Join me on April 16 at 3 PM ET and 12 PM PT for a free Q&A session with Canadian Marathon Champion, Dayna Pidhoresky. You are invited to bring your questions for the Q&A session with Dayna where we will discuss running, racing, training, being a parent athlete and much more. The session will be hosted on Zoom.
Pidhoresky is a 2:29 marathoner and has been first Canadian at the Ottawa Marathon twice (2017 and 2019). In October 2019, Pidhoresky stormed to her new personal best of 2:29 with an emphatic victory at the Canadian Marathon Championships in Toronto. Her victory and Olympic standard gained her an automatic spot on the Canadian Marathon team for the Tokyo Olympics.
Join me on April 16 at 8 PM ET and 5 PM PT for a free Q&A session with two-time Canadian Olympian, Reid Coolsaet. You are invited to bring your questions for the Q&A session with Reid where we will discuss running, racing, training, being a parent athlete and much more. The session will be hosted on Zoom.
Reid Coolsaet is a two time Olympian and a father of two. Coolsaet is perhaps the most prominent figure on the Canadian running scene and has been for a long time. Besides running in the London and Rio Olympics, Coolsaet is a 2:10 marathon and 14-time Canadian Champion on the track, roads and the country. Coolsaet resides in Hamilton, Ontario.
Join me on April 10 at 1 PM ET and 10 AM PT for a free Q&A session with Canadian Marathon Record Holder, Malindi Elmore. You are invited to bring your questions for the Q&A session with Malindi where she will discuss running, racing, training, being a parent athlete and much more. The session will be hosted on Zoom.
Malindi Elmore is an Olympian and a mother of two. In January of this year, Elmore made waves in the Canadian running world by smashing the Canadian marathon record by over two minutes in Houston. Elmore, 40, ran in the 2004 Athens Games in the 1,500M. After leaving the sport and focusing on triathlon, Elmore returned to competitive running after having her second child. Upon her return to racing, Elmore debuted in a time of 2:32 at Houston in 2019, won the Canadian Half Marathon Championships, and won the Eastside 10K in Vancouver. Most recently, her Canadian record in Houston has put her inline for a spot on the Canadian Marathon Team for Tokyo next year.
Well, the COVID-19 period in Canada has begun. People are self-isolating, social distancing, and cancelling events (rightfully) across the country. Of course, the most important thing in all of this is the health of vulnerable people and ensuring that this pandemic does not overwhelm the Canadian healthcare system.
At the same time however, the Tokyo Olympics are set to continue. The Games, which are expected to kick off at the end of July remain beacon of hope for the sports world which is currently operating without hockey, basketball, cycling, running, soccer, and even curling. If you’re like me and you love watching sports, you’re likely starting to go crazy, but can you imagine what the athletes are feeling?
Although many athletes have qualified for these Olympics, there are many spots that are still up for grabs. For example, Canada is not close whatsoever to naming their Athletics team for the Games, especially the men’s marathon team. Currently, Trevor Hofbauer is the only Canadian man who has run the standard, and did this at the Scoitabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon last fall. with spring races cancelled the likes of Reid Coolsaet, Dylan Wykes, Cam Levins, Evan Esselink, Tristan Woodfine, Ben Preisner, and many more as of now have no races available to qualify for the games.
With some extra time on my hands due to the lack of watching sports, I decided to come up with options for these Canadian men to have a chance at lining up in Rio. I would have also looked at this from the perspective of Canadian women, but four of them already have the standard and therefore Canada will send a full team.
Option 1 – The Ottawa Marathon
This option, although viable for now, may prove not to be in the next couple of weeks. The Ottawa Marathon is scheduled to occur the final week of May and thus far has not been cancelled.
The Ottawa Marathon is a Gold Label race and the weekend doubles as the Canadian 10K Championships. As a Gold label race, the top five finishers would automatically receive the Olympic standard. However, if the Ottawa Marathon does go ahead, a top five finish would be unlikely for any Canadian runner as the race would likely become VERY popular worldwide as the last weekend to qualify for the Olympic Games. However, the depth which the race would gain from around the world, particularly Europe and East Africa, would also provide Canadian runners an opportunity to run fast. Although it is not a particularly fast course, the Ottawa Marathon often doesn’t have the same depth in an elite field of say a London, Berlin or even CIM, but with the world congregating to run the race, it would certainly change.
In turn, the race going ahead would likely see all of the Canadian hopefuls for the Olympic Marathon congregate and aim for the time of 2:11:30. It would then be up to Athletics Canada and the Ottawa Marathon to provide a pacemaker at this pace and to select to the Olympic team the top two Canadian finishers (if they achieve the standard).
Option 2 – Changes to the Olympic Marathon Selection Procedure
Another option, and this is less likely, is that World Athletics alters the qualifying process for the Olympic marathon to accommodate for the COVID-19 pandemic. The reason I say this is unlikely, is when the Olympic standards and qualifying procedures for Tokyo were released, World Athletics wanted to cap the field size for the marathon at 90. Currently, it is expected that the field size for the race is already exceeding 90 men.
Furthermore, any accommodation for countries impacted by COVID-19 would be extremely controversial and would be subject to world ranking. World ranking is a very complicated practice which you can read about on the World Athletics website. Essentially, the system is a compilation of results and times run. Governing bodies will have the opportunity to put names forward based on world ranking, but which countries are provided spots would be up for debate.
Unless World Athletic drastically changes their policies surrounding the Olympic field, competitors cannot expect to get into the Games via world ranking.
Option 3 – Host another Canadian Marathon Trials
If the Olympic Games do look like they will go ahead, Athletics Canada only has one other option and that is to host an exclusive Canadian Olympic Trials event. Unlike the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials however, it would be difficult to obtain a Gold Label status and competitors would still have to hit the standard – still it would be an opportunity to hit the standard.
This race could be hosted practically anywhere. All Athletics Canada would need would be an official course measurement, timing, drink stations and a camera crew to broadcast the race. This idea, which was put into my mind by Canadian Olympian Reid Coolsaet would be open to those who have run under the time of say 2:22 in the last four years and would have a field size of about twelve to fourteen runners. Those who Athletics Canada would then name to the Olympic team would be the first two runners to finish under the standard.
The best part is that this could all be put together with less than 50 people, making the event passable by the Ontario and Federal Government who have persons limits due to the pandemic
When could this happen? Anytime really but the first week or two of May seem most practical.
Of course, all of the above options should not happen if they bring potential harm or spread to vulnerable populations.
Do you have any thoughts on how Canada can get its athletes to hit the standard? Tweet me @AndersenRuns OR want to read more, follow me @AndersenRuns.
Until next time, stay healthy and stay home (unless you’re going for a solo run).
Immediately following the U.S. Olympic Trials, I released a quick review where I discussed the race briefly and then provided readers with a brief overview of the resumes and stories of the athletes who made the team. You can read that here. Upon reflection however, I noted that as big of a deal as this was for American distance running, it deserved some more reflection than a mere retelling and synopsis of the event itself.
