This first issue of Canadian Running is about time in more ways than one. For manathoner Danny Kassap, profiled here by Alex Hutchinson, the clock is ticking on both his Canadian citizenship and a qualification time for the Olympics. Will the Congo native become a citizen in time for the Beijing Games? Can he shave enough time off his personal best to meet Canada’s rigid Olympic standard?
I first met Kassap at a 5K race in Toronto in 2002, not long after he burst onto the Ontario road racing scene. I had heard reports of a running phenomenon who had arrived in Ottawa with the Congolese team for the Francophone Games and hadn’t returned home. Coming from a war-ravaged country, I expected Kassap to be a sombre type, or at least somewhat subdued, but the guy I found lined up at the start of that 5K was positively chipper. Much like marathon world record holder Haile Gebrselassie, Kassap has a near-permanent I’m-so-happy-to-be-alive-and-running smile on his face.
In a brief chat before the race start, Kassap told me how glad he was to be in Canada. The gun went off and, in what would become a familiar sight, Kassap flew into the lead, his feet nearly kicking his butt. 'That could be the future of Canadian distance running,' I thought. Six years on, Kassap is still flying, still thrilled to be in Canada and desperate to represent our country at international races. His story is symbolic of how so many of the ups and downs of running are often mirrored in our everyday lives.