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Marathoners Leslie Sexton and Lee Wesselius headline Under Armour Spring Run-Off

Who are the favourites and what to expect at this weekend's Under Armour Spring Run-Off

The Under Armour Spring Run-Off 8 km returns to Toronto’s High Park on Saturday, April 9, for its 45th edition of the race, marking the opening of the spring road racing season in Toronto. This year’s race is headlined by two of Canada’s fastest marathoners from 2021: Leslie Sexton and Lee Wesselius, who hope to continue their run of stellar performances into the 2022 season.

Leslie Sexton celebrating after winning the Canadian 10K Championship. Photo: Canada Running Series

Both Sexton and Wesselius had breakout performances at the Canadian 10K championships in the fall, with Sexton earning her first Canadian 10K title and Wesselius setting a minute personal best of 29:13 for a seventh-place finish.

The New Brunswick-born veterinarian followed up his personal best performance with another 12-minute personal best at the Indianapolis Marathon (2:16:37). His time in Indianapolis made noise around the Canadian running scene as he clocked the third-fastest marathon of 2021 as an unsponsored athlete who now works full-time as a farm vet in Mountain, Ont.

Wesselius will be one of the favourites on Saturday in a hungry and youthful men’s field. Besides Wesselius, London, Ont. based runner Jeremy Coughler was one of the top finishers at the Canadian 10 km Championships, beating Wesselius by nine seconds to finish fourth overall in 29:04. Coughler is also the only man in the men’s elite field who has dipped under 14 minutes over 5,000m, which could play into his strengths in the late stages of the race.

Tristan Woodfine (right) and Kyle Grieve at the 2019 Spring Run-off. Photo: Maxine Gravina

Kyle Grieve of Toronto’s Monarch Athletics Club knows the course as well as the back of his hand, after his back-to-back third-place finishes in the last two editions of the race. Although Grieve finished behind Coughler and Wesselius at the 10K Championships in the fall, he also clocked over a minute personal best (29:43). Grieve has had an impressive start to the 2022 season, breaking his course record of 14:41 at the Toronto Achilles 5K three weeks ago.

Outside of these three men, Kingston, Ont’s., Kevin Coffey can’t be ignored after his recent dominant win at the Around the Bay 30K Road Race. Coffey showed the ATB field that he is in great shape and mentioned structuring his training around the Canadian 10K championships to be held in Ottawa at the end of May.

Kevin Coffey winning 2022 Around the Bay Road Race. Photo: Around the Bay

Sergio Raez-Villanueva and Dylan Alick are two other athletes who could contend for a podium spot. Raez-Villanueva has found himself on the podium before (in 2017, behind defending three-time champion Tristan Woodfine, who will not be in the field this year). Alick, a training partner of Raez-Villanueva, has a string of solid performances last fall and hopes to continue racing well in 2022.

The women’s preview

A change of scenery has made a huge difference for Sexton, who is coming off a season to remember, winning the Philadelphia Marathon and two Canadian championships in four months. Sexton is embracing the west coast running culture, training with the Vancouver Thunderbirds squad. Based on her performances last fall, she will be the favourite in this race. But there are a few athletes who will hope to steal the show on Saturday morning.

Sexton winning the Philadelphia Marathon in 2:28:34

Cleo Boyd was second at the Canadian 10K Championships, finishing behind Sexton in a personal best of 33:21. Since Boyd has made the transition to the roads from the track, she has found much success. Boyd already has a few races under her belt this season, winning the Aspire Wine 10K in Hoover, Ala. last month, finishing only five seconds off her PB.

Toronto’s Sasha Gollish winning the 2018 Toronto Lululemon 10K. Photo: CRS

The best of the rest who could also contend for a podium are 2:33 marathoner Brittany Moran and 1:15 half-marathoner Laura Desjardins, as well as track specialists like Alexandra Lucki, who trains with Toronto West and is extremely familiar with the Spring Run-Off course. Another athlete who can’t be counted out is Sasha Gollish, who broke the women’s 40+ indoor mile world record last month and has been on several CRS podiums.

Check out here to view the full elite list.

The 45th Under Armour Spring Run-Off will begin on Saturday, April 9. at 10 a.m. E.T. in Toronto’s High Park. Follow Canadian Running on Instagram for all the action.