July 22: This one is jam-packed, with profiles, results and a preview galore

Gabriela DeBues-Stafford broke another record, the national championships and coming and did EVERY media outlet write a running story this week?

I have a banner now, very exciting!

I want to thank everyone who has subscribed. I started this newsletter on Jan. 22, 2019, so this newsletter marks exactly six months since Run the North started. There’s been a big learning curve: figuring out newsletters, figuring out how the IAAF qualifying works, figuring out what kind of content people want to read.

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Okay, onwards! This is a long one, so buckle up.

Gabriela DeBues-Stafford breaks her fifth Canadian record of 2019

This headline is getting old. JK, keep crushing it Gabriela!

Gabriela DeBues-Stafford broke the Canada 1,500m record at Diamond League in London, running 4:00.26.

This broke the 34-year-old record, held by Lynn Kanuka, by 0.01 seconds. But a record is a record!

DeBues-Stafford finished third overall in the race, which was won by British athlete and DeBues-Stafford’s training partner, Laura Muir, with a time of 3:58.25.

You can watch highlights from the race below. DeBues-Stafford executes an amazing kick to steal third place.

How long will it be before DeBues-Stafford dips below 4:00 for the 1,500?

Here are the four other records DeBues-Stafford has broken this year:

  • Indoor 5,000m on Jan. 4: 14:57.45

  • Indoor mile on Jan. 26: 4:24.80

  • Outdoor 5,000m on May 30: 14:51.59

  • Outdoor mile on July 12: 4:17.87

DeBues-Stafford’s move to Scotland to train with Muir has helped her breakthrough. From Doug Harrison at CBC Sports:

"With Andy, Laura and [2017 European junior champion] Jemma Reekie, my workouts are very intense with a lot of reps and I'm working harder than ever," DeBues-Stafford told CBC Sports recently.

"Laura has won world championship medals indoors and there's no substitute for being around someone like that. … If you're training with ambitious people … you'll push yourself harder."

Up next for DeBues-Stafford are the Canadian national track & field championships, which take place July 25-29 in Montreal.

Andre De Grasse breaks 10 seconds in the 100m

Andre De Grasse continued his return to world class form with a 9.99 performance in the 100m at the Diamond League in London.

It’s the first time De Grasse has run under 10 seconds (without wind assistance) since the 2016 Olympics.

De Grasse placed fifth overall in the race, which was won by South African runner Akani Simbine in 9.93.

You can watch the race below:

De Grasse’s coach Rana Reider talked to Doug Harrison of CBC Sports after the race. He’s happy with his progress, but knows he has a ways to go — including getting better than fellow Canadian Aaron Brown:

For De Grasse to close the gap on the likes of Christian Coleman, Noah Lyles and Justin Gatlin — each of whom has run sub-9.90 seconds this season — the 2016 triple Olympic medallist has to be quicker and more efficient to the 30-metre mark.

"He has to be in better body position and has to be able to get there and not use up so much energy that it costs him at the end of the race," Reider says. "He was a better starter [in 2016] so it could have been the injuries or a lot of things for why he has gone backwards."

CBC Sports also did a video with De Grasse recently, where he breaks down what goes through his mind during a 100m race:

Steeplechaser Regan Lee qualifies for track & field world championships

Regan Yee ran 9:35.49 in the 3,000m steeplechase at a Sunshine Tour event at at Azusa Pacific University to nab her IAAF qualifying time for the world track & field championships in Doha, Qatar.

The time was a PB for Yee, who won the race.

According to an interview with Gary Kingston at the Aldergrove Star, the race was one of the last chances to nab a qualifying time this season:

“It was really the only opportunity in North America,” said Yee. It’s super hard to find a competitive steeplechase. We were supposed to have a pacer and then that fell through, but the race attracted a big group of girls wanting to run the world standard.”

To make the worlds team, Yee must now finish in the top three at the national championships this coming weekend. Her biggest competition will be Geneviève Lalonde, who broke the national record in this event earlier this year.

Yee, who is from South Hazelton, B.C., ran for Trinity Western University in college . She recently graduated and now has her sights on the world stage. She has already been named to the PanAm team, which will compete in Lima, Peru, from July 26 to Aug. 11.

She also needs to qualify for the Olympics, which requires a sub 9:30 time for the 3,000m steeplechase or a high enough world ranking to get invited.

The world championships take place from Sept. 26 to Oct. 6.

The Canadian team will be announced in August.

