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New year, new coach, new half-marathon personal best and a Canadian record for Rory Linkletter.
The Calgary-born runner crossed the finish line eighth in 61 minutes eight seconds on a chilly Sunday morning in Houston to eclipse Jeff Schiebler's 61:28 performance over 21.1 kilometres from Jan. 15, 1999 in Tokyo.
"Beyond stoked," the 25-year-old Linkletter wrote to his Twitter account on the heels of his 2:12:52 PB in the California International Marathon on Dec. 5 in Sacramento.
Subject to verification, Linkletter also surpassed the 15 km and 20 km records (held by Paul Williams and Cam Levins, respectively) en route with his 43:23 and 58:05 splits, according to Athletics Canada records manager Tim Berrett.
Linkletter's previous half-marathon PB of 1:01:44 was also achieved in Houston on Jan. 19, 2020. He also placed ninth later in October of that year in the Michigan Pro Half Marathon (1:02:37).
"I had no doubt that I was capable of the record, it was just a matter of how will the race play out? Will my body hold up? And will it be the type of day for a record?" Linkletter told Lori Ewing of The Canadian Press
"Records usually require a nice day, good pacing, good racing so I was hopeful, but I also understood that there was a lot of things that had to happen for it to line up."
Milkesa Tolosa of Ethiopia won in 1:00.24, followed by Kenya's John Korir (1:00:27) and Wilfred Kimitei of Great Britain (1:00:44).
Left NAZ Elite track club in December
Ben Flanagan of Kitchener, Ont., who recently departed Reebok Boston Track Club after three-plus years for On Running, also set a 1:01:38 PB in Sunday's race for a 12th-place finish among 5,174 men's participants.
WATCH | Flanagan wins 10K road race debut last fall:
In December, HOKA released Linkletter from his contract and he left the Northern Arizona (NAZ) Elite track club after joining in 2019.
"I felt like there was a disconnect between the training I was putting in and the results … it was just this succession of underwhelming performances," he told letsrun.com in December.
American Scott Fauble, who also left NAZ Elite in December, worked together with Linkletter on Sunday.
"He knew I was going for the record," Linkletter told CP, "and he helped me out, talked me through it, it was really, really nice to have him, because with a mile [1.6 km] to go, he was saying 'Alright, you gotta push here.'
"[A] couple [of] weeks back, Ryan told me I was ready to run 4:40s [four minutes 40 seconds per mile] and have a crack at this record," Linkletter added in an Instagram post Sunday.
At age 6, Linkletter moved with his family to the United States of which he became a citizen in 2020.
The unsponsored athlete, who lives in Flagstaff, Ariz. with his wife Jill and five-month-old son Jason, is now coached by retired professional runner and U.S. half marathon record-holder Ryan Hall, whose wife Sara placed second in Sunday's women's race in 1:07:15 to beat Molly Huddle's 1:07:25 national mark 15 years after Ryan achieved the feat.
'I'm betting on myself'
Linkletter, a Brigham Young University (Provo, Utah) alumnus, finished third his first post-collegiate race in the summer of 2019 at the Canadian 10,000-metre Championships.
The three-time NCAA first team All American made his marathon debut at the 2019 Toronto Waterfront event and stopped the clock in 2:16:42 for 16th place and fifth among Canadian men. He went 2:12:54 (The Marathon Project) and 2:23:34 (Boston, last October) in his next two marathons.
"It's definitely scary because there's no guarantee that I'll get another deal in my lifetime," Linkletter told letsrun.com. "I like to believe I'll perform at a level that will put me in a position of power where I'll get something … so I'm just betting on myself."
Emily Setlack of Kingston, Ont., was top Canadian in 20th in Sunday's women's race in 1:12:48 that attracted 6,151 runners. Her effort was just over one minute behind her 1:11:40 PB, set two years ago in Houston.
In November, Flanagan won his third consecutive road race, prevailing over a 7.6 km route in Manchester, Conn. A month earlier, the 27-year-old opened a new training season by winning the elite men's road race of the Canadian 10K Championships in Toronto. Flanagan, who missed on his Olympic debut in Tokyo after failing to qualify on the track in the 5,000 and 10,000, went on to take the Falmouth Road Race in the coastal town on Cape Cod, Mass., in August.
Before Sunday's race, he told Canadian Running he would run the two events in the spring in an attempt to secure a spot on the Canadian team for the world track and field championships this summer in Eugene, Ore.