Houston Marathon and Half Marathon Preview

For the Americans in the field, this is it. For the Canadians in the field, opportunity beckons. For the international athletes who will take to the start line, a good season opener and a chance to impress national selectors is on the line.

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The Houston Marathon is the unofficial start to the 2020 marathon season and all eyes, at least from fans of the marathon and road racing, will be on the race. As always, the organizers at Houston have brought in a line up ready to impress. From Olympians to National Champions to former winners, the start list at Houston is stacked.

The Canucks

Let’s take a look at some of the notable Canadians before discussing the international and American challenge.

Houston is always a popular spot for Canadian distance runners. Not only is the prize money pretty deep for a January race, but it also allows Canadian athletes to find clean roads and get away from the snow that engulfs the majority of the country. The 2020 Canadian line up will not disappoint, with athletes running both the full and half marathon.

Perhaps the most intriguing name on the start list this year is Malindi Elmore (marathon). Elmore who had an impressive 2:32 debut last year in Houston is back for more after being unable to start in Toronto. Elmore is hoping to continue her momentum from last year where she not only debuted in the marathon, but finished 2nd in the Canadian 10K Championships, won the Canadian Half Marathon Championships and won the Vancouver Eastside 10K – all in impressive fashion. Elmore is certainly focused on the Olympic standard in Houston, an achievement which would make her the 4th Canadian women to hit the mark heading towards Tokyo.

Sporting a personal best of 2:35 from Toronto in 2014, Natasha LeBeaud is the also running the marathon. LeBeaud had a busy 2019 season where she ranged in racing distances from the 1,500M to the Marathon. Her marathon was run in Chicago where she ran to a 22nd place finish in 2:45. Most recently, LeBeaud won the Lululemon 10K in San Diego.

In 2019, Anne Johnston made news for becoming the 2nd fastest Canadian at the Boston Marathon. Now, Johnston is starting the marathon on the elite list in Houston. The St. John’s native’s personal best is 2:43 and has the distinction of the Tely 10 miler course record.

Rory Linkletter is racing his second major road race in Houston after debuting in the marathon at Toronto last year. Although his debut was not what he planned, Linkletter has been logging some mega miles with the Northern Arizona Elite crew and is looking FIT. Linkletter has never run a half marathon, but has a 10,000M personal best of 28:12 and a marathon best of 2:16. Linkletter is likely setting up for a second marathon in the spring, but at the date of writing, has not announced where that will be.

Canadian marathon record holder, Cam Levins will lace them up for the half marathon this weekend in Houston. Levins, who has become well known to Canadians after his 2:09 performance in Toronto in 2018, had a tough 2019 to say the least. The Canadian Marathon Trials punctuated this tough season where he simply didn’t have the gas to hang with Trevor Hofbauer. Still, I am fully confident that Levins will be on that Olympic start line come August. In terms of his previous half marathon performances, Levin’s best is from Valencia at the World Half Marathon Championships where he ran 1:02. I suspect Levins has a shot at the Canadian half marathon record of 1:01:28 this weekend.

From one Canadian marathon record holder to another, Rachel Cliff is also running the half marathon. Cliff owns both the Canadian marathon record, set last year in 2:26, and the Canadian half marathon record, set in December clocking 1:10:06. Cliff has had an amazing couple of seasons with multiple Canadian titles, a Pan-American Games bronze medal and two national records. Like Levins, Cliff could also lower the Canadian national record this weekend, and in fact, this outcome is likely.

Natasha Wodak, who beat Cliff at the Pan American games in the 10,000M, winning gold is also taking to the line. Wodak, who seems to run in Houston almost every year is also a contender to lower the Canadian half marathon record. With her strength in the 10,000 Wodak had an up-and-down 2019, but was able to win the Canadian 10K Championships in addition to her Pan American gold medal. Although the race at World’s did not go to plan, Wodak is still high in the world ranking for the distance and looks set to appear in another Games. Heading into Houston, her personal best for the half is 1:10.

The only Canadian marathoner who has officially punched her ticket to the Games, at least on the women’s side is Dayna Pidhoresky. Like the majority of her compatriots, Pidhoresky will be lining up for the half marathon this weekend. Before her victory at the Canadian Marathon Trials, Pidhoresky was known as a prolific racer and her calendar was unmatched by the majority of Canadian athletes. Although this may change now that she has the a spot in Tokyo sown up, Pidhoresky’s appearance at Houston suggests she is ready to attack the 2020 season. Pidhoresky has a half marathon personal best of 1:11 and a shinny new marathon personal best of 2:29.

Recently announced on the start list for the London Marathon, Kinsey Middleton is another big Canadian name on the start list. The two time marathoner and former Canadian champion, had an up-and-down 2019 which included a tough race at the Canadian Marathon Trials. Middleton has a personal bests of 1:12 for the half marathon and 2:32 for the marathons. With around 100 days to go until the London start, Middleton will use Houston as an opportunity to test the fitness before the marathon build truly begins.

Although she isn’t Canadian, Sarah Inglis is on the Canadian list due to the fact that she trains with the Canadian contingent out of British Columbia. Inglis recently competed in the Canadian Cross Country Championships where she finished second to the every strong, Gen Lalonde. Inglis, who is also the holder of the Canadian 5K all-comers record, has a personal best for the half marathon of 1:12.

Emily Setlack is on the Houston half marathon start list as an American, but I am pretty sure it is an error, so I will review the Canadian Emily Setlack. Setlack has an amazing 2019. Setlack set personal bests over the 10K, half marathon and marathon, including just missing the Olympic standard for the marathon (by 18 seconds) when she was the 2nd Canadian in Toronto. Her personal best for the half marathon is 1:12.

Kevin Coffey is not on the elite start list for the half marathon, but he certainly deserves to be. Coffey, who made his marathon debut in Toronto in the fall running a 2:20, trains with the British Columbia Endurance Project which includes Rachel Cliff, Evan Esselink, and Olympian Luc Bruchet. Coffey also set his personal best for half marathon this year, running 1:05 in Edmonton. Coffey also coaches for Mile2Marathon.

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Internationally and for many Americans, the Houston marathon and half marathon provides the same benefits as to the Canadian athletes, most specifically a good tune up for the Olympic trials, a solid early season race, and finally, deep prize money. Let’s meet some of the marathon notables.

In the marathon, Dominic Ondoro will take to the start. Ondoro will be known to Canadian fans for his multiple appearances in the Ottawa Marathon. His most recent appearance was in 2018 where Ondoro was dropped in the early going but still finished the race (a rarity for an elite athlete). In 2016, Ondoro finished 3rd in Ottawa. His personal best, set in 2013, is 2:08.

Hassan El Abbassi is the fastest runner in the field. Sporing a 2:04 personal best, the former Moroccan is now running under the Bahrain flag. In 2019 he failed to finish the Tokyo Marathon, but finished 2nd in Shanghai. His personal best is the Bahranian national record and was set in Valencia in 2018.

For the women, Bruktayit Degefa Eshetu is the fastest women in the field and the defending champion of the Houston Marathon. Eshetu, who sports a personal best of 2:22, ran three marathons last year (including Houston) which included a an 8th place at Boston and a 2nd place finish at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM). STWM is her personal best.

Another finisher from STWM 2019, is taking to the line in Houston. Bekelech Gudeta is a 2:27 runner who finished 9th in Toronto. She sports an impressive 1:07 personal best in the half marathon, which was set in 2018.

Although the marathon field in Houston is often deep, it is the half marathon that attracts most of the attention, and rightfully so. The fields in the half marathon are one of the deepest in the world, save the World Half Marathon Championships, and for many athletes will be the first event on their racing calendar.

Americans and Internationals who are taking to the start line include:

Jemal Yimer is the Ethiopian half marathon record holder for the half marathon and has run 58:33 for the distance. He finished 2nd in Houston last year.

Bernard Ngeno has run 59:07 for the distance. His recent results include three wins over the distance in 2019.

Shura Kitata who is famous for giving Eliud Kipchoge a run for it in London two years ago has a personal best of 60:10 in the half marathon and 2:04 for the full distance. Kitata is the defending champion.

Jake Robertson who won in Houston two years ago is a big name in International runner. He and his brother Jake (or Elvis) moved from New Zealand to Kenya when they were 16. Married to the winner of STWM last year, Robertson also ran Toronto in 2018 finishing 5th. Robertson has a personal 59:59 in the half and 2:08 in the full.

Sam Chelanga is the fastest American in the field. He is sports a personal best of 60:37 run at Houston in 2018. His only 2019 result included a 4th place finish at the Army 10 Miler in October.

If Chelanga is the fastest American in the field, Jared Ward is the most famous. In preparation for the U.S. Olympic Trials, Ward is running the half after completing an amazing 2019 season. His 2019 included a 6th in New York as well as finally breaking the 2:10 barrier in Boston. His personal best is for the half is 61:42.

On the women’s side, the field is just as deep.

Caroline Chepkoech leads the women’s field in terms of times after running a 1:05 half at RAK in 2018. Recently, Chepkoech won the Prague Half in the Spring and 5th in the Steeplechase at the World Championships.

Gelete Burka is well known to Canadian fans as the former all-comers record holder and winner of the 2018 Ottawa Marathon. Burka, who is likely the favourite for the half marathon, has a personal best of 1:06 for the half and 2:20 as the full. Recently, Burka won the Paris Marathon and finished 3rd in Chicago.

