Canadian track championships

Cam Levins at the 2016 Olympic Trials in Edmonton. Photo: Dave Holland.

The Canadian 10,000m record holder has returned to his university training grounds where he used to famously run more than 250K per week.

Cam Levins left the Nike Oregon Project (NOP), arguably the world’s most famous long-distance training group, and is currently training in Cedar City, Utah under his university coach, Eric Houle. The 28-year-old Black Creek, B.C. native attended Southern Utah University where he won the Bowerman Award in 2012 for the top collegiate track and field athlete in the NCAA. Levins also no longer runs with Nike, and has not done so since the beginning of 2017. (He wore the Team Canada kit for both of his 2017 races.)

“It’s like my second chance at things going the way I want them to go,” Levins says. The mileage king had surgery in July 2016 after the Olympic Trials to repair damage to his ankle and lower leg, which had affected him at least since the 2015 IAAF World Championships. He spent the latter half of 2016 recovering and returned to running outdoors in November.

Levins is in Utah for a month to get reacquainted with Houle and he says there’s no exact structure for how long he’ll be either there or in Portland, Ore.– where he permanently lives with his wife, Elizabeth. He left the Oregon Project, a Nike-backed high-performance group based in the Portland area, at the end of June, after racing the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.) 10K.

“Alberto [Salazar] and the Oregon Project supported me while I recovered from surgery, and I’m eternally grateful for that,” Levins says. “I’m feeling healthy and I think Coach Houle is the right person to get me back competing at the level I’m capable of.”

Levins considered joining other Oregon-based training groups, like Bowerman TC or Oregon Track Club Elite, but didn’t want to risk things potentially not going well. “I have good relationship with coach Houle and I believe we can still do some great things,” he says. Levins wants to break 13:00 and 27:00 in the 5,000m and 10,000m, respectively.

Levins has returned to running three times per day. That’s a training regimen that helped to elevate Levins to a world-class runner while attending the little-known Southern Utah University. He does triples three, sometimes four, times per week. Last week, Levins says he ran 150-160 miles, a leg-aching 257K over seven days. On Tuesday morning, before Levins spoke to CR from his coach’s house where he was dog sitting, he did repeat kilometres.

Levins, who has a lifetime best in the 10,000m of 27:07.51, rose to prominence during his time in Cedar City and represented Canada at the 2012 Olympics. He went on to win bronze over the 25-lap distance at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Since the 2015 IAAF World Championships in Beijing, Levins has struggled with NOP (a group which includes Olympic champions Mo Farah and Matt Centrowitz and Olympic silver and bronze medallist Galen Rupp). He didn’t qualify for the Rio Olympics. He set the Canadian 10,000m record in May 2015 and joined NOP in 2013.

“It was great having people like that to chase,” Levins says of the world-class group of athletes in the Oregon Project. “Ultimately what began to happen was that some of the guys were training more on their own and the benefit for me, especially coming back from injury, wasn’t there anymore.”

Levins says the lengthy United States Anti-Doping Agency investigation into the group did not affect his decision to leave the group. “I don’t have much to add to [the investigation],” he says. “It’s not why I left the group. I believe that my former teammates are clean and doing things the right way.”

Cam Levins after the men's 5,000m.

Cam Levins after the men’s 5,000m at the 2015 Pan Am Games. Photo: Chris Lepik.

After his lengthy injury, Levins returned to racing in recent weeks including a 5,000m, in 14:10.92, at the Stumptown Twilight in Portland, Ore. as well as a 13th place finish at the B.A.A. 10K where he clocked 30:04. It has previously been reported that Levins is targeting a fall marathon. Levins says that he won’t decide until closer to the date, one month was stated, whether or not he’ll run a marathon. “I want to knock it out of the park right away,” he says before stating that he will run a marathon before the fall of 2018 “at the latest.”

Levins is currently without an apparel and shoe sponsor and says that he and his agent are “interested in anybody at this point.” He recognizes that he’s an athlete coming back from surgery but says that it won’t take long to show people that he’s back. Levins will next race the Beach to Beacon 10K in Cape Elizabeth, Maine on Aug. 5.


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