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Levins sets record in half-marathon; Anderson wins men's marathon, Tay wins women's marathon

Cam Levins wins half marathon in record time: 1:01:18; Aidan Anderson wins men’s marathon in 2:29:06; Lydia Tay wins women’s marathon in 2:49:49. A camper van strayed into Levins’ path near the finish line.

Olympian Cam Levins of Black Creek, the Canadian and North American marathon record holder and fourth at the 2022 world championships, fell into the arms of his grandmother Fern after winning the Royal Victoria Marathon men’s half-marathon in the record time of 1:01:18 Sunday morning.

“I am so proud of him. It’s not very often I get to see Cameron race live,” said Fern Levins, 94, of Esquimalt.

“Vancouver Island will always be my home so this is extra special,” said Cam Levins, preparing for the famed New York City Marathon next month and the 2024 Paris Olympics next summer.

Aidan Anderson of Comox fell to the pavement after crossing the line as the winner of the Royal Victoria men’s marathon in a personal-best 2:29:06 after placing second last year: “My hamstring seized up near the finish line. I felt good until 30K then my legs began seizing up. But I won. I’m happy.”

Lydia Tay of Burnaby won the women’s marathon in a personal-best chip time of 2:49:49 and said: “It’s a great group of women, so strong, and it was inspiring to be out there with them today.”

Victorians Christine Bant, Zoe Hamel, Care Nelson, Catrin Jones and Nanaimo’s Brianna Brandon swept the next five positions.

Makenna Fitzgerald of Calgary captured the women’s half-marathon in 1:17:30. Victoria-based Gabriela DeBues-Stafford, fifth in the women’s 1,500 metres at the 2000 Tokyo Olympics, won the Royal Victoria women’s 8K in 26:43 and Matthew Travaglini of Calgary the men’s 8K in 23:47.

Levins had his grandmother, and parents Barb and Gus down from Black Creek, cheering him on as he eclipsed the old Royal Victoria half-marathon record of 1:02:32, set by former-Victorian Jon Brown, who was the fourth-place marathon finisher in the 2000 Sydney and 2004 Athens Olympics. Levins, 34, holds the Canadian record in the half-marathon of 1:00:18.

“It was great all the people cheering me on and yelling my name along the route,” said Levins.

Levins had to avoid a camper van that somehow cut across Belleville Street in front of him as he approached the finish line.

“It was not as close as it looked,” he said.

“I was just happy to be running back on Vancouver Island and having family members racing, too. It was a family affair.”

Showing no favouritism, Fern Levins gave as big a hug to her granddaughter, and Cam’s cousin Kirsten Thomas, after Thomas crossed the line with the heaving pack.

The humble and the mighty, 9,059 of them, formed a ribbon of humanity through the streets of Victoria and Oak Bay. A total of 28 nations were represented, providing an economic boon and the kind of Spandex-clad visitors any city covets.

The Royal Victoria Marathon weekend is rebuilding following the pandemic. The entire 2020 program was cancelled and only the half-marathon and 8K were contested in 2021. Last year was the first running of the full marathon, since celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2019, and 7,934 took part in the 2022 comeback. The rebound continued with the 9,059 participants registered for this weekend. Of that total, 1,859 had registered for the marathon, 3,836 for the half marathon, 2,255 for the 8K, 632 for the 5K and 477 for the Thrifty Foods Kids Run, the latter two of which were run Saturday at Willows Beach in Oak Bay.

“Our goal is to reach 10,000 participants next year and 11,000 for the 45th Royal Victoria Marathon weekend in 2025,” said race director Cathy Noel.

Of the marathon runners Sunday, 518 had registered to hopefully post qualifying times to race the Boston Marathon in April.

Levins, however, is preparing for another legendary marathon Nov. 5: “I felt good about my effort today. [Victoria] was definitely a hard course and a rolling course much like New York, helping me to gauge, and making me feel pretty good about New York.”

Levins broke his own Canadian record in the marathon for the second time in less than a year by running 2:05:36 to place fifth in the Tokyo Marathon in March. It was also the fastest time ever recorded by a North American, eclipsing American Khalid Khannouchi’s 2:05.38 in the 2002 London Marathon. Levins’ time beat the Olympic standard of 2:08:10 and qualified him for his third Olympic Games at Paris next year, a journey that continued Sunday back on the roads of his home Island.

Levins’ time in Tokyo broke his previous Canadian record of 2:07:09 set last year in placing fourth in the 2022 World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon. That time had bested Levins’ original Canadian record of 2:09:25 set in the 2018 Toronto Marathon, which had bettered Jerome Drayton’s hallowed 43-year-old Canadian record of 2:10:09 set in 1975 at Fukuoka, Japan.

Levins began running in Grade 7 with the Comox Valley Cougars Track Club. He became the Island and B.C. high school cross-country champion with the G.P. Vanier Secondary Towhees of Courtenay before becoming 2012 NCAA Division 1 champion in both the 5,000 and 10,000 metres with the ­University of Southern Utah Thunderbirds.

Levins qualified for the finals of both the 5,000 and 10,000 metres at the 2012 London Olympics and won bronze in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games in the 10,000 metres at Hampden Park before switching from the track to the road.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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