NYC Media Day, Part 2: Cam Levins Is Going for the Win, Kellyn Taylor Opens Up about Super Shoes, Olympic Trials, HOKA NAZ Elite Coaching Change

NEW YORK – In Part 1 of our 2023 TCS New York City Marathon media day recap, we heard from international stars Peres Jepchirchir (dealing with a calf injury), Hellen Obiri, Letesenbet Gidey, and promising debutant Edward Cheserek. Part 2 is focused on the North American athletes, and we lead it off with our interview with Canadian Cam Levins who, after running a huge North American record of 2:05:36 in Tokyo in March, firmly believes he can become the first Canadian to win the NYC Marathon. He also sets the record straight about his mileage (no, he has never run 200 miles in a week). Plus interviews with Kellyn Taylor, Elkanah Kibet, and Molly Huddle.

More from New York on Thursday: LRC NYC Media Day, Part 1: Jepchirchir May Not Race Due to Calf Injury, Cheserek Has Been Training with Kelvin Kiptum

LRC *Men’s preview *Women’s preview *All 2023 NYC Marathon coverage

Cam Levins thinks he can win the New York City Marathon

Does Canadian Cam Levins really have a shot at winning the NYC Marathon

“At least I believe it. Yeah, absolutely,” he said.

“I’m feeling good about it. I’ve nailed some big workouts at least as well as I did before Tokyo,” said Levins of this year’s Tokyo Marathon, where he finished 5th in a North American record of 2:05:36.

As for the legendary high-mileage training that Levins does — it has been the talk of the message boards since he was in college Levins wanted to clarify a few things.

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One, he never has run 200 miles in a week.

He does run a lot, and now frequently does three runs in a day. He doesn’t add up the totals very often, but said it’s not 200 miles. He has been under the tutelage of Jim Finlayson, the former world record holder in the beer mile, since a trial period in 2019 and the results the last two years show a rejuvenated Cam Levins. He was 4th at the World Championships last year, then set the North American record in Tokyo this year. 

Cam said he has gotten his mileage back up, added in real weight training for the first time, and changed the mix of some of his training having “introduced more speed work, doing more like 5k, 10k based work instead of just kind of staying in the marathon [mode] maybe half the time, marathon zone, [and doing] the double thresholds,” he said. 

In addition, he has added running on a treadmill surrounded by an altitude chamber. Cam says he does that for 60-80 minutes a day for at least one of his easy runs. Not only does it simulate altitude, it helps him for warm weather races, as it gets very hot in the altitude chamber.  Plus he sleeps in an altitude tent, so he’s got about as good an altitude setup anyone could have in Portland, Oregon, where he does nearly all of his training solo.

The supershoe difference

Cam also is a believer in doing a lot of his faster training in super shoes, with him doing nearly all his hard workouts in the ASICS Metaspeed Sky or Metaspeed Edge. He uses the Edge for shorter speed work. He uses the Novablast for his easy runs.

Supershoes are another thing that has helped Cam revitalize his career as when he was sponsored by HOKA, they did not have a supershoe with a superfoam (they do now, see the comments of Kellyn Taylor below). Cam wore Nike Alphaflys at the World Championships last year, and the huge jump in performance helped him secure his current contract with Asics, whom he has been with since October of last year. “It’s just an unbelievable difference,” Cam said of the difference between a supershoe with a superfoam and one without. His career seems to show that.

Cam believes weight work with his calves is important to counterbalance training so much in supershoes with the higher stack heights. He acknowledged winning New York will be easier without Evans Chebet or Geoffrey Kamworor but his goal was to win even with them in the field.

Blue-collar runner Kellyn Taylor opens up on super shoes, HOKA NAZ Elite coaching change, being shunned by Chicago

The American hopes in New York are being led by Kellyn Taylor, who has three top-10 finishes here (6th in 2021, 7th in 2019, and 8th in 2017). Despite the success, Kellyn said she rather would have run the Bank of American Chicago Marathon this year to give her more time to prepare for the Olympic Marathon Trials in Orlando in February. The problem? Chicago was not interested in having her. Taylor said, “They were very selective on who they wanted. So even though we inquired early in the year, they just didn’t really want me. Which is fine, you know, go where you’re wanted,” she said.

So, she’s back in New York, which is her “favorite” marathon.” Kellyn knows competing up front with the star-studded women’s field is out of the question, but she believes she can run 2:23 on the New York course (2:22:31 is the current course record) on a good day, and the weather forecast is near perfect for Sunday. This will be Kellyn’s first marathon since the birth of her daughter Keagan in December.

