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 Memorable Brazilian experience


   Aiden Coles finishes eighth in the U20 eight-km race at Pan Am Cup    

   overcoming heat stroke, sickness and an unusual course


April 6, 2022



Aiden Coles with the Canadian flag at the Pan American cross-country cup, in Serra, Brazil. (photo / courtesy Aiden Coles)



By Rob J. Ross 

ST. THOMAS - Heat stroke, vomiting, blurred vision and collapsing just over the finish line.

All part of a memorable experience for Aiden Coles, from the 2022 Pan American cross-country cup, in Serra, Brazil.

The St. Joseph's high school student finished eighth, in the U20 men's eight kilometre race, part of a four member team for Athletics Canada, that attended the international meet, on March 27. Canada won the U20 men's team title.

"It was a really, really, good experience and I learned a lot about myself," Coles said. "I was happy with finishing my first international race, having the heat and my first 8K. I was happy with coming in eighth."

The race was in 38 degree Celsius heat with intense humidity. The course was set in a field that could resemble a farm pasture.

"There was no shade. It was in the sun and lots and lots of turns," Coles said. "A perfect amount of turns to break up your rhythm, so while you're running you can't get comfortable. You have to pay attention to turns, pot holes, cow poop and barb wire on the fence. It was very interesting."

To say the least and the second half of the race was more intriguing.

Coles. Aiden Coles finished eighth in the U20 men's 8-km race, at the Pan American cross-country cup, in Serra, Brazil. (photo / courtesy Aiden Coles

"After two laps I felt good. But it was 8K," Coles said. "I was already tired enough. I felt good for doing one more lap, but knowing I had another lap after that, I was starting to panic a little bit."

Coles was alongside teammates, Rudy Saal and Nolan Sturgeon for half of the race.

"In the middle of that third lap, those two guys pulled away from me, so I was running solo. Then I was chasing down a Brazilian and a Mexican. I ended up catching them, then on the last lap I was in no man's land, trying to catch my teammates."

With the finish line in sight, that's when Coles had some difficulty seeing.

"With 500 metres to go, my vision started going blurry and I actually forgot how to run. My mind wasn't processing things. I crossed the line and instantly collapse," said Coles. "I lay down pretty often, but after that race my body just collapsed. It wasn't just me laying on the ground. I couldn't hold myself up. I couldn't remember anything after that."

Coles was helped to a medical tent and placed in an ice bath. After a spell of vomiting tremendously, after perhaps drinking too much Gatorade, Coles was given electrolytes and remained with medics until feeling better.

"That was horrible," Coles said. "Looking back at it, I'm really proud that I finished."

Coles brings home lessons from the race that will be beneficial at future meets.

"It was a really, really, good experience and I learned a lot about myself," Coles said. "I learned how to race in those situations and also to not go into races having your only expectation, like I'm coming top three. Being in races where you won't be the best guy there, being able to be happy with a race I didn't win or medal in, is good for me."

Coles admits it was an adjustment to run in the heat, with much of his training this year occurring in sub zero temperatures.

"I've learned that I can race in any temperature and do fairly well. I need to not get constrained on the fact that the weather is not in my favour, and just go and run as well as I can."

Coles. Aiden Coles (44), with his Canadian U20 teammates, at the Pan American cross-country cup, in Serra, Brazil. (photo / courtesy Aiden Coles

During down time, Coles was able to interact with runners from other nations, playing various games from ping pong to pool.

"That was a really fun time," Coles said. "I really wanted to trade some gear. But being this was my first National team, I didn't want to trade any of mine.

So, I'll have to make another National team, so I can trade my gear too with other countries."

Making a National team accomplishes a goal Coles has been eyeing throughout high school.

"This is something I looked forward to for so long. It's something I can check off my list now," said Coles, who has a chalkboard of various goals, in his family' home garage. "I went in and checked it off and it was a good feeling being able to do that. Hopefully there's more to come."

Up next for Coles is the high school season, competing in the 1500 and 3000 metre races.

The 17-year old is also aiming to meet the standard in both races, for the U20 world championships, this August, in Columbia. Another goal this year is lowering his personal best time in the 1500, down to around three minutes and 46 seconds.