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Cam Levins broke the half-marathon course record on Thanksgiving Sunday in Victoria, BC at the Royal Victoria Half Marathon. He clocked a time of one hour, one minute, and 18 seconds, exactly one minute shy of his own national record, which he set at the Vancouver First Half in February.

Levins, with his parents Barb and Gus and his grandmother watching from the VIP zone, led from the gun to tape and never looked back. It is his third-fastest half-marathon. The 34-year-old Vancouver Island native also ran 1:01:04 in Valencia one year ago.

Levins bettered three-time Olympian Jon Brown’s course record from 2002, which the former British athlete set at 62:32.

Image from finish line video camera/Athletics Illustrated.

“That was a tough course, there are a lot of hills and I didn’t know the course well,” said Levins shortly after finishing.

Although he did not commit to a time, pre-race, he confidently said that he would break the course record.

Conditions were ideal. Temperatures were cool with a start at 12C and very little wind with mostly clear skies.

Levins holds the national record at 1:00:18 and the North American marathon record at 2:05:36, both set earlier this year. The second-fastest marathon runner in Canada is Trevor Hofbauer of Calgary, currently living in Kelowna. He was set on running a small personal best and a metronomic 1:04:00. He finished second in 1:04:07. Hofbauer was all smiles at the finish as he felt composed with the 23-second personal best.

Kip Kangogo of Lethbridge, Alberta at age 44 took the Canadian Masters Association national title with a new masters personal best time of 1:07:46.

“I know the course well, especially the final few kilometres, so I had an advantage in the race,” shared Kangogo, who has placed top-3 and won various races in the island city since moving from Kenya.

Vancouver’s Mark Klassen finished in second place clocking a 1:08:29 result, while the third-place CMA medallist was Victoria’s Andrew Russell, the defending champion, who clocked a 1:11:22 performance. He was bettered by former Ethiopian Teferi Balcha by 1:22, however, Balcha does not yet qualify as a Canadian athlete.

While Levins wants to race the New York City Marathon as opposed to running a time trial or running strictly to pace on November 5, Hofbauer needs a time in Valencia to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. Hofbauer needs to run sub-2:08:10, be top-3 Canadian during the qualification window, and or be ranked in the top 80 globally.

Levins is the only Canadian ranked in the top 80 at this time at 31st. Both are Tokyo Olympians who want to improve on their performances in the heat in Sapporo two years ago.

Could Levins have improved the national record in Victoria?

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he did, but, just not today,” said Coach Jim Finlayson after the race. “He has a fair amount of marathon training volume still in his legs.”

As he prepares for New York, Finlayson coaches Levins but gives the veteran the space to take care of his own volume decisions. It worked well for him as a two-time NCAA champion at Southern Utah University under Eric Houle and it works well for him now. While at the now-defunct Nike Oregon Project, he seemed to spend as much time injured as he did running well. Like the field today, the injuries seem to be behind him.

Levins also didn’t know the course well enough to employ late-race tactics to take advantage of downhill and flat sections. He still may not have improved his own national record in Victoria knowing the course but was on pace for 60:37 past the mid-way point of the race. Who knows, however, he again demonstrated that he is in fine form for his next big marathon.

The women’s race

Calgary’s Mackenna Fitzgerald won the women’s race in the time of 1:17:30. Unlike the men, the top women seemed to work together for several kms before the group began to split apart.

Finishing in second place was Vancouver’s Eriko Soma who finished in 1:18:28 to win the masters and the 40-44 age group.

Victoria’s Carley Gering took third and second masters in the time of 1:18:57 while the third masters age (35-plus) athlete was Victoria’s Jen Millar clocking a 1:19:53, she also competes in the 40-44 age group.

National, age-group, and course records are being sorted at press time, however, race organizers report that Kangogo took the masters course record, Levins’ coach Jim Finlayson grabbed the provincial and event 50-54 age records with his 1:11:51, half a minute off the national record. Kelowna’s David Guss clocked a 1:19:15 60-64 record.

Full report from the marathon, and 8K as well as post-race video interviews to follow.