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Canada’s Cameron Levins is racing the Tokyo Marathon on Sunday, March 5 (local) or Saturday, March 4 (in North America). He will be looking to improve his own national record of 2:07:09, which he set last summer during the Eugene World Athletics Championships.

Asked if he will be going after the 2024 Paris Olympic entry standard of 2:08:10 or the 2023 Budapest World Athletics Championships standard of 2:09:40, he told Athletics Illustrated, “I think we’re waiting to see what the pace options are before making that decision, but certainly looking for a personal best and not just standard.”

Levins finishing fourth at the 2022 Eugene World Athletics Championships. Photo: World Athletics

Levins set a new Canadian half-marathon record on February 12 at the First Half Half Marathon clocking a 60:18. He finished 4:03 ahead of his nearest competitor. Although that time, according to World Athletics’ points performance scale is almost, but not quite, as good as his marathon best, it was run in less than ideal conditions. For example, in Eugene, there was a highly competitive field to race with — to bring the best out of him. Additionally, in Vancouver, although not overly challenging, the weather was cool and windy. The general consensus is he could have run the First Half Half Marathon a little faster, yet. Perhaps right at the level of his national marathon record. So, we know from that performance he is in great shape.

Looking at his options in Tokyo, Levins has a fast course and runners looking for a fast time and prize money.

The field is led by Ethiopian Lemma Sisay who has run as fast as 2:03:36 back in 2019 at the Berlin Marathon. He has also run at least three other sub-2:07-marathons. As it has been four years since Sisay set his best, anyone of Kenyans Bernard Koech (2:04:09), CyBrian Kotut (2:04:47), Titus Kipruto (2:04:54), Ugandan Stehen Kissa (2:04:48), Ethiopian Deso Gelmisa (2:04:53) could challenge for the win. There are also several fast Japanese runners led by Kengo Suzuki with his 2:04:56. He holds the national record from Otsu, Japan two years ago. There are six others who have run 2:05 to 2:07 — right in Levins’ range.

The 24-year-old Kipruto finished second in the Amsterdam Marathon last October — less than five months ago. He was beaten only by Ethiopian Tsegaye Getachew by five seconds. Gelmiso, just 25 and Kipruto won the 2022 Valencia and Milano Marathons respectively. If the weather is ideal expect a couple of 2:03 marathons in Tokyo. Currently the forecast is trending in the right direction with projected highs of 13-16 degrees.

Prior to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, Levins ran several marathons that ended in dissapointment. These included the London Marathon in poor weather as well as Chandler, AZ, where he looked fresh at 32 kilometres into the race, running with the lead pack, only to fade to a 2:12:15 clocking. At the 11th hour, he boarded a plane for Fürstenfeld, Austria and ran a small marathon event just fast enough to qualify for the Olympics at 2:10:14. However, by the time he got to Sapporo, where the event was held, some 800 kilometres north of Tokyo, it was hot at 34 degrees celsius, and perhaps he had run too many marathons leading up. The standard was 2:11:30 at the time.

The 33-year-old Vancouver Island native has had big highs with breaking the Canadian marathon record three times, competing in two Olympic Games and at one time holding the national 10,000m record. Anything can and often does happen in a marathon event. Expect Levins to improve his own national marathon record and perhaps run 2:06 plus or minus a few seconds if it all works out for him.

It was not long ago that the 43-year-old Canadian record was stuck at a modest 2:10:09 by Jerome Drayton from his run in Fukuoka, Japan in 1975. Excellent Canadian marathon runners Reid Coolsaet, Dylan Wykes, and Eric Gillis among others had led the Canadian Marathon ressurgence, but couldn’t quite crack Drayton’s time. Levins has taken the mantle from there and has run with it to repeat records. The standard he has set and will likely continue to, will be a benchmark for up and coming Canadians to follow. Perhaps to put Canada back on the global marathon map.

Levins recently signed with Asics as his new shoe sponsor. Until 2021, he was with HOKA and prior to that Nike with the now defunct Nike Oregon Project that was led by the now banned Alberto Salazar. Levins is now coached by fellow Vancouver Island runner Jim Finlayson.