Canadian half-marathon and 10,000m champs crowned this week

And several Canadian athletes did well in the Diamond League!

The Toronto Raptors are the NBA champions, and I promise this is related to running somehow

This newsletter is dedicated to the Toronto Raptors, and to the sport of basketball.

I started running because of basketball.

First, in practices. Laps around the gym. Beep test. Suicides.

Then, when I went to university, where I was lucky enough to play, it became part of our off-season training. Run a mile. Run 5K. Run a mile every weekend and send coach your time.

“Oh, you ran 8:12?,” coach would respond. “That’s great, Ainslie ran 7:55.”

Looking back, I’m sure my coach lied about Ainslie’s times. And to Ainslie about mine. But I was determined to beat her. Marked off a section of the road behind my house. Stop watch on. Go. Faster. Faster.

Then I graduated. I missed the structure of sport, of building your routine around practices and weight sessions and games and road trips. The religion of pre-game routine. The performance of game time. The post-game celebration. The analysis, finding ways to get better. The community.

When I started running, it was mostly to find the fitness I lost when I lost basketball.

But what I found was probably the closest thing to that entire experience.

In university, I missed parties. I missed weekends. I got up early. I went to the gym late. For a tiny team at a tiny school where basketball didn’t matter and playing it didn’t matter and I basically rode the bench my entire career.

Now, as a 34-year-old, I’m missing parties. My weekends revolve around running. I get up early. I go to the gym late. All to run a marathon time that, in the grand scheme of things, is completely unremarkable and isn’t fast at all.

There’s something about having a goal, a plan to make it happen, and people around who you want the same thing and are on your side.

There’s something about putting in the work, doing the reps, when everyone else is out doing something else.

Because there’s magic in the process. There’s magic in believing you can do great things if you put in the work. There’s magic in putting yourself out there, finding people who believe in the same thing, and showing up, even when no one is watching.

There’s magic in sport, in community, in celebrating hard work, and see it all pay off.

The Toronto Raptors showed us that this weekend.

Because basketball isn’t about basketball.

And running isn’t about running.

They are about so much more.

Ben Flanagan & Natasha Wodak win Canadian 10,000m championships

The Canadian 10,000m national championships took place at the 2019 Pacific Distance Carnival in Burnaby, B.C on Thursday night — right after the Raptors won the 2019 NBA championships.

In the men’s race, Ben Flanagan ran 28:37.49 to claim the national title. Ben broke the pack apart with a 64 second lap with just over a mile to go to break up the race and take the lead.

Ben told Independent Sports News he stayed patient in the race and when he saw his chance, he took it:

Flanagan stayed focused on his preparation and stayed patient throughout the race. “There’s so much that can happen in a 10,000-metre race, I just tried to stay really patient and relaxed early in the race. When I went to the front I just pushed as hard as I could,” said Flanagan. “With about six and a half laps to go, a spot opened up at the front, so once I got there, I tried to really hammer it home and never looked back from there.”

Luc Bruchet, who ran in the 2016 Olympics but has been sidelined with injuries recently, came second in 28:44.29. Rory Linkletter, who just finished his NCAA career at Brigham Young University, secured third place with 28:55.38.

Ben is originally from Kitchener, Ont., and ran for the University of Michigan in college. He made international headlines after he was the surprise winner of the NCAA Division I 10,000m race and immediately asked where his mom was after he crossed the finish line. He graduated in 2018 and went pro, joining the Reebok Boston Track Club. He’s not the only Canadian in the group — Justyn Knight runs for the same group.

Athletics Illustrated interviewed Ben after the race:

Earlier this year, Canadian Running talked to Ben about his transition from college runner to pro athlete:

Flanagan says that the professional level is certainly different than the collegiate level he was used to. “The difference between professional and collegiate running is when someone has a good day at the professional level, they can really have a good day. There has to be an understanding that there are days where you’ll have to swallow your pride, get dropped, and know that you have to do what’s best for you. I’m surrounded by excellent athletes.”

Natasha Wodak and Ben Flanagan dominant in #Burnaby #2019Canadian10 #2019Canadian10000mChampionships #AthleticsCanada #BenFlanagan #IAAFWorldChampionship #NatashaWodak

In the women’s race, Natasha Wodak secured her second national championship of the year (she won the 10K road championship during Ottawa Race Weekend at the end of May). Wodak crossed the finish line in 32:09.69.