Jon Gay qualifies for world track & field championships in steeplechase

John Gay ran the qualifying standard for the 3,000m steeplechase at the Meeting international de la Province de Liège in Belgium.

His time of 8:28.96 is 0.04 seconds below the standard of 8:30.

Gay placed sixth overall in the race. From Christoper Kelsall at Athletics Illustrated:

Gay ran in eighth place for most of the race and had crossed through 2600m in 7:25. According to his coach, Chris Johnson, “he must have dug deep in that final lap. It was a big accomplishment for John and I am very proud of him.”

To make the team, Gay must finish in the top three at the national championships. Two other Canadian men have the world standard in the 3,000m steeplechase ⁠— Ryan Smeeton and Matthew Hughes ⁠— and a few more are capable of running it.

Gay just graduated from the University of British Columbia, where he ran for four years. He was on the mixed relay team at the IAAF cross-country world championships earlier this year.

Sage Watson posts season’s best time, qualifies for Tokyo 2020

At the Diamond League meet in London, Sage Watson ran 55.32 in the 400m hurdles.

The time is a season-best for Watson and is below the standard of 55.40 for the 2020 Olympic Games. She placed seventh overall in the race.

Watson trains at the University of Arizona, where she spent her final two NCAA seasons. She won the NCAA championship in the 400m hurdles in 2017.

Watson will run at the national championships, then represent Canada at the PanAm Games.

Watson has her eye on the national record in the event — her personal best of 54.52 is just shy of the 54.39 record, which was set by Rosey Edeh at the 1996 Olympics.

Her hometown media, Chat News Today, profiled her after she was named to the team. You can watch a video of the interview here.

Benson Kipruto to defend Toronto Waterfront marathon title

Benson winning STWM in 2018. Photo courtesy Canada Running Series.

Kenyan runner Benson Kipruto scored his first marathon victory in Toronto in 2018, crossing the finish line in 2:07:24. It was announced this week by Canada Running Series that Kipruto is returning to Toronto to defend his title.

His goal? To run 2:06, and maybe set the course record.

The course record also happens to be the Canadian all-comers soil record, 2:06:51, which was set in Toronto in 2017 by Philemon Rono.

Kipruto said he enjoyed the course and the people he met in Toronto. He also enjoyed the success that came as a result of winning an IAAF gold label race, and credits his invite to the 2019 Boston marathon to his Toronto victory.

What he didn’t like? The weather. Race day in 2018 hovered around freezing.

Well, lucky for Riputo, it’s been as hot as 20 degrees other race years. October in Toronto can bring pretty much anything.

The Toronto Waterfront marathon takes place Oct. 20.

A teenager runs for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls

Theland Kicknosway is a 15-year-old who runs the 130KM from Ottawa to Kitigan Zibi every year. He wanted to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

He began the annual event in 2011, when he was just 11 years old. He’s raised more than $5,000 for the cause since his first run.

Jane O’Faherty profiled Kicknosway for iRun:

Theland’s idea was born when he was just nine years old, after he asked his mother Elaine a difficult question: “What happens to the children of missing and murdered Indigenous women?” Elaine was unable to answer, so she asked Bridget Tolley to meet Theland. Bridget is the founder of Families of Sisters in Spirit, a volunteer-led organization that supports loved ones of missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and Two-Spirit people.

The number of missing Indigenous women is reported to be approximately 1,200 since 1980, but advocates say the number could be much higher. When she explained that many of the children left behind have to stay with their grandparents and had little support, Theland felt compelled to take action.

“I started to ask myself how I could be a role model for kids and young adults,” he recalls. “I was reading a lot about Terry Fox at the time, and I thought I could run for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.”

Kicknosway, who is a member of the Wolf Clan, is now an activist and leader in the Indigenous community. He recently received an Indspire Award for his effort, which recognizes contributions to Indigenous art, culture, politics, medicine and more across Canada.

If you want to support Kicknosway’s run, you can do so here.

lululemon opens a multi-purpose concept store in Chicago

Canadian athleisure company lululemon has opened a concept store in Chicago. The 20,000 square foot space includes a meditation space, two fitness studios, a restaurant/coffee shop and a coworking space. It feels like the full manifestation of some of the tweaks I’ve seen at other lululemon stores, such as the one on Queen St. West in Toronto.