Dorcas Jepchrichir has a 1:06 personal best for the half marathon and is the third fastest in the field. Recently, she finished 3rd in the Copenhagen half marathon.

Ruti Aga is another big name gracing the start list. Although not the fastest in the field, Aga still has a personal best of 1:06 for the distance but a more impressive 2:18 over the marathon. Aga has had some incredible results as of late as well including  winning the 2019 Tokyo Marathon and finishing 3rd in New York.

Molly Huddle will be the focus of much of the American broadcast on Sunday when she kicks off her 2020 season. Huddle, who is aiming for a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team at the Trials is using Houston, like so many others, as her prep race. Huddle is an elite half marathon, and if marathon training has not taken too much of a toll, could contend this weekend. Huddle has a half personal best of 1:07 but has yet to truly conquer the marathon with a personal best of 2:26 (with a lot of room to grow). Huddle has recently competed at the Valencia Half running 1:09.

Sarah Hall, like Canadian Dayna Pidhoresky, is a prolific racer. It seems like Hall races almost every weekend and still continues to set fast and improving times 2019 was her best year yet and has thrown her into the mix (or even favourites) to make the U.S. Olympic team. Hall has a half marathon personal best of 1:09 but has a personal best of 2:22 in the marathon, where Hall finished 5th in Berlin.

Of course, I missed many athletes who are on the full start list for Houston in both the full and the half. I encourage you to take a look at the full list here.


 

Thanks for reading. Check back after the race for a full recap and analysis.

 

 

10 Story Lines to Watch in Canadian Athletics for 2020

2019 was a good year for Canadian athletics. The 2020 international and domestic calendar will provide opportunities for Canadian athletes to continue to build on the achievements that many of them reached this year.

As always, a new year brings new story lines and new goals from Canadian athletes. Of course, many of these will centre around the Olympics (which I will get into), but also include an International Championship being hosted in Canada, changes to a Canadian IAAF gold label race, and new names to look out for.

Athletics Canada
Courtesy: Canadian Running Magazine

Some story lines I expect to be impactful but did not make it into the list below include New Balance moving away from Canada and dropping the majority, if not all, of their athletes; the continued development of the Pacific Distance Carnival, and; how Canadian athletics will deal with the growing issue of harassment in the coach/athlete relationship.

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Here are the top 10 story lines to watch:

1. Olympic, Olympics, Olympics

If you didn’t know, Tokyo is hosting the 2020 Olympics and this is a big year for Canada’s athletes, across all sports.

Canada has a lot of medal hopefuls on the track and in the field, including 800M man Brandon McBride, shot putter Brittany Crew, race walker Evan Dunfee, Gabriela Debues-Stafford, and many more.

There a bunch of story lines entering these games for team Canada such as who will be on the team and how many medals Canada will win (some of which are covered below). Some areas of interest, that I have not included below, are the race walk and the marathon moving 500K from Tokyo to Sapporo (a topic Evan Dunfee has written a lot about), who will fill out the men’s marathon squad, and can Canada continue to build its medal country from Doha (as I wrote about last month).

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I think Canada will top our medal count from Rio 2016 and win medals across the field, sprints and middle/long distances.

2. Canadian Women’s Marathon Team

One of the big stories that many Canadian fans will be watching entering the games is the composition of the women’s marathon team. We know that Dayna Pidhoresky has guaranteed herself a spot after her dominant victory at the Canadian Marathon Championships.

Currently, the only other athletes who have achieved the standard are Lyndsay Tessier and Rachel Cliff. Cliff achieved the standard when she broke the Canadian record in March and Tessier achieved the standard with a top-10 finish at the World Championships in Doha.

For Athletics Canada, complications will arise if other women start to achieve the standard. Emily Setlack, for example, fell just shy at Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon of achieving the time standard and Krista Duchene missed the standard by only two places at the Ottawa Marathon. Other athletes we need to watch out for are former Olympians Lanni Marchant and Malandi Elmore as well as Leslie Sexton, Kinsey Middleton, Melanie Myrand, and Sasha Gollish.

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Courtesy: Canadian Running Magazine

I have a hunch that Elmore will be on the Olympic team. She had a monster 2019 and is set up well for another fast marathon in 2020.

For the men, only Trevor Hofbauer has the standard so there are two other spots open on the Canadian team.

3. Gabriela Debues-Stafford

She topped my list of best moments in 2019 and she is also one of my storylines to watch in 2020.

Gabriela Debues-Stafford had a monster 2019 including breaking not one, not two, but SEVEN Canadian records. At the World Championships in Doha, Debues-Stafford probably had the best race of her life, running way inside her personal best and still finishing 6th in a remarkable race.

Come Tokyo 2020 however, I think we can expect Debues-Stafford t be ready to make the next jump and climb onto the podium in either the 1,500, the 5,000, or both.

In 2019, Debues-Stafford proved she can run and compete with the best in the world. In 2020, I think she will show us that she is the best in the world.

4. Pan American Cross Country Cup

In February 2020, Canada is hosting the little known Pan American Cross Country Cup in Victoria, BC. The race will be hosted on the Jack Nicklaus designed Bear Mountain Golf Courses which offer plenty of opportunity for elevation change. You can find out more about the course, here.

Recently, Athletics Canada announced the Canadian contignets for the events which include Olympians Genevieve Lalonde and Natasha Wodak as well as other standouts from the Canadian Cross Country Championship: Victoria Coates, Connor Black, John Gay, and Sadie Sigfstead (U20).

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You can learn more about the event here. Here’s to hoping that it is televised. And hey, Athletics Canada, if you need a play-by-play commentator, call me.

5. Andre DeGrasse

In 2018, Andre DeGrasse seemed to have disappeared. After his heroics at Rio 2016, DeGrasse battled through injuries and a year of middling performances, which saw Aaron Brown claim multiple Canadian titles over the superstar. Even in 2019, Brown nipped DeGrasse on the line for the Canadian title. On the world stage however, DeGrasse came out flying. Both he and Brown sailed into the finals of the 100M where DeGrasse won the Bronze and set a personal best of 9.90. This result put DeGrasse back into the world arena.

It was in the 200M however, where DeGrasse came into his own. Although he was unable to beat heavy favourite Noah Lyles, DeGrasse effortlessly sailed through the early rounds of competition and won Silver in the final.

Although DeGrasse may not have the best start, the most elegant style, or the highest top end speed, he is a championship runner and seems to always come good on the World’s biggest stages.

DeGrasse has to be considered a serious contender for the 100M and the 200M in Tokyo.

6. Melissa Bishop

Another athlete on the comeback trail, Melissa Bishop returned to racing after giving birth to her daughter in 2018. Bishop had a solid 2019 season but perhaps not the one she envisioned.

Bishop, and understandably so, was unable to achieve the World Standard and book her ticket to Doha. Still, she wasn’t that far off. In Doha, her presence was missed by many Canadians, in what has become a more open event with the politics surrounding Caster Semenya.

Although Bishop has taken a coaching position with the Windsor Lancers and their track program, I suspect Bishop will be all in for Tokyo 2020. Her continuing return to the top of the sport will be a story line worth following.

7. Marco Arop

Moving from the women’s 800M to the men’s 800M, Marco Arop is turning pro.

Arop had an astounding 2019, including getting all the way to the World Championship final where he mixed it up with the favourites and eventually ended up in 7th.

Arop recently posted a video on Twitter (below) where he announced that he was turning pro.

Arop’s continued development will be a story line to watch in 2020, especially how he fairs in his first Olympic Games and if he will challenge Brandon McBride for the Canadian crown.

8. New format for the Canadian 10K Road Championships

The Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend will be undergoing some changes in 2020 for amateur and professional runners alike. For fun-runners or elite-wannabes like myself,  they will be adding new challenges and a marathon-relay.

For the elites, the method of the Canadian Championships is sticking around. Race organizers have dropped the costly Gold Label for the 10K portion of the race, which means greater opportunities for Canadian elite athletes. Previously, East African runners would gobble up the top three to five spots, depriving the Canadians of much of the prize money, but this year, organizers are focused on a domestic based field.

9. Field Athletes

Sorry to Canada’s field athletes, but I cannot pretend to be an expert in your sports.

Having said this, Canada’s field athletes had a HUGE 2019. Mike Mason performed in the high jump, Brittany Crew set a Canadian record in the shot put, Alysha Newman had a monster season, and Derek Drouin is on the comeback trail.

In 2020, Drouin will look to defend his Olympic Gold and our other outstanding athletes will all have a shot at the podium.

Don’t sleep on multiple medals coming from Canada’s field athletes.

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Courtesy: CBC Sports

10. The Return of Lanni Marchant

It has been anticipated for some time, Under Armour has been producing videos, and social media is a buzz, all waiting for Lanni Marchant to return to the marathon.

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Courtesy: lannimarchant.com

With Tokyo 2020 approaching, I expect Marchant will make a return to racing sometime before the end of May with the objective of grabbing a spot on the Olympic team.

Marchant doubled up for Canada in the 2016 Olympics running both the 10,000M and the marathon. Marchant who run 2:28 for the marathon and is the former Canadian record holder, remains the second quickest Canadian of all time.

I think it is more of a question where, not when, Marchant makes her debut. She does have a few options but to run a full marathon either Boston, Rotterdam or Ottawa seem like realistic possibilities with Rotterdam being the favourite.

For Lanni to qualify for the Olympics she would need to finish Top 5 at a Gold Label Race, break 2:29:30, or finish Top 10 at a World Marathon Major (i.e. Boston).


