Currently, Canada is rich with middle and long distance running talent. You can now add Ben Flanagan’s name to the mix.
The prospects for international-level competitiveness for Canadian men appears to be as strong as it ever has from the 1500-metres to the 10,000-metre distances, and the future prospects for the marathon also look very promising.
Some of the names are becoming well-known and perhaps transcend the sport. For example, Toronto’s Mo Ahmed and Black Creek’s Cam Levins are talents that have re-written the Canadian record books for the 5,000-metre and 10,000-metre distances. First Levins improved the 10,000-metre national record down to 27:07.51 in 2015, and then Ahmed bettered it during the 2017 IAAF World Track and Field Championships to 27:02.35 and advanced the 5,000-metre record to a truly international standard of 13:01.74 at Hayward Field in 2016.
Justyn Knight of Toronto followed Levins and Ahmed with a very strong NCAA career while at Syracuse University, medalling at the NCAA Division 1 championships on at least three occasions. His 5,000-metre best is an outstanding 13:17.51 and the fourth-fastest all-time by an NCAA athlete, while in school – it was the fastest 5,000-metre performance in the world for 2017.
In the 1500-metre event, there is Charles Philibert-Thiboutot who has run the metric mile as fast as 3:34.23. The 27-year-old Quebec City native made the semi-finals in both the 2015 IAAF World Track and Field Championships and the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. He won a bronze at the 2015 Toronto Pan American Games. His 5,000-metre best is a very solid 13:33.25 from 2016 at the Payton Jordan Invitational.
One of those others is Flanagan of Kitchener, ON, who attended the University of Michigan under legendary Canadian Kevin Sullivan. Flanagan finished off his NCAA career with an NCAA title to his credit in the 10,000-metre distance. He took out Vincent Kiprop with a powerful 25th lap earning a new personal best of 28:34.53 – a 39-second improvement on his old record.
He finished third at the national track and field championships 5,000-metre event in Ottawa in a race that included Knight and Ahmed. It was tactical and came down to the three athletes in the end.
“Yes, it was quite tactical early. I noticed Justyn was shadowing Mo, so I did my best to shadow Justyn and just prepare for a move we anticipated Mo would likely make,” said Flanagan. “At a mile to go, things started to pick up, and with 800m to go is where we really started moving. I made an aggressive move on the backstretch with 300 to go to try and keep up with Mo, but he had another gear down the straightaway. Justyn also closed really hard, as he does, and went by me with about 10-15-meters remaining. I did everything I could to put myself in contention for the win, so I’m happy with how I ran.”
With his 2018 outdoors season, Flanagan has moved into the conversation as one of the big names in Canada, moving forward.
“This race was a really big step in the right direction for me, and it was truly an honour to compete with Canada’s top athletes. Not to mention, Justyn and Mo are two of the nicest guys I’ve ever met. To top things off, Athletics Canada put on a great event and the crowd showed so much support, which I am incredibly thankful for,” added Flanagan.
The three finished in the time of 14:36.09, 14:36.56 and 14:36.66, respectively.
When asked about Flanagan’s improvement, Sullivan told Athletics Illustrated, “Interesting question because nothing really fit into an ideal script. Ben spent most of January in the pool, underwater treadmill and Alter-G due to a foot injury. You could see the potential was there for a big year when he ran 13:48 indoors off of three weeks of on-ground training though. But, just as it seemed things were going in a positive direction his foot flared up again the week of the indoor conference meet. We spent the next four weeks again in the pool, underwater treadmill, Alter-G and on the bike and then just went about trying to be better each week as the season progressed. With a total of two months of compromised training, there wasn’t consistency in the sense of being on ground, but we were able to really hit some intense workouts due to the non-weight bearing situation he was in.”
According to Sullivan, Flanagan was carrying a lot of accumulated fitness gains from the past few years of training and racing. “Which definitely helped during his injury time but perhaps the biggest thing that benefited Ben was a genuine belief by him and by me that he could be in a position to win any 10k he was in this year, including the NCAA Championships.”
Which of course he did with authority.
As for Flanagan’s future plans, he may just move up in distance. “Right now I have some road races lined up for the end of the summer. Long-term I am staying pretty open-minded in terms of the distances I am willing to take on. The 10,000m seems like a good place for me at the moment, but down the road, I may consider moving up.”
Finals 1 #1014 Ahmed, Mohammed 91 NIAGARA OLYM 13:08.16 14:36.09 1:53.852 (1:53.852) 3:07.842 (1:13.990) 4:19.808 (1:11.966) 5:33.640 (1:13.832) 6:47.965 (1:14.325) 8:02.650 (1:14.685) 9:12.474 (1:09.824) 10:22.891 (1:10.417) 11:31.458 (1:08.567) 12:39.423 (1:07.965) 13:41.126 (1:01.703) 14:36.084 (54.958) 2 #1667 Knight, Justyn 96 U of Toronto T.C 13:17.51 14:36.56 1:53.565 (1:53.565) 3:08.103 (1:14.538) 4:20.073 (1:11.970) 5:33.973 (1:13.900) 6:48.253 (1:14.280) 8:02.965 (1:14.712) 9:12.789 (1:09.824) 10:23.176 (1:10.387) 11:31.726 (1:08.550) 12:39.673 (1:07.947) 13:41.351 (1:01.678) 14:36.556 (55.205) 3 #1419 Flanagan, Ben 95 ON Unattached 13:48.58 14:36.66 1:53.910 (1:53.910) 3:08.366 (1:14.456) 4:20.300 (1:11.934) 5:34.219 (1:13.919) 6:48.517 (1:14.298) 8:03.115 (1:14.598) 9:12.995 (1:09.880) 10:23.418 (1:10.423) 11:31.909 (1:08.491) 12:39.869 (1:07.960) 13:41.574 (1:01.705) 14:36.654 (55.080)