Cam Levins is running Toronto, Natasha Wodak wins another one and more

Andre De Grasse broke 20 seconds in the 200m and Lanni Marchant might finally be healthy again.

Cam Levins returning to Toronto Waterfront Marathon, which has plenty of incentives for Canadians to run fast

Cam Levins crossing the finish line at STWM in 2018. Photo courtesy Canada Running Series.

Cam Levins, who made his marathon debut at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2018, will toe the line at the 2019 edition of the race. Cam broke the 43-year-old Canadian marathon record in 2018, running 2:09:25.

His goals for 2019? Defend his national title, break his own Canadian record and qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

“I was thrilled with how I performed, and I will probably remember crossing the finish line there for the rest of my life,” Levins told Canada Running Series in a press release announcing his return.

“It’s exciting to go back to a race where I now know the entire course. I also feel like I know what to expect. I may not feel the same as I did last year but, if I can go and have a similar experience, I will be happy.”

Levins was supposed to run the London marathon in April 2019 as his sophomore effort at the distance, but withdrew due to injury.

There are several incentives for Levins to return to Toronto. Cam’s 2018 performance would have qualified him easily, so if he runs as well as he did last year, he'll have no problem making the 2020 Olympics.

He ran the 5,000m and the 10,000m at the 2012 Olympics in London, but injury kept him off the roster in 2016.

Toronto is an IAAF Gold Label race, which means the top five finishers will achieve the qualification standard for the Tokyo Olympics, regardless of finish time.

It is also the Canadian marathon championships, so the top Canadian will be automatically named to the Canadian marathon Olympic team, providing they run the Olympic standard ⁠time, 2:11:30 for men, 2:29:30 for women.

If the Canadian champ does not have the standard upon crossing the finish line, they will have until May 31, 2020 to get it. I explained how the IAAF qualification system and how a Canadian could qualify for the Olympics in this post.

Canada Running Series also announced that any Canadian who runs the standard will receive a $5,000 time bonus, in addition to regular prize money.

The Toronto Waterfront Marathon will take place on Oct. 20, 2019.

Levins co-hosted the most recent episode of Canadian Running’s podcast, The Shakeout. He talked about the recent Canadian running scene, the Toronto Raptors and more. You can listen to that episode here.

Speaking of the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, they paid for an advertorial in Runner’s World about how great the running scene in Toronto is. It’s a fun sponsored piece, with six run crew members sharing their Toronto scene.

Andre De Grasse runs 19.91 in 200m

Andre De Grasse broke the 20-second barrier in the 200m at the Golden Spike track and field meet in Ostrava-Vítkovice, Czech Republic.

It’s a season best time for him and the first time he’s gone under 20 seconds since the 2016 Olympics.

In the newsletter last week, I highlighted how De Grasse’s 2019 is getting better with every race, and he was happy but eyeing a sub-20 time.

The Olympic qualifying time for the 200m is 20.24.

De Grasse placed second in the 100m at the same meet, running 10.05.

The Olympic qualifying time for the 100m is 10.05.

You can watch the 200m race below:

Natasha Wodak & Ben Preisner win Scotiabank Vancouver half-marathon

Natasha Wodak ran 1:11:20 to win the Scotiabank Vancouver half-marathon, which was less than a minute off the course record and about a minute of her personal best in the distance, which she set in Houston in January.

Second place went to Dayna Pidhoresky, who ran the Canadian half-marathon championships in Winnipeg one week ago, and third place was Briana Hungerford.

Natasha Wodak is on fire in 2019.

The Vancouver win is Wodak’s fifth win of the year. She has also won the Vancouver Sun Run, the Pioneer 8K, the Canadian 10K road championships and the Canadian 10,000m championships.

Wodak was also named to the Canadian world championship team in the 10,000m this week— I have more on that below.

Ben Preisner won the men’s race in 1:05:41. Chris Balestrini crossed the finish line in second place — he also ran the Canadian half-marathon champs in Winnipeg a week ago and the Ottawa marathon a month back — and third place was Julian Heninger.

The race was Preisner’s debut at the half-marathon distance. Preisner, who is from Milton, Ont., ran for the University of Tulsa in college. He just graduated with a degree in chemical engineering. He represented Canada at the world cross-country championships, where he finished 77th.

He did a Q&A with Running in Canada earlier this year, where he stated he’d love to go to the Olympics but isn’t putting his engineering career on hold to chase that dream:

“Making the Olympics would be amazing, and if the opportunity presents itself I obviously wouldn’t be opposed to it. In terms of distance, typically the longer the better for me so who knows, maybe the marathon would be my best option. As I said in the previous question, I love running but I also don’t want to put my actual career on the side burner. I think my last semester at Tulsa will answer a lot of questions, particularly what I want to do with running.”