 

Thank you for reading! To join the discussion comment below with your most anticipated moment. Alternatively, you can tweet me @AndersenRuns.

Top 5 Moments of Canadian Running in 2019

In Canadian athletics, everyday is a different journey and everyday is a new chapter.

Every year, Canadian athletics fans have the opportunity to see Canadians race on the World stage (in some way) and battle it our in National Championships which occur from British Columbia to Manitoba to Ontario.

Courtesy: Athletics Illustrated

As we round out 2019, I thought it would be worth it to recap the year that was in Canadian athletics and cover my top five moments. I should preface this list by saying that it was very difficult to pick five, let alone rank them, so bear with me. One bias I clearly have is towards the distance races, so I apologize in advance to the sprinters.

Honourable mentions: Evan Dunfee‘s third place at the World Championships in Doha and Andre DeGrasse’s two medals at Doha were a comeback to behold. Natasha Wodak and Rachel Cliff went first and third at the Pan American Games in Lima after spectacular teamwork. Malandi Elmore surpirsed Canadian fans in Houston. Ben Flanagan winning the innovative Pacific Distance Carnival was a big accomplishment for both athlete and event organizer. Gen Lalonde finishing inside the top 20 at the World Cross Country Championships and setting a Steeplechase Canadian record. And finally, Lyndsay Tessier finishing 9th the World Championships in the marathon was quite a feat, and currently has her penciled into the Canadian Olympic team for the distance.

Here are my top 5.

  1. Dylan Wykes and Natasha Wodak win the Canadian 10K titles

As it has for the last few years, Ottawa hosted the Canadian 10K Championships and this year promised to be some of the best Canadian racing yet. On the women’s side, Malandi Elmore, Emily Setlack and Natasha Wodak were set for battle, where as on the men’s side, Evan Esselink, Dylan Wykes and Justin Kent led the men’s field.

The two races could not have been more different. Wodak broke away early, running with the East Africans for the first half. As the large lead pack began to dissolve later in the race, Wodak began picking them of one at a time, finishing 8th overall and first Canadian. The Canadian title was the first Canadian 10K title Wodak has won after losing out to Lanni Marchant and Rachel Cliff in recent years. Following the race, Wodak was ecstatic with her victory and it showed in her finish line quote: “I am so happy … after coming second four times in a row.” Wodak continued to say that “I went out with the Africans and believed I belonged out there and I believed I could race with the rest of the world.”

The men’s race played out a little differently. Lead by Wykes, the Canadian men’s pack decided not to go out with the East Africans. Wykes, Kent, and Balestrini ran together for the majority of race with Wykes putting in a big surge in the final kilometres to take the victory. 2019 was the first time Wykes has competed in the 10K Championships since 2014. In his post race interview Wykes said “I didn’t expect at this point in my life that this is something that I’d still be doing. It’s nice to be competing.”

  1. Dayna Pidhoresky and Trevor Hofbauer Qualify for Tokyo

After they both had tough times in 2019, Dayna Pidhoresky and Trevor Hofbauer rallied to win the Canadian Marathon Championships and book their tickets to Tokyo 2020.

Dayna Pidhoresky ran a brave and amazing race at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon where she quickly stormed ahead of the other Canadian contenders and just shy of the East African fields. At first glace, those I was watching the race with were skeptical; her pace was far inside of her personal best, but she looked strong and was tucked in behind her pacers. Through the second half, Pidhoresky was caught and no-women’s land and forced to battle; her paced suffered, but she pushed on and achieved the Olympic standard. With her National Championship win, Pidhoresky guaranteed her spot at the Tokyo Olympics. What is most impressive about her victory? Pidhoresky had admitted on her social media to personal and professional struggles throughout 2019 that included losing love for the sport of running. I think it is safe to say that the Olympian in waiting will not be going away anytime soon.

Trevor Hofbauer had a similar journey to Dayna Pidhoresky through 2018 and 2019. First, Hofbauer made the move back to Calgary after training in Guelph and Speed River. He also battled injuries, dropped out of races and changed how he trained. In the spring, Hofbauer ran a 2:16 in Hamburg – a personal best but far from his potential. The Canadian Championships however, would be a very different story.

As I sat down to watch the coverage, it was a surprise to me to see Hofbauer run in the lead group. Cam Levins had shown himself to be the best Canadian marathoner in the field and I thought 2:09 would be well out of Hofbauer’s range. Still he sat in the group and actually looked the most comfortable. In the end, Esselink dropped from the group at about 25K and Levins followed at about 30K. Instead of a slow down, Hofbauer actually accelerated, running his half marathon personal best in the second half of the race. Hofbauer only just missed the Canadian Record.

  1. Rachel Cliff – Canadian Record

Less reported then the races that occurred in Canada, Rachel Cliff set the Canadian record for the marathon in early 2019. Running in the Nagoya Women’s Marathon, which is a women-only race, Cliff finished 15th and shattered the Canadian record, taking two minutes off her personal best and over a minute off the Canadian record to run 2:28.

Following her race, Cliff told Doug Harrison of CBC Sports that it was “empowering to run a marathon only against women.” Her coach went on to say that “Rachel was made to [run the marathon.]”

In his article about Cliff, Harrison states: “three pacers led a group of eight to 10 runners, including Cliff, through 30 km of the 42.2 km race at a 2:25 pace, allowing the Canadian ‘to turn my mind off’ and relax for the first half of the race.”

Cliff, a Mile2marathon athlete, has not yet committed to running either the 10,000 or the marathon in Tokyo 2020, but her experience on Japanese roads seems to show she is a perfect candidate for the marathon. Cliff also set the Canadian women’s half marathon record in 2019, running a two second personal best.

  1. Moh Ahmed wins bronze over 5,000

Mohammed Ahmed had a 2019 to remember. Not only did he break the Canadian record over 5,000M, becoming the first Canadian to run under 13 minutes, but he also broke the 10,000M record at the World Championships.

Despite the fast times, his pinnacle achievement of 2019 was the bronze medal in the men’s 5,000M at the World Championships. The race which became the scene of Ahmed’s accomplishment also doubled as, perhaps, the best race of the entire World Championships calendar.

Ahmed ran this race differently than his fifth place at the Rio Olympics. This time, Ahmed went to the lead late in the game and took the bull by the horns as opposed to following along. With two laps to go, he battled with Jakob Ingerbritsen for position, was clipped and almost fell, but still he battled on.

Although he was passed by the two Ethiopians, Ahmed battled back from fifth with 200M to go to grab the Bronze medal, a first for Canada over the distance.

This year cemented Ahmed as one of the best Canadian distance runners, ever.

View this post on Instagram

Doha Part One : The weeks and especially days leading to these championships I couldn’t help but be a little emotional. 2019 was not the easiest year, for the first time the lines we draw as athletes between what is on the field and what is off converged and tipped the scale to very unfamiliar territories. Life rears its head in unpredictable and random ways that challenge, shake, direct and many times reroute us to trajectories we didn’t plan—however good or bad. It is challenges that push us to the brink of our limits and emboldens us to search deep within ourselves: what exactly are we made of? The night before my 5000m final recalling all the hard work and obstacles I’ve overcome this year and to arrive at the championships in the best shape of my life I couldn’t help but almost shed a few proud tears. I only had one question for myself all year: how bad do you want it? The tears threatening to spill over provided the answer. We all know how much you’ve overcome or how bad you want it does not tilt the outcome in ones favour. It involves taking chances, the style of the race, capitalizing on others mistakes and miss fortune—in essence it involves plenty of luck despite the weeks, months, years of grinding away in silence. My hopes all year were to snag two medals from these championships, I came away with my first global medal, a bronze in the 5000m and 6th place in the 10,000m in a new national record under 27 minutes— two places higher than I was 2 years ago, so I’ll take that as progress. This long grueling season comes to a close with several monkeys off my back; sub 13, sub 27, most importantly a global medal…bruh do I feel lighter. Tasting the podium has me hungrier than ever and I can’t wait to get back to work and get myself better for the Tokyo Olympics.

A post shared by Mohammed Ahmed (@moh_speed23) on

  1. Gabriela Debues-Stafford

Although many Canadian athletes had amazing years, none compared to the year of Gabriella Debues-Stafford. Unlike the other events and athletes above, I cannot just pick one accomplishment from her 2019 resume.

Debues-Stafford moved from Toronto to Scotland and at the end of 2018 to train with Laura Muir, Europe’s best middle distance runner. Results followed right away, including eight Canadian records over six events this year.

Perhaps the most impressive was her race at the World Championships in Doha, where Stafford ran to a 3:56 1500M which was a three second Canadian record.

Run the North complied the full list of records she broke in 2019:

  • Indoor 5,000m, 14:57.45 — Jan. 4, Glasgow
  • Indoor mile, 4:24.80 — Jan. 26, Boston
  • Outdoor mile, 4:17.87 — July 12, Monaco
  • Outdoor 1,500m, 4:00.26 — July 20, London
  • Outdoor 1,500m again, 3:59.59 — Aug. 29, Zurich
  • Outdoor 5,000m, 14:44.12 — Sept. 6, Brussels
  • Outdoor 1,500m again, 3:56.12 — Oct. 5, Doha

Her achievements this year are difficult to put into words. They are simply, extraordinary.

With her range, from the 1,500M to the 5,000M don’t be surprised if Debues-Stafford walks away with some medals in Tokyo.



Thanks for reading!

I invite you to join the conversation in the comments or by following me on Twitter!

