Breaking records, racing over a frozen lake, not racing Barkley

Gary Robbins isn't racing this spring, but lots of other Canadians are lacing up.

Jenna Westaway breaks Melissa Bishop’s Canadian 800m record

Another week, another Canadian record is broken. Jenna Westaway, who set the Canadian 1K indoor record earlier this month, set her second Canadian record of the year on Sunday. Jenna ran 1:59.87 in the 800m at the Last Chance Invitational in Boston.

It’s the first time a Canadian woman has run the 800 under 2:00 indoors, breaking Melissa Bishop’s record of 2:00.19, which she set in 2016.

Gary Robbins not racing Barkley Marathons this year

On February 18, Gary Robbins — one of Canada’s most badass ultrarunners — announced on his Instagram that he has a stress fracture and will not be able to race the Barkley Marathons this year.

The Barkley Marathons is one of the hardest races in the world. It’s five unmarked loops through Frozen Head Park in Tennessee, with a vertical climb of over 54,200 feet throughout the entire race. In the 32 years since the race began only 15 people have finished.

No women and no Canadians have ever finished the race.

Gary is featured in the Barkley Marathons documentary Where Dreams Go to Die. Filmed and directed by Ethan Newberry aka The Ginger Runner, it follows Gary’s first two attempts at Barkley, in 2016 and 2017 — and in 2017, Gary had one of the most iconic non-finishes the race had ever seen.

The entire documentary is available to watch on YouTube. I’ve embedded it below.

If you haven’t seen the OG Barkley documentary, The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young, it’s no longer on Netflix, but you can rent or buy it from various places online.

Gary also keeps a blog. He doesn’t update it very often, but when he does, it is excellent. You can read his 2018 Barkley race reap here, his 2017 Barkley race recap here and his 2016 Barkley race recap here.

Notable Canadian performances this week

Chris Balestrini won the Publix Gasparilla Distance Classic 15K, running 47:12. Chris is completing his medical degree and PhD while also working as an assistant track coach at Western University, which is where he ran as an undergrad. The Tampa Bay Times talked to Chris after his win. He ran the Houston half-marathon in 1:05:30 earlier this year.

Sarah Inglis, a Scottish runner based in B.C., participated in the Pacific Pursuit 10K in San Diego this past Monday. It was a small race designed to help athletes achieve the world 10,000 standard. Inglis ran 32:36.84, placing fourth behind Americans Kellyn Taylor, Stephanie Bruce and Anne Marie Blaney. No one in either race hit the standards (31:50 for women, 27:40 for men). It was Inglis’s first true 10K track race.

Mallory Richard placed third at the Black Canyon 100K in Arizona. Richard, who is from Winnipeg, is an accomplished ultrarunner. She has won several 100-mile races and previously placed 11th at Western States.

Chessa Adsit-Morris, who holds dual Canadian and U.S. citizenship, placed third at the U.S. 50K trail championships in California. Chessa ran 4:24:30 for her podium finish. Canadian Running has a nice profile of Chessa and her race, who was diagnosed with a rare nerve disease a few years ago and has only recently returned to competitive running.

Kinsey Middleton running Woodlands

I saw this tweet, so did some digging and I think Canadian marathon champion Kinsey Middleton is running the Woodlands half-marathon.

Kinsey made her debut at the marathon distance at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2018, running 2:32:09 and winning the Canadian marathon championship. That performance was the third best Canadian women’s marathon performance of 2018 and made her a name to watch for the 2020 Olympic team.

Woodlands takes place on Sunday, March 3. Since she pulled out of the Houston half-marathon in January and announced on Instagram that she is chasing the world standard in the 10,000m, it’s most likely Kinsey is running the half-marathon. Kinsey’s half PB is currently 1:12:30.

This is the race that Rachel Cliff set the Canadian half-marathon record 1:10:08 at last year. I’m excited to see what kind of time Kinsey throws down.

Kinsey had a great Q+A with Athletics Illustrated after her marathon championship win.

Cameron Levins and Sasha Gollish running United Airlines NYC Half

The United Airlines NYC Half-Marathon in New York City announced their elite field and two notable Canadians were on the list: Cameron Levins and Sasha Gollish.

Cameron, the reigning Canadian marathon record holder, will be using the race as a tune-up for the London marathon, which he is running on April 7. Cameron’s personal best in the half-marathon is 1:02:15. The Canadian record is 1:01:28, which was set by Jeff Schiebler in 1999. The United half’s route is a tough one, but as Cam’s marathon debut in October showed, he’s as fit as he’s probably ever been.

I really enjoyed Cameron’s conversation with Citius magazine’s podcast, which he recorded shortly after STWM. You can listen to that here.

His essay about his comeback for CBC Sports is also worth a read.

Other men worth watching in this race include American marathon champion Brogan Austin, and Jared Ward, the top American at New York in 2018 and the sixth place finisher in Rio.

Sasha Gollish is coming off her exciting marathon debut in Houston in January, where she ran 2:32 and put herself in the conversation of Canadian women who could be in contention for the 2020 Olympic team. Sasha’s PB in the half-marathon is 1:11:05.

The other notable names in the women’s field include American marathon champion Emma Bates (who is Kinsey Middleton’s training partner, they both run with the Idaho Distance Project), 2018 Boston marathon champion Des Linden and runner-up Sarah Sellers, American Allie Kieffer (who is running Around the Bay in Hamilton two weeks later) and marathon icon Edna Kiplagat.

The race takes place March 17.

This race across a frozen lake took place in Chicoutimi this weekend

There’s a race in Quebec where you can run across Lake St-Jean in Chicoutimi in the dead of winter, running 10K or 32K (it’s nitpicking but the 10K isn’t really running across the lake). There’s a fundraising minimum for all participants.

It looks cold and crazy, as you can tell from the video above.

The 2019 edition took place on Feb. 23. 53 people took part in the 32K and Benoit Gobeil won the race in 3:12:00. 18 people took part in the 10K, with Christopher Rudolph winning in 45:53.

Melanie Myrand on Le Run Down podcast

I stumbled across this new podcast through Melanie Myrand’s Instagram. Le Run Down is hosted by Justin Pugliese and is affiliated with the WRG Run Club in Montreal. They only have 12 episodes so far and it appears to be focusing on Montreal/Quebec run scene.

Melanie ran the Chicago marathon in 2:34:08 in 2018 and won the Miami half marathon earlier this year. In this conversation, she reflects on her Chicago performance, outlines her future goals and talks a lot about her approach to training and racing.

In the interview, Melanie reveals she’s running the Rotterdam marathon and hoping for a 2:32 or better finish. Her goal is to make the worlds team for Canada in the marathon. Another big Canadian performance to watch.

Listen to the episode here.

You could run the 2024 Olympic marathon… kinda

The organizers of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games are planning a regular marathon on the same day and using the same route as the Olympic marathon. How this will work and how you can sign up are still be TBD, but if you’re looking for a unique goal race to run in five years, this could be it…

The book you should read this week

I actually read this one a few years ago, but I loved it so much (and so few people I know have actually read it) that it’s become one of my early go-tos for recommendations when people ask about books about running. In Running Ransom Road, Caleb Daniloff gets sober, becomes a runner and decides to run a race at all the cities and towns he lived in. This includes running the New York, Boston and Moscow marathons, as well as a few teeny races, such as a run that is a fundraiser for an old high school. Each chapter is a combination race recap and a reflection of his time in that place. It’s introspective, well-written and does a great job of exploring the power of running to change one’s life.

Strides: Links I liked

That’s it for this week! You can always get in touch via

Thanks for reading and keep on running.