Lanni Marchant returns to racing in Toronto’s Pride and Remembrance 5K

Lanni Marchant, the former Canadian marathon record holder, laced up her racing shoes for the first time since 2017 at the Pride and Remembrance 5K in Toronto.

Marchant placed third, running 17:10. Rachel Hannah won the race in 16:55, with Madeleine Davidson coming in second in 17:12.

But for Marchant, racing and being healthy is a huge victory in itself, as she's had three surgeries in three years, he most recent one being just this past May.

Her last big race was the New York City Marathon in 2017, where she placed seventh. Before that, she ran both the 10,000m and the marathon at the Rio Olympics in 2016 and memorably broke the Canadian marathon record, running 2:28:00, in 2013.

Marchant spoke to Canadian Running after the Pride 5K to discuss her journey over the last few years:

“I wanted to support the community and wanted a fun race for my first race back. I also needed to see where my body is at. I do most of my training by myself, and it’s a very different program than I’m used to because I’m coming back from multiple surgeries. I’m still walk-running a lot of my workouts and you don’t get to walk in a race, so this event was also to check where I’m at, fitness-wise.”

The former Canadian marathon and half-marathon record holder is happy with how Saturday’s race went. “I had another small procedure done this past May, so that’s three surgeries in three years–it’s been a lot to put my body through. I really have no complaints about how today went. It was a reminder that racing is so fun, but also so dang hard. It’s me, it’s my battle and I’m finding out where my body’s at.”

She continues, “This time last year I was barely walking, so I wasn’t able to run the 2018 event. But it was great being back out there today. So many people know I’m mounting a comeback, and any time it started to hurt during the race there was somebody who recognized me and was cheering. It reminds me that even if it’s not going to be a perfect race, I need to come out here and support the community that’s supported me for so long.”

Five athletes named to Canadian world championship team

Athletics Canada announced five more athletes have been named to the 2019 world championship team.

The world championships take place in Doha, Qatar from Sept. 28 to Oct. 6, 2019.

These athletes, who are profiled below, join John W. Mason and Lyndsay Tessier, who were named to the team for the marathon, earlier this year. I profiled both of them in an earlier newsletter.

Natasha Wodak and Mohammed Ahmed to run 10,000m

Natasha Wodak and Mohammed Ahmed will run the 10,000m at the IAAF world track & field championships.

Wodak secured her position on the team when she won the Canadian 10,000m championships in Burnaby, B.C. earlier this month.

Ahmed is the Canadian 5,000m and 10,000m record holder. He represented Canada in the 2012 and the 2016 Olympic Games, finishing an impressive fourth in the 5,000m in 2016. He broke his own 5,000m record earlier this year, running 12:58.16 to become the first Canadian to run under 13 minutes at the distance.

Mathieu Bilodeau & Evan Dunfee to compete in 50K racewalk

Mathieu Bilodeau competed in the 50K racewalk in the 2015 world championships and at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

He DNFed in Rio and his best international finish is 31s at the 2015 worlds. Bilodeau ran in university and also competed in the triathlon for a few years before focusing on racewalking.

This 2016 profile from the Calgary Herald shares his introduction to the sport, which happened a mere two years before he qualified for his first Olympics:

“I was scared to go race-walking on my own (because) people were going to laugh,” says Mat Bilodeau. “It is not natural. You don’t see it that often. It’s a weird feeling. You’re not used to this hip movement, locking your knee. It’s different. It’s so tough.”

Two years after tiptoeing into the realm of race-walking, not much has changed for Bilodeau on Calgary’s downtown paths.

Hecklers persist. Jokers jeer.

But the man is bold enough to chug around the city in broad daylight.

“Every time I walk, people laugh and yell at me,” says the Quebec City native, who has lived in Calgary since 2011. “But what race-walking brings me? They have no idea. It’s the best thing in the world, right? It brings me so much.”

Evan Dunfee came fourth in this distance at the 2016 Olympics. He had an interaction with a fellow competitor that resulted in his competitor getting disqualified — giving Dunfee the bronze medal for a minute — then undisqualified — solidifying Dunfee’s fourth place finish. The moment put racewalking a national spotlight.

Since then, Dunfee has done some neat things, like walking 25K a day for 25 days and visiting 25 schools to raise $25,000 for KidSport. He also walks various road races, such as the BMO Vancouver marathon and the Scotiabank Vancouver half-marathon this past weekend. You can also follow Dunfee on Strava.

In 2017, Dunfee wrote a piece for CBC Sports, arguing that racewalking deserves more respect than it gets:

The 50km walk is the longest foot race in the Olympics. It is a testament to the first fundamental principle set forth in the Olympic Charter:

“Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind.”