Madison Flager at Runner’s World has the full rundown, with a special emphasis on the culinary offerings:

At first glance, it’s exactly what you’d expect from a health and wellness brand. There’s avocado toastsmoothies, and power bowls. Everything is made with fresh, in-season produce and there’s plenty of grass-fed meat and non-dairy milk to be found. But more indulgent items are sprinkled into the mix, too: chocolate-covered bacon on the snack menu; a cheeseburger topped with caramelized onions, applewood smoked bacon, and cheddar cheese; and even wine, cocktails, and beer.

“We didn’t want to take ourselves too seriously,” VP of Experiential Retail Maureen Erickson told Delish. “We know our guest—what they need today might look different from what they need tomorrow to live their best life.”

Malindi Elmore gets the profile treatment from Canadian Press

I’ve written about Malindi Elmore a lot in this newsletter, and for good reason. Her story is impressive and she has a legitimate shot of making the Tokyo 2020 team if she can drop her marathon time.

Lori Ewing from Canadian Press wrote a profile about her, which several outlets, including CBC and the Globe and Mail picked up.

From the CBC version of the story:

She's still wrapping her head around her almost-accidental return to Canada's elite running scene.

"I feel like somebody who just likes to run and run fast moreso than a professional athlete," Elmore said.

"But now I'm having to shift my focus back, because I realize I have this narrow opportunity to do something really cool again in sport. If I went back (to the Olympics), I think it would be the most incredible full circle I could have, after 16 years of a lot of highs and a lot of lows — and then just somehow to have it come together would be amazing."

As I mentioned in the newsletter last week, Elmore is making her second attempt at 42.2K in Toronto on Oct. 20.

Why does humidity make everything hotter? It’s science

CBC Radio’s science program Quirks & Quarks answers the question why humidity makes everything hotter in the summer.

The TL;DR version: There’s no more room for your sweat in the atmosphere. Sucks for runners:

In the summer, the human body tries to regulate heat and maintain an optimal temperature through the process of perspiration. The sweat then evaporates into the atmosphere, taking with it the excess heat it has eliminated from the body. But under humid conditions, the atmosphere cannot absorb any more water. This means sweat does not evaporate, and its function is thwarted, making us feel hotter.

The rest of the world is learning about runner-turned-Tour de France-competitor Michael Woods

I wrote about Michael Woods, the Canadian who ran a sub 4:00 mile as a teenager who had his promising career cut short by injuries only to find a second career on the bike, two issues ago.

Since then, more media outlets have learned about him and shared his story. He currently sits in 85th place as I write this, but was high as 10th place in the earlier stages.

Woods’ race has been very up and down ⁠— he broke two ribs this week in a crash, but was cleared to continue racing.

Daniel McMahon from Business Insider did a Q&A with Woods about the role running plays in his life and what it’s like to find success in cycling later in life (ha, he’s 32):

Daniel McMahon: How is runner's high different from cyclist's high?

Michael Woods: A runner's high is certainly different. It's this full-body high. You finish a run and it's more invigorating. You finish your morning run and you feel like, "I'm ready to take on the day." Often you're in a better mood, more euphoric, whereas in cycling it's much longer and much more taxing mentally.

I found going for a run was cathartic because you're just releasing, and unless you're doing a full-gas race it's not mentally super difficult, whereas cycling is so mentally challenging. Even if you're doing a long training ride, it's challenging.

Then, once you finish, there's a high and there's this sensation. There's this endorphin rush. You feel really good, but it's more calm. It's like, this calmness. Once I finish a ride, I have no problem just sitting down and doing nothing. I just want to lie on the couch. It's the opposite of running, where I want to do things, I want to go and check out a new movie or hang out with friends. Instead, after a ride, if someone wants me to do something, it's like pulling teeth. I want to stay home and I complain. If my wife wants to go meet with some friends, I pull up every excuse in the book to try to not go.

Sarah Lorge Butler also did a Q&A with Woods for Runner’s World:

Is there anything that a runner could compare the Tour de France to? A multiday stage race, an ultramarathon? Or a busy racing season on the track?

No (laughs). They’re just so different. I’ve never done an ultramarathon. My wife does them, actually. I know those are real tests of endurance, even probably more so, you get into those crazy 100K races or the Barkley Marathons. I’m sure those are greater tests of endurance. But there’s nothing really in running that really blends the hyper-competitive side of pro cycling with the endurance aspect of it, if that makes sense.

In running, at an elite level, you get a taste of that pro cycling aspect. But you don’t have to run a 1500 meters or a marathon every single day for 21 days. And there’s not that level of professionalism in the ultramarathoning world. The 176 starters of this race, every single person competing, is a professional. Because of that, it’s a lot different in the sense of how competitive it is. 

