Photo credit: Todd Fraser/Canada Running Series.

Paul Gains

After an incredibly successful inauguration last year the lululemon Edmonton10K is back on the Canada Running Series calendar July 7th with both defending champions returning to a competitive field.

Two-time Olympic marathoner, Reid Coolsaet (course champion in 2018 with 30:07), leads a stellar men’s competition. Leslie Sexton will head up the elite women’s field. A year ago, the London, Ontario resident won in 34:07 then went on to finish second at the Canadian marathon championships in Toronto. Sexton won the overall CRS title in 2018. Coolsaet, coincidently, emerged as the men’s overall champion.

This exciting race sold out, remarkably, in ten hours. Seven thousand runners who rushed to sign up in record time will line up for the 7:30 a.m. start on the grounds of the Alberta Provincial Legislature. The flat, out and back course should yield some very quick times amongst the competitive elite field.

Coolsaet remembers the race fondly, particularly, his battle with two other Canadian internationals. “It was kind of windy last year and with Trevor Hofbauer and Evan Esselink (racing), I remember thinking I had to get away from those guys and not leave it to a kick,” says the 39 year old Hamilton resident. “The course is cool; it goes over a high level bridge. It was a fun race, got a great donut at the end.”

Coolsaet laughs at the memory of the vegan donuts provided to all finishers by a local company, Doughnut Party. In addition to Esselink, this year he will face Canadian marathon record holder, Cam Levins. Levins is working his way back into shape after a knee injury curtailed his plans to run the London Marathon this spring.

Levins tested himself recently, finishing 5th in the lululemon Toronto 10K two weekends ago, “My training since has been great. It has taken a step forward and I think there is a tendency to do that once you get the first race out of the way.”

His comments on his expectations in Edmonton are succinct, “I just want to see some sort of improvement. I haven’t looked at the course, but I will expect a much better performance out of myself.”

He has confirmed his major event of the year will be the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, this October 20th, the finale of the Canada Running Series. While Coolsaet has been active on the road circuit, finishing as top Canadian at the Ottawa Marathon
May 26th, the women’s defending champ, Sexton, has had her share of troubles this spring.

Most troubling were her allergies and asthma-like symptoms causing a drop from the lululemon Toronto 10K (June 15th) after three kilometers. Since then she has enjoyed a couple of weeks of good training.

She will have to contend with 2016 Canadian Olympian Natasha Wodak, who at the age of 37, is running as well as at any time in her career. The Vancouver runner has won the Canadian 10k championship, the Canadian 10,000m title and earned places on the Canadian team bound for the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar,
(September/October). At the Payton Jordan Invitational (May 2nd) she came within two seconds of her own Canadian 10,000m record (31:41.59) recording a world championship qualifying time of 31:43.26.

Wodak, who regularly practices yoga says: “I have loved running the Toronto lululemon 10K race two years in a row. I was sad I couldn’t do it this year. My friend Rebecca Johnstone from lululemon was there. I am excited do one of her races (in Edmonton). And, of course, it’s a CRS race so that is a big draw for me to go there. They always put on a great race and there’s prize money. I am excited for my first Edmonton lululemon 10K.”
She credits a close-knit group of individuals who have supported her the past couple of years for her success. “I have a coach that I trust. Lynn (Kanuka) is amazing; we are kindred spirits…It has been a game changer working with Lynn.”

Lynn Kanuka was the 1984 Olympic 3,000m bronze medalist and still holds the Canadian women’s 1,500m record. Her enthusiasm seems to have had a marked effect upon Wodak who is approaching her racing differently these days.

As for the upcoming Edmonton race she has one thing in mind: to cross the line first.
“Obviously I want to win the race,” she declares. “I think Leslie Sexton is running. She is a tough competitor so to go out there, race well, and walk away knowing I have put out my best effort, hopefully, that’s enough to come away with the win.”