One advantage Kellyn has this year that she has not had in the past: she will be racing in what she calls a true super shoe for the first time in a marathon, as she is wearing the HOKA Rocket X 2

“I’d consider it HOKA’s first actual super shoe, so I’m really excited to be able to race in them, because I haven’t raced in, like, a true super shoe yet,” she said noting that this shoe has PEBA foam in it, and she considers the superfoams key to making a true super shoe. Kellyn says she is a believer in using super shoes in training as she wants to recover better and feel fresher. However, she said she will do easy runs in the traditional HOKA Cliftons, and some hard shorter workouts in the Mach X, which has PEBA foam but not a carbon plate, but she does many hard sessions in the Rocket X 2.

Kellyn when asked if she was at a disadvantage at the 2020 Olympic Trials by not having a super shoe to run in said, “Absolutely.” However, she noted that didn’t stop her teammate Aliphine Tuliamuk from winning the Trials.

The other big change this year for the HOKA NAZ Elite team this year is a change in head coaches. Alan Culpepper departed, and Jack Mullaney is in as the new head coach. Kellyn said assistant coach Jenna Wrieden has been coaching her during the build-up, so the change in head coaches didn’t really affect her.

Kellyn said the athletes were all consulted on the coaching change, and Jenna wanted the head job, but didn’t get it. Taylor noted the success Culpepper had on the track, “I think that his training was great and people really responded to it. [But] obviously family came first, so it is what it is. It didn’t work out. I think that it was disappointing, I guess, just to have everything go so well and then for it to kind of crumble, but it happens.” Culpepper’s family wanted to stay in Boulder and the HOKA NAZ Elite club is in Flagstaff, Arizona.

As for the controversy surrounding the proposed start time of the 2024 Olympic Marathon Trials, Kellyn said she never received the athlete letter advocating for an earlier start time, as she had not qualified for the Trials at the time, but she probably wouldn’t have signed it.

“I would like to consider myself somewhat of like a blue-collar runner, where I’m just getting out there and grinding and doing what I can on the day, regardless of the weather or the course or anything. So, if it’s gonna be hot, it’s gonna be hot, so you train and prepare for it to be hot,” she said. 

Elkanah Kibet returns from deployment in Poland to run NYC Marathon; shooting for top-5 spot

Kibet, 40, was 4th in New York in 2021 and was supposed to return last fall. But in August, he left the Army’s World-Class Athlete Program and returned to a “regular” unit as a financial comptroller, and quickly received word that he would be deploying to Poland with the rest of his unit for a 10-month stint beginning in September 2022. New York was out.

The news did not come at a great time for Kibet, who was in the form of his life, following up that 4th-place finish in NYC with a 2:09:07 pb at Boston in April 2022. When he arrived in Poland, he said, his main goal was to sustain what fitness he had rather than trying to build more.

“Run [at least] once a day and go to work,” Kibet said. “Whenever it was cold, I didn’t get to do anything, I would go biking or go on the elliptical.”

Kibet was able to run two marathons while he was in Europe – Prague in April (2:10:43) and Worlds in August. His training has been better for New York, Kibet said – being back at altitude helps. Though his life is slightly more complicated in one aspect – he now has to commute to work (in Poland, he already lived on the base).

Kibet, who is sponsored by Asics, said it has been complicated for him to follow the new Olympic qualifying criteria, which is why he is just focused on finishing top 5 – if he does that, he would “unlock” the final Olympic spot, ensuring the US has the maximum three men’s entries in Paris. If he does, every US marathoner can sleep a little easier.

“I was telling them, I’m going to just go top-5,” Kibet said. “That’s what I need…I want to get that third spot.”

Speaking of the Trials, count Kibet – who does not consider himself a good heat runner – among the athletes in favor of an early start time.

“I wrote a letter of support when they were making the requests [to change the time],” Kibet said. “I let them know, an early start time would be good and it’s good for everyone.”

Interview with Molly Huddle ahead of her first marathon since February 2020

Coming back from injury and with the Olympic Trials still the bigger goal, Molly said she had to reduce her mileage a bit from her highs in the past.

If you read this far in Part II of our NYC Media Day coverage, hopefully you’ve already ready Part I. If not, read it now as we talked to Africa’s top hopes: NYC Media Day, Part 1: Jepchirchir May Not Race Due to Calf Injury, Cheserek Has Been Training with Kelvin Kiptum Peres Jepchirchir‘s fall was going great until she developed a calf injury last weekend. Plus Letesenbet Gidey reveals what she learned from her marathon debut.

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