There was touted to be a big Canadian story out of the closed-course London Marathon on Sunday. But it wasn’t, as anticipated to be, provided by Cam Levins of Black Creek.
Up to 75 Island-based Olympians and Paralympians are expected to compete in the Tokyo 2020 Plus One Olympics next summer. Levins, the Canadian record holder for the marathon, can still be one of them but his path just got harder.
Less-heralded Tristan Woodfine of Cobden, Ont., took a stunning two minutes and 25 seconds off his personal best time to record two hours, 10 minutes and 15 seconds to beat the qualifying standard of 2:11:30 and capture the second of three provisional Canadian berths into the Tokyo Olympics. Trevor Hofbauer of Calgary, who did not race Sunday, met the qualifying standard last year. Levins and others have until the June 3, 2021, qualifying cut-off to nab the third and final Canadian berth, but marathons are hard to find with so many cancelled amid the pandemic.
“There are smaller, elite marathons popping up, so there will be other opportunities. There is still a chance. We will look for a marathon in December,” said Levins’ coach Jim Finlayson of Victoria.
“Cam got caught by the cold conditions in London and his muscles tightened up. He is OK but disappointed.” Levins began stoutly and was on sub-2:10:00 pace at the halfway point. But, citing the cool and dank conditions, he ended up walking in the final stages and did not finish the elites-only race conducted amid a “bubble” on a 2K loop course around St. James Park. “Sorry everyone,” he tweeted.
“I ended up frozen out there today.”
Levins, however, has nothing to apologize for.
The irony, however, is one might think the London conditions would have been perfect for an Island runner. Levins grew up running in relatively similar fall situations beginning in Grade 7 with the Comox Valley Cougars Track Club, and elevating to Island and B.C. high school cross-country championships with the G.P. Vanier Towhees of Courtenay, before becoming 2012 NCAA champion in both the 5,000 and 10,000 metres with the University of Southern Utah. And the London conditions were better than when Levins set the Canadian record of 2:09:25 on a blustery 2 C Toronto day with wind chill of minus-2 in October of 2018.
Always the classy competitor, Levins tweeted a shout-out to Woodfine and his accomplishment in placing 14th in London with the sixth-fastest marathon run by a Canadian: “Congrats to Tristan Woodfine. You the man!”
The two had trained together recently in Kenya.
The day for Levins, however, was another dip of several in his peak-valley career. He qualified for the finals of both the 5,000 and 10,000 metres at the 2012 London Olympics, and won the bronze medal in the 10,000 metres at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, before a forgettable 2015 Toronto Pan Am Games appearance. A tendon tear in the left foot and surgery kept him out of the 2016 Rio Olympics. Levins returned brilliantly in 2018 when he moved on to the road, shattering by 44 seconds in his debut marathon, Jerome Drayton’s hallowed 43-year-old Canadian record of 2:10:09 set in 1975 in Fukuoka, Japan. The 31-year-old Levins vowed he will again rebound in his career.
“I won’t let this fitness go to waste, though, and I’ll be back out there soon,” he tweeted Sunday.
Levins, who married wife Elizabeth on the grounds of St. Ann’s Academy in Victoria on Canada Day in 2013, trains in Portland, Oregon.
Shura Kitata of Ethiopia won the London Marathon in 2:05:41. Paralympian Brent Lakatos of Dorval, Que., won the wheelchair division in 1:46:04.