 

 

 

The State of Canadian Athletics

Canadian athletics is a broad and inclusive category. It includes distance runners, sprinters, visually impaired athletes, wheelchair athletes, jumpers, throwers, walkers and everything in between.

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It is a big family.

As we turn the page on this decade, it is important to look at where the family was, where the family is, and where we are going.

Canadian athletics have come a long way in the last decade. In 2010, nine of ten Canadians probably couldn’t name one of the men on our 4×100 team and no women had competed in the Olympic marathon for twenty plus years. Now, Andre DeGrasse and Aaron Brown are both in the top eight international sprinters and are known across the country. In the same vein, Lanni Marchant and Krista Duchene competed in the Rio marathon, notwithstanding that Canada already has three women qualified for the distance in Tokyo.

We have come a long way.

Sure there were bright spots such as the likes of Dylan Armstrong in the shot put, but the chances of Canada winning one medal at the World Championships, let alone the Olympics, was slim.

In 2012, we got a taste of the action. An impressive performance from Derek Druoin won him Bronze and the men’s 4×100 team finished third, only to get disqualified because of a misstep of mere millimeters.

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Courtesy: CBC Sports

The Rio Olympics in 2016 were another step forward for the program. Andre DeGrasse broke onto the scene with three medals, Mo Ahmed finished an amazing fifth in the 5,000, Derek Druoin won Gold in the high jump, Damian Warner won Bronze in the Decathalon, Brianne Theisen-Eaton won Bronze in the Heptathalon, Evan Dunfee was devastated by a bump that left him to finish fourth, and Eric Gillis finished the highest any Canadian marathoner has over the Games’ final event.

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Courtesy: Athletics Weekly

These results represent growth – exponential growth.

The 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha however, punctuated our depth. Canada seemed to be in contention for a medal, or at the very least had athletes in the final, in every distance on the track and many in the field. Lyndsay Tessier finished ninth in the marathon, Evan Dunfee won his bronze in the race walk, Andre DeGrasse won two medals, the women’s 4×400 team impressed but fell just short, Mo Ahmed finished third in the 5,000 and just missed out in the 10,000, Alysha Newman was one height short, Gabriela Debues-Stafford ran 3:56, Brittany Crew was competitive in the shot put, Mike Mason just missed a medal in the high jump, Gen Lalonde just missed a Canadian record, and Damien Warner metaled in the Decathlon again.

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Courtesy: Varsity Blues

These were just a few of the many Canadian performances which caught my eye.

The tremendous depth this country is developing is unparalleled in our country’s history and some of this credit must go to the coaches, sporting organizations, parents, and volunteers, and of course, the athletes themselves.

What is next for Canadian athletics? I am not sure.

But in order to grow the sport, there are really three elements that need more support.

1) More Sponsors

It goes to say that without money, it is hard to encourage young athletes to take on the sport as a profession, or for that matter, support the athletes who run, jump and throw for our country. In Canada, the sponsorship of events is a major issue. Although some companies, like Scotiabank, support some major events; events such as the Canadian Cross Country Championships, are not sponsored.

Without sponsorship, or limited sponsorships, prize money for elite athletes becomes an after thought. From what information I can gather, beyond the XC Championships, that the Track and Field Championships also do not offer a prize purse. As far as the road championships, those do provide some more financial incentive, but most still fall short of what American races offer.

Boosting these prize purses, if possible and without taking away from the average runner’s experience, will help to grow the sport.

2) More Events

More events are also imperative.

Currently, there are only two national caliber track events in Canada every year. The Harry Jerome Classic in Vancouver and the Canadian Championships themselves.

Without opportunities to race on Canadian soil, the top athletes such as Ahmed stay away, race in the Diamond League, train on American soil. This is their right and their training is probably better for it in the more temperate climates. However, without many of Canada’s top athletes training and racing in the country, there are fewer role models for youngsters to look up to.

3) More Fans

What comes first: the cart or the horse?

The same can be said for the discussion in Canadian Athletics. What comes first: events or fans?

Regardless of the order, we know that in order for sponsors to provide money, fans need to attend and care – not just during the Olympics.

This seems to be the ongoing problem for Canadian Athletics and the solution is not cut and dry. Honestly, I have no solutions. I do think however, that providing the opportunity for the public to race in the same events and on the same track as our Olympians is the first step to increasing interest in elite competition.

Aside from my three points above, I truly think that we are entering the golden age of Canadian Athletics and that Canadian runners, jumpers, and throwers have a lot to be proud about heading into Tokyo 2020.


Thanks for reading!

I invite you to join the conversation in the comments or by following me on Twitter!

Three Canadian athletes running with flag

5 Takeaways from the Canadian Cross Country Championships

And just like that, cross country season for the majority of Canadian distance runners has come to a close.

On Saturday, some of Canada’s best laced it up in the Canadian Cross Country Championship. Across the senior events, four Olympians laced up the spikes, most of whom finished on the podium.

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Courtesy: Athletics Illustrated

On the women’s side, Gen Lalonde stormed to a dominant victory, using her finishing speed to beat Scottish athlete Sarah Inglis on the last lap. Inglis would finish second and Olympian Maria Bernard-Galea, would finish 3rd. Natasha Wodak, also an Olympian, would have to settle for fourth – but still made the Canadian podium.

The race itself blew up quickly, with a noticeable pack of five breaking away and Lalonde and Inglis pushing the pace most of the way.

On the men’s side, the race was run in a similar fashion. Mike Tate and Luc Bruchet, as predicted, took it out pretty hard. Connor Black, former USports champion went out with them and it quickly became a three man race (despite Ben Preisner’s best efforts). Tate and Burchet kept hitting the gas until Tate finally broke them on the last lap.

Although Bruchet really gav’er over the last 800M, Tate held him off for the win. Black took third, Preisner fourth and John Gay for fifth.

Here are my takeaways

  1. Mike Tate is a season closer

Last year, Mike Tate finished second in the Canadian Cross Country Championships, but alas, Tate is a runner-up no more. In 2018, he also reached the podium at the Boxing Day 10 miler, run in Hamilton, a podium he shared with Matt Hughes and Tristian Woodfine.

Whether it is the change of surface or the ability to withstand a long season, Tate’s form seems to come good at this time of year. I suspect we will see Tate put up another big performance on Boxing Day before heading to Victoria for the Pan American Cup to lead the Canadian team.

Tate boasts a lot of talent, but often doesn’t get the recognition from the Canadian running media. This win will do wonders for his name recognition and hopefully vault his career to the next level.

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2. Lalonde is the class of the field

Geneviève Lalonde has once again proved that she is the class of the women’s field. After a long tough season, Lalonde finished strong with a dominating victory on the last lap.

For a moment, I thought the Olympian was in trouble. Sarah Inglis was pushing the pace and Lalonde looked to be working hard. It was only when they make the hay bale jumps however, that Lalonde looked in her element, putting three or four strides into Inglis over the span of 50 metres.

Lalonde is moving to Victoria in January and should be ready to run the Pan-American Cup Championships on her new home turf. But first, Lalonde (who, after Debues-Stafford, is Canada’s best female track runner) deserves some rest. In addition to her two National titles in 2019, Lalonde also lowered the Canadian steeplechase record – again.

3. Commentary struggles

The only downside of the Championships this year was the broadcast. I turned the broadcast on at the beginning of the senior women’s race and was surprised to hear no commentator. It took four or five minutes before I heard another word, and even still, the focus was mostly on the time the athletes were running, not necessarily describing what was going on in the race.

Of particular note was, during the men’s race, there was no recognition of who was leading the race for over a lap, and even then, Preisner and Bruchet were not mentioned or identified.

This should not be considered and admonishment of the commentator himself, as when he works on track meets, where times really matter, he is excellent. But in order to grow the sport and ensure the casual fans know what is occurring, it is important to identify all of the runners and explain what is going on during the race, including the tactics. As much as times matter on the track and the road, they do not matter as much over the country.

On the brightside, it was night to have a mobile camera that lead the runners so we could see all the action.

4. Who is Maria Bernard-Galea?

In my preview, I highlighted a handful of women that I was interested in watching race and who I though would compete for the title.

Someone I missed entirely on the start list was Maria Bernard-Galea.

Bernard-Galea is an Olympian who is a Steeplechase specialists (yes, two steeplechasers finished in the top three). She also competed at the World Championships in Doha this year. Her personal best over the Steeple is 9:36 and this was her first IAAF certified race over 3,000 metres this year. Based on her results, it appears as if she was injured in 2018.

Despite the fact that she is an Olympian, placing ahead of Natasha Wodak and Victoria Coates who are both distance specialists is quite a feat and should be a big coup for Bernard-Galea.

5. Looking forward to Pan-American Cup

Canada is hosting the Pan-American XC Cup in February 2020 and it promises to be a good one.

This is perhaps the most significant event Canada has hosted (in Athletics) since the World Half Marathon Championships, the Pan-American Games themselves, or when Usain Bolt made his appearance in Toronto.

Hosted on the Jack Nicolas designed golf course, the route is described like so on the event website: “there are hills too and two sand traps and one precipitous drop of approximately 20-metres. There is also a climb that takes runners over the final 180m of the 2000m course providing a 30m gain in elevation. This will be a challenging section. The climb takes runners back to the start area.”

For the senior women, the athletes that qualified for the event are Geneviève Lalonde, Maria Bernard-Galea, Victoria Coates, Regan Yee,  and Kirsten Lee.

