Levins: Signs point to Canadian record, Tokyo standard in The Marathon Project

·3 min read

Midway through the rainy, windy London Marathon in October, Cam Levins' hands got so cold, he had to grip his water bottle with both hands to drink.

A few kilometres on, his hands were so numb he couldn't hold the bottles at all, knocking them off the water station tables in an effort to take a drink.

Levins wasn't just aiming for the Tokyo Olympic standard that day, he was also on pace to break his Canadian record through more than 30 of the 42.195 kilometres. But the lashing rain and wind did him in, and Levins didn't finish.

"At no point was I warming up, which I think was the problem," Levins said. "So, I was probably just expending extra energy trying to keep my temperature up.

"I just wasn't expecting to feel like that. I had long sleeves, hat on and gloves. Just very quickly, I got soaked and the wind was cutting through me."

The 31-year-old from Black Creek, B.C., will take another run at the Tokyo Olympic standard on Sunday at The Marathon Project in Chandler, Ariz., just outside Phoenix. Levins is one of seven Canadians in the elite field of just over 100 athletes. Rory Linkletter, and Justin Kent and Ben Preisner -- who are both making their marathon debuts -- are the other Canadian men, while the women's field includes Natasha Wodak and Kinsey Middleton.

Levins was able to pivot immediately after his October disappointment. He was added to the provisional list for The Marathon Project virtually the day after London.

Sunday's temperature is expected to be in the high single digits Celsius for the 8 a.m. MT race start, with sunny skies and low wind.

"So, obviously (weather) shouldn't be an issue on Sunday, and even if it was, this time I'd be ready for it," Levins said.

Levins has spent the past five weeks training at altitude in Flagstaff, Ariz., north of Chandler, and said all signs point to a fast performance on Sunday.

"I've been hitting lots of workouts at (Canadian-record) pace or faster," Levins said.

Marathoners usually run one or two races a year. But this is the third marathon build-up Levins has done this year. His first was for Rotterdam, but that race scheduled for last April was cancelled due to COVID-19, along with numerous other global road races.

"The last build-up to (London), to this one, even to the one in Rotterdam, I've been putting forth the best workouts I have in marathon build-ups," he said. "So there's no doubt that I'm prepared. . . really consistent, and I'm completely prepared. There's not really any reason to doubt."

There will be two pace groups for the men on Sunday, one aiming for two hours nine minutes, and the other at 2:11.30, which is the Olympic standard. Levins plans to run with the faster group.

Levins ran his Canadian record of 2:09.25 in his debut at the distance at the Toronto Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon in 2018, shattering Jerome Drayton’s 43-year-old national mark of 2:10:09.

Levins was a finalist in both the 5,000 and 10,000 metres at the 2012 London Olympics.

In August, he proved he was in top race shape when he recorded a new personal best in the half-marathon, running 1:02.12 to beat his previous mark of 1:02.14.

While the runners were housed in a virtual bubble at the London marathon, Levins said protocols aren't quite as strict for Sunday's event. The athletes have undergone several COVID-19 tests, though, and runners must produce negative results before they'll be permitted to race. Levins has already had two tests this week, which were both negative.

Only race officials and volunteers will be permitted near the course Sunday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 18, 2020.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press