Canada’s Tristan Woodfine hits Olympic standard in personal-best time at London Marathon

Canada's Tristan Woodfine hits Olympic standard in personal-best time at London Marathon

Canada’s Tristan Woodfine ran below the Olympic qualifying standard of two hours 11 minutes 30 seconds on Sunday, finishing the London Marathon in a personal-best 2:10:51.

The native of Cobden, Ont., placed 14th among 29 finishers after pushing the pace around the 25-kilometre mark of the 42.2 km race and putting himself on track for a 2:10:15 finish.

Later, Montreal native Brent Lakatos won the men’s wheelchair race in 1:46:04 to go with his 2018 Berlin Marathon victory.

A year ago, Woodfine clocked a 2:13:16 PB to finish second among Canadian men at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, a two-minute drop from his previous best of 2:15:19 just nine months earlier at the Houston Marathon in January 2019.

The former triathlete was excited to see how he would perform in London after a strong summer of training that included four or five quality long runs of 30-40 km on a 1.8 km flat loop course near his home in the Ottawa Valley.

“I think he’s going to surprise some people,” Canadian record-holder Cam Levins said of Woodfine in an interview with CBC Sports after they trained together earlier this year in Kenya. “If he’s even in similar shape to what he was in Kenya, he’ll do awesome.”

Sunday’s men’s elite-only race was contested in a “secure biosphere” or bubble on a 2.15 km loop sealed off from the public around St. James’ Park in central London, replacing the traditional tour of city streets due to the coronavirus pandemic. Runners completed 19 laps, plus 1,345 metres en route to the iconic finish on the Mall in front of Buckingham Palace while 45,000 others from over 100 countries participated in a virtual marathon.

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Ethiopia’s Shura Kitata wins in sprint finish

The addition of 5,000- and 10,000-metre track work to his summer training, Woodfine said, made the slower-type marathon workouts “more relaxing and easy.”

“[London] might be the fastest marathon course I get to run in my career so I’m excited to have had the buildup I’ve had,” the 27-year-old told CBC Sports. “I’ve been able to hit times and paces I’ve never hit before. Anytime I do similar workouts to my Toronto build I’ve been running much faster, so I take a lot of confidence from that.”

Ethiopia’s Shura Kitata ended Eliud Kipchoge’s four-year winning run on Sunday in a sprint finish in 2:05:41, 1-100th of a second ahead of Kenya’s Vincent Kipchumba, while Sisay Lemma of Ethiopia was third in 2:05:45. Kipchoge, the world record-holder from Kenya, was eighth in 2:06:49.

Levins, who was spotted walking late in Sunday’s race, dropped out of his third marathon before the finish. The Black Creek, B.C., native was 12th through 35 km and on pace to finish 5-100ths of a second off his 2:09:25 national mark from his debut marathon in 2018 at the Toronto event.

The 31-year-old, who has yet to achieve the Olympic standard, had only ramped up his training for London in late August — a typical marathon buildup can last 12 to 18 weeks — yet was “ready for something really quick with the right day.”

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Levins didn’t gain entry to the 40th London Marathon until Aug. 23, two days after running a 1:02:12 half marathon in a time trial on a non-certified flat course on Sauvie Island near his home in Portland, Ore. His 1:02:14 PB was set on Jan. 19 in Houston.

Calgary resident Trevor Hofbauer is the only other Canadian male to have secured a spot for Tokyo after he gained an automatic berth as top Canadian in the men’s race at last year’s Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

New racing wheelchair pays instant dividends

Lakatos, who lives about 140 km northwest of London in Longborough, England, finished 12th at last year’s London Marathon, so it’s safe to say testing the racing wheelchair the University of Texas engineering grad designed earlier this year paid off in a big way Sunday.

In 2019, the 40-year-old Montreal native won two gold medals and a silver at the World Para Athletics Championships. In all, Lakatos has won 18 WPA medals, including 13 gold.

A seven-time Paralympic medallist, Lakatos is hoping to make a fifth Summer Games appearance in Tokyo.

In June, the 11-time world champion was named Para-athlete of the year by Athletics Canada.

Kenya’s Kosgei retains women’s title

In the women’s race Sunday, Brigid Kosgei of Kenya took a commanding lead entering the final lap and retained her title, stopping the clock in 2:18:58 in cold and wet conditions.

Sara Hall became the first American woman to finish on the podium since Deena Kastor won the London Marathon in 2006, placing second in a personal-best 2:22:01 ahead of world champion Ruth Chepngetich (2:22:05) of Kenya, whom she overtook with metres remaining.

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Kosgei, the 26-year-old world record-holder, comfortably won her duel with Chepngetich, the world champion. Kosgei broke for home with 11 km remaining to leave Chepngetich, who had looked the stronger in the mid-stages of the race, far behind.

“The weather was not good so we struggled,” Kosgei said. “I struggled up to the moment I finished.

“We have not prepared well due to the pandemic. I will be prepared for good results next year.”

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