Heading into the 2018 Canadian Marathon Championships three things were on everyone’s mind. How would the elite field – arguably the strongest in Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon history – handle the near freezing temperatures and wind gusts? Would newcomer Cameron Levins break the long-standing Canadian record (2:10:09 – Jerome Drayton, 1975)? And would Leslie Sexton hold-off debutant Kinsey Middleton to take home back-to-back national titles?
Only time… 2:09:25 to be exact… would tell.
When the horn sounded at 8:45 a.m. local time in Toronto, the field was met with overcast skies, 2° Celsius, which felt more like -3°, and 34-kilometre per hour winds out of the North, North-West – not your ideal marathon conditions for the elite field to say the least. The pacers, tasked with setting the pace for the elite field, would also play a significant role in blocking the wind, ensuring the racers conserved energy at the right time and deciding when to fall-off to let them battle it out down the stretch.
Making his marathon debut, Cameron Levins of Black Creek, B.C., was confident that his training would pay off and he’d cross the finish line in Canadian record-time. Not only did he do that, Levins shattered the record – taking 44 seconds off Drayton’s time.
“I knew I was feeling good throughout most of the race. When I entered the last 10 kilometres… I just thought, “I’m taking back my career right now.” And I did that,” said Levins who suffered a tear of the peroneal tendon in his left foot, stress fractures in his navicular and talus bones, a bone spur and bone chips that doctors had to shave and remove via surgery after a fall in 2015.
After having serious doubts if he’d ever make a comeback, Levins ran a couple of 5km and 10km races before lacing up for a half-marathon last December. Hungry for more, Levins challenged himself to tackle the marathon and knew he wanted to debut on home soil – specifically in Toronto.
So what’s next for Levins? “Tomorrow, I’m going on a cruise with my wife, Elizabeth, down in the Bahamas to get in some warm weather and then I’m sure I’ll do another marathon after this,” said Levins. “I just need to decide which one. I think a lot of marathoning is in my future.”
Levins new Canadian record would earn him a bonus of $43,000 – $1,000 for each year Drayton’s record has stood.
Also making her marathon debut, Kinsey Middleton – an American-Canadian dual citizen – would be the first Canadian women to cross the finish line in 2:32:09 to become the new Canadian Marathon Champion. The rookie marathoner looked to veteran Natasha Wodak (Canadian record-holder in the 10,000-metres) to pace her through the first half of the race and worked alongside 2017 Champion Leslie Sexton.
“I just went with the flow of the race,” said Middleton after she crossed the finish line. “I was really thankful to have Leslie out there. She was an incredible help for the first half and Natasha paced me through half, which was [more than I could have asked for]. And then at like 25 kilometres I made a move. I was just really happy to feel good at that point, but I knew I still had a long way to go.”
Middleton battled much of the last 15 to 20 kilometres of the race on her own, but managed to power through with locals cheering her on along the route. “I was just so excited to try something new in the marathon and I have really wanted to do this event for a long time. I picked this race because it was a National Championship and I knew that would bring out a little bit more in me. I just had an absolute blast.”
1st place: Cameron Levins, 2:09:25 (Canadian record) – 4th overall
2nd place: Reid Coolseat, 2:17:37 – 10th overall
3rd place: Aaron Cooper, 2:18:00 – 11th overall
1st place: Kinsey Middleton, 2:32:09 – 7th overall
2nd place: Leslie Sexton, 2:36:03 – 9th overall
3rd place: Krista DuChene, 2:36:46 – 10th overall