I should say before I get into my five takeaways that this is probably one of the best running events I have ever watched on television. It ranks up there with the men’s 5,000M and women’s 1,500M finals in Doha last year, the 2018 Boston Marathon and the London 2012 Olympic Games marathon. Like the this year’s Trials, all four races had suspense, intrigue, and no pacers.
Having watched all the pre-race interviews, having made my predictions and having finished my morning long run, I sat down to watch the race half an hour early – waiting in anticipation for it to begin. My immediate takeaway was the blustery conditions where I thought “no one is going to break away until three miles to go with winds this high.” Like my predictions, I was wrong once again – multiple breakaways occurred in the men’s race, with Rupp making what became the winning move at 14 miles.
My next thought was regarding the women’s race and the sheer number of athletes that were involved. Although I knew five hundred plus athletes would look like a large number, it was far larger than I expected. A sea of humanity raced down the streets of Atlanta in what Tim Hutchings would call “a festival of distance running.”
But more often than not I found my thoughts drifting to two topics: shoes (which I will actually cover in my takeaways) and the NBC broadcast. Not that NBC did a horrible job, but for the amount of discussion and intrigue that surrounded the women’s race; the race itself it got comparably little coverage to the men’s. In addition, Deena Kastor was a wasted talent on the lead car and should have been one of the colour commentators in the booth – not the NIKE VP of Marketing. Shalane Flanagan would have been a great addition to the broadcast too. Also so many commercials – but that is unavoidable.
What I did love however, is the heart and sole racing that every athlete put into their race. Whether they were at the front or the back of the pack, each athlete was clearly there with a goal in mind and proud to represent their country – making me wish we could have an event like this in Canada.
Having now provided you with bonus takeaways, here are my actual five takeaways:
1. We need more Championship courses like the one in Atlanta
As fun as Berlin, Chicago and Tokyo are, there is nothing like a Championship race where it is the athletes against one another with no pacers to hold their hands. As cool as times in the low two hours are; hills, winds, and multiple turns add to the intrigue of a marathon where a chaser can hunt down the race leader or athletes are forced to embrace all types of terrain. ack theDespite some of the fl course in Atlanta is taking, I have to say I loved it. The hills added to the intrigue of the racing and added an additional layer of uncertainty that the traditional big city marathons do not have.
2. The women’s marathon is deeper than ever.
Honestly, I had never heard of Molly Seidel until about mile four when I saw her bib towards the front of the pack and started learning more about her. Seidel, like so many other women in the field, have interesting and epic stories about how they qualified for the Trials, how they got into running and so on. For Seidel it is her injury history, the fact that she is very open about a previous eating disorder and how this was her first marathon. Seidel is active on Strava and worth a follow.
What is clear is how deep women’s distance running is in North America. Usually, I only focus on Canadian distance running; where the Canadian women have dropped the Canadian marathon record by four minutes in two years, but it is worth noting that the women’s field in the U.S. is rapidly improving too. At mile 18, about twenty women still had a shot at making the top three and going to Tokyo. Four years ago, the places on the Olympic team were already set at about mile 18 as Flanagan, Cragg and Linden had separated themselves from the pack.
This depth spells good things for women’s running. Not only are more athletes in with a chance than ever before creating a more intriguing race, but it also gives young athletes everywhere with additional role models to follow and to aspire to. Of course it also importantly provides women’s distance running with the media intrigue and coverage it deserves.
3. Northern Arizona Elite are here in force.
If you haven’t heard of them before, you certainly know them now. The Northern Arizona Elite (or NAZ Elite) are a group of about twelve elite distance runners and are headed by coaches Ben Rosario and Ben Bruce. The group, sponsored by HOKA, features Canadian athlete Rory Linkletter and had six athletes in the Trials.
If you didn’t know, the winner of the women’s race Aliphine Tuliamuk runs for the NAZ Elite squad along with 6th place finisher Stephanie Bruce and 8th place finisher Kellyn Taylor. On the men’s side, three athletes also toed the start with notable Scott Fauble finishing 12 place, despite running a great time of 2:12.
The NAZ Elite squad notched there very first Olympic spot with Aliphine Tuliamuk’s performance and are looking forward to Bruce, Taylor and maybe even more running in the Track Trials. Of course Matthew Robert Baxter (NZ) and Rory Linkletter (CAN) also have great Olympic potential on the track.
NAZ elite are very open about how they train and post all their workouts online. You can learn more on their website.
4. Alphafly shoes will continue to spark debate.
Well I was wrong: I thought the other shoe companies had almost caught up to NIKE and their shoe revolution. Apparently not.
The Nike Alphafly Next% athletes were out in full force during the Trials with at least 50% of the athletes sporting some version of the Vaporfly. By my count, eight of the first ten in the men’s race were wearing some version of the shoe with Galen Rupp leading the way. Of course, this is not me slamming the athletes but wondering when the shoe wars will end and some sort of calm will return to the waters.
Of course, one could counter my argument and say that on the women’s side only Kipyego was the only runner in the top 8 wearing the shoes. In response, I would say that this is because 90% of the top female runners in the race are sponsored by companies like Saucony (Endorphin Pro for the win), HOKA, Asics or New Balance so it was mathematically likely that this would be the result – especially with Jordan Hasay’s injury struggles.
If you watched the broadcast you would have seen the debate on the shoes themselves where the Hutchings and the Nike VP guy (I don’t know his name) took opposing views on the subject. I think ultimately, the solution is somewhere in between their two view points where the other companies will catch up, but in order to do so World Athletics has to stop colluding with Nike (see new shoe rules release and the Alphafly specs).
5. 40 is the new 30.
In the men’s race Rupp crossed the line first – as expected. Then Jake Riley, not totally unexpected as he ran 2:10 last year. Sprinting just behind Riley was Abdi Abdirahman. Known as Abdi, Abdirahman is 43 years old and the oldest competitor ever to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Team. His performance, granted shoe aided, was phenomenal and he truly showed his experience.
I have to admit, when Abdi took the lead early, I said “what the heck is he doing in this wind,” but after seeing the race and hearing the commentary from Jared Ward on how the pack was functioning it made sense: Abdi was simply staying out of trouble. While other runners were using mental energy to stay in the pack or chopping their strides short to avoid tripping, or in some cases actually tripping, Abdi was out front just running.
The fact that he ran 2:10 though is something else. Abdi was only one minute and seven seconds off his previous personal best, proving that age is truly only a number.
In addition to Abdi, Bernard Lagat also had a decent race, finishing 18th overall at the age of 45.
Perhaps this gives hope to Canada’s Coolsaet (40) and Duchene (43) as they look to return to their third and second Olympics, respectively.
Thanks for reading. For more takes and to stay up-to-date on my articles follow me on Twitter @AndersenRuns.
That was crazy. That was wild. That was chaos. That was racing. That was the marathon.
What a race.
The men’s race started and finished first. It was an interesting one. Luke Puskedra took it out first and was eventually passed by Brian Shrader, but it was at mile 14 that Galen Rupp took over the race. Rupp accelerated hard and only a few could follow. One of those men was Abdi Abdirahman who seemed to be talking with Rupp. Others followed as well including the US Army teammates Leonard Korir and Augustus Miayo. Perhaps the most surprising was Matt MacDonald who is from the Atlanta Track Club.