Also, this sport is way riskier from a health perspective than any running race. Maybe something Kilian Jornet is doing, where he’s sprinting on these mountain passes, gets close to as dangerous as what we’re doing. But not quite. 

The Tour de France continues until July 28.

Ben Flanagan shares the tech he uses

Dana Wolman talked to five elite athletes about what tech they use for Engadget.

Canadian 5K and 10K runner Ben Flanagan talked about his Garmin (he uses the Fenix 3 model), his Roll Recovery R8 tool and the technology his sponsor Reebok uses in their shoes and apparel:

"SmartVent is a new technology that Reebok is using for its apparel. In particular, we use a lot of shirts that are supposed to be more like a breathable type of material, which is really nice considering we're based out of Charlottesville, Virginia, and it gets pretty toasty. And then as for shoes, pretty much the whole team is in Floatride Energys. Kind of like a lightweight neutral shoe that we use for long runs, speed work on the track, pretty much everything. And they're very durable. So in addition to that, I do run some Harmony Road 3s on my really easy days; it's a more structural shoe. And then lastly, if I'm racing on the roads, I'll be running in the Reebok Run Fast Pros, which are a super, super lightweight racing shoe."

The other athletes profiled for this piece were American middle-distance star Jenny Simpson (who shouts out Canadian vegan chef Angela Liddon and her Oh She Glows app), American David Ribbich, Jamaican middle-distance runner Aisha Praught-Leer and American marathoner Amanda Nurse.

Lanni Marchant is back and has her eyes on Tokyo 2020

Lanni Marchant, who ran both the 10,000m and the marathon at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio but has been injured since late 2017, is finally running pain-free. I wrote about her appearance at the Pride 5K in Toronto in June a few issues ago.

Doug Harrison at CBC Sports talked to Lanni about her comeback and the likelihood of being on the Tokyo 2020 team.

CBC Sports: Since the surgery, did you think about recovering fully and turning your focus to practising law rather than returning to competitive running?

LM: A little. Fixing the hip was about getting back my quality of life. I was so tired of being in pain and wanted to run pain-free, whether that meant going for a 10K run every day before work or getting back to 150K weeks and put a bid in for another Olympics.

I think every athlete going through a major injury wonders if it's worth it but I think I'd be more disappointed if I didn't try.

CBC News also talked to Marchant about her journey over the past few years. You can watch that interview here.

If all goes well, Marchant plans to run a fall marathon and see if she can nab an IAAF qualifier.

Wanna bet she joins Malindi Elmore and Kinsey Middleton on the start line in Toronto?

Artiken profiles Justyn Knight

Justyn Knight, the 5,000m runner who trains alongside Ben Flanagan for the Reebok group in Boston, was profiled by Artiken, a company that makes handmade jewelry and keychains.

They talked about Justyn’s road to running and how he would have been an NBA player if he hadn’t been a runner. Me too, Justyn.

From the story:

Justyn Knight does not come from a family of runners, and he did not start running at a young age. It was not until he was in 10th grade that the basketball and volleyball player discovered his talent for running. Justyn went to a private high school known for its sports, and Justyn was no slouch when it came to athletics. When Justyn realized he was getting a 70% in gym class, he was left scratching his head. He was scoring more points in basketball and destroying everyone else in volleyball, so he asked the teacher why he wasn’t doing well in class. It turned out that despite Justyn’s athletic talents, he was not putting in 100% effort every class. His teacher told him that he could boost his grade by going all-in on the next unit: running. At the end of the running unit the school held and annual 5k race, and not only did Justyn win, he broke the school record. The track coach did not believe that Justyn could have done this without training, but Justyn joined the team the following year and the rest is history.  

Knight recently ran a personal best of 13:09 in the 5,000m.

Natasha Wodak interviewed by Le Run Down podcast

Natasha Wodak, who has been tearing up the track and roads in the 10,000m, 10K and half-marathon, stopped by Le Run Down. She talked about changing coaches, being competitive in her late 30s and why enjoying the process is more important than the results and — surprise! — how enjoying the process leads to better results.

You can listen to the full episode here.

Idaho Press profiles Kinsey Middleton and Emma Bates

Kinsey Middleton runs for Canada, but as a dual Canada-U.S. citizen, she lives and trains in Idaho (where she grew up) with the Idaho Distance Project.

