-- Cam Levins chased a mark that had eluded Canada's fastest
marathon men for more than four decades Sunday. And in
the process, he wrote his own comeback story with every
The 29-year-old from Black
Creek, B.C., shattered the Canadian marathon record --
in his debut at the distance -- at the Toronto Scotiabank
Waterfront Marathon, erasing the pain and frustration
of three injury-plagued seasons.
"Entering the last 10
kilometres of this race I was thinking to myself: 'I'm
going to take back my career. I'm going to be back to
the athlete I know I can be,"' Levins said through
a wide smile, a Canadian flag draped around his shoulders.
"That was huge motivation."
Levins, who often considered
quitting after a fluke foot injury in 2015 derailed his
career, ran two hours nine minutes 25 seconds to finish
fourth overall. He was also crowned the national marathon
champion as the first Canadian across the finish line.
Jerome Drayton set the previous record, one of the oldest
on the books, of 2:10:09 in 1975.
"With 3K left I knew
I could do it and with half a kilometre left, I was certain
it was going to happen," said Levins. "I was
just enjoying the moment."
Levins earned a bonus of
$43,000 -- $1,000 for every year the record stood -- for
breaking the mark. Organizers were attempting to connect
Drayton and Levins by phone after the race.
Benson Kipruto of Kenya won
the gold in 2:07:24, with Levins finishing fourth overall.
Hamilton's Reid Coolsaet was 10th in 2:17.37.
Kinsey Middleton of Guelph,
Ont., won the Canadian women's title in 2:32:09 in her
marathon debut. She was seventh among all women.
Levins, meanwhile, was Canada's
best distance runner on the track for several seasons,
finishing 11th in the 10,000 and 14th in the 5,000 at
the 2012 Olympics. He also captured bronze in the 10K
at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
He was still on the rise
when he injured his ankle after he was shoved from behind
at the finish line of the 1,500 metres at the 2015 Canadian
championships. The injury, which included a torn tendon
and two stress fractures, required surgery and wiped out
the better part of the next two seasons.
His wife Elizabeth and parents
Gus and Barb Levins fought back tears at the finish line
in the shadow of Toronto City Hall.
"The (2015) Pan Am Games
in Toronto was where he had his first horrible race (after
his injury), so it's very serendipitous that he should
run so well back here in Toronto to restart this second
phase of his career," Elizabeth said. "He's
been preparing for the marathon for a long time, in his
mileage and his philosophy in his training, so it's so
rewarding to see that be successful here, especially at
home in Canada."
Levins' fast time was even
more remarkable considering Sunday's chilly conditions.
Temperatures hovered around 2 C, with a low of minus-2
with the wind chill. And winds were gusting between 20
and 30 kilometres an hour in some portions.
The marathon is known for
the unexpected. Marathoners will tell you the "second
half" of the race actually hits with about 10 kilometres
to go. Even the most experienced runners have been felled
by those final gruelling steps.
Not Levins, who beat a handful
of elite runners including Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda.
The 2012 Olympic and 2013 world champ finished seventh.
"I knew in my buildup
I was getting into shape to be able to do it, but you
never know what's going to happen with the marathon, you
never know if you're going to be a really good athlete
at it or not," Levin said. "I was kind of expecting
it to get really hard at one point."
The final seven kilometres
were tough Levins said. But as he headed west toward the
finish line, churning along Front Street then finally
turning north onto Bay Street in the middle of Toronto's
famous banking district with the finish line in sight,
Levins told himself: "I have to do this. I've come
too far not to do this."
"As I was doing it I
was thinking 'This is not anything I haven't been through
before, I've experienced this in runs, in races, that
feeling,"' he said. "So it's good to know what
that is now, and not have any fear of it or anxiety of
what it's going to feel like."
It was a bittersweet day
for Coolsaet, who prior to Sunday had been the closest
to breaking Drayton's mystical mark, missing it by a mere
20 seconds in 2015 in Berlin.
"First of all, I don't
have to answer those questions (about the record) anymore,
it's great," Coolsaet joked at the post-race news
Coolsaet, who'd been battling
an illness the past couple of weeks, said Levins' success
over the 42.195-kilometre marathon wasn't a huge surprise.
Even while training for the shorter distances, Levins
was legendary for his weekly mileage. He'd sometimes run
three times in a single day; 300-kilometre weeks weren't
out of the ordinary.
"It's been a long time
that this guy has been training at that level," Coolsaet
said. "I'm really excited to see what Cam does over
the next whatever amount of years. Lots of marathons ahead
Levins' race prompted an
outpouring on Twitter, including a congratulatory tweet
from Malcolm Gladwell.
Cam Levins for breaking the Canadian marathon record today!"
tweeted the Canadian writer and journalist -- and Levins'
Levins laughed about the
tweet, and said he often listened to Gladwell's podcasts
during his long runs.
Up next: Levins planned to
enjoy a nice dinner with his family after "treating
my body like a temple and eating really strictly."
Then he and Elizabeth will leave Monday for a cruise to
Middleton, meanwhile, said
she "had so much fun" in her marathon debut.
"But boy, that second
half of the race, they're not joking when they say halfway
comes later than the actual halfway point of the race,"'
she said. "Probably the last 500 metres, I felt like
my legs were just done and I was just trying as hard as
I could to push through that.
"But in the marathon,
you feel good and then you don't feel good and then you
feel good again, and so it's kind of about realizing that
when you don't feel good, it's not the end. There are
ebbs and flows."
Leslie Sexton of London,
Ont., was ninth, while Krista DuChene of Strathroy, Ont.,
who won bronze at the Boston Marathon earlier this year,