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Cameron Levins celebrates his 2:09:25 national record in Toronto. Photo: Toronto Marathon.

Cameron Levins will be racing the 2019 London Marathon on Sunday, April 28. He will be looking for an improvement from his debut during the 2018 Toronto Waterfront Marathon. In that race, he broke the Canadian record with his performance of 2:09:25.

Upon finishing, the Hoka brand-adorned Levins crossed the finish line with a celebration and together with running fans from Black Creek, BC to Gander, NL breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The exhale had as much to do with the amelioration of the national marathon record as it did with Levins’ own return to the elite conversation in Canada.

As the previous record harkened back to Dec. 1975, Canadians were desperate for the old national record of 2:10:09 to fall. Set by Toronto’s Jerome Drayton during the Fukuoka Marathon in Japan, the record was just two months shy of its 43rd birthday.

Levins, a two-time NCAA champion and former national record holder in the 10,000-metre event at 27:07.51, had suffered a series of injuries, less than ideal performances and foot surgery; he needed this.

Having competed in the 2012 London Olympics and the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, where he earned a bronze medal in the 10,000-metre event, the four-time 5,000-metre national champion left Nike or Nike left him – maybe it will be in his book one day. He didn’t get picked for the 2016 Rio Olympics – his athletics career, so promising after graduation, was low-ebbing.

Leaving Nike also meant saying goodbye to the Oregon Project, which offered training partners that could push Levins during workouts – perhaps that was part of the problem – too much of a good thing for an athlete that flew with a protocol of volume.

Levins recovered from surgery and returned to the coach that influenced his rise while at Southern Utah University in Eric Houle. Levins was back to the high mileage that he was noted for accomplishing during training and away from the high-risk, high-reward intense quality work of Alberto Salazar’s program; horses for courses.

If Toronto was a comeback, then perhaps the national record was a foreshadowing of sorts. His performances at other distances indicated that he was more than capable of running fast enough to take the record. Doing so is another matter. The marathon spits out nearly as many athletes as it venerates. Just ask Canadians Simon Bairu (27:23.63 NR) and Jeff Schiebler (27:36.01 NR).

Strictly for entertainment purposes, let’s look at how fast Levins could theoretically run London this April.

With the usual caveats in place, such as if the weather cooperates, he gets into an appropriate pace group and he runs with the best possible tactics on the streets of London, he should be able to run 2:07:00 during just his second effort at the 42.195-kilometre distance. There are plenty of ifs, but the marathon is a special if-oriented race distance.

The International Association of Athletics Federation’s scoring tables provides a performance rating to a range of finish times over distances from 100-metres up to the 50K Race Walk. A performance rating can be applied to various distances to see how an athlete may race over a range of events.

The scoring tables are considered one of, if not, the most reliable predictors of performance. The IAAF scoring tables apply a performance rating number of 1214 to Levins’s 10,000-metre best of 27:07.51. The marathon prediction that is equal to 1214 points is 2:07:04.

Although some people believe that the half-marathon is a better predictor of marathon performance over the 10K or 10,000-metres, this may and may not be true – it depends on the influence of a variety of factors. The marathon race doesn’t really get difficult until anywhere from about 30 kilometres to 35 kilometres in. A myriad of issues that can crop up including most commonly muscle cramps don’t happen in the half-marathon much more than in the 10K. The 10K historically has been run more often due to how short it is, allowing for recovery and repeat performances, and therefore an athlete is more likely to have a performance indicative of their true talent and training over that distance, but not always – and things have changed recently.

Levins’ best half-marathon from Valencia 2018 is 62:15. It’s fast, but not nearly as fast as his 10,000-metre best, performance-wise. His 62:15 suggests a 2:13:31 marathon, according to the IAAF scoring tables. Having already run a 2:09:25 during his debut in Toronto, we know he is much faster than that.

Levins appears to have run most of his half-marathons as training events. Either he is training through the half-marathons or runs them at goal marathon pace or perhaps tactically plays with paces throughout. He has yet to run his best over the 21.1K distance.

Toronto is a fantastic marathon in all ways. It is home to Lanni Marchant’s former national record of 2:28:00 and to several memorable performances by Reid Coolsaet, Krista DuChene, and Eric Gillis, who qualified for global championships there. London will likely provide more competition at Levins’ level, to pull him along and offers a pancake flat course. London is likely the fastest marathon next to the Berlin Marathon.