Scottish runner Sarah Inglis, who trains in Canada, came second in 32:11.42. Rachel Cliff, who owns the Canadian marathon and half-marathon records, finished third in 32:12.24.

The Pacific Distance Carnival took place in Natasha’s hometown of Burnaby. As she told Independent Sports News, the hometown advantage may have given her an edge:

“The crowd was amazing,” said Wodak. “I had some of my friends from high school and elementary school, my parents, my boyfriend, his parents, I felt overwhelmed with support. It was awesome.”

Athletics Illustrated talked to Natasha after the race:

Earlier this year, Natasha talked to Canadian Running about how she gets race-ready:

“There’s a few workouts that if I nail, I know I’m ready to run fast. I usually do 3K, 1K, 2K, 1K, mile, 1K around 10 to 12 days out. If I can nail that workout, I know I’m good to go. With that workout, I’m trying to start at half-marathon pace and work my way down to 10K or 5K pace.”

Shoutout to Stephen Anderson at the Running in Canada blog who wrote an excellent preview of this race.

As the national champions, both Ben and Natasha will be named to the world championship team in the 10,000m. The world track & field championships take place Sept. 28-Oct. 6 in Doha, Qatar.

Malindi Elmore & Tristan Woodfine win Canadian half-marathon championships

It was a big week for national championships! The Canadian half-marathon championships took place in Winnipeg, Man., as part of the Manitoba Marathon weekend.

The weather was perfect for PBs, which was proven by the elite performances.

Malindi Elmore won the women’s race with a time of 1:11:09, which is a four-minute half-marathon PB for the 38-year-old-athlete.

Dayna Pidhoresky, who is just coming off a 2:37:19 performance at the Ottawa marathon three weeks ago, came second in 1:14:06. Robyn Mildren, who is having a solid year with a half-marathon PB in Houston and a seventh-place finish in the Canadian 10K championships, came third in 1:15:36.

Early in her career, Malindi focused on the 1500m and ran for Canada in the 2004 Olympics. She retired from competitive racing in 2012, but returned with a vengeance this year, with a focus on distance events.

She made waves with her 2:32:15 marathon debut in Houston in January and followed that up with a 32:57 PB in the 10K at the Canadian championships just three weeks ago. She finished second to Natasha Wodak in that race.

Malindi talked to Canadian Running about her favourite workout:

“I still love the track, so I like to incorporate the two. The track still feels really natural to me–my 1,500m background doesn’t just go away. I love mixing up tempo with the faster stuff.”

The workout: 2K tempo at 3:20 per K, 4x400m at 70 seconds, 2K tempo at 3:20 per K, 4x300m at 51 seconds, 2K tempo at 3:20, 4x200m at 33 seconds.

Her next goal? To be in contention for the Tokyo 2020 Canadian marathon team:

“I’m certainly going to put myself on the line in Toronto [STWM]. My plan is to put myself in a position to get standard and see where that takes me. I didn’t see this coming at all. I didn’t even think this was possible a year ago. I started running for fun and then the marathon went really well along with my 10K and half training. I’m feeling fresh again.”

The men’s winner, Tristan Woodfine, also set a personal best in the half distance, breaking the tape in 1:04:46 His previous PB was 1:06.

Tristan is having a strong 2019. He set a PB in the marathon distance, 2:15:19, in Houston in January, and won the Spring Run-Off 8K for the third time in a row earlier this season.

Thomas Toth, who ran a 2:19 marathon in Rotterdam earlier this year and has previously represented Canada in the marathon at the world championships, came second in 1:04:47.

Chris Balestrini came third in 1:05:57. Just three weeks ago, Chris pulled off an impressive double, running 30:08 in the Canadian 10K championships, then pacing Dayna Pidhoresky to a 2:37 marathon the very next day.

Woodfine came to win, as he told Athletics Canada:

His goal coming in was to win the race so to come out of it doing just that, it gives him confidence moving forward. “I knew the field had some strong guys so the plan was to just race up front and hopefully a time would come with it, and it did,” said Woodfine. “The course was great and there were a lot of people cheering so that definitely helped in the back half of the race.”

Stephen Anderson came through again with an A+ preview of this race at Running in Canada.

CBC Manitoba had a great recap of the day, which included a few human interest stories from finishers that will probably make you cry:

Kyle Gagner drove up from North Dakota to run the half marathon while pushing his son, Levi, in a chair.

