Kevin Blackney never qualified for the Ontario High School Championships in a running event when he was in his teen years. Things have certainly looked up since then though. Now, he says that finishing second at the 2017 Canadian 10K Championships was an “unbelievable surprise.”
The 25-year-old Prince Albert, Ont. native has shown vast improvements this year. His rising through the running ranks was a story-line from the May 27 race which also showed that early career success is not a requirement to compete amongst the nation’s best. The only runner who finished ahead of Blackney at the 2017 Canadian 10K Championships, run as part of the mass participation Ottawa 10K, was Eric Gillis, a three-time Olympian, 2:11:21 marathoner and one of the nation’s top long-distance runners.
The national silver came two weeks after he finished second at the Ontario 10,000m Championships on his current home track in London, Ont. at TD Waterhouse Field. After that race, he wrote on Instagram, “Never dreamed I’d run this fast, guess it’s time to start dreaming a bit bigger.”
In Ottawa, both podium finishers, Kevin Coffey and Gillis, were not familiar with Blackney– which further emphasizes his dark horse status. During the race itself, Gillis was clear of the field and with a group of four, including Blackney, Coffey, Tristan Woodfine and Keenan Viney, in the chase pack.
As Viney and Woodfine dropped, it was Coffey, who resides in Vancouver, and Blackney who battled it out for second and third. Thanks to a 2:50 final kilometre, while running through a side stitch, the London resident was able to snag silver and immediately sprawled out on the pavement in the finish line chute. He ran 30:31 to Gillis’ 30:09.
“I had very few expectations of what that race was going to be like,” he says speaking of the field’s competitiveness. Blackney continues to train out of southern Ontario after graduating with a master’s degree from the University of Western Ontario, where he also did his undergraduate degree.
Those were Blackney’s personal bests out of high school and entering university. In high school, Blackney qualified for provincials, known as OFSAA in Ontario, once for track and once in cross-country. The lone time he competed at the provincial level in track was in Grade 9, in pole vault– perhaps not the event that first comes to mind.
Blackney went on to attend Western where he competed for the track and field and cross-country teams. Under the guidance of Dave Mills, Blackney now trains with the London Western Track and Field Club and this past academic year, trained predominately with high school kids as the Western team practiced too early in the day for Blackney who was completing his master’s of science.
Having upped his mileage to 130K per week, Blackney has lowered his 3,000m and 10,000m personal bests significantly, to 8:31 and 29:57, respectively, over the years. “I’m not someone who keeps a log or anything,” he says.”I loosely gauge the mileage and avoid fretting about it too much or else I might not enjoy it as much.” His 10K road PB, 30:31, was set in Ottawa at the national championships.
What’s next? Blackney is slated to run the 10,000m at the Canadian 10,000m Championships in Guelph, Ont. on June 14. Otherwise, his racing schedule hasn’t been completed planned. “I didn’t envision the year to be going as well as it has,” he explains.
His ultimate goal is to one day represent Canada internationally. “Sneaking onto a national team would be a dream come true,” Blackney says.