Eventually, Rupp broke away from the others and sailed to victory. There were questions around Rupp’s fitness heading into the race especially after coming off achilles surgery last year. Rupp ran 2:09.
It was the race for second and third that all the drama happened. The Korir, Miayo, MacDonald, and Abdirahman continued to swap places. As Miayo and MacDonald dropped away, a new name appeared on the leaderboard – Jake Riley. Riley, a 2:10 marathoner, put himself in the conversation in the final couple of miles and eventually began surging into second place. As they hit the large hill with under a mile to go, Abdirahman and Riley turned the screw on Korir to create enough of a gap to hold him off. Still it was a sprint finish between the two athletes with Riley pipping Abdirahman on the line. Riley ran a personal best of 2:10:02.
Unfortunately, I have to note that the first 6 athletes were wearing Alphaflys.
On the women’s side, the race could not have been more different. There were no breakaways from the pack and all the big names were there through half way. Jordan Hasay was the first big name to drop off the back, then Molly Huddle, then Sarah Hall, then Emily Sisson and so on. As the damage was being done at the back of the group, the gaps was also opening at the front courtesy of Aliphine Tuliamuk. Following Tuliamuk were Molly Seidel who made her marathon debut and Sally Kipyego. In the next couple of miles, Tuliamuk and Seidel dropped Kipyego who would be forced to battle for third place while it appeared that the lead pair worked together. On the final hill, Tuliamuk turned the screw and opened up a large gap on the Seidel, but the pair had time to celebrate. Behind, Kipyego seemed to be struggling as Laura Thweatt and Des Linden looked to be gaining. Ultimately, Linden’s efforts were just not enough as Kipyego held on to the third spot despite a huge charge by Liden over the last 800M.
Since I brought up shoes, I should note that Tuliamuk was sporting HOKA shoes, Seidel was wearing Saucony, and Kipyego was in the Alphafly.
Galen Rupp is widely considered to be greatest American distance runner of all-time. He is the American record holder over 10,000M and won a silver over that distance at the London Olympics. Rupp made his marathon debut in 2016, where he won the Olympic Marathon Trials in L.A. Since, Rupp has run 2:05 over the marathon distance and has won the Chicago marathon. A trip to Tokyo will be his 3rd Olympic appearance. This is the first marathon that Rupp has finished since his achilles surgery in 2019. There is of course, controversy around Galen Rupp. His coach, Alberto Salazar, has been banned for four years (minimum) for breaking the World Athletics anti-doping rules.
Jake Riley was the top American at the Chicago Marathon in 2019, running in the 2:10 range but slower than his 2:10 performance at the Trials. Riley is an unsponsored athlete who was still trying to figure out what shoes he was going to wear on Saturday! Riley represented the Boulder Track Club at this year’s Trial and this is his first senior U.S. team. Riley also had a similar achilles surgery to Galen Rupp and has made quite a comeback over 2019 and 2020.
Abdi Abdirahman is a 43 year-old who just made his 6th Olympic Team. Abdirahman was always a dark horse to make the team, but has not had a top marathon performance in the last couple of years. His most recent result was a 3rd place at the New York Marathon in 2016. He competed over 10,000M at Sydney, 10,000M at Athens, the Marathon in Beijing, the Marathon in London, and is now headed to Tokyo. Abdirahman was only one minute and seven seconds off his personal best at the Trials. His personal best is 2:08:56.
Alphine Tuliamuk runs with the NAZ Elite squad and was 3rd at the Rotterdam Marathon in 2019. Tuliamuk was born in Kenya and is one of 32 children. After coming to the states for college, Tuliamuk stayed in the U.S. and got her American citizenship in 2016. The victory at the Trials was her 10th U.S. American title and she just missed her personal best 2:26 personal best from Rotterdam. As a hobby, Tuliamuk knits hats – you may have seen her wearing one at the race start and another at the finish. Tuliamuk was my dark horse entering the Trials.
The second place finisher in the women’s race was Molly Seidel. Seidel made her marathon debut at the Trials after qualifying with a half marathon performance. Runner’s World had a great article of Seidel returning from an eating disorder on her way to the Trials. Seidel ran a gutsy race and sat in the pack for the majority of the race before covering the move by Tuliamuk. Seidel works at a coffee shop to supplement her running income (maybe after winning $55,000 at the Trials, this will change).
Sally Kipyego grabbed the third spot at the Trials. Kipyego was considered by many as one to watch entering the Trials and she ran a great race as well. Kipyego was also not born in the U.S. and like Tuliamuk was born in Kenya. Unlike the two previous finishers however, Kipyego is a big name in distance running. She is a two time silver medalist at the 10,000M, once at the World Championships and again at Olympics. Kipyego had recently run her personal best in berlin with a 2:25 performance, she was also the runner-up at the New York Marathon in 2016. Tokyo will be Kipyego’s second Olympics.
Some pundits would say that Rachel Cliff has had a difficult 2020 season. Even though Cliff has only toed the line one time, where she ran a pretty good race, both of her Canadian records were broken, in a single day, in the same event. First, Natasha Wodak beat her half marathon mark to become the first Canadian under 1:10 for the distance (this has recently been broken again), then only an hour and fourteen minutes later, Malindi Elmore broke Cliff’s Canadian record over the marathon. Now, it is Cliff’s turn to go faster and to make waves in the Tokyo Marathon.
The streets will be much more quiet than usual at this rendition of Tokyo. Due to the coronavirus, the mass participation race has been cancelled for this year’s event, a decision that hopefully bears no foreshadowing on the Olympics. Even still, the excitement has not completely disappeared from the 2020 edition. These elite fields are stacked. For the men, 12 men have run under the 2:06 barrier including 2:02 man Berhanu Legese. For the women, Ruti Aga leads the way in a field that includes five women who have run sub-2:20.
The list of athletes to watch at this year’s race include past Champion Dickson Chumba. Chumba is a two-time Tokyo Marathon Champion and a nineteen time marathoner. Chumba’s resume is impressive. Sporting a personal best of 2:04, Chumba has also won Chicago, won the Roma Marathon, won the Eindhoven Marathon, finished second in Chicago, finished second in Toronto, has finished third in Chicago, and has finished third in Tokyo three times. Impressive.
Currently ranked 2nd in the world over 42.2K, Berhanu Legese could be considered the class of the field. Sporting a personal best of 2:02, yes 2:02, Legese is also the defending Champion in Tokyo. 2019 was truly Legese’s breakout year. Previously, he had only run two marathons with the best one a 6th place finish in Dubai. His half marathon personal best is a quick 59:20.
Getaneh Molla is the second fastest athlete in the field with a personal best of 2:03 from Dubai last year. Molla only raced five times in 2019, but each race was a different distance and his range spanned from his 2:03 performance to a 7:46 3,000M race at Stanford. Although the Dubai win is his only marathon performance, Molla does have experience on the world stage including a 5th place finish at the World Half Marathon Championships in 2018. His personal best for the half is 60:26.