For the senior men, Mike Tate, Lucas Bruchet, Connor Black, Ben Preisner, John Gay and Brandon Allen all qualified.

Athletes have already indicated if they plan to race, but at the time of writing Athletics Canada has not made an announcement on the team.

Here is hoping the races are lived streamed.


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Canadian Cross Country Championships Preview

Often the forgotten event in the Canadian racing calendar, the Canadian Cross Country Championships will be run in Abbotsford, British Columbia this Saturday, November 30.

It is no secret that cross country is my favourite discipline of the athletics, as it provides the opportunity for the best of Canadian road runners, track runners, and trail runners to compete against each other in the mud and over the rolling, grassy hills. In my opinion, cross country is great equalizer among the disciplines of our sport.

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Courtesy: Michael P Hall

Although cross country has had its share of struggles over the last couple years, it is always exciting to see who takes to the line at the end of November, looking for a national title. This year, the fields are small, but strong and feature multiple Olympians from across a variety of distances.

The Details

This is the first year the Championships will be in Abbotsford, or at least the first time in a while. The previous four renditions were hosted on the challenging Fort Henry course in Kingston, Ontario. Being in Abbotsford (and since I live in Ottawa), I have zero knowledge about the course, but course organizers have posted a number of pictures on the race website. From this information, it appears the largest hill comes in the early stages for the loop, followed by a significant downhill, and then some flat running to finish every loop.

From what I can find, there is no prize money on offer for the event (sad), but there will be medals for the top three individuals and the top three teams in each category. Organizers have also added a para race this year, which is a much needed and important addition.

The schedule for the day will go like so (all times in Pacific Time):

9:15am Masters 8km
10:00am U16 girls 4km
10:30am U16 boys 4km
11:00am U18 girls 4km
11:45am U18 boys 6km
12:30pm U20 girls 6km
1:15pm U20 boys 8km
2:00pm Senior women 10km
2:45pm Senior men 10km
3:30pm Para race 4km

You can watch all the races live for free on AthleticsCanada.tv, but on-demand streaming will cost a monthly fee.

Finally, the weather for the race (keep in mind, this is 7 days out) looks, interesting. At the moment, they are predicting a high of 3-4 celsius with a mix of snow and rain – perfect for those who love the mud, less than perfect for those who do not. Leading up to the race however, the weather should be on-side for those who like the dry as they should have a few days of good conditions.

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Courtesy: Michael P. Hall

The Contenders

As I mentioned before, the fields for both the open men and open women for these championships are pretty deep.

On the women’s side, defending champion Genevieve Lalonde is returning to the race. The Olympian won her the national title last year after putting in a big surge in the second half of the race and destroying the competition. In 2019, Lalonde has had a good year. Not only has she lowered her own Canadian record in the 3,000M Steeplechase, but she also qualified for the Diamond League final and the World Championship final in the discipline. Lalonde did race a lot this year and the only question mark has to be whether she has recovered from a long track season.

The ever dangerous Natasha Wodak is also taking to the start line this year. Wodak is one of the biggest supporters of Canadian cross country as signified by her appearance at the event almost every year. Last year, Wodak finished 2nd in the race. This season for Wodak has been up and down. The ups include a dominating victory at the Canadian 10K Championships and Gold in the 10,000 at the Pan American Games. The downs include a tough race at the World Championship 10,000 where Wodak admitted she didn’t have the answers. Wodak represented Canada at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Victoria Coates is a runner to watch for this year’s championship. Although she does not have the fastest track speed, Coates is a fighter. Last year, Coates finished in 6th place, but finished in 2nd in 2017. Although the Saucony sponsored athlete has had an injury plagued 2019 campaign , she recently posted an impressive 1:12 half marathon in Indianapolis and should be ready to go for the Championships. Coates represented Canada at World Cross in Kampala, 2017.

Like our defending champion, Regan Yee is a steeplechaser – the 33rd best steepler in the world, to be precise. Yee has had a good year. For the first time, she qualified for the World Championships in the Steeplechase after winning the Harry Jerome Classic in the distance and finishing 5th at the Pan American games. Her 3000SC personal best is 9:35 (set this year) and 5,000 personal best is 15:31. The talent is certainly there for Yee to compete for a medal at this championship, the question will be how she handles the ten kilometre distance as according to the IAAF, she has never raced further than 5,000.

Sarah Inglis is a Scottish athlete who trains and lives in Canada for the majority of the year. Like Natasha Wodak, Inglis has raced in virtually every Canadian cross country championship that I can remember. Earlier this year, Inglis set the Canadian all-comers record over five kilometres on the road, 15:29. Inglis also ran to a 9th place finish in on the Fort Henry course last year. Since Inglis is a Scottish athlete she is not eligible for the Canadian title, but will be factored into the team race.

Sasha Gollish has had an up and down 2019. The former Canadian cross country champion was looking good to challenge for the victory last year before a fall early in the race knocked her out. Gollish struck back in January with a stellar debut 42.2K at the Houston marathon. Since, Gollish has battled some injuries, but did manage to start in Doha for the marathon before the heat took its toll. Gollish should be well rested, provided she has recovered from the heat, and she is always dangerous over the country.

The full women’s start list is available here.

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Courtesy: Michael P Hill

On the men’s side, Lucas Bruchet is the two-time defending Canadian cross country champion. Bruchet is truly the master of this discipline in Canada. The Rio Olympian’s two victories at the championships have been textbook: go hard, stay hard, finish hard. In the previous two editions, only one athlete (CPT in 2017 and Mike Tate in 2018) have dared to even go with Bruchet. Unfortunately, Bruchet had to miss the World Cross Country Championships this spring with an injury, but after a solid track season, look for Bruchet to go for his third title. For Bruchet, the muddier, the better.

Mike Tate stormed back onto the Canadian running scene last year with two amazing performances: 2nd place at these very Championships and a solid placing at the Boxing Day 10 miler, beating Reid Coolsaet. Tate, who went to Southern Utah University and competed in the NCAAs is training with Speed River full time, but there is no doubt that cross country is his best surface. Tate ran to an impressive 6th place at the World University Games this summer for the 5000M. He also represented Canada at the World Cross Country Championships this spring.

Ben Preisner has had a heck of a 2019. So far this year he has: finished top Canadian at the World Cross Country Championships, graduated with an engineering degree from Tulsa, won the Vancouver half marathon, won the Toronto Waterfront half marathon and finished 2nd at the Eastside 10K. As a result, he also finished 2nd in the Canadian Running Series. Presiner finished 6th at the Championships last year, but came in under the radar – expect a big jump up this year.

John Gay made his debut at the World Athletics Championships this year in the Steeplechase. With Regan Yee and Gen Lalonde he is one of many steeplechasers who realize they have an advantage in cross country. I would surmise that getting the world standard for the Steeple would have been a successful year for Gay, but you can be certain that he is looking to improve on his 8th place finish from last time around. Gay also represented Canada at the World Cross Country Championships this spring.

Rob Watson is the veteran of the field. The 2:13 marathoner is lacing them up and representing Mile2Marathon as they go for the team prize. Although Bruchet will be the team ringer, Watson cannot be underestimated. Watson has raced quite a lot this year, including a recent win at the Lululemon 10K in San Diego. He also brings some mild trail experience after his 3rd place at the Chuckanut 50K. Watson is a former Canadian Champion over the 10K and the marathon and has finished as high as 2nd at the Canadian cross country championships.

Chris Balestrini is one of the few guys who competed in the Canadian Marathon Championships and who is running this championship. Balestrini is a serial racer however, so should not have an issue recovering for this one. Balestrini has raced in fifteen IAAF certified races this year, including two marathons and has run 1:05 countless times for the half. He will look to improve on his 26th place finish on the Fort Henry course last year.

Leonard Chesoo is the true wild card for this race. Chesoo is a Kenyan who is now living in Alberta and won the Edmonton 10K earlier this year, beating out the likes of Esselink, Levins and Coolsaet. After his victory, CBC Sports did a significant bio on the 24 year-old which you can read here. Chesoo won the 10K in a time of 29:28 which is listed as his personal best and a course record. Chesoo is currently not a Canadian citizen so will not be eligible for the Canadian title.

Other notables men’s competitors include: Connor Black (2018 USPORTS Champion), Theo Hunt, Phil Parrot-Migas, Tony Tomsich, and Mitch Ubene. The full start list is available, here.

My Predictions – Women’s Race

  1. Genevieve Lalonde – will defend, but will be forced to use speed and strength to beat Natasha Wodak in a close race.
  2. Natasha Wodak – will finish second in a sprint finish, capping off a great year.
  3. Victoria Coates – will continue to prove why XC is her best discipline.

Dark Horse: Regan Yee – her youth and breakout season could help her way to a podium finish.

My Predictions – Men’s Race

  1. Lucas Bruchet – will go out hard, use the mud and win handily.
  2. Ben Preisner – will finish his season strong and finish second.
  3. Mike Tate – will get edged by Preisner in a sprint finish. Don’t be surprised if Tate really brings it.

Dark horse: Leonard Chesoo. No one is really sure what Chesoo will do on race day, but one can only expect that he will go with the leaders, work hard and compete.


Thanks for reading.

I look forward to hearing your predictions on Twitter or Instagram. As always, please give me a follow on Strava or WordPress for even more content.

Stay tuned for the post-race takeaways and enjoy the racing!

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Courtesy: Michael P. Hill

An Ode to Cross Country

Mud. Sweat. Tears.