Levi, who is five, has a rare form of congenital muscular dystrophy, which severely limits his mobility, and means he has a much shorter life expectancy than most people, Gagner said.

"We don't know how long we're gonna have him, and that's the harsh reality that really sucks to think about. But we just make the most of every moment we have," Gagner said.

Being out on the race track pushing his son is "incredible," he said.

"It's really really precious time. It's even more precious to be doing it on Father's Day," he said.

Gabriela DeBues-Stafford sets 1500m PB, misses Canadian record by two-tenths of a second

Gabriela DeBues-Stafford continued her streak of impressive races by running 4:00.46 in the 1500m at the Diamond League in Rabat, Morocco. The time was only 0.19 seconds off the Canadian record, set by Lynn Williams in 1985. Gabriela has set three Canadian records this year and is inching closer to this one with every race, so I am sure it will be hers soon.

On Instagram, Gabriela dedicated this run to American runner Gabriele “Gabe” Grunewald, who passed away from a long battle with cancer earlier this week. Grunewald was only 32, and was first diagnosed with cancer when she was in college, running for the University of Minnesota. If you follow any prominent runner on social media, you saw tributes to her this week, as she handled her cancer with tenacity and grace and became an advocate for other patients with rare cancer.

On Instagram (still can’t embed IG posts in this newsletter template, fingers crossed it’s coming soon), DuBues-Stafford wrote:

I would also like to dedicate my 1500m tomorrow to Gabriele Grunewald, who passed away earlier this week. If you are financially able to, please visit the link in my bio and donate to the @bravelikegabe foundation for rare cancer research. This is a cause that is close to my heart, as my mother also died of a rare cancer. 

I did not know Gabe well, but I am a big fan of hers, and I was incredibly drawn to her radiance and resilience. I was lucky enough to be in a couple of her races in 2017 and share a few conversations with her. We stood on the startline together during one race, and when the official called out my first name she turned to me and said, “We can share cheers!” It’s such a small gesture, but when somebody who you’re a big fan of says something so positive like that, it stays with you.

Andre De Grasse wins 200m at Diamond League in Rabat, Morocco

Gabriela DeBues-Stafford wasn’t the only Canadian to have a strong performance in Morocco this weekend. Andre De Grasse ran a season best 20.19  in the 200m. It’s also Andre’s fastest time since 2017.

It’s the third 200m podium this season for Andre: he came second in races in Grenada in April and in Shanghai.

I think it’s safe to say Andre is back after a few tough years ⁠— just in time to get ready for the world championships and the Olympics.

Andre told NBC Sports that’s he’s happy with his progress, but has his eyes on faster times:

“I am very grateful with the victory but not happy with the time,” De Grasse said, according to meet organizers. “I want to achieve sub-20 seconds.”

De Grasse, the Olympic 100m bronze medalist and 200m silver medalist, must get faster before this fall’s world championships in Doha.

The world’s swiftest 200m men this year are comfortably sub-20 performers — Americans Michael Norman (19.70, though not expected to race the 200m at worlds) and Noah Lyles (19.72) and Nigerian Divine Oduduru (19.73). None of them were in Rabat. De Grasse’s personal best is 19.80 from Rio.

“It is a long process,” De Grasse said. “I am not fully healthy, I still have a lot of work to do to be really back in shape. I want to be back where I was two years ago.”

You can watch the race below:

Crystal Emmanuel finishes 3rd in 100m at Diamond League Rabat, Morocco

Crystal Emmanuel also had a strong performance in Morocco. In the 100m, she ran 11.30 to finish third.

CBC Sports profiled Crystal a few days ago. She and her coach believe she has what it takes to be among the best sprinters in the world:

"Crystal has accomplished so much at this point," said [coach Charles] Allen, noting her ability to sustain speed for a longer distance is crucial this season. "Our goal is to not just be in the final [at worlds] because she's done that, but be in the top five or top three. We'll have a good indicator where she's at come nationals [July 25-30 in Montreal]. Making sure she's peaking at the right time is crucial.”

Crystal has the world and the Olympic qualifying time for the 100m already, but has yet to achieve either in the 200m.