Sisay Lemma ran two marathons in 2019. His first performance was a 30th place in Boston running 2:22, followed up by a 2:03 performance in Berlin. That is quite a jump. Prior to the 2019 season however, Lemma was more consistent. Some career highlights include a wins at the 2018 Ljubljana Marathon, the 2013 Warszawa Marathon, the 2014 Vienna City Marathon, the 2014 Frankfurt Marathon, and his 3rd place at Berlin in 2019.
Bedan Karoki is a big name and is one of the best half marathoners in the world. Like many athletes. the transition between the distances was rocky at first, but it seems that Karoki has settled into the distance. Sporting a half marathon personal bets of 58:42, Karoki made his marathon debut in 2017 finishing 3rd in London. After finishing 4th in Fukuoka Karoki has a tougher 2018 marathon season, but in 2019 bounced back with a second place in Tokyo and a 4th place at Chicago. His personal best over 42.2K is 2:05.
Suguru Osako is the Japanese record holder for the marathon and a former Nike Oregon Project athlete, although he was not coached directly by Salazar. Osako is also the holder of two other records, the 3000M and the 5,000M. In terms of his marathon history, Osako made his debut at the 2017 Boston Marathon where he finished 3rd. He has followed up this performance with a 3rd place in Fukuoka in 2017, 3rd in Chicago in 2018 (NR), and 3rd in the Japanese Marathon Championships (similar to their Olympic Trials). His NR for the marathon is 2:05.
Yuta Shitara has already raced twice in 2019, but is perhaps best known for his front running approach at the Japanese Marathon Championships last fall where Shitara went out hard in the heat, held on until about 32K and then slowly got absorbed by a pack. It is clear Shitara is is a gutsy runner. He also has a pretty impressive marathon resume. In 2017, Shitara finished 6th in Berlin. Shitara followed this up by a 2nd in Tokyo in 2018, 4th at Fukuoka in 2018, and a win at the Gold Coast Marathon in 2019 beating Zane Robertson. Shitara’s personal best is 2:06.
For the women, Tigist Girma will be a name that is familiar to Canadian fans. Girma, who has only ever registered marathons according to World Athletics, is won the Ottawa marathon last year. Girma is a 2:19 marathon runner and has won the Beirut Marathon, the Guangzhou Marathon, and finished second in Amsterdam last year. Girma’s consistency in terms of placing is very consistent in every marathon she has run, she has never been outside the top 5.
Ruti Aga is considered by some as the class of this field and with her personal best of 2:18 may just be the winner. Aga did not finish her marathon debut, but has impressed since. In her first year running marathons, Aga finished 3rd in Berlin in 2016. Although Aga struggled in the spring of 2017, Aga ran well in Berlin again finishing second. In 2018, Aga really made an impact on global marathoning with a 2nd place finish in Tokyo and then setting her personal best in Berlin with another 2nd place. In 2019, Aga won the Tokyo Marathon and after being forced to withdraw from the World Championships, finished 3rd in New York.
Birhane Dibaba is the other 2:18 marathon runner on this Tokyo Marathon start list. Dibaba has a deep history in the marathon, having run the race every year since 2012. Recently, Dibaba finished 2nd in the Tokyo Marathon and 10th in the 2017 World Championships. In 2018, Dibaba won the Tokyo Marathon and in 2019, set her personal best in Valencia with a third place finish. Dibaba also set her half marathon personal best in 2019 with a time of 1:05 in Copenhagen.
Better known as Valary Jemeli, Valary Aiyabei is the third ranked marathoner in the world heading into 2020. Canadian fans may remember Jemeli from her second place finish at the Ottawa 10K last year. Although she ran four 10K races in 2019, the marathon is truly where her talent is. Over the marathon distance, Jemeli has lowered her personal best from 2:39 (set in 2013) to a modest 2:19. I was in 2017 where Jemeli really hit her marathon stride with a win at the Praha Marathon and a 3rd place in Berlin. To follow this up, Jemeli finished 2nd in the 2018 Nagoya Women’s Marathon, won the 2018 Beijing Marathon, finished 3rd in the 2019 Nagoya Women’s Marathon, won the 2019 Eldoret Marathon and won the 2019 Frankfurt Marathon in a course record time.
Cemtai Salpeter first caught my eye in last year’s World Championships with an aggressive and gutsy performance despite the fact that she was unable to finish. The Israeli athlete is a 2:19 marathoner which is the country’s national record. Similar to Jemeli, Salpeter also had an astronomical breakthrough in the marathon which lead from a drop from a 2:40 marathon in 2017 (granted this was the very hot World Championships) down to a 2:24 in 2018 and a 2:19 in 2019. This breakthrough performance was her Prague Marathon victory in 2019 which put her on the map for the marathon.
With every race there are always those story lines to follow beyond the race itself. Here are my three storylines to watch:
For Rachel Cliff, it’s unlikely that a sub 2:20 clocking is in the cards, but with the Olympics on the horizon, it is important to put in a solid performance. Cliff has run well at both her marathon starts. She first raced the distance in Berlin where, flying under the radar, Cliff gave the Canadian record a scare with a 2:28 performance. In her only other marathon start, Cliff ran the Nagoya Women’s Marathon. Here, Cliff broke the Canadian record by a wide margin, clocking a time of 2:26.
This run is important for Cliff. At the time of her 2:26, Cliff was considered a lock for the Olympic team. Her time seemed out of reach for many Canadian women. However, when Cliff opted not to run in Canadian Marathon Trials in October, Dayna Pidhoresky laid down a smashing performance and picked up an automatic spot for the Canadian Marathon Team. Pidhoresky was closely preceded by Lyndsay Tessier’s top-10 performance at Doha which also gave her the Olympic standard and then followed by Malindi Elmore’s 2:24 Canadian record in Houston. All of this to say, Cliff is likely Athletics Canada’s third selection for the Olympic team which may be too close for comfort and a good performance in Tokyo will certainly help her case. In Canada performing is especially relevant as Athletics Canada seems intent on athletes showing fitness to gain a selection to the Olympics.
In terms of training for the upcoming race, Rachel Cliff was down in Flagstaff for a chunk of her training working with the Mile2Marathon Elite and British Columbia Endurance Project. Based on her previous record in the marathon, I expect Cliff will improve her time and on the fast Tokyo course with a lot of talented women to run with, Cliff could give Malindi Elmore’s Canadian record a scare. A top 10 performance in the race is certainly in the cards for Cliff as well.
Cliff has personal bests of 2:26 over the marathon; 1:10 over the half; and 31:54 for 10K.
Ethiopia Olympic Team
With the Olympics in Japan on the horizon, no doubt a lot of athletes have flocked to Tokyo to prove they can run on Japanese roads. In particular the start lists for this rendition of the Tokyo Marathon feature lots of Ethiopian depth which make you wonder whether the athletes, agents or the federation have made it clear that experience here is vital.
