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What happened to Cam Levins in London?

The conditions in London were as bad in person as they looked on TV

Last Sunday’s London Marathon was Canadian record-holder Cam Levins’s first marathon since STWM 2019, one year ago. Going into the race, he told us he was in the shape of his life. But somewhere after 35K, he stopped recording splits and didn’t finish. Here’s what happened. 

Cam Levins before STWM 2019 start. Photo: Maxine Gravina

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Levins’s goal on Sunday was to qualify for the Olympics, and maybe even set a new Canadian record in the process, but he came up short on his goal. “I thought things were going well until they weren’t,” he says. “Basically, I got cold and was exposed to the elements until I couldn’t move anymore. I never got warm at any point, and that compounds through the race as you get wetter and the wind picks up.”

Beyond the terrible conditions, which made results slower than expected for everyone, Levins was in a pace group of three, meaning there was nowhere for him to hide (runners can converse significant energy by drafting). “With only three people, you’re really, really exposed. In hindsight, I should have tried to stick on the lead or go with the slower group to run with more people. There were bigger groups on either side of me. It just wasn’t what I was expecting, unfortunately.”

The conditions took their toll on many runners, including Eliud Kipchoge, one of the greatest distance runners in history. Kipchoge finished 8th in 2:06 – a personal worst.

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Oof, what a week eh? I missed #rio2016 due to injury and have been intently focused on getting back to the Olympics for 8 years. What’s another year in the grand scheme when the risks outweigh the benefits? I’m so grateful to the IOC for prioritising the health of the world while allowing able bodied and para athletes a chance to still contest the XXXII Olympics. It would have been much easier to cancel, but I know that the Games will be exactly what we need when this is over to bring the world back together. In the meantime, wash your hands, don’t touch you face, and keep the faith. #stayhome #staysafe #staymotivated #staystrong #staysafe #staypositive #olympics #tokyo2021 #tokyo2020ne #running #runningmotivation #runnersofinstagram #runnersofinsta #canada #camada #mountainrange

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Levins said he didn’t feel like he was hitting paces beyond his capability, and was on 2:09 pace through 35K. But he knew he was in trouble when his hands were so cold that he couldn’t pick up a bottle. “By the end, I was reaching for bottles and just knocking them off the table. Even through the race, I was squeezing with both hands to get anything out.”

Ultimately, Levins would slow to a walk with about 6K to go. “My body just slowed me down. I obviously didn’t handle the conditions well.” 

What’s next?

With the Olympic qualification window open for marathoners and race walkers, Levins is looking to use his fitness and run one more marathon. “I do have something else planned. I need to wait until the elite field is announced, but I’ve got a plan B. My legs are OK. I’m trying to get things rolling again by next week. I don’t want this fitness to go to waste, and I don’t want to do an entirely new build.”

Levins is moving on because, in this sport, bad days happen. Thankfully, he’ll have a crack at redemption in a few weeks’ time. 

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