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Ben Flanagan and Leslie Sexton look to defend their titles at Canadian 10K Championships

Canada's top distance runners will compete for the Canadian 10K title on Saturday evening in Ottawa

The Canadian 10K Championships are back in Ottawa, after being held in Toronto last fall, where we saw Ben Flanagan of Kitchener, Ont., and Leslie Sexton of Markham, Ont. race to their first 10K road titles. Now, both athletes will get the chance to defend their 2021 crowns on Saturday evening on the banks of the Rideau Canal.

Leslie Sexton won the 2021 Canadian 10K Championships in Toronto. Photo: Canada Running Series

Last year, both Flanagan and Sexton had breakout seasons. Sexton ran personal bests over 10K, 10,000m and 5K, collecting two Canadian titles on the roads. She also ran a three-minute personal best to win the Philadelphia Marathon in November in 2:28:35. Flanagan collected several big wins south of the border at the Manchester Road Race and Falmouth Road Race, ending his season with a 28:42 Canadian 10K Championships victory on Toronto’s lakeshore as his friends and family cheered.

Sexton has run the Ottawa 10K before, but she doesn’t consider her result a memorable performance. “I completed in the championship 10K in 2015, but a severe blister held me back from contending,” Sexton says. “I’m glad to be back in Ottawa, and I am looking forward to defending my Canadian 10K title.”

Both Sexton and Flanagan will come into the 10K as the favourites, but will face tough competition, with several of the podium finishers returning. Luc Bruchet, who only finished a few seconds behind Flanagan in 2021, returns in fantastic form. Bruchet comes into the 10K championships fresh off a personal best over the distance at his hometown Vancouver Sun Run, where he took the win in 28:29. A month earlier, Bruchet broke the 28-minute barrier over 10,000m on the track at the Sound Running Invite in California. The 31-year-old has made some noise this spring and will certainly be a threat to the podium.

Natasha Wodak won the Canadian 10K Championships in 2019 when they were last held in Ottawa. Photo: Victah Sailor/PhotoRun

Cleo Boyd and Natasha Wodak, who were second and third to Sexton last fall, also return for another shot at the title. Boyd’s personal best over 10K of 33:21 comes from her race last fall, but she has shown that she is in good form this spring. She recently won the Aspire Wine 10K in March in Hoover, Ala., in 33:26, only five seconds off her personal best. Wodak is still racing well, into her 40s. She was 13th overall in the 2020 Olympic marathon and seventh at the NYC Half in March, finishing only 20 seconds off her personal best of 69:41 on a hilly course. Although Wodak was disappointed with her performance at the 2022 Boston Marathon, she is eager to bounce back and return to the top of the podium here in Ottawa.

The new Canadian half-marathon record holder, Rory Linkletter, who clocked 1:01:08 at the Houston Half Marathon in January, is an addition to the 2022 elite field for the 10K. The 25-year-old from Calgary has shown he is in 28-minute shape, running 28:43 at the Cooper River Ridge Run 10K in April in Charleston, S.C. Linkletter has had a busy six months, moving to a new coach and recently signing with Puma Running.

Canadian half-marathon record holder Rory Linkletter will make his debut at the Ottawa 10K

The forecast for Saturday evening is sunny, around 21 C with 85 per cent humidity, conditions that may help the field challenge the Canadian record of 28:17, held by Paul McCloy since 1987. “The goal is to go out and shoot for Canadian record pace,” Flanagan says. “I’ve heard the course is fast, and we have a great field of men to push the pace.”

The full elite field for the Canadian 10K Championships can be found here.

The winner of the 2022 Canadian 10K Championship will receive $6,000 in prize money. A $1,000 bonus will be given to the men’s or women’s champion if they break the Canadian 10K record.

The championship will also hold its unique gender competition. The women’s field will be given a slight head start on the men, and the first woman or man to cross the finish line will receive a $1,000 bonus.

All the action will kick off from Ottawa on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Canadian Running will be live-tweeting the women’s 10K race as it unfolds. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram for all the Ottawa race weekend action.