Cross country (except when it snows in the NCAAs apparently), is built for toughness, for grit, and for determination.

Gone are the days of fast times and pacemakers. Gone are the days of Vapourflys eschewing the results. And here are the days of athletes racing as a team.

Cross country is for the athletes who truly love the sport.

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Courtesy: Innovative Fitness

In recent years however, cross country has been relegated to a background role in global athletics. It seems that cross country is the event that the IAAF has forgotten about. The effort and money have simply not gone to expand the distance across the globe.

At the last World Cross Country Championships in Denmark, neither Belgium, Norway, nor the Netherlands sent a team to the event. Many of the top runners from countries across the globe failed to make a showing including the likes of Farah, Hassay, Knight, and more. Although the race was well organized, the Championships seemed not to attract the global attention that other events in athletics are provided.

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Courtesy: Canadian Running Magazine

This is a stark change from the past. There were days where Radcliffe, Kastor and co. would all arrive on the line ready to battle out the top spots against the East Africans.

The state of cross country in Canada is no different. Outside of the USPORTS stream, it is difficult for young runners to transition from their high school days to recreational / sport for life running days. Very few cross country races are open to the general pubic in Canada and often these are open meets where large collegiate teams come to collect the bounty. In addition, these race are often attached to a larger meet (such as the Canadian Championships) which move around the country and provide no consistent racing opportunities.

On the elite side, Canadian country has some issues as well. The largest of these is the lack of top Canadian athletes who race in the Championships. Of course, this is their prerogative, but it has shown how far cross country has fallen in the minds of the Canadian distance community.

Perhaps the biggest reason for this is the lack of prize money offered at the Canadian Championships. If Knight or an Ahmed were to show up, there would be little to no prize purse for them. The same goes for a Debues-Stafford or Melissa Bishop. Athletics Canada has struggled to find a title sponsor for the event and the money simply is not there.

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Courtesy: CBC Sports

The question for sponsorship potential is what comes first: the chicken (sponsors) or the egg (Olympic caliber runners).

Although this piece has sounded like I have been spelling doomsday for Canadian cross country, it would be ignorant of me to ignore the good things going in the discipline.

Because there are good things.

Last year, the men’s field was one of the deepest in a long time. The likes of Rory Linkletter, Ben Preisner, Ehab El-Sandali, and Ben Flanagan returned from the states to mix it up against Luc Bruchet, Mike Tate, Evan Esselink and Yves Sikawibu.

Besides Bruchet, Olympian Natasha Wodak also toes the line every year which is awesome for Canadian running. Last year, Genevieve Lalonde also destroyed the field, which provided a different element to the race than usual.

Canada also sent full squads to the World Championships in the mixed relay, junior races and senior races, an element that Athletics Canada should be provided credit for.

However, the struggles for the sport ultimately remain – how do we expand its popularity?

I believe the answer can be found in the relevance of cross country internationally. If the World Championships continues to be held every second year, the sport will suffer. If the rumours are true and cross country may find its way to the Olympics in the near future, it will serve the launch the sport back to prominence.

Until then, running fans need to support cross country by watching it online, talking about it, racing it, or heading out to the course to spectate.

The Canadian Championships are in Abbotsford, BC on November 30.

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Reflections on the P’tit Train du Nord Marathon

You would have thought it would be hilly.

As I looked around, I saw the rough and tumble terrain of the Laurentians; a plethora of ski hills, and; lakes, rapids and winding roads. Not the terrain of a fast marathon.

From our hotel in Val-David, the scenery was breath taking. Leaves turning, cottages set against the sunset, and election sights of all colours reminding me that this was, of course, still reality.

The next morning, I was preparing to set out on a 42.2 kilometre journey – from the small town of Val-David to the finish line in the industrial city of Saint Jerome.

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The P’tit Train du Nord is a recreation area / bike path / cross-country ski destination for all types of athletes and outdoors people. For one time per year however, the multipurpose gravel path is reserved for runners, exclusively.

The P’tit Train du Nord Marathon begins in Val-David, a small hamlet town that is usually quiet and laid back, except on marathon morning. The course then winds through the Laurentians on a former rail line past scenic rapids, rolling hills and little cottages never decreasing or increasing in elevation more than five percent gradient.

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After months of training under coach Dylan Wykes and Mile2Marathon, I got to the start line on the crisp morning. Frost covered the ground and I was shuffled into the coral 20 minutes before the race began. Keeping warm during this period was a challenge, as the sun had not quite eclipsed the trees and mu support team had already headed down the road.

When the East African competitors were shuffled into the corals, the race began and many took off like  rockets. Knowing my goal, I kept a fierce eye on my watch, not wanting to risk going too hard too early – it is after all, the Marathon.

Before I knew it, I had hit four kilometres and my dad handed me my first bottle. After quickly getting the fueling process started with my Endurance Tap Gel, I was able to take in the scenery while trying to find a group to run with.

Focusing really hard on getting my bottle, haha.

At the beginning of the race, there was much flocculation – groups formed and dissolved, sped up and sped down, or simply vanished. At about seven kilometres, and before the biggest elevation drop in the course, I was forced to make a decision. I looked behind and saw that no one was in sight, and only 50 metres ahead, a group formed. I made an effort to close the gap, knowing that although I would be running a bit faster than planned, being in a group is better than being alone.

When I caught the group at about 9 or 10 kilometres into the race, we began the fast descent together. I was warry that the significant drop over such a long period would destroy the quads, but I was helped by the shoes and the fact that many of the guys around me seemed to be marathon veterans. My main objective during this period was to turn off my brain and just settle into the pace. What didn’t help were that the kilometre markers were counting up (official race markers) and down (official trail markers) so it felt like such a long way to go.

I got my next bottle and gel at 16K and still felt good – at this point the course had flattened out and the legs seemed to not have felt the negative impacts of the downhill. I still battled to focus, tune the distance out, and run.

For me, the marathon is about not recognizing that you are working at all until 30K but by half way, I felt that I needed to keep focus on running the required pace. My group split half way at 1:26:59, which was about 30 seconds faster than I intended, but splitting a bit faster is not the worst thing in the world. That time is also my half marathon personal best. From here, I told myself that to run my goal time; I could afford to slow down by a minute, but ventured on at the same pace.

When I got the my final bottle at 29K, I knew I was on a good race, but still was worried about blowing up. As soon as I got the nutrition down, I turned around to see my group was gone. One guy had surged ahead, but the remainder of them were simply gone – over 100 metres back. From now, it was time to push along alone. Although I caught a couple of others, running the last 13 kilometres would be a lonely venture and take real mental toughness.

#workinghard

From about 10K to go, things began to get easier mentally. I continued telling myself that I had “40 minutes to run” or that this is the distance of a short/easy run to make the distance feel more manageable. I continued to pick guys off one at a time, but the path was long and straight, a factor which didn’t help.

The worst feeling was my flat feet being supported by the shoes, the toes I could feel blistering, and the nails I could feel turning black – but that is, once again, the marathon.

When I hit 40K I knew I was going to break my goal time, but I did not want to hold back. Knowing I was tired I waited until about 800 metres to go before I tried to increase my cadence knowing that the marathon could still come back to bite me. I powered to the finish fist pumping, gesturing to the crowd, and yes, hot-dogging. It was great.

I also crossed the line with a time of 2:54:22. A 16-minute personal best. Oh, and a Boston Qualifier!

Reflecting on the race – I am content, ecstatic, and elated. It took a couple days to sink in to the fact that I am going to Boston. But I am not satisfied. I know I can go far faster over the marathon and intend to do so the next time I toe the line.

I told some people the other day that I am “only 43 minutes off the Olympic standard.” (it was mostly tongue and cheek)

Until Boston 2021 however, I do not plan on running another marathon. What I need to work on is my speed, so I plan on running an indoor track season and running five and ten kilometre races over the summer. Next fall, I hope to run some cross country (my favourite surface), and then in 2021 I will go faster.

Now, for some much needed rest.


Thanks for reading.

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5 Takeaways from the 2019 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon

2:05.

2:09.

2:22.

2:29.

Those were the four winning times at this year’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM).

In its 30th edition, STWM did not disappoint. On all accounts, it provided drama, intrigue, surprise, and disappointment, and tears of joy.

Pre-race favourites slipped away. Athletes which I had written off rose to the forefront. Personal bests were set. Hearts were broken.

That is the marathon.

M2M Race Weekend at Toronto Waterfront Marathon
Lead Canadian group. Courtesy: Jody @run.photography

After running my own marathon that morning in Quebec (PB!), I watched the race on YouTube (if you haven’t seen it, you should watch it too). As soon as the gun went off I was surprised. Trevor Hofbauer had gone into the lead group for the Canadian men, and looked very comfortable. He was also running six to seven minutes inside his PB. As the race went on, he dropped Esselink, then Levins and eventually went out on his own to win the men’s title, hit the Olympic standard, AND run 2:09. I could simply not believe it.

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Hofbauer takes the win. Courtesy: CTV News

The lead men’s race was amazing as well. Unlike the commentators, I did not write off Philemon Rono when Lemi Berhanu hit the front. For those who know the course, you will know that Berhanu surged just before the “hill” (which feels like a mountain) around 38K. This surge sapped his legs and Rono used the final uphill stretched heading towards Nathan Phillips Square to pass and break Berhanu. Rono ran a 2:05 flat to set a personal best and the Canadian all-comers record. Four men finished inside the previous course record. #Vapourflys

Masai-Robertson finished next, also running an all-comers record and four minute personal best. She ran a solid race and never put her nose into the wind until she was ready to break the field. She let the surges occur and calmly responded, unlike the robust changes in pace which sapped the other’s legs. Masai’s race was pure class.

