How perfecting his marathon training made Cam Levins a ‘stronger, more mature runner’

Backed by strong training, Cam Levins believed he was fit and ready to perform well in the 2020 Olympic Men’s Marathon despite the blistering heat in Sapporo, Japan. It didn’t take him long to realize that he was wrong.

Levins was uncomfortable early on and struggled to accelerate out of pit stops. He was only a second behind the leading runner at 10km, but decided to lose contact with the front pack near the 21.1km halfway mark “when it was obvious” the race was over for him.

On Aug. 8, 2021, the Canadian men’s record holder slimmed down to finish 71st in a field of 106 in two hours 28 minutes 43 seconds, nearly 10 minutes behind top Canadian Ben Preisner of Milton, Ont.

“I was sure I was a lot fitter than I was,” Levins told CBC Sports before returning to Japan for this weekend’s Tokyo Marathon. “It was an important match as far as I could think of something and learn from it.

“It’s easy to see how much I’ve grown since then.”

Levins and coach Jim Finlayson took a closer look at his marathon build after previously finding the 33-year-old had a nutritional problem and was not fueling well before races.

Levins withdrew from the 2020 London Marathon, saying his body did not handle the cool and wet conditions well. At 35 kilometers, the Black Creek, BC, native was on pace to finish 5-100ths of a second off his then-Canadian record of 2:09:25. Levins also dropped a record pace three weeks later at the Project Marathon in Arizona.

Carbohydrates before and during exercise are important to prevent depletion of liver glycogen—the body’s primary energy source for race-paced exercise—and help delay fatigue or hitting the classic marathon wall.

When Levins turned to road racing two years after foot surgery in 2015, he continued to work on meeting a competitive weight that had come from his days of running shorter distances on the track, even if it meant cutting calories. He did the same for the marathon, but it proved costly.

“I’ve let go of that (mindset) now. As the volume and amount of training I did (post-Olympics) became more of a focus, it became less of a ‘am I eating too little?’ and more of a conscious effort to make sure I was eating enough.” , said Levins, who signed a contract last fall with Japanese sports brand ASICS through 2024.

Running 3 times a day

Levins, who averages 170 miles of running a week, left the Olympics wanting to improve “in every aspect” of his training and a month later began weight training with a trainer twice a week.

The Portland, Ore., resident also returned to running three times a day for three or four days a week early last year and does daily mobility work and exercises to keep his body in balance.

Before the world championships last July, a two-hour drive away in Eugene, where Levins lowered his Canadian mark to 2:07:09, he did a speed workout on the track and noticed how well he was built for a 10,000m track race earlier. in the year translated into his marathon build.

Last month, Levins won the inaugural men’s half marathon title in Vancouver, breaking the 61-minute barrier in a national men’s mark of 1:00:18.

At 9:10 am in Tokyo on Sunday (Saturday at 7:10 p.m. ET), Levins will aim for a personal best and under the automatic qualifying standard of 2:08:10 for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

He was always a huge talent. I think he is a stronger and more mature runner now.— Coach Jim Finlayson to Cam Levins from his 2020 workout

Finlayson recalled a Levins training run in Kenya in early 2020 when he averaged two minutes 59 seconds per kilometer at altitude over 28 kilometers of dirt roads.

“He was probably a 2:06 guy back then, so he wasn’t far from where he is now,” Finlayson said. “He showed us that we have a lot of potential and we have to find a way to get it out of him.

“He’s always been a huge talent. I think he’s a stronger and more mature runner now. I like what I’ve seen of his training and obviously the half marathon (in Vancouver) shows we have the fitness level we want.”

Tokyo will also be the site of Krista DuChene’s final marathon in the professional, or elite, field. The 46-year-old from Brantford, Ont., has completed the other 5 World Majors in the last five years – London (2017), Boston (2018), Berlin (2019), New York (2021) and Chicago (2022).

“I’m just one of the few people in the world, and the only Canadian, to have competed in six Grand Championships, world championships and the Olympics,” said the 20-year-old marathoner.

Canada Marathon Mom

DuChene, who plans to continue competing in 10km and cross-country races, did not say Tokyo would be her last marathon.

“It’s the last (marathon) that I’m going to put so much time and energy into at this point in my life,” said DuChene, who became Canada’s Marathon Mom after winning the 2009 Mississauga event after giving birth to of her second child, Seth. . “Next year is the last year that all three of my kids are home because my oldest (son Micah) is in 11th grade.”

DuChene is also busy as a part-time dietitian, volunteer high school coach and board member with the Brantford Girls Hockey Association. Her 11-year-old daughter, Leah, plays in the league.

Finishing third overall among women at the 2018 Boston Marathon is one of DuChene’s career highlights. He made a late charge in the rain, cold and wind, finishing in 2:44:20. Her goal for Tokyo is under 2:40.

“Any professional who retires from their sport, they want the last one to be their best,” said DuChene, who plans to get No. 12 inked on her arm to honor Leah’s birthday on Sunday. “I’m not running at my peak (fitness) times, but the training was great.

“With any marathon you don’t want to overthink things, just be relaxed and be able to push when it’s tough. I think that’s where my heart and emotional drive will help me.”

Rounding out the Canadian contingent in Tokyo is Preisner, who ran a half marathon PB in Houston on Jan. 15 of 1:02:42.

The Tokyo games give the 26-year-old the flexibility to either compete at the Aug. 19-27 World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, or in the fall in pursuit of the Olympic standard.

Before Houston, Preissner told CBC Sports that he hit goal pace near the end of a couple of marathon-style workouts in the 35-40km range.

“It gives me a lot of confidence that I can control that pace at the end of a two-hour run and feel strong when the marathon gets tough,” said Preisner, who placed 46th (2:19.27) in the 2020 Olympic Marathon. .

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