Aug. 19: Philemon Rono is coming back to Toronto, Edmonton marathon saw strong performances and more!

A bit of a mixed-bag newsletter this week, with a little bit of everything!


This newsletter is a bit of a mixed bag: the Edmonton marathon had some interesting results, more names were added to the Toronto Waterfront Marathon field, I have some some podcast recommendations and included a few links worth reading.

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A great weekend for the Edmonton marathon

The Edmonton marathon and half-marathon took place on Sunday, Aug. 18.

It’s the 28th year of the Edmonton race, and CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM spoke to John Stanton about the evolution of the race.

Evan Esselink, Mengistu Emebet wins half-marathon

Evan Esselink won the men’s race in 1:05:07. The B.C.-based athlete is prepping for his first-ever marathon when he toes the line at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Oct. 20. He set a personal best in the half distance in January, when he ran 1:02:17 in Houston.

Chris Balestrini, who is also running the Toronto marathon, came second in 1:05:42. The London, Ont. native has had several strong performances in 2019, including a second place finish at the Canadian half-marathon championships and a fourth-place finish at the 10K national champs. He’s looking to run sub 2:20 in Toronto.

Trevor Hofbauer, another elite toeing the line in Toronto, placed sixth in 1:06:29, behind Ahmed Osman (1:05:55), Kevin Coffey (1:05:56) and Wendimu Adamu (1:06:23).

In the women’s race, Mengistu Emebet crossed the line first in 1:10:31. The Ethiopian runner now lives and trains in Mississauga, Ont. and became a name in the Canadian running scene earlier this year, when she was the surprise victor at the Around the Bay 30K in Hamilton in March.

Ethopia’s Hirut Beyene Guangul was second in 1:15:02.

The top Canadian was Dayna Pidhoresky, who is running Toronto marathon, placed third overall in 1:15:25. Pidhoresky is chasing her dream of being on the Olympic team in the marathon. She came sixth at Ottawa, marathon earlier this year. The 32-year-old’s personal best is 2:36:08, which she ran in Ottawa in 2017.

Krista DuChene was fourth in 1:15:41. DuChene, who ran two marathons this spring — Boston and Ottawa — has not publicly committed to a fall marathon.

Rachel Hannah was fifth in 1:17:15. Hannah has also not yet announced a fall marathon, but said that Edmonton was part of her fall marathon prep on Twitter. The registered dietician also ran the Ottawa marathon, alongside Pidhoresky and DuChene, this spring, finishing in 2:41:31.

David Mutai: five marathons in 2019, five wins

David Mutai is TEARING UP the Canadian marathon scene. The Kenyan runner, who now lives and trains in Etobicoke, Ont., has run five Canadian marathons this year: Waterloo (April 28, 2:33:47), Mississauga (May 5, 2:27:08), Manitoba (June 16, 2:27:10), Saskatchewan (May 26, 2:22:09) and Edmonton (Aug. 18, 2:20:07), and has won them all.

The Saskatchewan and Edmonton results were both course records.

According to Saskatchewan’s The Star Phoenix, Mutai started running marathons this year. He’s gotten better with each one, save a two-second difference in his Mississauga and Manitoba finish times.

I annoyingly can’t find much more about him online. His Canadian race results begin appearing online as of 2017 and The Star Phoenix says he’s sponsored by the Running Room. If anyone knows more about Mutai and what other races he plans to crush, let me know.

The story behind that viral Edmonton marathon finish video

While Googling the Edmonton marathon to prep this newsletter, I found this CBC Edmonton article about the story behind the viral video of a man finishing the Edmonton marathon a few years ago, with a volunteer helping him to the finish line. You know the one — the guy is wearing a Flash shirt and the volunteer is so positive and encouraging. It’s embedded above.

Well, earlier this year, CBC Edmonton found the guy in the video: his name is Sean Kachmarski. He’s originally from Calgary and now lives in the U.K. He ran the Edmonton race as part of a visit home.

He’s a back-of-the-packer who was actually stopped at the 20-mile mark at his first attempt at the distance. But thanks to volunteer Rene Wache, a generous cut-off time (Kachmarski finished in 7:07:23), and supportive organizers (even the police were cheering for him to finish instead of closing the roads ahead of him), Kachmarski is now a marathoner:

Wache, a race volunteer, was working the water station near the 17-kilometre mark when he noticed Kachmarski struggling. He tried urging him on, telling he'd see him on the other side of the race loop.

