It’s been a strange and challenging year for Canada’s best 5,000m runner. 

Andrea Seccafien defended her national title in thrilling fashion on Thursday night in Ottawa at the Canadian Track and Field Championships. After a lead pack of seven entered the final kilometre, including contenders Jess O’Connell, Sasha Gollish and Rachel Cliff, Seccafien made a strong move, breaking up the group. Gollish and O’Connell responded, and the three sprinted the final 300m. It was a perfect example of how distance running can be entertaining, with all three athletes responding to surges as if nothing else mattered but winning this race. And for Seccafien, this was the case. 

She was able to deliver on her bold move in a manner that bell lap leaders seldom do, outlasting O’Connell, a fellow Rio Olympian, winning in 15:39.66. O’Connell finished second in 15:40.91 and Gollish took third in 15:42.49. 

It’s a bittersweet victory for Seccafien, who wore a racing top and shoes given to her by Blacktoe, a local running shop in Toronto, where she lives and trains. The shop tosses her free gear because she’s not been sponsored since after Rio, when many brands’ contracts expire and they reassess the value of an athlete with little marketing cache for the next four years until the Games roll around once again.

Along with O’Connell, Seccafien had the qualifying standard for the IAAF World Championships in London already sewed up going into the Canadian championships. All she had to do was lock up a top two finish in Ottawa to guarantee a spot on Team Canada. Both will now race in August in another international event, and Seccafien will no doubt opt to wear a blank kit, as she did in Europe earlier this season. She told Canadian Running in June that she’d rather wear unbranded apparel from Forever 21 or the Gap than her former sponsor as form of silent protest against the lack of funding for elite track athletes. 

Other Canadian Running content from ACTF2017

Brogan MacDougall, 16, puts on a show at Canadian Track Championships
After freak accident, Matt Hughes hits IAAF world standard in the clutch
Andrea Seccafien qualifies for IAAF World Championships unsponsored
Mohammed Ahmed and Justyn Knight are an amazing 1-2 punch for Canadian athletics
VIDEO: Thursday footage from the 2017 Canadian Track Championships
Day one photos from the Canadian Track Championships

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