Paula Radcliffe ran the women’s world record of 2:15:25 in London. The record continues to stand 16 years later. Eliud Kipchoge set the world record of 2:01:39 in 2018 at the Berlin Marathon. Kipchoge’s record is slightly ahead of Radcliffe’s, performance-wise. Expect the women’s record to be challenged soon; likely to happen in Berlin by an Ethiopian.

Eight of the top-10 results all-time for men have been run in Berlin (not including two Boston performances – a non-record eligible course).

American Dathan Ritzenhein’s best 10,000-metre run was 27:22.28. His best marathon is 2:07:47. His best over the half-marathon is exactly 60:00 from Birmingham 2009.

This compares to Welshman Steve Jones who ran a 2:07:13 marathon in Chicago, also a flat and fast course. His 10,000-metre best is 27:39.14. He ran in his prime during the 1980s when the half-marathon distance was less common. His best half was 61:14.

The numbers don’t always correlate due to many factors such as not finding the best race conditions, motives, natural ability over shorter versus longer distances and other factors. For example Japanese runner, Atsushi Fujita, was expected to just break 2:10 based on his 10,000m best of 28:19.94 and his half-marathon best of 62:19 in Sapporo – a notoriously fast course – however, he dropped a stunning 2:06:51 at Fukuoka later that same year in 2000. There was pride on the line running the men’s invitational championship at home. Fukuoka is a legendary race that started shortly after the Second World War ended in 1947.

Four-time winner, Toshihiko Seko of Japan, won the race four times. His best on the course is 2:08:52. His career best was marginally faster at 2:08:27 in Chicago. American Frank Shorter won Fukuoka four times in a row. The course record is 2:05:18. Japan’s national record is 2:05:50 by Suguru Osako set at the 2018 Chicago Marathon.

The half-marathon is now more commonly run than the 10,000m event is, so there has been a flip in regards to marathon performance predictability between these two events. Current international-level runners are now performing the half-marathon in times that are more indicative of what they can run over the marathon. So, for example, comparing Jones’s 2:07:13 from the mid-1980s to Ritzenhein’s 2:07:47 from the 2000s based on shorter distances does not always correlate.

Below, is 20 completely random athletes that ran personal bests from 2:06:33 to 2:07:47, plus Levins at 2:09:25.

They are listed in order of fastest 10,000m times, then in order of half-marathon bests and then finally in order of fastest career marathons.

This sample group of athletes from various parts of the world and from different eras, does not seem to indicate a real consistent correlation from either the 10,000m or the half-marathon event to predict how the athletes would perform over the marathon.

The fastest of the sample marathon group, Gert Thys of South Africa with his 2:06:33, only ran a 28:26.71 10,000m time, one of the slowest of the group. The slowest marathon runner – although the newest – Cam Levins at 2:09:25 owns the fastest 10,000m time of 27:07:51 – in this, the era of the half-marathon, no less.

What we do know is that the answer to the almost-rhetorical question, “how fast can Cam Levins run the marathon in London this April?” with all of the if-oriented things aside and weather not yet under man’s control, he will run a lot faster than 2:09:25.

Prediction: 2:07:00.

