Winter 2020 Running News

It’s only been a few months since our last Running News column, in what is typically the “off season,” yet so much has happened! Records have fallen – over, and over again – championship season is upon us already, and there have been many important non-results-based events as well.

World records

Joshua Cheptegei took an incredible 27 seconds off the world record for 5k on the road, running 12:51 in Monaco this month. The Ugandan athlete seems poised for another great year, following 2019 where he won world championship titles in cross country and in the 10,000m on the track, and ended by setting the world record over 10k on the roads (a record he has already ceded to Rhonex Kipruto).

The women’s half marathon world record also fell this month. Ethiopian Ababel Yeshaneh ran 1:04:31 in the United Arab Emirates, beating current marathon record holder Brigid Kosgei in the process, as well as besting her 10k PB by 17 second en route to the finish.

OUA Championships

The four U Sport Conference Championships took place February 20-21 across the country. In the OUA, local athletes from both University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University had many standout performances:

  • Janelle Clarke (UW) took gold in women’s long jump
  • Hannah Blair (UW) took gold in women’s pentathlon
  • Solomon Davidson (UW) took silver in men’s high jump
  • Sydney Pattison (WLU) brought home silver in women’s 1500m and bronze in the 1000m
  • UW also won silver medals in both the men’s 4x200m and 4x400m relays
  • Joshua Lorentz (UW) took bronze in men’s 600m and was 4th in the 300m
  • Emma Nero (UW) was 4th in women’s 60mH
  • Lizzy Laurie (WLU) was 4th in women’s 3000m and 7th in 1500m
  • Immanuel Onyemah (UW) was 5th in men’s 60

Congratulations to all those who competed, and best of luck to those moving on to compete at the national U Sport Championships next month!

Canadian records & other notable results

On the roads

In one of the last big races of the 2010s, Rachel Cliff broke her own half marathon, running 1:10:06 in Okayama, Japan. Less than a month later, her record fell to Natasha Wodak. At age 38, Wodak became the first Canadian woman to run sub-1:10 for 21.1k at the Houston half marathon on January 19. However, her title was to be incredibly short-lived. Just two weeks later at the Kagawa Marugame International Half Marathon, Andrea Seccafien bested Wodak’s time by a mere 3 seconds.

Houston was a big race for Canadian distance runners this year. 39-year old and former Olympian in the 1500m (2004), Malindi Elmore, took more than 2 minutes off the Canadian marathon record, running 2:24:50. While this doesn’t guarantee anything, it certainly makes her a favourite to be named to the Olympic marathon team for the coming summer games in Tokyo.

A flight of Canadian men also ran incredibly fast times in the half marathon: 23 year old Rory Letterlink, who represented Canada at the world cross country championships and Pan Am games in 2019, ran 1:01:44 in his debut, just 16 seconds off of the men’s national record. Close behind was Cam Levins, running a PB of 1:02:14. A total of five Canadian men ran 1:05 or faster on the day. In the women’s half, Wodak, Cliff and Kinsey Middleton all ran 1:12 or faster.

On the track

This has been a special indoor season, with so many outright and age-based records being set, it’s hard to keep track of them all.

  • Women’s 1500m & 1 mile: Gabriela DeBues-Stafford, 4:00.8 for 1500m en-route to 4:19.73 in the mile at the Milrose Games
  • Women’s 2 mile: Jessica O’Connell, 9:36.79 at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix
  • DeBues-Stafford’s younger sister Lucia Stafford has broken two of her big sister’s U23 records so far this year (1000m, 1500m)
  • Kieran Lumb broke the men’s U23 record for 3000m

The craziest race yet this year might be the women’s 1 mile at the Millrose Games at the beginning of February. DeBues-Stafford’s new Canadian record performance left her fourth in the race, with all three women in front of her also setting national records. Only four other women in history have run the same time or faster.

Some other names to watch out for:

  • Julie-Anne Staehli (winner of the 2018 Fall 5 KM Classic) is making her presence known in a big way. She won the 3000m event at the Boston University Terrier Classic at the end of January in a time of 8:47, just 1 second off of the Canadian record. She has since proceeded to win two 1 mile races and finish a close second in another 3000m, all in impressive times against elite fields.
  • Justyn Knight is in good form already. He opened his season with a 3:59 mile and a win, and followed that up one week later with a 3000m win at the Millrose Games.
  • Nicole Hutchinson won the 3000m in 8:48 at the Dr. Sander Invitational.
  • The mid-distance trio of Melissa Bishop-Nriagu (2016 Olympian & Canadian 800m record holder), Madeleine Kelly (2019 Canadian champion over 800m) and Lindsey Butterworth (2-time member of Canadian team for Athletics World Championships) have all had strong starts to their indoor season.

Other news

The Canadian athletics and running community was severely shaken earlier this month with the release of Michael Doyle’s in-depth expose on Dave Scott-Thomas’ sexual relationship with Megan Brown, his “win-at-all-costs” coaching style, and the carnage left behind. Scott-Thomas was the head coach of cross-country and track and field at the University of Guelph since 1997. He also founded the Speed River track club and was a many-times National Coach for international competitions.

Related: Response from Athletics Canada Athletes Council

Related: Queens University track and cross-country coach fired for speaking out

On January 31, World Athletics (formerly IAAF) amended its rules surrounding competition shoes. Shoes must be available on the open retail market for a minimum of four months before they can be used in competition. There are also limitations imposed on sole thickness and the inclusion of plates (carbon fiber and other). This is a reaction to the leaps in technological advancement that Nike has made in recent years, with the aim of creating a more level playing field for athletes in upcoming championship and other elite-level races.

Coming up

  • The Tokyo marathon, which is one of the six world marathon majors, will run the last day of February. Unfortunately, due to the risks surrounding the coronavirus outbreak in Asia, the organizers have decided to restrict the field to Elite athletes only.
  • For the same reason, the world indoor track and field championships, which were to be held in Nanjing, China in March have been postponed until 2021.

Nevertheless, the next month should bring many exciting results.

  • February 29 in Atlanta is the US Olympic marathon trials. Over 500 women have qualified to start this race (for context, ~250 men qualified), so it should be a fun and unique experience to watch a mass start for such an elite field. The race will be televised on NBC starting at noon.
  • February 29 is also the Pan American Cross Country Cup, which will be held in Victoria, BC
  • The U Sports indoor track and field championships will take place at the University of Alberta March 5-7.
  • The world half marathon championships will take place on March 29 in Poland. Athletics Canada is expected to name the team on March 2. Canada can send a maximum of four men and four women, and likely have deep pools to choose from.