miles of running behind him since the last Trials race four years ago, Sage enters this race with a lot more confidence and feels he is much better prepared mentally for the pain of the last 10 kilometers with the strength and experience he has gained.
Canaday has been running professionally since 2009 for the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, based in Rochester Hills, Michigan. The Brooks running company sponsors the team, headed by brothers Kevin and Keith Hanson, owners of the Hansons Running stores in suburban Detroit. Since joining Hansons, Sage has taken his personal best in the marathon from 2:21:42 to 2:19:18 at Chicago in 2010 and now to 2:16:52 in San Diego last June. Cornell distance coach Robert Johnson introduced Sage to the Hansons-Brooks group during his junior year at Cornell and a few months after graduation, Canaday packed his car and headed west. "When I joined Hansons, I knew they could take me to that level," says Sage, referring to keeping up with the tightening of the qualifying standard for the Olympic Trials Marathon that took place between 2008 and 2012. For the 2008 Trials, the standard was sub-2:22. Sage missed by 21 seconds in January 2007 before qualifying with 18 seconds to spare five months later. For this year's Olympic Trials, it took a sub-2:19 performance to make the race, which Sage missed by a mere 18 seconds at his attempt in Chicago in 2010. Runners can also qualify for this year's Trials race with a sub-1:05 half marathon, which Canaday achieved at the Mardi Gras half-marathon in New Orleans in March 2011. That gave him the luxury of going after a big personal best in the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll marathon in June.
Sage's rapid improvement in the past year has not come without struggle, however, and Canaday admits that much of his first year as a professional was filled with "overtraining and trying to do too much, too soon. You have to give any running program a year to a year-and-a-half to adjust, but consistent hard work and patience eventually pays off."
While waiting for his training to pay off, Sage took advantage of his free time to capitalize on a few marketing classes he took at Cornell during his undergraduate career. Following his passion for marketing, Sage took a Foundations of Entrepreneurship course and a business speaking seminar in Cornell's Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. Since turning professional, Canaday has written Running For The Hansons (e-book here), a chronicle of his team's marathon training. Sage also spends a lot of time promoting his team and his sponsor, Brooks, through social media and workout videos posted on letsrun.com and flotrack.com. "I have a lot of fun with the camera and like to share the training," Sage explains.
Canaday has spent the last majority of the last month in Orlando preparing for his race.
"My coach Kevin loves Disney!" Sage jokes when asked about the location choice. "The real reason is that Florida gives the Hansons team a great place to escape the Michigan winters and also to prepare for races in hotter, more humid climates. It could be 60-65 degrees on race day in Houston, and we want to be ready for that."
In the final days before his next big race, Sage is thankful for everyone who has supported him along the way, including the support from Cornell coaches Robert Johnson and Nathan Taylor, his teammates, and the alumni.
"My athletic career at Cornell is what inspired me to run after college. It is a really supportive environment, where you can reach a high level academically and athletically. Cornell really prepares you to compete for a top job or to compete at the top level of running. I look back fondly at my days on the hill."
About the author: Zeb Lang has been a letsrun visitor since the website's first days in 2000. Lang was coached by RoJo as a Cornell undergrad and has served as a volunteer assistant coach for the past three years while completing his MBA at Cornell and pursuing a career in corporate finance. Zeb credits letsrun guru John Kellogg ("JK") for guiding him to his marathon PR.