Elissa Legault had her thing for measuring her lead over her closest pursuer at the Canadian Half Marathon Championships: the time gap before the bells held up by the spectators began to ring behind her.

In Winnipeg last Sunday, the noise and clamor seemed within reasonable distance, without being too comfortable. Until she realizes they were meant for a male contestant…

“I still have a little impostor syndrome sometimes. I didn’t come there thinking to myself: I’m going to take the title. Around mile 16 or 17, I started thinking, hey, I might win! I still kept a cool head because you don’t know what can happen in the last kilometers. »

Due to a traffic jam caused by participants in the 5k event, Legault had to weave a little towards the end and even “slow down a lot” in a hallway leading to the finish line in the football stadium of the Manitoba’s capital.

After she crossed the ribbon reserved for the winner, a representative of the organization placed a Canadian flag on her shoulders, symbol of a first national title for the 29-year-old runner, who took up the marathon for fun in 2017.

“It was like a confirmation that I have my place among girls that I consider to be very great athletes. It’s fun to see that I’m able to run with them and do something good. »

In 1:12:18, Elissa Legault beat silver medalist Kinsey Middleton by 1:20, a first for her. Even without the hitches at the end of the race, she would not have approached her personal best of 1h 11 min 37 s, achieved in Valencia last fall.

“I hadn’t created any expectations,” she clarified a few days later.

Above all, the runner from Mascouche participated in this competition to satisfy a condition of accession to the excellence program of the Quebec Athletics Federation.

“I don’t think it had happened to me before, but on the start line, I didn’t even have the little pre-race stress. I just felt like having fun like I was doing a big workout with some friends. It’s probably like that for a lot of people, but when you take the pressure off, it might help you perform better. »

The day before the interview, Elissa Legault received happy news from Athletics Canada: her surprise selection for the marathon of the World Championships, at the end of August, in Budapest. The withdrawal of two athletes opened the door to a second consecutive presence. At her baptism last year in Oregon, she was ranked 27th.

“Last year, I was going there to participate and gain experience. This year, I want to be competitive and give the best of myself. It is truly an honor to still be here. »

Fond of training, Legault is also delighted to be able to count on several weeks of preparation. Last year, she had less than two months between the Ottawa marathon, where she clocked a personal best of 2:33:27, and the Worlds (2:37:35).

In addition to Middleton, 26th in Eugene, new Canadian record holder Natasha Wodak (2:23:12 in Berlin last fall) will represent the maple leaf in Hungary.

“She has tremendous experience, with two Olympic Games and several world championships,” noted Legault. I will be able to learn from her and it will be even more rewarding as an experience. »

Converted late to road racing, the accountant by profession was convinced by her boyfriend and those close to her to devote herself to it full time at the end of the last season. She therefore resigned from her position as financial controller in a company in Terrebonne.

In December, she accompanied her younger sister Emy and her triathlon group for an altitude course in Ecuador.

The following month, she competed in the Houston Marathon, where she was aiming for nothing less than Jacqueline Gareau’s provincial mark of 2:29:32 set in 1985. She held the pace until the 30th kilometer when gastric issues stopped her in her tracks (2 h 34 min 2 s).

“I attempted to take a few more gels than I had practiced. It backfired on me. It was a good lesson: you really have to respect the way I trained. »

Shortly after, the representative of the Vaudreuil-Dorion club hired the services of a new coach, double Olympic athlete Reid Coolsaet. Since her beginnings on the distance, she was followed by Claude David, a coach with whom she had “an extremely good relationship”.

“I felt that maybe I was missing specific elements of my marathon training to really reach my full potential. […] Without taking anything away from my former coach, Reid had a total, complete career. I felt that I was going to be supervised by someone who had lived it and who had the experience to guide me at this level. »

Over time, Elissa Legault realized that she missed work. She therefore accepted a permanent contract with her former employer Procepack, a manufacturer and integrator of packaging equipment.

“Honestly, I’m really spoiled. I can continue to work a little. It’s cool to not put it all on the race and have something outside of it. »

The automatic standard of 2h 26 min 50 s does not seem to him “not impossible”, “even if it is really necessary that all the stars are aligned”. After the Worlds, she gives herself two opportunities to achieve this: in Valencia, on December 3, and in Seville or Rotterdam, next year.

Otherwise, she could also get an Olympic selection under the world rankings: “I’ll have to pass a few people to get there, but I don’t think it’s impossible. »

Just being able to think about it doesn’t sound like half a win for Elissa Legault.

Elissa Legault was able to count on a dream guide during her stay at altitude in Ecuador: her younger sister Emy, the first Canadian in the World Triathlon rankings whom she will be cheering on this Saturday at the Montreal stop of the World Series (see the text by my colleague Fannie Arcand).

“Emy has been going to Ecuador for seven or eight years with her band. I was even surprised how well she spoke Spanish. »

The two sisters sometimes share training. “When she has an interval session, I can take a bike to go with her and I encourage her. She does the same for me. As I only focus on running, I have become a little faster than her over the years. She has already asked me to do the bunny for her, but unfortunately it never worked out. It would be a gift that I would like to give him. If I can help him perform better, that would be very cool. »