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Linkletter races to eighth in Houston Half-Marathon in Canadian record time

Rory Linkletter knew he was under Canadian-record pace for most of Sunday's Houston Half-Marathon. But in the sheer effort of the final couple of kilometres, he lost track. "I couldn't do the math because I was running so hard," Linkletter said.

Rory Linkletter knew he was under Canadian-record pace for most of Sunday's Houston Half-Marathon. But in the sheer effort of the final couple of kilometres, he lost track.

"I couldn't do the math because I was running so hard," Linkletter said. "I was certainly running as hard as I could, just hoping that I was doing enough. 

"And then once I saw the clock, I knew I had it. I was obviously elated."

Despite a chilly 2 C morning, with 25-kilometre per hour winds, the 25-year-old ran 61 minutes and eight seconds to finish eighth in the Houston Half-Marathon. His time broke Jeff Shiebler's Canadian record of 1:01.28 posted almost 23 years earlier to the day, on Jan. 15, 1999.

The Calgary-born runner said his training had been indicative of a fast time Sunday. But record times usually require ideal conditions.

"I had no doubt that I was capable of the record, it was just a matter of how will the race play out? Will my body hold up? And will it be the type of day for a record?" Linletter said from his Houston hotel room after the race.

"Records usually require a nice day, good pacing, good racing. And so there's a lot of things that have to happen that are not easy to get. 

"So I was hopeful, but I also understood that there was a lot of things that had to happen for it to line up."

Linkletter credits his performance to a coaching change. He recently began training with Ryan Hall, the U.S. record-holder in the half-marathon. 

"We've got great chemistry and he really understands me," Linkletter said. "He was a calming presence this weekend, because we both knew I was in shape for this record, and he's done this before, and he was just able to tell me like, ‘Hey, man, you're ready. There's no reason why you can't do this. You've done the work. You're, you're good enough, just go out there and compete.’ 

"Hearing that from someone like him is obviously a huge vote of confidence."

Milkesa Tolosa of Ethiopia won Sunday's race in 1:00.24, while Kenya's John Korir took second (1:00:27) and Wilfred Kimitei of Great Britain, third (1:00:44).

Ben Flanagan of Kitchener, Ont., finished 12th in 1:01.38. Emily Setlack of Kingston, Ont., was the top Canadian in the women's race, finishing 20th in 1:12:48.

Linkletter worked together with American Scott Fauble, a former training partner, during Sunday's race. 

"He knew I was going for the record, and he helped me out, talked me through it, it was really, really nice to have him, because with a mile to go, he was saying 'Alright, you gotta push here.'"  

Linkletter was born in Calgary, but grew up largely in Salt Lake City and attended Brigham Young University.  

"I've only represented Canada because that's where my citizenship is, that's where my pride is," he said. "I'm a proud Canadian that's been Americanized, in many ways, obviously."

Linkletter believes his future is in the marathon, and among the Canadian men aiming to make the Tokyo Olympic team last year, he was the fifth fastest. But Canada could only take three runners.  

Still, he's young by marathon standards and despite missing out on the Olympics, he said 2021 was a big year. He and his wife Jill, a former BYU gymnast, welcomed their first child, a son Jason, who is five months old.

Linkletter said his goal for the upcoming spring and summer seasons are to just "stack successive good performances." He'd rather focus on racing well than chasing standards. So, he's not setting a target of running the marathon at either the world championships in Eugene, Ore., or the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, but said if Athletics Canada came calling with a spot, "I'd say 'Let's get ready.'"

A firm goal for the future, however, is the Canadian men's marathon record of 2:09.25, set by Cam Levins in 2019.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16. 2022. 

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press