In his marathon debut, Cam Levins of Black Creek, B.C., shattered Jerome Drayton’s 43-year-old Canadian men’s record on a brisk Sunday morning in Toronto.
Levins, who wanted to debut in the 42.2-kilometre race on home soil and specifically the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, crossed the finish line fourth in two hours nine minutes 25 seconds, or 44 seconds ahead of Drayton’s longstanding mark.
“I was feeling good throughout most of the race and I made it through the last 10K. I thought, ‘I’m taking back my career and I did that,'” an exhausted and relieved Levins, who is taking a cruise with his wife, Elizabeth, on Monday, told Athletics Canada.
“I’m headed to the Bahamas to get some warm weather and then I’m sure I’ll do another marathon after this.”
‘I want to go to the Olympics again’
Levins earned a bonus of $43,000 for his performance — $1,000 for each year Drayton’s record stood.
Looking strong and relaxed, Levins took one final look at this watch and smiled before crossing the finish line.
Before the race, Levins said it was the right time to attempt a marathon and “in a lot of ways” believed he was more fit than at any point in his career. He even grew to like the longer, more tempo-based workouts of a marathon build compared to speed work on the track.
“There’s something exciting, liberating and enjoyable about taking on an entirely new event in the sport at an elite level,” said Levins, who spent the final month of his training running at altitude.
Could he represent Canada in the Olympic marathon four years from now in Tokyo?
“It’s so hard to know, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s what my focus is come 2020,” the 29-year-old resident of Portland, Ore., told CBC Sports recently. “I would like to keep building and hopefully be the best athlete I can be in this four-year [Olympic] cycle.
“I want to go to the Olympics again but two years is a long ways away. As I’ve learned before, anything can happen.”
Coming off a gold-medal sweep of the 5,000 and 10,000 metres at the NCAA championships in 2012, Levins competed at his first Summer Games that year in London, England, finishing 11th in the 10,000 and 14th in the 5,000.
Tendon tear in left foot
He also captured bronze in the 10,000 at the 2014 Commonwealth Games before his career was disrupted the following season at the Canadian track and field championships in Edmonton.
Following a 1,500 heat, someone ran into the back of him, catching Levins’ leg and forcing him to the ground.
Levins was later diagnosed with a tear of the peroneal tendon in his left foot, stress fractures in his navicular and talus bones, a bone spur and bone chips that doctors had to shave and remove.
After having “very serious doubts” about resuming his competitive career, Levins returned a year later in some 5 km and 10 km races before trying his first-ever half marathon last December, crossing the line in 1:05:07 at the Holiday Half Marathon in Oregon.
He clocked 1:05:00 on Jan. 14 in Houston after signing a sponsorship deal with athletic shoe company Hoka One One and two months later, Levins placed 30th at the IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in a personal-best 1:02:15, less than a minute shy of Jeff Schiebler’s Canadian mark of 1:01:28 in 1999.
Ethiopia’s Belete sets women’s record
Meanwhile, Benson Kipruto ended fellow Kenyan Philemon Rono’s two-year title reign with a winning time of 2:07:24. Rono, who set a personal best and course record last year of 2:06:52, was ninth on Sunday in 2:13:37.
Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda, the first Olympic champion to race the Toronto event, finished seventh in 2:11:06 while Hamilton’s Reid Coolsaet, who was making his third appearance in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, placed 10th (2:17:36) after aiming for a 2:13-2:14 finish. In 2011, the 39-year-old two-time Olympian clocked 2:10:55 in Toronto.
Mimi Belete, who competes internationally for Bahrain, set a course record for the women in 2:22:29, defeating last year’s champion and fellow Ethiopian Marta Megra (2:22:35).
Middleton top Canadian woman
Top Canadian was Kinsey Middleton, who stopped the clock in 2:32:09 in her Toronto Waterfront debut. The 25-year-old American-Canadian dual citizen ran a season-best 1:12:30 in the half marathon at Houston in January.
Leslie Sexton, last year’s top Canadian, was ninth in 2:36:03 while 2016 Olympian Krista DuChene came 10th in 2:36:46 after placing third (2:44:20) among women at the Boston Marathon earlier this year.