The walk requires peak physical conditioning combined with a will to endure for nearly four hours. This ability to endure is not done seeking fame or glory (we know we aren’t the event for that) rather, it stems from a passion to push our limits and find out what our potential is.

Rachel Seaman to compete in 20K racewalk

Rachel Seaman will compete at the 20K racewalk. There is no 50K women’s racewalk at the world championships or Olympics, because sexism.

This will be Seaman’s fourth world championships, she previously competed in 2009 in Berlin, 2011 in South Korea and 2015 in Beijing. She also raced the 20K at the 2012 Olympics in London. Injuries have held her back for the past few years, along with the birth of her two children. But she’s healthy and ready to race again.

The Peterborough Examiner profiled Seaman earlier this year:

Needing to meet an Athletics Canada standard to represent Canada at the Pan-American Racewalk Cup April 20 in Mexico, a qualifying race for the 2019 Pan Am Games in Lima, Peru this summer, Seaman organized her own 15k race in San Diego on March 3. She beat the standard of 1:13:00 with a time of 1:12:19 to secure her spot in Mexico.

"There was no other race in North America, so I had to put on my own race," she said.

It will be her first time representing Canada since 2015.

"Before I think I took receiving my uniform for granted," she said. "It's been so long it will be pretty exciting just to get that again. It will almost be like your first time. Everything I have gone through the last 3 1/2 years has been pretty difficult. To have overcome a lot of that and be back at the races I used to go to is going to be pretty exciting."

Canadian Paralympic team release 2020 theme song

The Canadian Paralympic team, alongside CBC Sports and CBC Music, has release their theme song for the 2020 games. Called Shine, it was written by Paul DeRosa and is performed by 2006 Canadian Idol winner Eva Avila. The song is available in both English and French.

“We really wanted a song that would honour and complement our athletes and the emotion, drive, and spirit they display while competing,” Martin Richard, executive director, communications and brand, Canadian Paralympic Committee, said in a press release. “Shine is an uplifting, celebratory song that not only helps tell the story of our athletes but spreads a positive message to all Canadians to lift each other up and that anything is possible.” 

You can listen to the English version of the song below.

Strides: links worth reading

→ Not really a link worth reading, but it’s news to note and I don’t know where else to put it: there will be no Canadian 5K road championships in 2019. Bang & Olufsen’s Yorkville Run has hosted the race the past four years but will not be involved going forward. Athletics Canada is looking for a new race partner for the 2020 championships. Canadian Running has more if you’re interested.

Charles Philibert-Thiboutot, a 1500m runner who ran for Canada in the 2016 Olympics and won a bronze medal at the 2015 Pan Am Games, has announced his season is over because of an injury. He wrote about this on his personal blog:

Being a runner by trade for me has meant to be injured multiple months every year, and see my results fall through. It has meant that every morning I had to fights demons, knowing the the first step I would take out the bed would be deeply painful, and that it would prevent me from accomplishing the one thing I am supposed to do on that day. It has meant that I have missed 3 World Championships, Pan American Games and the Commonwealth Games due to injury. It has meant that I have lived day and night with performance anxiety, while I was always limited physically and late on the racing schedule due to pain.

A foot injury I have sustained since March has officially put me out for season for 2019. Coupled with an Achilles injury that has prevented me from running for 8 weeks in the fall, for the first time ever I am more than half of the year on the sidelines.

I lost another round, but the fight is not over.

Krista DuChene was on the Le Rundown podcast this month. They discuss balancing training and motherhood, her breakout race at Boston in 2018, her career as a dietician and more. You can listen to the episode here.

→ The Canadian half-marathon championships were last week in Winnipeg. Tristan Woodfine was the men’s race winner, running 1:04:44, which was a course record and a personal best. He did a Q+A about his race on the Manitoba Marathon website, where he also announces his intention to to chase an Olympic qualifying time at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in October:

How did you feel coming into Winnipeg knowing how competitive the male field was for the Championship? Does it enter your head on race day, or is that all just chatter leading up to the event?

I felt confident in my preparation leading into the race and knew I could be competitive. Overall though I don’t worry too much about who’s in the race, I try to just focus on getting the best out of myself on race day. That being said, having such a strong group of guys definitely helps bring out your best on race day.

You’ve had a phenomenal season so far this year, running a 2:18:55 in May at the Ottawa Marathon and then shaving three minutes off that with a 2:15:19 at the Houston Marathon in January. What is the mental difference between getting yourself ready to run a full over a half?

The difference in the mental approach comes with the difference in training. During marathon training you’re doing lots of long fast runs which helps hone your ability to cope with being uncomfortable for 2+ hours.

What goals have you set for yourself to build on your successes moving into the fall race season?

The big goal for this fall season is chasing Olympic qualification at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. It definitely won’t be easy but after the race in Winnipeg it gives me some confidence moving toward that goal.

