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Rachel Cliff, Cam Levins among Canadians in strong Marathon Project field

Eight Canucks will head south of the border in December to race in one of the biggest running events of 2020

Photo by: Victah Sailor/PhotoRun

On December 20, some of the top marathoners in North America will head to Chandler, Ariz., for The Marathon Project, a race that is set to be a highlight of the 2020 running season. Among the field of 59 men and 58 women are eight Canadians who will be looking to have big performances (and hopefully run Olympic standard). Here are the Canucks to keep an eye on in a couple of months’ time, plus a few other standout runners who could post some fast times. 

The women’s field 

In the women’s race, former national marathon record-holder Rachel Cliff will be joined by Natasha WodakKinsey Middleton and Emily Setlack. This is a solid crew, and any of these women could grab a top-10 result in Arizona and run Olympic standard. Cliff owns a PB of 2:26:56, which she ran in Japan in 2019. Well below the Olympic standard of 2:29:30, if Cliff can come close to her best time, she’ll have a great shot at being named to Team Canada for the Tokyo Games.

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Wodak has run one marathon before, but not since the 2013 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM), where she posted a 2:35:16. She has been a force to be reckoned with in the half-marathon in recent years, though, and earlier this year she became the first Canadian woman to run sub-1:10 when she posted a 1:09:41 in Houston. With seven more years of experience since her last crack at the marathon, Wodak should be able to improve on her PB and reignite her marathoning career. 

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What an awesome Canada Day! ๐Ÿ‡จ๐Ÿ‡ฆ Despite the wind & rain I loved every second of racing the virtual Canadian 10k Champs out in Abbotsford surrounded by my amazing support team- @jimhinze lead cyclist, @baggooa bike pace maker, my Dad biking behind, @lynnkanuka biking & coaching, @golikemary bike support & pictures! And my mom cheering from the truck! ๐Ÿ˜‚ Ran 32:41- which Iโ€™m stoked about- and was fast enough for the virtual title! Yippee! Thank you @ottawamarathon @athleticscanada @dylanwykes for giving us the opportunity to race again! It really did feel like a real race! And it felt SO GOOD to be racing on the roads again! #myhappyplace #virtualcanadian10kchamps #runottawa #canadaday #virtualrace #10kchamps #canadianrunning #thesweatlife #nuunlife

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After winning the Canadian Marathon Championships in 2018 (in her debut at the distance), Middleton has proven that she can perform on a big stage. She ran her PB of 2:32:09 at that race, and she has only raced one other marathon since. She’s only 27 years old (she’ll be 28 on race day), and she still has a full career of marathon running ahead of her. On the flat and fast course in Arizona, she’ll have the chance to run another big race and prove that she is a name to watch in Canadian road running. 

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Finally, there’s Setlack, who finished as the second Canadian woman at last year’s Canadian Marathon Championships. It was there that she ran her marathon PB of 2:29:48, just shy of Olympic standard. She has only raced once in 2020, and that was way back in January at the Houston Half-Marathon (where she ran a 1:11:40), but after her performance in 2019, she should be confident that she can produce another quick run, this time hopefully at least 19 seconds quicker. 

Other names to watch in The Marathon Project are 2:22 marathoner and recent London Marathon second-place finisher Sara Hall, British runner (and Canadian resident) Sarah Inglis and NAZ Elite athlete Stephanie Bruce. The full women’s field can be found here

The men’s field

On the men’s side, Canada will be represented by Cam LevinsRory LinkletterBenjamin Preisner and Justin Kent. Levins is the national marathon record-holder, but he’s coming off a disappointing run at the London Marathon. The conditions were far from ideal in London, and although he started off well, the cold overwhelmed him in the latter stages of the race and he couldn’t finish. Two years removed from his amazing 2:09:25 at the STWM, he’ll be on the hunt for another sub-2:10 run, which would be well below the Olympic standard of 2:11:30. 

For Linkletter, The Marathon Project will be his second time racing the distance. He debuted at last year’s STWM, where he ran a 2:16:42. He’ll need to cut some serious time off this PB if he wants to fight for a spot on the Tokyo 2021 team, but if his 1:01:44 half-marathon debut from January is any indication of his abilities, he’s certainly capable of crushing a marathon in a couple of months. 

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While Preisner will be running his official marathon debut, he has already run an all-out 42.2K. Before the pandemic, he had planned on racing the London Marathon. When that got cancelled, he decided to put his fitness to use and run an unofficial debut on his own. After hammering an impressive 2:15:24 solo marathon, he should fare well in Arizona, where he will be able to work with other runners throughout the race.

Unlike Preisner, this will be the very first time Kent has run a marathon (official or not). Kent, Preisner and Cliff were all supposed to race the World Half Marathon Championships in Poland on October 17, but Athletics Canada pulled out of the event just days before the run. With that opportunity taken away from him, Kent will be chomping at the bit to race, come December. He recently ran a 1:04:20 half-marathon, showing Canadians why he should be on their radar when The Marathon Project finally rolls around. 

The full men’s field for the race can be found here