"He ran away, he was probably about 100 metres away from the water station. I'm like, 'Aaah, I can't do this,'" Wache said.

"I said to everybody, 'Thank you for having me at the water station, I've got to go and help.'"

Wache caught up with Kachmarski and for the next four hours ran alongside the runner, cheering him on and pumping him up.

He hadn't planned on taking him all the way to the finish line. "I hate long distance," Wache told CBC's Edmonton AM, adding he was just hoping to get Kachmarski motivated to finish the race.

Kachmarski said Wache is a true legend in this story.

"Rene was just unbelievable and I always ask myself the question, 'Would I have finished If Rene had not been there?'

The CBC article also explains how the video went viral. A media company picked it up and repackaged it after seeing Kachmarski’s original video on YouTube, which had only 1,000 views at the time.

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Canadian performances at Birmingham Diamond League

A handful of Canadians attended the Birmingham Diamond League meet over the weekend.

Gabriela DeBues-Stafford came second in the mile, running 4:22.47 to finish behind Germany’s Konstanze Klosterhalfen. Stafford went for it and came up short, but seems happy with her progress overall. She set the Canadian record in the distance earlier this year, when she ran 4:17.87 in Monte Carlo in July.

Andre De Grasse came fifth in the 100m, crossing the line in 10.13. De Grasse was disappointed in his performance. "I came out of the [starting] blocks and wasn't really feeling it [in my legs] and couldn't get myself back into the race," he told CBC Sports after the race. “It wasn’t a good run for me.”

Geneviève Lalonde placed 11th in the 3K steeplechase. She ran 9:31.07, which is 10 seconds faster than the run in Peru that secured her the gold medal at the PanAm Games earlier this month. On Twitter, Lalonde said the race was “solid” but she wasn’t feeling it in her legs, which makes sense since she’s raced the national championships, the PanAm Games and now this Diamond League event in a three-week window:

Leslie Sexton to run Toronto Waterfront Marathon

Our next Marathon Trials entrant is 2017 Canadian champ, and no. 2 nationally ranked Leslie Sexton!

This spring, Sexton had a major breakthrough at the Prague Marathon, posting a big PB and one of the fastest times in Canadian history, with a 2:31:51. She should contend this fall in Toronto for a spot in Tokyo.

The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon will play host to both the Canadian championships and the Tokyo 2020 Marathon Trials this October. All week, we'll be unveiling the strongest 🇨🇦 field ever. The top men's and women's Canadian in Toronto will book a slot to run in Tokyo 2020! . .
August 13, 2019

The Toronto Waterfront Marathon’s elite week on social media ended after my last newsletter went out. They announced one more athlete since then: 2017 national marathon champion Leslie Sexton.

Sexton ran a big personal best earlier this year at the Prague marathon, running 2:31:51. That time is the second-fastest marathon by a Canadian woman this year, after Rachel Cliff’s record-setting 2:26 in Japan.

Sexton joins a stacked field, the strongest Canadian marathon field ever. I got into who is running and why Toronto is such a big deal race this year in my last newsletter. You can read that all here if you missed it.

The Toronto Waterfront Marathon takes place on Oct. 20.

Philemon Rono to return to Toronto, looking for third title

One of the greatest runners to ever race on 🇨🇦 soil, Philemon Rono, is coming back to Toronto this fall to race here for the fourth time!
In honour of this, here are 5 fun facts about the marathoner they call "Baby Police." 👶👮 #ItsYourMoment
August 16, 2019

Philemon Rono, the 2016 and 2017 Toronto Waterfront Marathon champion, is returning to the 2019 race. He set his personal best of 2:06:52 at the 2017 race, which is also the course record and the fastest marathon ever run on Canadian soil.

He struggled to a ninth place finish at last year’s race, but bounced back with a solid performance at Boston this year, where he ran 2:08:57 to finish sixth.

Rono lives and trains in Kenya with none other than Eliud Kipchoge.