Finally, Dayna Pidhoresky surprised everybody (except for me – more on this later) and ran a stellar, and aggressive race for a seven minute personal best and the Olympic standard. She punched her ticket to Japan for 2020. Pidhoresky, who is the 3rd Canadian women to achieve the standard, went out hard and faded – but her boldness paid off. She destroyed the field for her first national title over the marathon running 2:29. Emily Setlack finished 2nd in the women’s race – missing the Olympic standard by 18 seconds.

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Pidhoresky breaks the tape. Courtesy: Canadian Running Magazine.

Here was a lot more to digest over the weekend, so here are my top 5 takeaways. As always, Run the North News has stellar coverage and can get you up to date on the Guinness World Records, reaction and more.

Here are my takeaways.

Toronto Waterfront is a world-class marathon.

If runners across the world didn’t know if on Saturday, they know it now: the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is world class. For the first time in Canada, a runner went under 2:06 – four of them in fact, with Rono almost breaking that mark. It also is the home of some of the fastest Canadian times in history. Regardless of what Tigist Girma thinks, this course is fast – really fast.

As a fall marathon, Toronto has some competition. Berlin, Chicago, Amsterdam, and New York, but this year, STWM will certainly have a faster winning time than both New York and Chicago (and both races have stronger fields. It’s time this year was even within 50 seconds of Amsterdam. Although it is impossible to compete with Berlin, Toronto is not that much slower as there are only 3 turns on the course with minimal elevation gain – but Berlin will always have a faster field.

There is still some work to do on the women’s side of things, as the course record in Toronto still lags behind its colleagues in that department.

Major kudos to Alan Brookes and team for making Toronto a world class marathon.

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Rono runs 2:05. Courtesy: Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Canadian marathoning has depth, but 2:12 is proving tough to crack.

Trevor Hofbauer, Tristian Woodfine, Cam Levins, Reid Coolsaet, Thomas Toth, Kevin Coffey, Rory Linkletter, Dylan Wykes, Aaron Cooper, Evan Esselink, Sami Jabril, Chris Balestrini, Calum Neff. And more. Canadian marathoning has a lot of depth (don’t forget Mason, Watson, Berhanu, Morgan and others who didn’t run this weekend)

However, over the last two seasons, only Canadians have dipped under 2:12 – Levins and Hofbauer. There seems to be this mental/physical wall which is stopping some Canadian men from really dropping those times. Is it sponsorship deals keeping them away from the carbon plated shoes? Is it lack of financial support? Is it the mental wall of 2:11/2:12?

I do not have the answers, but I do know that US marathoning has the same issues until recently so I am sure there will be more breakthroughs before May 2020 (deadline for Tokyo qualifying). Until then, Canadian men will have shots at dropping under the standard at Boston, Rotterdam, London, and Ottawa.

The Canadian women do not have the same issue – three have already achieved the Olympic standard (Pidhoresky, Tessier, Cliff).

M2M Race Weekend at Toronto Waterfront Marathon
Dylan and Reid warm up. Courtesy: Jody @run.photography

Fortune favours the bold

Trevor Hofbauer and Dayna Pidhoresky went for it – and I mean went for it. If the commentators were correct, Pidhoresky went out a 2:22 pace and Hofbauer at 2:09 pace. Although this is a risky strategy, both succeeded. Those who went with Hofbauer struggled, but major kudos to Esselink in particular for going for it.

Often in Canadian running, we see runners go out timidly or conservatively – and I guess for the marathon, it is a sensible strategy. Outside of Pidhoresky and Hofbauer, this strategy has worked for other Canadian marathoners. In 2011, Reid Coolsaet went for it, ran with the East Africans and achieved the Olympic standard, and; had it not been for GI issues, would have probably broken the Canadian record.

Defending champions were in tough.

Both Kinsey Middleton and Cam Levins had a tough return to Toronto, but we do know, neither of them will give up on their Olympic dreams.

Middleton laid off the Pidhoresky pace and spent the majority of the race with Emily Setlack and Kate Bazeley. Although she struggled late, her tactics weren’t so different from last year, but if you are not on your best day, the marathon will punish you.

Levins appeared to be a bit strained from the start, and he showed it around 26 kilometres. He dropped very quickly away from the lead Canadian group and did well to finish the race. The picture on the broadcast of him falling into Alan Brooke’s arms says it all.

Expect Levins to return to the marathon in the spring and run Rotterdam, London or Boston. Middleton will likely choose an American race.

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Courtesy: Canadian Running Magazine.

I am good at predicting races (mostly).

You can see in my race preview that I picked these winners: Rono (2:05); Masai (2:22); Pidhoresky (2:31), and Woodfine (2:11).

So I got three out of four. On times, I got two of three.

Pidhoresky ran far faster than I ever expected.

I should apologize to Trevor Hofbauer for counting him out. A mediocre season combined with a tough year in 2018, led me to believe he was in the athletics wilderness, but no more. The big man is going to Tokyo.

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Courtesy: CTV News

Thanks for reading – I hope you enjoyed my coverage of STWM.

Next up, the Canadian Cross Country Championships.

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Preview

Well the time is finally hear, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM), in this, it’s 30th rendition. It will be a moment of triumph for some; for others, a day of reckoning, but for many who will be taking to the streets of Toronto, the day will be a celebration. To play tongue and cheek with the race’s hashtag – it’s truly your moment.

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Courtesy: CityTV

For the vast majority of runners taking to the streets of Toronto, their moment will revolve around personal bests, raising money for charities, or perhaps completing their first race. For a select few who will start the race however, they have been training for their whole careers for this moment: the chance at the Olympic Games and/or the chance at financial security from their profession for years to come.

Before I outline the elite athletes who are taking to the start, I should mention that STWM sports a Gold Label certification. What does this mean? It means it’s one of the best races in the world and sports a fast course and a fast field. It also means that the top 5 in the race automatically achieve the Olympic standard.

Ah, the Olympic standard – every Canadian marathoners dream. So, how does one go about achieving this? Run the North News did a great analysis but essentially there are three ways:

  1. Athletes must break the Olympic standard of 2:11:30. They must then be selected by Athletics Canada.
  2. With Toronto Waterfront being a IAAF Gold Label race, anyone who finishes in the top 5 will be considered to have the Olympic standard (the same also applies for the Ottawa Marathon). They must then be selected by Athletics Canada.
  3. Athletics Canada can put forward a list of athletes based on points, the IAAF will then select which athletes qualify based on the number of open spots. From what I can gather, points are accumulated based on time, position and prestige of the race.

*It should be noted that only two Canadians actually have the standard: Rachel Cliff (time) and Lyndsay Tessier (top 10 at Worlds).

Because of this battle for the Olympics, it will be likely that spectators along Toronto’s streets will see a race within a race. The first race will be the East African challenge lead by two time STWM champion Philemon Rono (nickname: Baby Police).

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Rono setting the course record. Courtesy: Athletics Illustrated

The Canadian challenge is the deepest it has been in years, headlined this time, by the veterans of the sport: Malindi Elmore (scratch), Reid Coolsaet and Dylan Wykes facing the young challenge of Evan Esselink, Rory Linkletter, Tristan Woodfine and Kinsey Middleton. Alan Brookes has done a great job with this field.

Meet the Athletes

Let’s meet the contenders shall we! And read to the bottom of the article for my predictions.

On the Canadian women’s side, it should be one of the tightest races in years. Here are the notables:

Kinsey Middleton is based in Boise, Idaho, but has dawned the maple leaf many times before and is the defending champion. Last year, in her debut, Middleton ran a classy race defeating Leslie Sexton in a gutsy race and ran 2:32. This year Middleton will be putting her championship on the line and facing a tough field. Middleton showed fitness recently with a second place at the Eastside 10K. She did set a personal best in the Sun Run this year, running 32:46. Expect Middleton to be in the midst of it this year again.

Leslie Sexton had a marathon breakthrough this year in Prague, running 2:31 for a classy 8th place. Sexton has long been bordering on a break through and this result helped to vault her into the conversation for Tokyo 2020. In order to make the team Sexton will likely have to run faster than her personal best but she is still the class of this Canadian elite field. Expect her to dominate the Canadian race early. Since her marathon in Prague, she has only run race, finishing 3rd at the Eastside 10K.

Dayna Pidhoresky is a serial racer. This year alone, the Vancouver runner has run in 10 elite races with major results in each one. Of note, Pidhoresky finished 6th in the Ottawa Marathon (1st Canadian), 1st in the BMO Vancouver Half, 2nd in the Scotia Half, 2nd in the Canadian Half Championships and has made the rostrum in other races as well. She sports a marathon personal best of 2:36 but is well off her potential as a marathon athlete – I expect a big improvement in this number at STWM.

Tarah Korir is an interesting prospect and major wild card in this race because she hasn’t (according to the IAAF) completed a major race since 2017 where she finished 51st in the world championships. We aren’t really sure where her fitness is at, but one this is for sure – she is a fighter, so expect her to be there or thereabouts. Korir sports a marathon best of 2:36 and a half of 1:12.