*Boston
**1 hour covered 20,158m on pace for 62:50
10,000m bests
10K Road 10,000m 21.1K Marathon Athlete Country
29:24 27:07.51 62:15 2:09:25 Levins, Cameron CAN
28:41 27:14.44 59:52 2:07:23 Roncero, Fabian ESP
27:17.48 62:50** 2:07.12 Lopes, Carlos POR
28:06 27:22.28 60:00 2:07:47 Ritzenhein, Dathan US
27:59 27:28.12 59:33 2:06:34 Gomes Dos Santo, Marilson BRA
28:12 27:29.94 60:07 2:06:55 Ramaala, Hendrick RSA
27:39.14 61:14 2:07:13 Jones, Steve UK
28:10 27:43.98 60:50 2:07:22 Baldini, Stefano ITA
29:32 27:47.33 62:10 2:06:52 Rey, Julio ESP
28:13 27:48.00 61:30 2:06:55 El Himer, Driss FRA
27:48.03 60:55 2:07:04 Ndungo, Samuel KEN
27:56.86 60:25 2:07:13 Sato, Atsushi JAP
29:16 27:59.86 61:16 2:07.19* Espinoza, Andres MEX
29:09 28:02.10 62:15 2:07:34 Pena,  Antonio ESP
30:08 28:18.10 62:58 2:06:44 Kiprono, Josphat KEN
28:31 28:19.94 62:13 2:06:51 Fujita, Atsushi JAP
28:38 28:22.53 62:16 2:07:23 Rothlin, Viktor SUI
28:42 28:24.61 62:44 2:07:06 Syster, Ian RSA
28:13 28:26.71 60:23 2:06:33 Thys, Gert RSA
28:58 28:31.90 62:35 2:07:39 Szost, Henryk POL
64:13 2:07:11 Kipruto, Benson KEN
half-marathon bests
10K Road 10,000m 21.1K Marathon Athlete Country
27:59 27:28.12 59:33 2:06:34 Gomes Dos Santo, Marilson BRA
28:41 27:14.44 59:52 2:07:23 Roncero, Fabian ESP
28:06 27:22.28 60:00 2:07:47 Ritzenhein, Dathan US
28:12 27:29.94 60:07 2:06:55 Ramaala, Hendrick RSA
28:13 28:26.71 60:23 2:06:33 Thys, Gert RSA
27:56.86 60:25 2:07:13 Sato, Atsushi JAP
28:10 27:43.98 60:50 2:07:22 Baldini, Stefano ITA
27:48.03 60:55 2:07:04 Ndungo, Samuel KEN
27:39.14 61:14 2:07:13 Jones, Steve UK
29:16 27:59.86 61:16 2:07.19* Espinoza, Andres MEX
28:13 27:48.00 61:30 2:06:55 El Himer, Driss FRA
29:32 27:47.33 62:10 2:06:52 Rey, Julio JAP
28:31 28:19.94 62:13 2:06:51 Fujita, Atsushi JAP
29:24 27:07.51 62:15 2:09:25 Levins, Cameron CAN
29:09 28:02.10 62:15 2:07:34 Pena, Antonio SUI
28:38 28:22.53 62:16 2:07:23 Rothlin, Viktor SUI
28:58 28:31.90 62:35 2:07:39 Szost, Henryk POL
27:17.48 62:50** 2:07.12 Lopes, Carlos POR
28:42 28:24.61 62:44 2:07:06 Syster, Ian RSA
30:08 28:18.10 62:58 2:06:44 Kiprono, Josphat KEN
64:13 2:07:11 Kipruto, Benson KEN
Marathon bests
10K Road 10,000m 21.1K Marathon Athlete Country
28:13 28:26.71 60:23 2:06:33 Thys, Gert RSA
27:59 27:28.12 59:33 2:06:34 Gomes Dos Santo, Marilson BRA
30:08 28:18.10 62:58 2:06:44 Kiprono, Josphat KEN
28:31 28:19.94 62:13 2:06:51 Fujita, Atsushi JAP
29:32 27:47.33 62:10 2:06:52 Rey, Julio JAP
28:12 27:29.94 60:07 2:06:55 Ramaala, Hendrick RSA
28:13 27:48.00 61:30 2:06:55 El Himer, Driss FRA
27:48.03 60:55 2:07:04 Ndungo, Samuel KEN
28:42 28:24.61 62:44 2:07:06 Syster, Ian RSA
64:13 2:07:11 Kipruto, Benson KEN
27:17.48 62:50** 2:07.12 Lopes, Carlos POR
27:39.14 61:14 2:07:13 Jones, Steve UK
29:16 27:59.86 61:16 2:07.19* Espinoza, Andres MEX
28:10 27:43.98 60:50 2:07:22 Baldini, Stefano ITA
28:41 27:14.44 59:52 2:07:23 Roncero, Fabian ESP
28:38 28:22.53 62:16 2:07:23 Rothlin, Viktor SUI
29:09 28:02.10 62:15 2:07:34 Pena, Antonio SUI
29:09 28:02.10 62:15 2:07:34 Pena, Antonio SUI
28:58 28:31.90 62:35 2:07:39 Szost, Henryk POL
28:06 27:22.28 60:00 2:07:47 Ritzenhein, Dathan US
29:24 27:07.51 62:15 2:09:25 Levins, Cameron CAN

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