You can watch the 100m Rabat race below:

Rwandan refugees Jean Marie Vianney & Salome Nyirarukundo win Toronto lululemon 10K

Two Rwandan refugees, who have both been in Canada for less than a year, claimed the top spots at the lululemon 10K in Toronto this weekend.

Jean Marie Vianney winning the 2019 lululemon 10K. Photo courtesy Canada Running Series.

Jean Marie Vianney won the men’s race in a time of 29:58. Vianney struggled during the race, but ran well enough to win by seven seconds.

“The start was complicated for me because my body was not good,” Vianney told Canada Running Series after the race. “I didn’t feel good. But after 1km I tried to pick up the pace. The course was nice with some hills but it’s not bad. Definitely nice.”

Second place went to Bonsa Gonfa, an Ethiopian born athlete now representing Toronto Olympic Club. Bonsa ran 30:05.

Third place was Canadian runner Phil Parrot-Migas, who crossed the finish line in 30:08.

Canadian marathon record holder Cam Levins finished fifth in 30:21.

Cam says he felt good during the race, now he just needs to build his fitness. He spoke to Canada Running Series about his performance:

“I am healthy,” he said with a smile. “I felt fine the whole way it’s just that the fitness isn’t there yet. I wanted to win. I think everybody wants to do that. I am not disappointed, I am fine with it.”

He continued, “I have been healthy for a few weeks. I knew I would be able to finish and just see where I am at.”

Salome Nyirarukundo winning the 2019 lululemon 10K. Photo courtesy Canada Running Series.

Salome Nyirarukundo won the women’s race in 34:03. The win is even more impressive when you factor in that Salome finished fourth at the Ottawa marathon, running 2:30:44, just three weeks ago.

Rachel Hannah, who also ran the Ottawa marathon in 2:41:31, was second in 34:30.

Third place went to Glady Tarus, who ran 34:38.

Both Jean Marie Vianney and Salome Nyirarukundo now live and train in Ottawa. The two train together, alongside Yves Sikubwabo, another Rwandan refugee who came to Canada in 2010. Yves now runs for Canada, and represented our country internationally.

“I train every day. I train with Jean and Yves Sikubwabo helps. I have to talk about those guys,” Salome said after the race. “They try to motivate me, try to support me, every day. So I thank Yves. I am in his debt. I am so happy.”

Yves finished sixth in the lululemon 10K race, running 30:36. His own story is remarkable — he ended up in Canada after deciding to stay after travelling here for a race because his aunt told him it was too dangerous to return home. He claimed refugee status and through running, found a home and enrolled in the University of Guelph.

This Guelph Mercury profile from 2013 is worth reading:

After the race, he called his aunt. She gave him troubling news. Many perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide including his parent's killers had been released from prison and were threatening to finish what they started. Fearing for his safety and acknowledging that Canada offered the opportunity of a better life, she told him to stay.

Sikubwabo spoke to his aunt over the phone three times, pleading with her to change her mind, but she persisted. He called his [a family friend] as well, who reiterated his aunt's advice. Finally, he accepted their wishes and decided to stay in Canada, where he did not know a single person or fluently speak either official language.

"I took a bus to Ottawa because it was the only city I knew. I wanted to be in Ottawa because government offices and schools would be there," he said.

Runners Sarah Wells and Sam Effah to compete on Amazing Race Canada

Runners Sarah Wells and Sam Effah are a team competing on the seventh season of Amazing Race Canada.

Sarah is a hurdler who also runs the 4x400. She ran for Canada in the 2012 Olympics in London in the 400m hurdles. Her best international finish was a silver medal in the 400m hurdles at the Pan Am Games in Toronto.

Sam is a sprinter who specialized in the 100m. He was a two-time national champion at the distance, with a personal best of 10.06.

Sarah and Sam are going up against nine other teams, including twin sisters, some best friends, some married couples and a grandfather and grandson. The theme is “Second Chances” and it’s Sam and Sarah’s second chance after battling injuries throughout their careers.

“When I saw that season seven was going to be about resilience, a lightbulb kind of went on in my head,” Sam told The Loop. “Like this is what me and Sarah have gone through.”

Episodes air beginning on July 2.

The final kick

Tributes to Gabe Grunewald filled my social media for days. Read the pieces about Gabe by Tim Layden for Sports Illustrated and Lindsay Crouse for the New York Times, donate to her organization and be #BraveLikeGabe today, this week and always.

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

If you want to reach out, you can email me at