Six Canadians are heading to Arizona for The Marathon Project on December 20, and they each have the potential to run the best races of their careers. With Olympic spots still up for grabs on the Canadian team, the stakes are even higher, and all six of these athletes undoubtedly have their eyes on the qualifying standards of 2:11:30 for men and 2:29:30 for women. Here are the Canadians racing this weekend and what makes each of them a threat to run to top results.
Natasha Wodak has run one marathon before, and she has a PB of 2:35:16, but that was in 2013. The better part of a decade has passed since then, and she has improved drastically in that time. That same year when she ran the lone marathon of her career, Wodak’s best half-marathon of the season was 1:14:39, and her PB was 1:14:06, from 2012. Earlier this year, she ran her current PB of 1:09:41, making her the first Canadian woman to run a sub-1:10 half-marathon (and at the time it was a Canadian record, though that has since been lowered by Andrea Seccafien, who ran a 1:09:38 in February), and she ran a 1:10:02 in November. If her improvements in the half-marathon since 2013 are any indication of how well she’ll run on Sunday, then we’re about to see a very fast marathon from Wodak.
Cam Levins has already competed at the Olympics on the track (he ran a 5,000m-10,000m double in London in 2012), but he’s looking to qualify for his first Summer Games marathon. He owns the Canadian marathon record of 2:09:25, and while he ran that time two years ago, his results from earlier in 2020 are reason to believe he’s still capable of bettering that mark.
In January, he ran his official half-marathon PB of 1:02:14, which is the fourth-fastest result ever run by a Canadian. In August, he unofficially beat that PB when he ran a solo half-marathon in 1:02:12. He struggled at the London Marathon in October, ultimately registering a DNF after the wet and cold weather overcame him. Luckily, it won’t be anywhere near as cold in Arizona this weekend, and Levins will have a great shot at posting a big result.
This season has been a weird one with very few in-person races, but Justin Kent has still run to several great results. In July, he won the virtual Canadian 10K Championships, in October, he ran a half-marathon PB of 1:02:34 and in November he broke the national 20,000m record with a 1:01:01 run. Now, he’s set to run his marathon debut at The Marathon Project. “I’m going into it pretty open-minded,” he says. “It’s my first one, so I’m not sure how it’ll all play out on race day.” However it shakes out, Kent has proven that he has the capability of running some pretty quick times in longer races, and while a marathon is quite a bit farther than he’s used to, don’t be surprised if he upsets a few of the favourites in Arizona.
As the 2018 Canadian marathon champion, Kinsey Middleton has already shown us she’s capable of thriving on the grand stage. She ran her PB of 2:32:09 at those Canadian Championships, which marked the start of her marathoning career, and she has run one other marathon since. Her PB puts her at 16th all-time among Canadians, and she’ll be looking to climb into the top 10 (or higher) on Sunday.
Middleton needs to cut a big chunk of time off her PB to hit the Olympic standard of 2:29:30, but she will have plenty of strong runners to work with, many of whom will be aiming to run under the same bar. Olympic standard won’t guarantee Middleton a spot on the Canadian team for Tokyo, but it’ll definitely give her a shot at making her first Olympic squad.
Like Kent, Sunday will technically be Ben Preisner‘s marathon debut. Unofficially, Preisner has a marathon PB of 2:15:24, though, which he ran on his own in April. He was supposed to debut at the distance at the London Marathon, but when that was cancelled, he decided to put his fitness to the test all the same, and even though he was alone that day, he posted an impressive time. With that experience under his belt, Preisner knows what it feels like to hammer away for 42K, which will be a mental benefit for him at The Marathon Project. Now that we’ve seen what he can do in a solo race, it’ll be exciting to see how he fares with other elite athletes pushing him along.
Rory Linkletter owns a marathon PB of 2:16:42, which he ran at STWM in 2019. In 2020, though, he ran the second-fastest Canadian half-marathon result in history in his debut over 21.1K, posting a 1:01:44 in Houston. In October, he ran the second half-marathon of his young career, finishing in 1:02:37.
Linkletter’s 2:16 marathon PB may be well off the Olympic standard of 2:11:30, but his half-marathon success indicates that he is capable of running faster over 42.2K. If Linkletter can hang in with a fast group on Sunday, he could very well run to a massive PB and a sub-2:11:30 result.