“I am training with Eliud,” Rono said in a Canada Running Series press release. “What he does motivates me. He is always focused so it makes me become more motivated and focus on my own racing. When it is time to go for training, it is time for training. When it is time for rest we rest. When it’s time to jog it’s time for jogging. We watch everything he does.”

Rob Watson breaks Seawheeze course record

Rob Watson broke the course record at the lululemon Seawheeze half-marathon in Vancouver on Aug. 17. His time of 1:09:47 was almost 30 seconds faster than the previous record, which was set in 2017.

Watson, who is based in Vancouver, announced his return to the marathon last week, he will be among the Canadian elite field at Toronto. His goal there is to run under 2:20.

The top woman was American Madelyn Vorgitch, who crossed the line in 1:20:52. The top female Canadian was Jen Millar, who ran 1:22:25, good for fourth place overall.

A look at lululemon’s growing race circuit

Speaking of lululemon races, they recently announced their first American race: a 10K in San Diego, which sold out almost immediately.

The Vancouver-based apparel company currently have three races in Canada: the Seawheeze half-marathon in Vancouver, a 10K in Toronto and a 10K in Edmonton.

Their races tend to focus on the race as an experience, with yoga and music and parties, but they partner with experience running and racing brands to ensure a high quality racing experience that is consistent with their own brand.

In Canada, Canada Running Series executes their two 10Ks and they hired none other than the Boston marathon race director Dave McGillivray to run the San Diego race.

iRun looked at their growing race presence in a recent article:

Lululemon is also able to bridge the gap for community partners/sponsors who would otherwise not be associated with running. You wouldn’t normally see rows of stationary spin bikes along the course of a road race but run the Toronto Waterfront 10K and Ride Cycle Club members cheer you on. Nor would you typically see doughnuts from a vegan restaurant at the finish line, yoga cooldowns, or activations from wellness brands like Saje. But it’s these activations and experiences that make lululemon events different, catering to both die-hard runners and those who run just to say they did. The ability to offer an experience to both demographics is almost unheard of, and few even attempt to pull an interactive event off with the exception of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Series.

They also recently opened a concept store in Chicago, which I looked at in a previous newsletter.

Madeleine Kelly talks about her surprise 800m national win on The Shakeout

Madeleine Kelly is a writer and the co-host of Canadian Running’s podcast The Shakeout. In their most recent episode, co-host Kate Van Buskirk turns the tables on Kelly — after co-hosting the first half, Kelly becomes the key guest in the second as the twosome recap Kelly’s major victory at the Canadian national championships in July. Kelly outkicked one of the strongest fields in recent memory to run 2:02.37, beating icon Melissa Bishop-Nriagu, who placed second.

Heading into the race, Kelly was hoping for a podium placement — winning it all was a pipe dream.

As the national champion, Kelly earns an auto-spot on the worlds team, providing she can hit the standard of 2:00.60 by the time the qualification window closes.

You can listen to the episode here.

Natasha Wodak talks about her PanAm victory on The Terminal Mile

Natasha Wodak won the gold in the 10,000m at the PanAm Games, setting the PanAm record in the process. It was Wodak’s first global medal. She was a guest on The Terminal Mile to discuss her victory. She talks about her decision to focus on running in Canada and representing Canada this summer, how she’s approached recovery now that she’s 37 and how the new Olympics qualifying process has affected her approach to racing.

You can listen to The Terminal Mile episode here.

Wodak also shared her “summer must-haves” with iRun.

Up next for Wodak are the world championships in Doha, Qatar.

Eliud Kipchoge is ready to run 1:59

Coach gave me some homework materials to study over the weekend 🤔
August 16, 2019

Eliud Kipchoge is trying to run a 1:59 marathon again this fall. This attempt to being funded by INEOS, a gas and chemical company.

Eliud spoke with the media last week and Runner’s World was on the call. They got lots of details about this latest attempt.

The race will take place on Oct. 12 in Vienna. Depending on the weather, there’s a one-week window in which they can run, up to Oct. 20.

Kipchoge has tweaked his training slightly to be better prepared: he’s running more miles (up to 140 per week) and doing more strength work this time around.