Unlike Kenya, Ethiopia has not tilted their hand as to who or when they will make their selections for their Olympic team. Like Kenya, usually the selections are not based on merit and leave stars off the team. Either way, athletes such as Aga, Dibaba, Chumba and Legese will certainly be looking to impress selectors. Fast times as well of a proven record of wining cannot hurt your selection, can it?
Japanese Olympic Team
Unlike the Ethiopian team, the Japanese team selection process is pretty straight and narrow. Essentially, in September of last year the Japanese Championships occurred where two of the three spots for the teams were decided. From my understanding, the third spot is also tentatively reserved for the third place finisher, unless the Japanese Marathon Record is broken between now and the end of May. With Osako, the current national record holder, sitting on the bubble spot, it will be vital for him to ensure he is the first placed Japanese runner in this race if it goes out fast and puts his record in jeopardy. As for who could break the record, Yuta Shitara is probably the only athlete who can really give it a run. Shitara’s personal best is within a minute of the Japanese record.
On the women’s side, I am not sure if there is any chance the national record goes down. The current record sits at 2:19 set in 2005.
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The fields are deep. The course is hilly. The drama is real.
Welcome to the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials.
On February 29, 2020, hundreds of elite runners will take to the streets of Atlanta Georgia. For many, this marks the end of the journey – the journey to prove they are among the best in American distance running. For others, this is only the start or a chapter of their journey with the goal of qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
As a Canadian, the U.S. Olympic Trials are the purest form of racing there is: no pacemakers, tangent line, no East African pack far ahead of the domestic race. In these trials, there is one goal – to finish in the top three spots. Beyond the racing, the best part about the trials is that everyone in North America will be able to watch it live on NBC beginning at 12 PM ET on the Leap Day, no VPN (if you have cable) necessary.
For the women’s race, even with the recent withdrawal of defending champion Amy Cragg, this line up is the deepest in recent memory. Among the major contenders there are serious question marks, gritty competitors and those who are unproven in a trials format.
Topping the list for the women’s side has to be Desiree Linden. Linden’s resume is pretty well known (for obvious reasons) but a few highlights include her 2nd place at the Trials in 2016, a 7th place at the Rio 2016 Olympics, 4th place at the 2017 Boston Marathon, and finally, her epic win at the 2018 Boston Marathon. Linden’s personal best is 2:22. Between her experience and grit, Linden is a hard athlete to bet against.
Sarah Hall is another contender who is not getting a lot of press headed into the Trials, but she should be. In stark contrast to Cragg, Hall has raced A LOT in the last year or so, all with the goal of making her first Olympic team. Her notable marathon results include a 5th place in Berlin 2019 and a 3rd place in Ottawa 2018. Recently, Hall also set her half marathon personal best in Houston running 1:08. Her marathon personal best is 2:22. Hall is tough, an element which will come in handy on the hills.
Molly Huddle has won so many American titles, I have lost count, but I would argue that she has not quite mastered the marathon distance. Huddle could finally breakthrough at this year’s Olympic Trials. Huddle’s recent marathon results include a 12th place finish in London 2019 and a 4th place in New York 2018. Sporting a personal best of 2:26, Huddle will be well placed to compete in the Trials as it is a non-paced affair. With a half marathon personal best of 1:07 and a 5,000 personal best of 14:42, Huddle’s speed could certainly be a factor.
With new coach Paula Radcliffe to guide her, Jordan Hasay will be hoping her injury bug disappears at for the Trials this year. If she is healthy, it will be difficult to stop who many are calling, the class of the field. Hasay has a short but successful history with the marathon including a 3rd place at Boston in 2017, a 3rd place at Chicago in 2017, and another 3rd place at Boston in 2019. Her personal best is 2:20 and barring injury she would likely have the American record by now.
Emily Sisson is a runner not a lot of casual fans of the sport would know, but I can assure you she has been knocking on the door of marathon stardom for some time. In 2019, Sisson had a major marathon breakthrough after she ran 2:23 in her debut at the London marathon, good for a 6th place finish. Sisson has also had success with the half marathon with a personal best of 1:07.
Also a relative unknown, Kellyn Taylor runs with the NAZ Elite group in Flagstaff. In 2015 Taylor put herself on the map with a 6th place finish in the Houston Marathon. To follow this up, Taylor impressed with a 6th place finish in the 2016 Trials. Since, Taylor won the 2018 Grandma’s Marathon in 2:24, finishing 4th in Prague in 2019 and 7th in New York. Taylor recently tied for first at the Arizona Half.
Other notables: Aliphine Tuliamuk, Stephanie Bruce, Lindsay Flanagan, Allie Kieffer, Sarah Sellers, Sally Kipyego, Roberta Groner, Becky Wade.
Where the women’s race is really wide open, the main contenders on the men’s side is smaller group. Defending Champion, Galen Rupp is the clear favourite for the event. Rupp has a golden resume. This includes a silver medal in the London Olympics 10,000, the Olympic Trials win in 2016 and his bronze medal in the Rio Olympic Marathon. Since Rupp has also posted some pretty good results including finishing 2nd at the 2017 Boston Marathon, winning the 2017 Chicago Marathon, winning the 2018 Praha Marathon, and finishing 5th at the 2018 Chicago Marathon. Rupp has not had his challenges however, surgery and injury issues have kept the super star off the racing circuit for some time and the controversy around Alberto Salazar likely has not helped. Having said this, Rupp sports the fastest personal best in the field at 2:06 and recently ran a 61 minute half to win the Mesa Half.
Jared Ward is the most consistent competitor in the men’s race and is looking to return to his second Olympics. Ward, who finished 3rd in the 2016 Trials, has seen his career take off since that result. This began with his 6th place at the Rio Olympics and was followed up by a 10th place at the 2017 Boston Marathon and 12th at the 2017 New York Marathon. After a brief injury bug, Ward finished an impressive 6th at the 2018 New York Marathon and in 2019, finally broke 2:10 with a 8th place and 2:09 performance at the Boston Marathon. This result was quickly followed by a 6th place at the 2019 New York Marathon. Expect another solid performance from Ward who just ran a good half marathon preparation race in Houston.
You may know him from his 7th place performance at the 2019 Boston Marathon, but NAZ Elite athlete Scott Fauble, is not a one hit wonder. Fauble is actually a popular pick for this year’s Olympic trials and ran the second fastest marathon by an American in 2019 with a 2:09. Before putting himself on the global running map with his Boston performance, Fauble finished 7th at 2018 New York City Marathon prior to debuting at the 2017 Frankfurt Marathon in a time of 2:12. Expect Fauble and Ward to run similar races at the trials, both with an exceptional shot to make the team. Fauble sports a personal best of 2:09.
Whereas Fauble ran the second fastest American time in 2019, Leonard Korir ran the fastest – in his debut. The front running, hard hitting American debuted last fall in Amsterdam where he placed 12th, yes 12th, with a time 2:07. Beyond the marathon, Korir has had an illustrious career. The 33 year-old is a world class cross country runner and a 59:52 half marathon runner. While he is strong from running a lot of cross country, Korir has never run an non-paced and/or hilly marathon which could be a factor. Still, expect Korir to be one of the first to make a move at these Trials.
