Dylan Wykes sees Rio Olympic hopes dashed by illness

Daily life is manageable again for Dylan Wykes.

He wakes up now feeling "normal," can play with his 18-month-old daughter Sasha and take her for walks, and on weekends has time to coach marathon runners.

What isn't normal is how this Canadian marathoner's dream of competing at the Rio Olympics in August unravelled.

Wykes's training was derailed in early March by a virus that doctors compared to mononucleosis which sapped him of his strength. For the first month, the Vancouver resident figured he had caught the flu from his wife, Francine, and Sasha until a specialist told Wykes he was in much worse shape.

"I had a really high fever all the time and would sweat through my clothes when sleeping for about five weeks. It was ridiculous," Wykes, 32, said over the phone. "Some days I was in bed all day, but I'm starting to come around."

'The deadline to qualify [for the Rio Olympics] is going to pass and I'll be sitting at home. That's hard.' - Canadian marathon runner Dylan Wykes

But time is Wykes's enemy as the Canadian Olympic qualifying window for marathoners closes on May 29.

"The deadline to qualify is going to pass and I'll be sitting at home. That's hard," said Wykes, who finished 20th in a field of 85 at the 2012 London Olympics. "The biggest thing for me is there's no closure.

"If I had been able to get healthy and train enough to do a race and it didn't work out, then that's the way it is. But I think it'll take a little longer for me to deal with it."

Before getting sick, Wykes was working his way back from a lower right leg injury that forced him to exit midway through the 42-kilometre Fukuoka International Open Marathon Championship in Japan last December. He trained well through late December and January but soreness in the leg lingered.

Limited mobility in feet

Wykes flew to Flagstaff, Ariz., working for six hours a day with a chiropractor to learn how to regain the limited mobility in his feet from years of training and running on pavement in hopes of avoiding a recurrence of his injury.

Wykes remained hopeful of running a marathon before May 29 despite feeling less than 100 per cent but realized by mid-March it wasn't going to happen.

The third-fastest Canadian marathoner of all time hasn't completed a marathon since the London Olympics, having battled stress fractures in his ankle and pelvic bones, falling ill and aggravating the posterior tibial tendon, one of the most important tendons in his right lower leg.

"Some things were bad luck and some things [happen because] you make some bad decisions along the way that sideline you for certain amounts of time, and then time gets away from you," Wykes said.

"I never would have imagined myself to be in this position if you had asked me the day after the [London] Olympics … but that's sport, that's the marathon. I think that's the beauty of it. When you hit it right, it's really special because it's so hard to get it right."

Wykes, who hasn't had the "itch" to resume running, said it's probably time for him to scale back his racing.

"Maybe I won't do a marathon for a couple of years and just try to build back up and see where it takes me," Wykes said, adding the 10-kilometre senior men's race at the Canadian Cross Country Championships in his hometown of Kingston, Ont., on Nov. 26 would be "a good first step."

"I think the last four years it's been these big goals and I think I got carried away. I think it's too much to look four years down the road and what that means and requires.

"I love the sport," Wykes said, "and I still think I can do good things."

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