Dayna Pdhoresky, who ran the half in Winnipeg three weeks after running the full marathon in Ottawa, wrote about her Canadian half-marathon championship race on her personal website:

From the gun I tucked in behind some guys and Malindi Elmore was right there as well.  I knew she was fit. She completely crushed me in the Vancouver Sun Run earlier in the year.  If she was on, I knew it would be delusional to think that I could challenge her.  Within the first few kilometres, as much as I wanted to keep pushing to hang on I knew that this pace was bit much for me — especially in a race where I was more focused on placing than on time.  It was not a race I could win.  So at around 3K I backed off, lost the pack, and settled into an easier pace where I aimed to target 3:30/k. I knew I’d created enough separation from the other women that 3:30s would be enough to maintain my position.  I’m not going to lie but it sort of sucked. I felt like this race was going to go on for forever since I was now in no mans land and still had so much farther to go.  

iRun talked to Cam Levins and Lanni Marchant about their nutrition practices:

iRun: What is the number one nutrition tip you would give a marathon runner?

Cameron: “Make sure you are consuming carbohydrates and fluids early in the race because it’s already too late if you’re responding to your thirst/hunger.”

Lanni: “Eat more than you think you need to during training cycles. [Otherwise,] You can get sick or injured before the start line. And be mindful not to overdo carb loading before a race”

Gear Patrol interviewed Jeremy Bresnen and Mike Giles of Ciele Athletics, the Canadian company that makes the hats you see on, well, every runner in Canada:

Q: When you guys started, what did you feel was missing from the hat world?

A: A hat that I wanted to wear. There were two things: Nobody was paying any attention to those technical running caps from any of the major brands. They were taking existing fabric and not thinking it through. I wanted something comfortable, packable and breathable. Probably like 90 percent of the caps on the market are made out of a woven fabric. If you were lucky, they put a little mesh window on each side to [help] with evaporation. And then, our foam band, which makes for a more comfortable hat over short distances, [and] long distances. And then, the advantage that you can pack it away in a pocket if you don’t want to be wearing the hat at all. I believed we could do something better technically. The background that I come from is technical clothing designs, more on the outerwear side of things.

CBC Manitoba profiled Lou Billinkoff, a 96-year-old runner who is breaking world records in the 95-99 age category:

Billinkoff came to running late in life. He started at age 89, after surviving a heart attack. He began by walking around the track, then running and now he's breaking records.

"He was non-athletic his whole life, he never played any sports or anything, so for this to happen is quite shocking," said Errol Billinkoff of his father's accomplishment.

"I've often said that he's sending the wrong message to people — do nothing your whole life and then your joints will be like new," he said, laughing. "You'll be 89 and you'll accomplish great things."

Podium Runner talked to 12 writers, including Canadian Alex Hutchinson, about how running and writing are connected for them and how running makes them better writers:

Do you have creative or breakthrough writing ideas while you are running?

Christie Aschwanden, lead science writer and author, Good To Go: “If I couldn’t run (or ski or bike or walk), I’d never be able to write. It’s when I get my best ideas, and also when I work out things I’m writing about.”

David Epstein, author, most recently of Range: “If I’m flummoxed by a structural writing problem, I’ve definitely gained some clarity during a run. Some new approach will just pop into my head. It’s like it was marinating, and then running catalyzes a reaction.”

Alex Hutchinson, “Sweat Science” columnist at and author, Endure: “I often head out for a run to tackle a particular writing challenge, but I almost never come back with the solution, because I simply can’t prevent my thoughts from wandering. But sometimes I come back with solutions to other problems I wasn’t meaning to tackle.”

Deena Kastor, Olympic Marathon medalist and author, Let Your Mind Run: “I do have creative thoughts when running easy, but not during hard workouts. On those, I am focused on pushing myself harder, so creative thoughts go out the window.”

CBC Sports profiled Kat Surin, daughter of Canadian sprinter Bruny Surin. Kat is a 400m runner whose goal is to qualify for the world championships this fall. She currently runs at the University of Connecticut:

Being the daughter of an Olympic champion doesn't weigh on Kat.

"Whenever I compete, my mind is clear," she said. "I'm my own person.

"Every time he comes to the track, I (set a personal best) so he's my lucky charm. I don't feel any pressure at all."

Like any father, Bruny Surin would be proud to watch his daughter race at the Olympics.

"That would be amazing," he said. "I want her to succeed.

"The one thing I always tell her, do your best, work hard. As long as you try your best, I'm going to be proud of you."

The final kick

That’s it for this week! As always, thanks for reading and keep on running.

Because next Monday is Canada Day, next week’s newsletter will be delivered on Tuesday!

If you want to reach out for any reason, you can email me at