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The foreshadowing of the Ottawa 10K — Saturday’s prelude to Sunday’s Ottawa Marathon — was of two, two-horse races Moh Ahmed versus Cameron Levins and Natasha Wodak against Leslie Sexton.

The temperature was very warm and as typical in the Ottawa Valley this time of year the air was humid. If there was going to be a race, it would about not melting on the hot tarmac — to manage the effort accordingly, no record would be run. With no wind, most of the 6485 runners would enjoy the misting station after the halfway point, but not St. Catharines, ON native Ahmed, who kept his eyes on finishing first, ahead of North America’s marathon record holder Cameron Levins from Vancouver Island.

The men’s race

The 10K was billed as a two-man race for weeks in advance as elite athlete coordinator, Dylan Wykes, worked his magic for the marathon weekend. The prospect of having North America’s fastest 5000m runner (12:47.20) in Ahmed up against North America’s fastest marathon runner in Levins (2:05:39), was a marketing coup that brought out the specators; thousands lined the streets. The tree-lined start on Elgin Street produced a cacophony of noise, to send the athletes off. Toeing the line was a number of Canada’s top distance runners Rory Linkletter, Thomas Nobbs, Tristane Woodfine, Levins and Ahmed amongst others.

Once the gun went off, Ahmed and Levins took off and began to create space between themselves and the rest of the elite field. Only Rory Linkletter attempted to work with the two, top-billed athletes, but soon made the wise choice to settle into the chase pack.

The two ran together for much of 7K before a very small gap began to appear and Levins took the draftee position. Ahmed continued to drop the pace throughout and created an insurmountable gap. He finished in the time of 28:21, Levins 28:39, negative splitting off a 14:23 first 5K by both runners.

London, Ontario’s Jeremy Coughler took third in the time of 29:31 and 23-year-old Thomas Nobbs of Vancouver took fourth with a new personal best of 29:37. Twenty men ran sub-32:00. Montreal’s Arnaud Francioni was the first non-seeded athlete clocking a 32:40 performance finishing in 28th position.

The women’s race

Defending champion, Natasha Wodak of Vancouver, took the lead immediately and literally and figuratively never looked back. Behind her by approximately 10 seconds was Vancouver’s Leslie Sexton and Caroline Pomerleau from Montreal. The race was for third as Victoria’s Katelyn Ayers and Pomerleau worked together for the first half. Sexton appeared determined to hunt down Wodak, but was working in no woman’s land.

Like the men’s race, the gap began to grow in the latter stages between the leaders and Wodak ended up winning in the time of 32:51, nearly a full minute slower than her road 10K personal best of 31:59, which she set at the same event in 2015. Like Levins, Wodak holds the national marathon record at 2:23:12, which she set in Berlin 2022 at age 40. She also holds Canada’s best 8K time of 25:28 and is the former half-marathon and 10,000m national record holder.

Sexton’s best is 32:04 from Toronto in 2021 and her 10,000m PB is 32:31.89 from May 2022 in Vancouver at Swangard Stadium. Finishing as well as she did in Ottawa demonstrated strong fitness. Pomerleau clocked a 33:17 third place personal best performance. Ayers took fourth in 33:38, also a new PB. Local Celine Best was the first non-seeded finisher in the time of 39:11.

Fourteen women clocked times faster than 36:00.