Her closest training partner is American breakout star Emma Bates, who won the U.S. national marathon championship at CIM in December. It was her debut at the distance.

Middleton did the same thing — winning a national title in her first ever 42.2 — a few months earlier at the Toronto Waterfront marathon.

Middleton was a stand-out in high school in Idaho, but her college career was up and down — an injury kept her back from performing her best, but she ended her career on a record-breaking note.

From Brandon Walton for Idaho Press:

Middleton won three cross country state championships and earned consecutive Gatorade Idaho Girls Cross Country Athlete of the Year awards in 2010-11. Middleton didn’t lose a single race in the 1,600 or 3,200 during her final two years on the way to winning four state titles and earning a scholarship to Oregon State.

“I think it really helped set me up to compete in college and fostered the dream of competing at a really high level,” Middleton said.

While Middleton broke the school’s 10K and 6K records, a stress fracture in her pelvis in the fall of 2014 abruptly ended her career in Corvallis.

“I thought my running career was over at that point,” Middleton said. “I felt like I was damaged goods.”

But Middleton followed former Oregon State distance coach Travis Floeck to Idaho the following year, and the move paid off.

Middleton shattered the school’s 35-year-old 10K record by 11 seconds before breaking her own record (33:18) by placing 10th at the 2016 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships to earn second-team All-American honors.

“I wish I would have had two more years in college to compete at that event because I felt after all this time I had found what I was meant to do,” Middleton said.

Middleton is set to return to Toronto on Oct. 20 to defend her title and try to nab an Olympic qualifier in the process. Middleton can qualify with a sub-2:29:30 time or a top 5 finish, as Toronto is an IAAF gold label race.

Bates is running Chicago on Oct. 13, a fast course where she hopes to get a qualifier of her own. Bates can qualify with a sub-2:29:30 or top 10 finish, as Chicago is a world major.

7 storylines to watch at the Canadian national track & field championships

The Athletics Canada national track & field championships take place in Montreal from July 25 to July 28.

I was going to write a bigger preview, but this newsletter is already jam-packed. Here are a few storylines to watch.

  1. Will Gabriela De-Bues-Stafford break another record? I think it’s safe to say that, barring disaster, De-Bues-Stafford should win the 1,500m. But without world-class competition, can she take down the record she JUST set? Fun fact: her younger sister, Lucia Stafford, will be on the 1,500m start line too.

  2. Andre De Grasse versus Aaron Brown: Both sprinters are in top form, with strong performances in recent Diamond League events. The two should be going head-to-head in both the 100m (De Grasse’s better event) and the 200m (Brown’s better event).

  3. Can Justyn Knight catch Mohammed Ahmed in the 5,000m? Moh Ahmed is the Canadian record holder in the 5,000m and placed fourth in Rio at the distance. Knight has yet to run below 13 minutes, but if he wants to be among the best in the world in the 5,000m, he better start by chasing down his national teammate.

  4. Can Regan Yee catch Geneviève Lalonde in the steeplechase? Same story, different race. Lalonde is Canada’s best-ever in the 3,000m steeplechase — she holds the national record and represented Canada in the Olympics at the distance. But if Yee wants to have her name on the world stage, she needs to compete with Canada’s very best.

  5. Can Melissa Bishop-Nriagu return to dominance? Bishop-Nriagu took a season off to have her first child, but is back. Her first races back show that she’s fit ⁠—she PBed in the 15,00m in May. But with strong 800m runners such as Jenna Westaway, who broke the indoor 800m national record earlier this year, and Lindsay Butterworth also lining up to run the 800m, Bishop will have to fight to regain the title of top Canadian 800m runner.

  6. Will Brandon McBride’s training adjustments pay off? After missing out on the 800m Diamond League final last year, McBride took a different approach to 2019. He started his season late and is racing less. He recently put up a 1:43.83 at the Diamond League in Monaco. 2018 wasn’t a bad season — he set the Canadian 800m record — but to compete with the best in the world, adjustments were needed. With the national championships, PanAm Games on his schedule, we’ll see if they paid off.

  7. Can Crystal Emmanuel send a message? Emmanuel dreams of being one of the best sprinters in the world. She’s making progress in that direction and plans to run both the 100m and the 200m at the world championships in the fall. She holds the Canadian record in the 200m but not yet the 100m. I don’t expect a record-breaking performance at nationals (save it for worlds), but if Emmanuel wants to be a top name globally, she should dominate her national competition.

The final kick

That’s it for this week! Thanks as always for reading and keep on running!