Emily Setlack is also a very interesting name on this start list. STWM will be Setlack’s 4th marathon, where she will be attempting to improve on her 2:35 from Rotterdam in the spring. Setlack recently ran 1:12 at the Philly half and finished an impressive 3rd Canadian at the Ottawa 10k. With her fitness clearly there, Setlack is certainly in the conversation.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention other Canadian notables: Kate Bazeley (2:39), Robyn Mildren, and Anne-Marie Comeau

Internationally, on the women’s side, the field is deep but don’t expect a course record. Here are the contenders:

Ruth Chebitok (Kenya) is a 2:23 marathoner and 1:09 half marathoner (set this year). She finished 10th in Tokyo in March and is looking to improve on her 3rd place Toronto performance from last year. In 2018, she also won the Barcelona Marathon and Gold Coast Marathon.

Birukatayit Eshetu (Ethiopia) is also a 2:23 performer with that best set in Houston this year, where she won. Her half marathon best dates back to a race in San Diego in 2017 where she ran 1:10. Her other results this year include an 8th place at the Boston Marathon. In 2018, she won Houston again, finished 2nd in Rotterdam and finished 4th in the Mexico Marathon.

Dibabe Kuma (Ethopia) is also a 2:23 performer, which she ran last year in Slovakia. She has also impressively run 1:06 for the half set this Spring. She won the Hamburg Marathon this April which was closely proceeded by the 1:06 run in Barcelona. Kuma’s brother is also running (previewed below).

Magdelyne Masai (Kenya) is married to the famous running Kiwi, Jake Robertson, but that should not be why she is included in this preview. Instead, I should note that Masai is a 2:26 marathoner, a mark which she set in Hamburg this spring. Masai is targeting a 2:22 run in Toronto, a mark which nobody in the field has achieved. Her other notable run this year was at the Great North Run which she clocked 1:07 for an impressive second place. Last year, Masai won a marathon in China and a half marathon in Belfort, France.

Becky Wade (USA) was announced to the start list for STWM with great excitement as she preps for the USA Olympic Trials in Atlanta. Her marathon PB is 2:30, but more recently ran a 2:35 last year in London. Wade has also run a 1:11 for the half marathon. Just recently, Wade posted an impressive 2nd place at the Philly Half, won the FORTitude 10K in Colorado, and finished 17th at the 2019 Boston Marathon

Other notables include: Shuko Genemo (Ethopia), Birke Debele (Kenya), Gudeta Bekelech (Ethiopia), Etaferahu Temesgen (Ethiopia).

The Canadian men’s challenge will be the best race to watch on the day. I expect a smashing race featuring the country’s best distance runners. Here are some to watch:

Cam Levins is the Canadian marathon record holder and the defending Canadian champion; he is also a 2:09 marathoner. It is safe to say Levin’s hasn’t had the strongest of seasons. He was forced to withdraw from the London marathon with a calf problem, had decent races at some Canadian 10Ks, but was forced to drop out of the Philadelphia Half. Having said this, Levins did not have the best of seasons in 2018 before his impressive win and Canadian record.

Reid Coolsaet is the veteran of Canadian marathoning and has a personal best of 2:10. Coolsaet is perhaps running Toronto for the last time and is looking at one more Olympic birth. Coolsaet has had an interesting year to say the least – first by running a 2:17 in Ottawa (hot conditions) and then running a couple tough 10Ks in the summer. His fitness began to turn with an impressive Crim 10 Miler however, which lead into a good effort at the Philly half. Coolsaet hasn’t run as fast as he would like for a couple of seasons but I expect a gritty performance from him. Coolsaet is a 17 time national champion.

Dylan Wykes has not run a marathon since 2012 (the Olympics, no big deal) and has since moved on to coaching, but after an amazing start to the season DW is back. Wykes finished 3rd at Around the Bay in March, 1st at the Canadian 10K Championships and 4th at the Canadian Half Championships despite laryngitis. Wykes noted he plans to start at 2:14/2:15 pace and pick guys off along the way – but 2:13 is definitely in the wheelhouse. Wykes is also the founder of Mile2Marathon. Wykes personal best for the marathon is also in the 2:10s.

Tristian Woodfine is perhaps the least known guy to take toe the line in Toronto, and according to many elites the man to watch. He set his marathon personal best in Houston this January running 2:15 and followed up to win the Canadian half championships in 1:04. I also expect Woodfine to show up big time at the race (see below in the prediction section for how big). Watch out for this guy.

Evan Esselink is making his debut marathon at STWM and this debut is highly anticipated. For years Esselink has been one of the top up-and-comers on the Canadian running scene and he showed us his talent at the Houston Half Marathon in January running 62 minutes. Esselink will be another contender in this race and certainly has the firepower to achieve that Olympic standard. Esselink has had a good year in addition to his race in Houston. He finished 2nd at the Edmonton 10K, won the Edmonton half, and won the Eastside 10K in Vancouver.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B1zdJuIHoF9/

Rory Linkletter is also making his debut marathon. After a stellar track career at BYU which led to a 2nd place in the NCAA 10,000m championships, Linkletter has turned pro and joined the Northern Arizona Elite group. When I asked Linkletter about his plans for STWM, he noted he will be aiming for about 2:13 or 2:14 but believes he can be an Olympic marathoner – as he certainly has the passion to be. The one question surrounding his performance will be whether his young legs have matured for the marathon, but one this is for sure – Linkletter will be in the mix.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention other Canadian notables: Trevor Hofbauer, Chris Balestrini, Kevin Coffey, Aaron Cooper, Thomas Toth. Hofbauer, Balestrini and Coffey can certainly mix it up in the 2:13 range.

The Canadian men will take on these very elite East African challengers. Here are a few of the big names:

Benson Kipruto (Kenya) is the defending champion at STWM after just missing the course record last year. Kipruto has no personal bests at distances shorter than the half marathon where he sports personal best of 2:07 (marathon) and 1:04 (half). Kipruto only has one race registered this season where he finished 10th in Boston. His most notable result in 2018 was the win in Toronto.

Philemon Rono (Kenya) is a two-time champion at STWM and a 2:06 marathoner. He also owns the course record in Toronto. Nicknamed Baby Police, Rono is back after a less than impressive showing last year where he and former Olympic Champion, Stephen Kiprotich, both had tough races. This year, Rono got the better of Benson Kipruto at Boston where he finished 6th, but Rono also recently ran a 1:01 half marathon in France, which only gave him 12th place! Rono has a half personal best of 60 minutes.

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Rono after his win in 2017. Courtesy: Endurance Sportswire.

Lemi Berhanu (Ethiopia) is a former Boston Marathon champion and is a 2:04 marathoner; however, Berhanu failed to finish Boston this spring. He has also finished 4th at New York. His personal best from Dubai places him as the fastest runner in the field but he has failed to run near that time since 2016. In 2016, Berhanu represented Ethiopia at the Olympics.

Abera Kuma (Ethiopia) is a 2:05 marathoner and will certainly be up for this race. Kuma set his personal best in Rotterdam last year where he finished 2nd. Kuma also finished 2nd this year at the Ottawa marathon in tough conditions. Recently, Kuma ran a 1:01 half in Lille, France. Kuma’s sister is also running in the race (previewed above).

Festus Talam (Kenya) is a 2:06 marathoner, a mark that her ran in Eindhoven, Netherlands in 2017. He is also a 60 minute half marathoner. Talam finished 9th in Boston this spring for his only result of 2019. In 2018, he finished 8th in New York so knows the North American circuit well. In 2017, Talam won his race in Eindhoven and finished 4th in Rotterdam.

Other notables include : Tsedat Ayana (Ethiopia), Abdi Ibrahim Abdo (Bahrain), Silas Mwetich (Kenya), Felix Chemonges (Uganda), Juan Luis Barrios (Mexico), Josh Griffiths (Great Britain).

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My Predictions – Canadian Championships

  1. Pidhoresky – will run huge personal best and win; will run 2:31
  2. Sexton – will run just shy of personal best; 2:31
  3. Middleton – will put up a worthy defence but will get bested by the experience; will run 2:32
  4. Setlack – will achieve a personal best; will run 2:33
  5. Kate Bazeley – the mother of three will impress; will run 2:35

Dark Horse: Emily Setlack

  1. Woodfine – coming in under the radar; will run 2:11
  2. Levins – most talent in the field but has struggled in races this year; will run 2:11.
  3. Esselink – debut marathon but will be in the mix; will run 2:12.
  4. Coolsaet – aiming for 2:13 but will turn back the clock; will run 2:12.
  5. Linkletter – will go out with Coolsaet and will hit is goal; will run 2:13.

Dark Horse: Dylan Wykes

Predictions: International Athletes

  1. Rono – will reclaim the crown and set the course record bolstered by Kipchoge; will run 2:05
  2. Kuma – will challenge to the end but fall just short; will run 2:06
  3. Kipruto – will also challenge late but will relinquish title; will run 2:06
  4. Ayana – although I didn’t preview him, will run well; will run 2:08
  5. Talam – will run well and finish but will be in a battle for minor places; will run 2:09

Dark Horse: Cam Levins

  1. Masai – continue momentum after Great North Run; will run goal time of 2:22
  2. Kuma – will get a personal best, but fall just short; will run 2:22
  3. Chebitok – will round out the podium and run 2:25
  4. Eshetu – will run turn back the clock early but falter late; will run 2:26
  5. Wade – will run a personal best and continue Philly momentum; will run 2:28

Dark Horse: Etaferahu Temesgen


Thanks for reading.

I want you to join the conversation. Put your predictions in the comments below or tweet them to me @AndersenRuns.