One of the major differences between this attempt and the Nike Breaking2 attempt is that this race will be run on a 9.6K-loop in Vienna and not on a racecar track. He’s do the loop 4.5 times to make up the 42.2K distance. Kipchoge thinks this structure will be advantageous, as more of the course will be straight-away.

The other major difference is that they plan to line the course with spectators the whole way. The Nike Breaking2 attempt had some spectators (media, Nike people, etc.) at the start/finish. Kipchoge thinks this will also be advantageous because he will be able to draw energy from the crowd.

Why is Kipchoge doing this again, anyway? He sees it as a barrier of human performance that should be broken — not unlike the four-minute mile or sending humans to the moon:

When asked how important this attempt is compared to his Olympic gold medal in the marathon, as well as his eight world marathon major titles, Kipchoge replied, “It’s more important.”

“This is about history and making a mark in sports. It’s like the first man to go to the moon, I will be the first man to run under two hours, this is crucial,” he said.

You can read the complete Runner’s World breakdown of the call here.

They also announced some of the pacers that will guide Kipchoge. You can see those names here.

Japan Running News tests Olympic marathon course

Japan Running News did a test run of the Olympic marathon course exactly one year out from the women’s Olympic marathon.

Their biggest takeaway? It’s going to be hot and humid:

The conditions overall were still dangerous for a marathon, literally. Using the heat index scale, the section along the Kanda River from the top of the hill to the turn at Suidobashi where runners are running straight into the rising sun totally exposed, and the entire second half of the race scored in the "danger" zone, with the rest of the first half advising "extreme caution." But for at least the front-end contenders the shift to an earlier start time will partly lessen the risk in the last part of the race. Good luck to the back-of-the-packers, though. Be careful out there. My first clear memory of the marathon was of Gabriela Andersen-Schiess at the Los Angeles Olympics. We don't need that, or worse, again.

You can watch video highlights of the run below:

A story of running and redemption

The New York Times profiled runner Markelle Taylor, a former prisoner at San Quentin. While Taylor was incarcerated, he joined the prison’s 1000 Mile club and became a marathoner. The prison holds a certified marathon inside the compound, and that’s where Taylor ran fast enough to qualify.

Taylor served 18 years for second-degree murder: he assaulted his girlfriend, which resulted in the birth and eventual death of their baby. He finished in 3:03:52.

The article is an excellent look at prison reformation, the role running can have in healing and redemption:

In Boston he made the leap from Inmate Taylor to Taylor, Markelle, U.S.A., Bib No. 29739.

“I am representing every lifer in California,” he said then as he headed toward the starting line. “I don’t want to let them down.”

He didn’t.

The free world, as some lifers call it, can be fraught with peril: It can be difficult to resist the temptation to try to make up for decades of lost time all at once, leading to bad personal and financial decisions.

But Taylor has focused on the life patterns that had made him “a low-self-esteem-plagued mess,” as he put it in his one-act play. “I love myself today,” he said. “Prison saved my life. It made me a better person. A life sentence forces you to wake up.”

There’s also a documentary about the San Quentin marathon that features Taylor. You can watch the trailer below:

Climate change is making marathon finish times slower

I have climate change anxiety. (Who doesn’t?) It is probably the thing I read about most on the internet after running stuff. So when Podium Runner wrote an article about the correlation between climate change and marathon results, I was all over it:

According to a new study by RunRepeat, the mercury in the windy city is on the rise. The average temperature at the marathon has risen by five degrees in the last 18 years. When you overlay that with marathon finish times during that same period, it’s easy to see a trend.

Marathon times are getting slower, says RunRepeat data cruncher Paul Ronto, and the correlation to climate change is clear. “We focus on data-based content and we had hypothesized that warming temperatures played a role in slowing marathon results,” he says. “We didn’t expect the evidence to be so overwhelming, however.”

The book to read this week

Boston Bound is about how American runner Elizabeth Clor spent seven years trying to qualify for Boston. As she got faster, her setbacks weren’t physical — they were mental. Clor goes to extreme lengths to deal with this, including seeing a sports psychologist regularly. I found the book to be a good reminder to chill out and that your mental health is just as important as your physical health when it comes to chasing after big running goals.

As you work towards your fall racing goals, keep that in mind!

That’s it for this week!

As always, thanks for reading and keep on running!