Cam Levins sets new Canadian marathon record at Toronto Waterfront Marathon - InfoNews

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Cam Levins sets new Canadian marathon record at Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Canadian Cam Levins reacts as he crosses the finish line of the Toronto Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon in Toronto on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Cole Burston
October 21, 2018 - 1:00 PM

TORONTO - Cam Levins chased a mark that had eluded Canada's fastest marathon men for more than four decades Sunday. And in the process, he wrote his own comeback story with every powerful step.

The 29-year-old from Black Creek, B.C., shattered the Canadian marathon record — in his debut at the distance — at the Toronto Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon, erasing the pain and frustration of three injury-plagued seasons.

"Entering the last 10 kilometres of this race I was thinking to myself: 'I'm going to take back my career. I'm going to be back to the athlete I know I can be,'" Levins said through a wide smile, a Canadian flag draped around his shoulders. "That was huge motivation."

Levins, who often considered quitting after a fluke foot injury in 2015 derailed his career, ran two hours nine minutes 25 seconds to finish fourth overall. He was also crowned the national marathon champion as the first Canadian across the finish line. Jerome Drayton set the previous record, one of the oldest on the books, of 2:10:09 in 1975.

"With 3K left I knew I could do it and with half a kilometre left, I was certain it was going to happen," said Levins. "I was just enjoying the moment."

Levins earned a bonus of $43,000 — $1,000 for every year the record stood — for breaking the mark. Organizers were attempting to connect Drayton and Levins by phone after the race.

Benson Kipruto of Kenya won the gold in 2:07:24, with Levins finishing fourth overall. Hamilton's Reid Coolsaet was 10th in 2:17.37.

Kinsey Middleton of Guelph, Ont., won the Canadian women's title in 2:32:09 in her marathon debut. She was seventh among all women.

Levins, meanwhile, was Canada's best distance runner on the track for several seasons, finishing 11th in the 10,000 and 14th in the 5,000 at the 2012 Olympics. He also captured bronze in the 10K at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

He was still on the rise when he injured his ankle after he was shoved from behind at the finish line of the 1,500 metres at the 2015 Canadian championships. The injury, which included a torn tendon and two stress fractures, required surgery and wiped out the better part of the next two seasons.

His wife Elizabeth and parents Gus and Barb Levins fought back tears at the finish line in the shadow of Toronto City Hall.

"The (2015) Pan Am Games in Toronto was where he had his first horrible race (after his injury), so it's very serendipitous that he should run so well back here in Toronto to restart this second phase of his career," Elizabeth said. "He's been preparing for the marathon for a long time, in his mileage and his philosophy in his training, so it's so rewarding to see that be successful here, especially at home in Canada."

Levins' fast time was even more remarkable considering Sunday's chilly conditions. Temperatures hovered around 2 C, with a low of minus-2 with the wind chill. And winds were gusting between 20 and 30 kilometres an hour in some portions.

The marathon is known for the unexpected. Marathoners will tell you the "second half" of the race actually hits with about 10 kilometres to go. Even the most experienced runners have been felled by those final gruelling steps.

Not Levins, who beat a handful of elite runners including Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda. The 2012 Olympic and 2013 world champ finished seventh.

"I knew in my buildup I was getting into shape to be able to do it, but you never know what's going to happen with the marathon, you never know if you're going to be a really good athlete at it or not," Levin said. "I was kind of expecting it to get really hard at one point."

The final seven kilometres were tough Levins said. But as he headed west toward the finish line, churning along Front Street then finally turning north onto Bay Street in the middle of Toronto's famous banking district with the finish line in sight, Levins told himself: "I have to do this. I've come too far not to do this."

"As I was doing it I was thinking 'This is not anything I haven't been through before, I've experienced this in runs, in races, that feeling,'" he said. "So it's good to know what that is now, and not have any fear of it or anxiety of what it's going to feel like."

It was a bittersweet day for Coolsaet, who prior to Sunday had been the closest to breaking Drayton's mystical mark, missing it by a mere 20 seconds in 2015 in Berlin.

"First of all, I don't have to answer those questions (about the record) anymore, it's great," Coolsaet joked at the post-race news conference.

Coolsaet, who'd been battling an illness the past couple of weeks, said Levins' success over the 42.195-kilometre marathon wasn't a huge surprise. Even while training for the shorter distances, Levins was legendary for his weekly mileage. He'd sometimes run three times in a single day; 300-kilometre weeks weren't out of the ordinary.

"It's been a long time that this guy has been training at that level," Coolsaet said. "I'm really excited to see what Cam does over the next whatever amount of years. Lots of marathons ahead of him."

Levins' race prompted an outpouring on Twitter, including a congratulatory tweet from Malcolm Gladwell.

"Congratulations to Cam Levins for breaking the Canadian marathon record today!" tweeted the Canadian writer and journalist — and Levins' doppleganger.

Levins laughed about the tweet, and said he often listened to Gladwell's podcasts during his long runs.

Up next: Levins planned to enjoy a nice dinner with his family after "treating my body like a temple and eating really strictly." Then he and Elizabeth will leave Monday for a cruise to the Bahamas.

Middleton, meanwhile, said she "had so much fun" in her marathon debut.

"But boy, that second half of the race, they're not joking when they say halfway comes later than the actual halfway point of the race,'" she said. "Probably the last 500 metres, I felt like my legs were just done and I was just trying as hard as I could to push through that.

"But in the marathon, you feel good and then you don't feel good and then you feel good again, and so it's kind of about realizing that when you don't feel good, it's not the end. There are ebbs and flows."

Leslie Sexton of London, Ont., was ninth, while Krista DuChene of Strathroy, Ont., who won bronze at the Boston Marathon earlier this year, was 10th.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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