The presence of Bernard Lagat looms large over the Olympic Trials Marathon. Lagat is a monster in American Track and Field and a five time Olympian as well as an Olympic medalist. After beginning as a 1,500M and 5,000M runner, Lagat has brought his talents to the marathon in recent years. In 2018, Lagat debuted at the New York Marathon running to an 18th position, but last year took a major step forward at the distance running 2:12 in Australia. It will be interesting to see if the 45 year old has one more Olympic berth in the legs.
Jim Walmsley is a true wild card in this race. Initially written off by many, Walmsley has been putting in work over the last few months to get his legs in marathon shape. For those who may not know, Walmsley is the best American ultra runner, by miles. Now he is looking to bring his skills over the long distances to the roads of Atlanta. Walmsley has never raced a traditional marathon, but do not let that fool you. In order to qualify for the race, Walmsley snuck in a 64 minute half marathon at Houston to gain the standard for the Olympic Trials. If you want to read more about Walmsley the New York Times and Sports Illustrated both did amazing in-depth features.
Other notables: Parker Stinson, Matthew Llano, Scott Smith, Elkanah Kibet, Connor McMillan, Ryan Vail, Chris Derrick, Martin Hehir, Dathan Ritzenhein, Abdi Abdirahman, Shadrack Biwott, Timothy Ritchie.
The Story Lines
Shoes, Shoes, Shoes
Unless you’ve been living under a rock or don’t follow elite running at all, you have heard about the shoe debates, show controversy, and shoe wars that have seemed to capture distance running across the world. Although I won’t go into the full shoe debate, in short, there is a lot of worry that Nike athletes will have a distinct and unfair advantage in terms of technology at the trials. After all, Nike athletes will be able to sport the AlphaFly Next% at the trials. Having said that, it seems like other brands have responded, and lead by Saucony, the playing field is certainly more level than that last couple of years.
Still, there will definitely talk about shoes. For example, if Lagat, Rupp and Korir are the top 3 men, there will be a lot of conversation around footwear as they are all Nike athletes. However, it is also entirely possible that Rupp, Ward (Saucony) and Fauble (Hoka) are the top three, but lets be honest, shoes will still be the topic of conversation.
But I think enough has been covered on this topic that I can move on. If you need to hear more simply google, Vaporfly debate.
“Hills for Days” is often an expression that runners use to describe their training, but in the case of this course in Atlanta it may actually be the case.
Essentially, this course features absolutely no flat sections as it is always rolling. Having said that, the hills do not appear to be particularly steep, but will still ensure that the quads are put to the test.
The course itself consists of three major loops including a long out-and-back on Peachtree Avenue, the final few kilometres then veers of onto a new course with the steepest incline of the race beginning with one mile to go.
For those interested in more course details, Runner’s World did a great feature on the course.
In addition to the depth of the fields, the fields are also very very large. This will be the largest U.S. Olympic Trials for sometime with 771 athletes getting the qualifying mark. Of the qualifiers, 511 of these participants are women.
For organizers, this has posed a couple of logistical issues, which I am sure they will deal with adequately.
The first is financial. Organizers promised they would pay for the travel expenses for all of the qualifiers, something which has never been done before. And as you can expect, 771 runners is far more than they were expecting.
More important to the race however, will be the logistical challenge of personalized drinks. As is per the custom at Gold Label Races, athletes have the opportunity to have a personal drink stationed on a drink table every 5K. These drinks, which are a personal concoction of the electrolytes the athletes have practiced with, are usually in groups of six bottles per table with six feet in between each. Let’s just say the drink station will run for quite a long way at this year’s event. Expect athletes to mark their bottles with flags or colours to make them stand out.Hopefully we have no drink station issues.
Solid Prize Money
There is some sweet prize money on offer for this rendition of the trials.
To put this into comparison to Canada, the Canadian Olympic Trials offered 8,000 dollars for the top Canadian, albeit there was more money on offer if they placed in the Open race as well.
Here are my predictions for the race. I provide my top 3, plus a darkhorse (who is someone I did not preview).
Sarah Hall – she is on fire recently and it will stay that way. Hall is a smart racer.
Desiree Linden – ever consistent. Linden will make the team again.
Emily Sisson – will make her first Olympic team and continue on the road to marathon stardom.
Darkhorse: Aliphine Tuliamuk – the NAZ elite runner that nobody is talking about will make an impact on this race.
Side note: If Hasay finishes, I think she will make the team, but injuries have plagued the super star recently and she recently DNS’d in Houston.
Galen Rupp – will defend. His 61 minute half gave me confidence.
Jared Ward – Mr. consistency will run a solid race. Expect people to key off of Ward.
Scott Fauble – it will be tight, but his experience and success in non-paced races will make the difference.
Darkhorse: Dathan Ritzenhein – battles with injuries but never count him out. Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to have.
Side note: Korir will be tough to beat, but I chalked this up to experience.
I want to hear from you and hear your predictions. Follow and Tweet me @AndersenRuns.
In my list of 10 things to watch for 2020, I tried to underscore the importance of the Olympics in Canadian athletics. To do this, I tried to explain that the interest of the sport is at an all-time high and that is where athletes make a name for themselves in the eye of the public and prove to sponsors that an increase in their contract is worth it.
Therefore, qualifying for the Olympics is every Canadian athlete’s dream. It is what drives them go get out the door, lace up the shoes and run – thousands of kilometres every year.
With the Olympics as the principle objective of every track athlete, the indoor season in 2020 has the potential to be far more important than ever before.
For readers who may not be aware, the athletics indoor season usually spans from January to March culminating in the World Indoors, which this year will be in Nanjing, China. Within the indoor season itself, there are some pretty big events. In North America, the largest is certainly the Milrose Games – where the Wannamaker Mile is run. In Europe, the World Athletics Indoor Tour draws some of the biggest names from around the globe with the goal of culminating in the World Indoors.
In terms of type of races, indoor seasons provide athletes with an opportunity to step up or down in distance (depending on the athlete’s focus) and develop their speed or strength work. Then, to begin outdoor track season in April, athletes begin to compete in their distance of choice.
As the Tokyo 2020 Olympics are even earlier than normal, athletes will put more attention on their indoor season. It is now more important than ever to ensure that you have the standards early in the process in order to get a clean run at the Games. Knowing you are going to be named to the team, for example like Canada’s Mo Ahmed, allows you to tactfully develop your build. Therefore, getting the standard early is most helpful.
Just last week at the Boston University John Thomas meet, we saw a 5,000M race targeting the Olympic standard on a 200M indoor track, an attempt rarely seen. I believe this is purely due to the fact that Olympic teams will be named earlier this cycle compressing the time allowed for athletes to hit the standard.
Not only will athletes be looking to indoor seasons to achieve these standards, but it also means that the opportunity on the outdoor tracks will be fewer (especially for events not included in the Diamond League). Take the 5,000M or 10,000M for example, where there are only a select number of races to achieve the standard; athletes who usually like to run a couple ‘B’ races before taking on their goal race must now be at the top of their game exiting the indoor season in order to maximize their opportunity.
