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Canadian record-holder Levins to return to Island to race in Royal Victoria Marathon weekend

Black Creek native will run the half-marathon
Black Creek’s Cam Levins will compete in the half-marathon during the Royal Victoria Marathon weekend. CANADIAN RUNNING

Canadian and North American marathon record-holder Cam Levins will race on his home Island next month as he prepares for the iconic New York City Marathon on Nov. 5 enroute to the 2024 Paris Olympics.

The standout from Black Creek was confirmed Tuesday for the Royal Victoria Marathon events Oct. 8, in which he will run the half-marathon. Levins will be chasing the Royal ­Victoria half-marathon record of 1:02:32, set by Jon Brown, who was the fourth-place marathon finisher in the 2000 Sydney and 2004 ­Athens Olympics. Levins’ best time in the half-marathon is 1:00:18.

The Royal Victoria Marathon weekend is rebuilding following the pandemic. Last year was the first running of the full marathon since celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2019 and 7,934 took part. That included 1,561 in the marathon, 3,439 in the half-marathon, 2,354 in the 8K and 580 in the Thrifty Foods kids run. Organizers are hoping to approach the 10,000 participant plateau this year. The entire 2020 event was scrubbed and only the half-marathon and 8K were contested in 2021.

Levins, 34, broke his own Canadian record in the marathon for the second time in less than a year by running 2:05:36 to place fifth in the Tokyo Marathon in March. It was also the fastest time ever recorded by a North American, besting American Khalid Khannouchi’s 2:05.38 in the 2002 London Marathon.

Levins broke his previous Canadian record of 2:07:09 set last year in placing fourth in the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon. That time had eclipsed Levins’ ­original Canadian record of 2:09:25 set in the 2018 Toronto Marathon, which had bested Jerome Drayton’s hard-to-shake 43-year-old Canadian record of 2:10:09 set in 1975 at Fukuoka, Japan.

Levins, with head coach Jim Finlayson of Victoria, engaged in a deep rethink following Levins’ sharply-disappointing ­72nd-place finish in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“I realized I needed to be better in every way across the board. I worked and changed myself completely as an athlete, and trained harder and better in every conceivable way,” Levins has said.

The Islander began running in Grade 7 with the Comox ­Valley Cougars Track Club. Levins became the Island and B.C. high school cross-country champion with the G.P. Vanier Secondary Towhees of Courtenay before becoming 2012 NCAA Division 1 champion in both the 5,000 and 10,000 metres with the ­University of Southern Utah Thunderbirds.

A believer in volume ­training, and unorthodox also in other running ways, Levins ­qualified for the finals of both the 5,000 and 10,000 metres at the 2012 London Olympics. He won bronze in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games in the 10,000 metres at historic ­Hampden Park.

A torn tendon in the left foot and surgery kept Levins out of the 2016 Rio Olympics. His return, and switch from track to road, was a revelation in 2018 when Levins broke, by 44 seconds in his debut ­marathon, Drayton’s hallowed Canadian record of more than four ­decades.

Levins has lowered that twice since. His national record time in Tokyo last spring beat the Olympic standard of 2:08:10 and qualified Levins for his third Olympic Games at Paris next year. Everything until then, including New York in November and his home-Island half-marathon next month, is in preparation for Paris.

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