Paul Gains

Two-time Canadian Olympic marathoner Reid Coolsaet has been crowned the 2018 Canada Running Series (CRS) overall Men’s Champion collecting the $3,000 prize, with London, Ontario’s Leslie Sexton taking the women’s title and enjoying an equal pay day.

The 39-year-old Hamilton resident earned maximum points with his victories at both the Toronto Waterfront 10k (60 points) and the Edmonton 10k (30 points) then sealed the title with his silver medal-winning performance at the Canadian Marathon Championships (52 points) on October 21st.

The CRS finale, the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon (STWM), was once again the site of those championships.

Coolsaet’s total points amounted to 142. Last year’s CRS champion Tristan Woodfine finished second overall with 126 points and earned $1,500. These figures are in addition to prize money offered at each of the individual races.

“The CRS title was something I was always shooting for,” Coolsaet says of the eight-race series which includes races in Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal.

“When I planned out my season early on, I knew I was going to run the STWM. I just thought, ‘Well I want to make sure I have enough races to get that title.’ I think I would have done Edmonton regardless because I wanted a race at that time. It really worked out to do Edmonton and make sure I had points out of my geographic region.”

Sexton, 31, won the women’s overall title for the second consecutive year but it was close. Her 149 points were just five more than Toronto’s Sasha Gollish winner of the Toronto Waterfront 10k.

Sexton also finished 2nd in the Canadian Marathon Championships in a time of 2:36:03. That’s just under the recently announced IAAF World Championship qualifying standard of 2:37:00, although she plans to skip those World Championships in Doha in order to run the 2019 STWM and qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

“At the start of the year my coach Steve (Weiler) and I we sort of planned out the races with (winning the CRS title) in mind,” Sexton admits. “Just trying to fit everything in so I had good buildups toward goal races but also maximizing the points where I can. Going into the STWM I knew I needed a good performance there to win and I was happy to get the (CRS title) win by four or five points. So that was definitely the highlight (of the year).”

Third place overall went to Natasha Wodak the Canadian 10,000m record holder with 130 points and in the Men’s series Trevor Hofbauer, who had a resounding victory at Vancouver Eastside 10k, wound up third. Each earned $1,000 for third place overall.

Once again the STWM provided a fitting climax to the Series with several records broken. Mimi Belete of Bahrain set a new women’s course record with 2:22:29 and most famously British Columbia’s Cam Levins beat the 43-year-old Canadian men’s marathon record which had belonged to Jerome Drayton since 1975 – before many of this year’s participants had been born. His time of 2:09:25 was a highly impressive debut.

The eight-race series enjoyed its best year ever with a record 64,810 participants of whom 58% were female. All together $6,041,192 was raised for more than 300 mostly-local charities.

Coolsaet reserved special praise for the addition of Edmonton to the series a race which, incredibly, took less than 14 hours to sell out.“I thought it was awesome. I like racing in different Canadian cities and the course itself is really cool – to go over that High-Level bridge, and the field was good too,” he recalls.

“Trevor Hofbauer had a commanding win at Vancouver Eastside 10k in September and Evan Esselink finished 3rd at the National Cross Country Championships. The top end of the field was tough. I was happy to come away with the win there.”

Registration for the 2019 CRS has opened and Race Director Alan Brookes points out that this will mark the 30th anniversary of the Series which began as the Coors Light Running Series in 1990.

Once again, the season will kick off with the Race Roster Spring Run Off in Toronto’s scenic High Park on April 6th. This 8km race has been run consecutively for the past 42 years and has attracted many world-class athletes while providing thousands the opportunity to test themselves early in the year. By popular request, the #killthehill challenge within the races will return, to crown new Kings and Queens of the infamous Spring Road Hill. After traversing the country, the CRS finale will be the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on October 20th.

In addition to being the Canadian Marathon Championship, once again it will also be a key selection race for Canadian marathoners aiming to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.