Outside of Olympic qualifying, the indoor season provides an opportunity for the top runners around the world to size up their competition before they head to Tokyo. The Nanjing track will be witness to some titan battles between the likes of Hassan, Muir and Debues-Stafford or Brazier against Rotich – both previews of what we expect to see in Tokyo.
Already, at the writing of this article, we have seen some MEGA performances from Canadian athletes on the indoor surface, including Julie-Anne Steahli’s world indoor standard run at BU, Jessica’s two-mile Canadian record and Justyn Knight’s dominant win opening his season with a 3:59 mile. I expect these types of performances to continue for Canadian athletes in 2020.
If I have convinced you that you should pay attention to the indoor season, here are the meets you should watch:
February 8 – Millrose Games (preview to come)
February 15 – Müller Indoor Grand Prix Glasgow
February 19 – Meeting Hauts-de-France Pas-de-Calais
March 13 – 15 – World Indoor Championships (preview to come)
Of note, here are the standards for the World Indoors:
4:09.00 / 4:28.50 (Mile)
You can access a full list of the Athletics Canada ranking, here.
Wow. What a weekend for Canadian running. And running running across the globe.
For Canadian fans, we saw two national records and one near miss. These performances were accompanied by many personal bests in all distances from Canadian athletes.
We will get to the Canadian athletes in a bit, but let’s first go over the overall winners.
The men’s marathon results were like so: 1 – Kelkile Gezahegn (ETH) in 2:08:36; 2 – Bronsa Dida (ETH) in 2:10:37 ; 3 – Amanuel Mesel (ERI) in 2:11:04; 4 -Benson Seurei (BRN) in 2:11:51; 5. Stephen Scullion (IRL) in 2:11:52.
The women’s marathon results followed like so: 1 – Askale Merachi (ETH) in 2:23:29; 2 – Biruktayit Degefa Eshetu (ETH) in 2:24:47; 3 – Malindi Elmore (CAN) in 2:24:50; 4 – Meseret Belete (ETH) in 2:24:54; 5 – Bekelech Gudeta (ETH) in 2:29:22.
The men’s half marathon results followed with: 1 – Jemal Yimer (ETH) in 59:25; 2 – Bernard Ngeno (KEN) in 59:26; 3 – Shadrack Kimining (KEN) in 59:27; 4 – Philemon Kiplimo (KEN) in 59:28; 5 – Abel Kipchumba (KEN) in 59:35; 6 – Geoffrey Koech (KEN) in 59:36; 7 – Gabriel Gerald Geay (TAN) in 59:42; 8 – Shura Kitata (ETH) in 59:47; 9 – Andamlak Belihu Berta (ETH) in 59:52; 10 Jake Robertson (NZL) in 1:00:12.
Other notables included: 11 – Jared Ward (USA) in 1:01:36; 15 – Rory Linkletter (CAN) in 1:01:44; 31 – Cameron Levins (CAN) in 1:02:14; 41 – Tristan Woodfine (CAN) in 1:03:30; 51 – Phil Parrot-Migas (CAN) in 1:03:53; 76 – Chris Balestrini (CAN) in 1:06:03; 78 – Adam Hortian (CAN) in 1:06:28.
The women’s half marathon results ended like so: 1 – Hitomi Niiya (JPN) 1:06:38 NATIONAL RECORD; 2 – Brillian Jepkorir (KEN) in 1:08:08; 3 – Caroline Kipkirui (KEN) in 1:08:13; 4 – Gotytom Gebreslase (ETH) in 1:08:19; 5 – Dorcas Tuitoek (KEN) in 1:08:24; 6 -Ruti Aga (ETH) in 1:08:25; 7 – Caroline Rotich (KEN) in 1:08:53; 8 – Stephanie Twell (GBR) in 1:08:55; 9 – Sarah Hall (USA) in 1:08:58; 10 – Geleta Burka (ETH) in 1:09:05.
Other notables included: 12 – Molly Huddle (USA) in 1:09:34; 16 – Becky Wade (USA) in 1:09:40; 17 – Natasha Wodak (CAN) in 1:09:41; 23 – Rachel Cliff (CAN) in 1:10:13; 25 – Sarah Inglis (GBR) in 1:10:24; 35 – Emily Setlack (CAN) 1:11:40; 38 – Kinsey Middleton (CAN) in 1:12:15; 69 – Julia Howard (CAN) in 1:16:09; 75 – Melissa Paauwe (CAN) in 1:17:06.
Now that you are caught up, here are my seven takeaways.
What can I say. Malindi Elmore is a boss. Aside from the spectacular 2:24, the fact that she ran in the 2004 Olympics in Athens over the 1,500M, moved to triathlon, had two kids, returned to running “just to try” the marathon, debut at 2:31, and THEN ran 2:24 is simply amazing.
Now, Elmore is the Canadian Record Holder for the Marathon, and at the age of 39, broke the previous mark by two minutes. Oh and a third place finish (winning $10,000) does not hurt either.
When I spoke to Elmore in the October before the Canadian Olympic Trials, she stated that her “goal will be show up fit, healthy and ready to knock off the Olympic qualifying standards. I want to set myself up is the least ambiguous situation possible heading into the final selection phase in May next year.” I think all of those goals are accomplished (but I will talk more about the Olympics later on).
Setting a Canadian record is no easy task. Just ask Reid Coolsaet and Eric Gillis, but the fact that Elmore made this achievement in just her second marathon is all the more amazing. Her splits were also a thing of beauty. Check out more on her Strava.
I think Elmore would tell us that her accomplishment was made even sweater that she now, unlike 2004, has two young boys that she will share this moment with for years to come. As she told me back in October: “If I made a second Olympic team I would feel like it was such an amazing collaboration between my core team (my husband/current coach Graham Hood, my longtime coach/advisor Mike Van Tighem, and friend/advisor Trent Stellingwerff) as well as my parents, children, friends, community etc., who have all been 100% on board with this ‘project’. I feel like this goal is less about me personally making a team and more about the role of team support and making a comeback in a pursuit where dreams had been already laid peacefully to rest.”
What is next for Elmore? Most likely rest and then a build looking forward to Tokyo 2020. Don’t be surprised if Elmore makes a couple Canadian appearances at the Sun Run, Ottawa 10K, the World Half Marathon Championship and/or the Manitoba Half Marathon to defend her Canadian Half Marathon Championship title.
Malindi, you inspire us.
Over an hour before Elmore crossed the line, Natasha Wodak was making history of her own. Despite saying pre-race in an Instagram post that it would likely not be her day, Wodak also set a Canadian record in the half marathon. In doing so, she became the first Canadian to run sub 1:10 for the distance, 1:09:41 officially.
In my preview, I mentioned that Wodak could have a good run and that she could potentially get the Canadian record. Having said this, the last few months have been no picnic for Canada’s most consistent distance track athlete. Wodak admittedly had a tough race at the World Championships in Doha before finishing 4th at the Canadian Cross Country Championships.
