All throughout the Chilly Half Marathon last Sunday in Burlington, the talk amongst runners was about Cam Levins.
Levins, a skinny 33-year-old from Black Creek, British Columbia, had just broken the North American marathon record in Tokyo and, while none of us will ever run like him, we all intrinsically understood the significance of somebody working hard, and achieving big things. Setting records. Cam, pictured above in Tokyo after his race with Krista DuChene, had done something many of us intend to do—run the marathon—faster than any other Canadian, 2:05:36, of all-time.
Levins now is North America’s all-time fastest marathon runner and, in Canada, he’s our all-time fastest half marathon runner, too: 1:00:18. By running that quickly Sunday in Tokyo, Levins is now guaranteed a spot on the 2024 Canadian Olympic team. He seems to be peaking.
“You always knew he was special,” said Reid Coolsaet, two-time Canadian Olympian, who was taking in the Chilly Half with his kids and cheering for the athletes he coaches. “I’m sure his performance has inspired everyone; it’s really good for our sport.”
It’s also good for our sport—and what makes Cam Levins relatable—is that his ascendency hasn’t been without pain. There’s been trials, there’s been tribulations. Eight years ago he nearly quit after being kicked during a race and tearing a tendon in his foot. Last year in the Olympics, he came in close to last. “I need to be better in every way,” he said at the time.
He’d already been running professionally for most of his life.
At 15-years-old, he was the 1,500 metre Summit League champion.
In 2012, he finished eleventh in the 10,000 metre at the London Olympics. (He also came in fourteenth at the 5,000 at those same Olympic Games).
Six years later, Cam Levins made his marathon debut at the Waterfront Marathon in Toronto. He broke the 43-year-old Canadian marathon record that had been set by Jerome Drayton.
At 2:09:25, he took almost a minute off that record-breaking time.
So what does this guy do—this guy with so many accolades and such a long history of success—after a disappointing performance?
He says he needs to get better in every way.
When we spoke with Cam after he ran 2:07:09 in Eugene, Oregon last summer, he said: “No matter what’s going on—whether things go well or go poorly—you can’t lose your belief in yourself, and you can’t lose it in races: You need to believe in yourself at all times.”
That belief is what had runners motivated on Sunday at their half marathon in Burlington and that belief is what you’ll need to propel you towards your goal this spring. We all know races can go poorly. I took off my bib at 8K and walked back towards the finish line. But every run is another opportunity.
Cam blamed his nutrition at the Olympics in 2020 for his disappointing performance, and changed his diet and added more strength training to his program. Instead of leaning out of his sport, he leaned in.
Instead of giving up, he doubled down.
That’s why Cam Levins’ record-breaking run in Tokyo is so important. All of our running is a decision. It’s not hard to turn on the TV. Plus, the irrefutable fact of life is: none of us are getting younger. Things we did then are harder to do now. So, how will you proceed?
Cam Levins, on Sunday in Tokyo, responded historically: he was actually winning the whole thing at 39K. Levins is the Penny Oleksiak of our sport. Connor McDavid. Andre de Grasse. A talent that only comes around once every fifty years. But the effort Cam puts into our sport can be universal, the heart. The response he has to bad days is teachable, the belief in himself—proven true—is something we all can share. That’s why we run: to feel energetic and powerful.
Cam Levins, running in ASICS, has us all ready to take on the world.