Cameron Levins shatters Canadian marathon record at worlds

EUGENE, Ore.—Cameron Levins left last summer’s Tokyo Olympics dejected — he was one of the last marathoners across the finish line — and determined to turn things around.

On Sunday morning at the world track and field championships, he shattered his own Canadian record by more than two minutes, barely missing out on a medal. His fourth-place finish in two hours, seven minutes and nine seconds was the best ever by a Canadian male at the worlds.

“I really took a lot away from the last Olympics,” said Levins, who placed 72nd out of 76 runners on that hot, humid day. “I realized I need to be better in every way across the board, so I just really worked and changed myself completely as an athlete, last year and this year.”

Levins liked his chances before Sunday’s race began, and said he had no trouble running confidently with a lead pack who had personal bests much lower than his.

“I know I’ve earned this and deserve to run with these guys,” said Levins, who broke the national record he’d set at the 2018 Toronto Waterfront Marathon. “When I got to the start line today, I was like, I’ve done everything I possibly can. So whatever it’s going to be today, it’s going to be, but I’ve done everything in my power.”

Championship races are more strategic, rather than blazingly fast, so the front pack was still large 30 kilometres into the 42.2-kilometre race before Ethiopia’s Tamirat Tola — the winner in 2:05:36, a world championship record — broke away.

The trailing pack was later whittled to four, including Levins, and it was only in the final few kilometres that a medal became out of reach for the 33-year-old from British Columbia. Tola’s teammate Mosinet Geremew took silver, with Bashir Abdi getting bronze in the best-ever finish by a Belgian, 21 seconds faster than Levins.

“When I was there late in the race, I’m like, I’m truly a marathoner,” Levins said. “It felt so cool to be able to compete at an international level like that. I really haven’t done that yet in my career, so I’m hoping this is a big step forward for me.”

His time in the 2:07s after running up front with 2:03 marathoners got the attention of race commentators here, who went from “Cam Levins also looking pretty good up there” near the midway mark to “Cam Levins looking supreme, he’s handled himself with real aplomb” later in the race.

“It felt great. Obviously the last bit of it was pretty hard; I feel like I’m about to throw up, but it was great,” Levins said just after finishing.

“I would only have been happier if I was at least one place higher, but it’s the best race of my life. I can’t be disappointed with it.”

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By Jon Doe