After taking a couple months to reset and recuperate, Wodak showed how fit she actually is with her race in Houston. If I recall, Wodak has been chasing this elusive Canadian monument for a couple years now at Houston. In last years race, anticipation was running high that both Wodak and Rachel Cliff (the previous record holder) could break the record. Perhaps the reason Wodak was able to achieve the mark this year is due to the fact that there were no expectations entering the race.
Like Elmore, Wodak’s splits did nothing to hinder her. Although there was a small positive split, her split times (as shared below by Trent Stellingwerff) were perfect for an ambitious, record-breaking performance.
What is next for Wodak? Expect to see her at the Pan American Cross Country Cup before hitting the track in the spring where she will look to return to the Olympics in the 10,000M.
Oh and no small feat., she was recognized my Strava.
Congratulations 🎉to @tasha_wodak on setting a new 🇨🇦 Canadian half-marathon record of 1:09:41 at the @HoustonMarathon. Natasha is the first Canadian woman to break 70 minutes over 13.1 miles – incredible!
A name that slipped off the radar for many Canadian running fans, including on Twitter where he was not included in the “notables” by some pundits, was Rory Linkletter. Linkletter, a Canadian who lives and trains in the states, is not as widely known by Canadian fans, made his marathon debut in the Fall at the Canadian Marathon Trials.
Although his debut in the full was likely not what he expected, his debut in the half was almost perfect. In only one race, Linkletter made the jump from “debut” status to the second fastest Canadian of all time.
During the race broadcast Linkletter can be seen many times, riding at the back of an unusually large pack (and out of the wind) with the likes of Jared Ward and Cam Levins. As the pack began to dissolve in the final hundred metres, Linkletter stayed in the middle of things, finishing in 15th in a time of 1:01:44. Linkletter missed the current Canadian record by 16 seconds.
It is safe to say that Linkletter is happy with his performance and has, if he runs a spring marathon, his eyes set on that 2:11:30 mark to get into the Olympic games. As he told me in the fall: “I believe I can do this, I will run well enough to be an Olympic caliber marathoner.”
Aside from the three profiled before, a host of Canadian athletes ran personal bests in Houston.
To start them off, Anne Johnston crushed her personal best this weekend, taking a full SIX MINUTES off her marathon personal best to run 2:36. The Newfoundland and Labrador native is also the Telly 10 miler course record holder. I believe this performance also puts her second all time for N&L women in the marathon.
Cam Levins was the second Canadian male in the half marathon and ran with Rory Linkletter for the the majority of the race. Levins lost contact in the closing kilometres to finish just outside the 62 minute barrier, finishing at 1:02:14 and still clocking a personal best. Levins finished 30th.
Not on the elite start list but not to be missed was Tristan Woodfine. Woodfine, who owns a 2:13 marathon personal best, knocked off his personal best by over 70 seconds, running 1:03:30. Woodfine finished 41st. It was also announced last week that Woodfine, along with Canadian men Ben Preisner and Evan Esselink, will be running London in April.
Phil Parrot-Migas (51st) and Kevin Coffey (73rd) also set personal bests. Parrot-Migas took off around two minutes running 1:03:53 and Coffey took off three seconds running 1:05:53. According to the splits it looks like Coffey, a Mile2Marathon coach, really went for it, but just didn’t quite have legs on the day.
Emily Setlack (I was right in my preview that they got her nationality wrong) finished 35th in the women’s half marathon and ran a personal best of about 50 seconds for a 1:11:40. Setlack, like Elmore, had an amazing 2019 campaign and it looks like that momentum is continuing into 2020.
Kinsey Middleton took 40 seconds off her personal best running 1:11:48 good for a 37th place finish. This result is a good bounce back from the Idaho based Canadian. It was announced last week that she will be running London in search of the Olympic standard this April.
Honourable Canadian, and an actual Scot, Sarah Inglis also ran a massive personal best taking over two minutes of her time to run 1:10:24.
Stiff Competition for the Canadian Marathon Team
The Houston Marathon actually muddied the waters of who will be on the Canadian Marathon Team when the plane takes off for Tokyo on both the women’s and men’s side.
For Athletics Canada, the process of selecting the women’s team has become MUCH more complex. For the first time in years (ever?) Athletics Canada will have to select three out of four Canadian women to represent the country over the marathon distance. Dayna Pidhoresky, due to the fact that she already won the Trials and has the standard is in. For the others, it will be an intense waiting game with pressure to show fitness, intense. In terms of times run within the qualifying window, Malindi Elmore (2:24) and Rachel Cliff (2:26) are faster than Lyndsay Tessier’s 9th place from the World Championships in Doha. Having said that and as Dylan Wykes rightly pointed out to me, it is really an accomplishment to finish 9th in the World in the Marathon and that must be considered, especially since the Olympic marathon is a championship-style event.
An added element to all of this is we don’t know who (if anyone else) will achieve the standard. Remember that Olympic veterans Lanni Marchant and Krista Duchene will want to have a say in matters and Kinsey Middleton and Emily Setlack seem both on the cusp of a breakthrough.
Good luck Athletics Canada.
Although the picture seems much clearer for the men, with only Trevor Hofbauer holding the standard, the waters could get muddy here as well. Just from the performances of Tristan Woodfine and Rory Linkletter this weekend in Houston, there are two potential qualifiers. At the same time, Ben Priesner and Evan Esselink, both 62 minute guys, are also set to run the fast London course. The giant in the room and Canadian Record Holder, Cam Levins has yet to officially declare where he will start, Rotterdam is likely, which sets him up for a fast time as well. Whereas veterans Reid Coolsaet and Dylan Wykes can certainly not be discounted – Wykes is running Boston and Coolsaet may follow suit (where a top 10 gets you the standard).
If you want to run fast in January, run Houston.
Houston is a fast course. Although it may have been punctuated by the VapourFly’s the relative flatness of the course, coupled with the fields it draws, the relatively calm and mild weather makes it perfect for runners, of all abilities, to run fast.
Update: Just got the gun time reports from #HouHalf. Officially:
MEN – 29 sub-1:03 (18 Americans) 53 sub-1:04 57 sub-1:05
Take the Toronto Waterfront Marathon half for example (which by the way is a super fast race in itself). The winner of the men’s half was Ben Preisner in 1:03:08. At Houston, 36 athletes went inside that mark. For the women, the winning time at the Toronto half was 1:15:12 from Brittany Moran. In Houston, 60 women went inside the time.
All that to say, to run fast, head to Houston. Understandably, prize money is another draw, and if the field is too fast, Canadian athletes may not have the opportunity to make their living.
Instead, Canadian’s may opt to run Arizona Rock and Roll (as a few did), Robbie Burns in Burlington, Ontario, or keep their powder dry.
Calum Neff is the weekend’s unsung hero
As discussed at points in the broadcast, Canadian marathoner Calum Neff was raising money for the Houston Marathon foundation at this year’s race. Neff, who is an elite runner himself and holds the World Record for fastest marathon pushing a stroller, raised money by passing as many athletes as possible. The Foundation supports scholarships and local young people across Houston.