By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2018 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved
TORONTO (19-Oct) — Oddly elusive, Jerome Drayton’s Canadian marathon record of 2:10:09 has stood for nearly 43 years. Exactly eight and one-half minutes slower than Eliud Kipchoge’s world record of 2:01:39, Drayton’s mark from the 1975 Fukuoka Marathon seems more like an athletics artifact than a current national record. Drayton, who lives here in Toronto, is 73 years-old now.
“Two-ten is obviously a good time,” remarked two-time Canadian Olympic marathoner Reid Coolsaet, who came close to Drayton’s record at the 2015 BMW Berlin Marathon where he ran 2:10:28. Speaking at a press conference here this morning in advance of Sunday’s Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon he added, “[But], especially after Eliud Kipchoge’s record, we need a faster national record. With guys like Cam stepping up to the marathon, it’s just a matter of time before it goes.”
“Cam,” of course, is Cameron Levins, the 29 year-old Canadian Olympian who holds the national record of 27:07.51 for 10,000m. A former Nike Oregon Project athlete who now represents Hoka One One, Levins will be making his long-awaited marathon debut here this Sunday. He’ll be running primarily for the Athletics Canada national title, but with a CAD 43,000 bonus (USD 32,800) on the line for taking down Drayton’s mark, the record is definitely on Levins’s mind. His 10,000m best is equivalent to a 2:06:38 marathon by using one popular conversion formula.
“I’m in great shape,” Levins told the media here today, looking relaxed in a hooded sweatshirt, his hands folded in his lap. “I’m ready to attack the Canadian record.”
Levins, who was notorious for running exceptionally high mileage during his NCAA career at Southern Utah University, stuck with a high-mileage diet for this race, too. He estimated that he averaged 168 miles (270 kilometers) per week, splitting his time between his sea level home in Portland, Ore., and the high altitude of Cedar City, Utah, where he lived and trained in college. He said he adapted well to marathon training after an uncertain start.
“I was a little nervous about getting into the new kind of training,” Levins told Race Results Weekly. “I mean, I’m into it now. I know I’m going to do more beyond this. I can see it becoming, just, what I do.”
But first, he had to get through Sunday’s race. Long-time race director Alan Brookes has assembled one of his best elite fields led by two-time race winner Philemon Rono of Kenya (2:06:52 PB), 2012 Olympic Marathon champion Stephen Kiprotich of Uganda (2:06:33), 2017 Seoul Marathon runner-up Felix Kandie of Kenya (2:06:03), and New Zealand record holder Jake Robertson (2:08:26). Levins, who said he will run with the second group, made sure he put enough long runs which included very specific goals. As a track runner, his long runs were mostly just for adding miles, he said, at an easy pace.
“During my whole career doing long runs became more about completing it, having that time on legs,” he explained. “And now, it becomes a workout. There are different goals you have during it: It can be finishing off the last four miles fast, doing something during the actual midst of the long run, (or) holding a particular pace the entire time. That becomes hugely important.”
Levins said his long runs averaged 24 miles/39 kilometers, and he did them every 10 to 12 days during his lead-up.
“I’ve been consistently doing about 24 miles,” Levins observed. “I find that’s at least good practice for as far as I wanted with the bottles, and I felt comfortable doing that kind of distance. It doesn’t feel like it’s worn me out at all.”
For his long tempo runs, Levins said he held “mid-4:50’s” per mile (3:03 per kilometer) which he called “marathon pace.” A 4:55 per mile tempo is a sub-2:09 pace, well under Drayton’s record.
Of all the possible pitfalls Levins could face, he says nutrition and digestion are his biggest worries, especially digestion. It’s hard for a new marathon runner to know how his stomach will react in the last 10 kilometers of the race when every bodily system is under huge and unfamiliar stress.
“It is totally running into G.I. (gastrointestinal) issues,” Levins said when asked to name the biggest risk he faces for Sunday’s race. “Having to stop and poop at some point during the race is a great fear of mine.” He continued: “That’s something that can happen with fueling sometimes.”
The weather may also be a risk. Forecasters say that conditions will be cold, with race-time temperatures about 2C/36F, accompanied by moderate winds at 20 kilometers/hour (12 miles per hour). There is no rain the the forecast, however. Race director Brookes didn’t seem too concerned.
“It could be bit nippy,” said Brookes, who suggested that spectators might want to wear their “longjohns.”