Ben Flanagan, Leslie Sexton capture their 1st Canadian 10K road race titles
Elite runners post 28:42, 32:04 PBs along lakeshore in Toronto Waterfront event
Ben Flanagan enjoyed the "ideal" race temperature so much, he decided to run an eight-kilometre cool down after winning the elite men's road race of the Canadian 10K Championships on Sunday in Toronto.
The post-race workout is part of his routine now that Flanagan has opened a new training season, looking ahead to the track and field world championships next July in Oregon and Commonwealth Games later in the month in Birmingham, England.
"I feel motivated, and that tends to happen when you fall short of your goal," Flanagan told CBC Sports by phone after his debut 10K road race. "I just want to make that [Olympic] team for Paris [in 2024]."
The 26-year-old from Kitchener, Ont., missed out on his Summer Games debut two months ago in Tokyo after coming up short in qualifying.
Flanagan was eventually named an alternate on the Canadian team in the men's 5,000 metres behind Moh Ahmed, Justyn Knight and Luc Bruchet, who dipped under the automatic entry standard in 13:12.56 six weeks before the Olympics.
WATCH | Flanagan holds off Bruchet to win 10K road race debut:
Flanagan, who left his home and training base in Charlottesville, Va., to quarantine in Kitchener ahead of the Canadian trials, chose to return to the United States to attempt the Olympic standard on the track, but fell short despite a 13:33.90 winning time in Oregon.
In too good of shape to call it a season, he returned to the Falmouth Road Race in the coastal town on Cape Cod, Mass., where Flanagan clocked a winning time of 32 minutes 16 seconds over 11.4 km. In 2018, he became the first Canadian — male or female — to win in the event's then-46-year history.
On a breezy Sunday with the temperature hovering around 9 C, Flanagan let Bruchet lead him up a sloped portion of the out-and-back course on Lakeshore Rd. about two kilometres from the finish and held off the Vancouver resident to win the Toronto Waterfront Marathon 10K in 28:42.
"It was very windy, specifically on the way out," Flanagan said. "The first 5K I tried to conserve some energy and stuck behind some guys to break the wind and feed off their energy."
The race doubled as the Canadian 10K Championships after that event, originally planned as part of the Ottawa Race Weekend in late May, was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is scheduled to return to the nation's capital in May.
Winners take home $5,500
"I felt I had good momentum and took the lead," said Flanagan, who had a cheering section of 15 to 20 family and friends at the finish line. "The last 2K was all about trying to [hold off] Luc because he came with me.
"Luc's a guy I always expect to see in the later stages [of a race]. It was a good battle and fortunately I came out on top."
The victory paid $5,500 while runner-up Bruchet took home $3,000 for his 28:49 performance after winning the virtual Canadian 5K Championships last month in 13:49. Ben Preisner, who recently moved west from Kingston, Ont., to train with the B.C. Endurance Project group, was third with a 28:53 personal best and collected $1,500 in prize money.
I feel comfortable on the road and have had more natural success on the road, and that's something I'm taking into consideration.— Canadian runner Ben Flanagan, hinting at a possible shift to the marathon for a 2024 Olympic bid
The top Canadian in 46th in the men's Olympic marathon in Sapporo, Japan, Preisner is gearing up for the Valencia Marathon on Dec. 5 in Spain.
Justin Kent, first in last year's virtual men's Canadian 10K Championship in 28:52, was fourth on Sunday in 29:03.
In June, Flanagan said the 5K would be an option for the Paris Olympics and was open to running the marathon, something he hinted at again Sunday.
"I feel comfortable on the road and have had more natural success on the road, and that's definitely something I'm taking into consideration," said the Reebok Boston Track Club athlete who won the 10,000 on the track at the 2018 NCAA Division 1 championships.
"I'm not sure what the big goal going forward is yet. It's something I'll try to determine over the next few weeks."
Scottish runner Sarah Inglis won the elite women's race on Sunday in 31:59 to lower her PB of 32:24 from April 2019. But the Langley, B.C. resident isn't a Canadian citizen and was ineligible for the national title and $5,500 top prize.
"I kind of planned to go hard," said Inglis. "I knew I was in PB shape and even with the wind I was like, 'I am going to go out hard and if they come with me great.' Leslie [Sexton] and I had a great battle. It helped me get to a faster time."
Inglis 'had more to give'
Sexton stayed close to Inglis from the outset of the race and was alone with her over the final three kilometres en route to setting a 32:04 PB for the Canadian title.
"I did what I could. Sarah is super fit, and I was lucky to have her dragging me," said Sexton, a native of Markham, Ont., who now lives in Vancouver.
WATCH | Sexton adds 10K victory to national 5K title:
"I made a little move on the hill around 7km and tried to catch Sarah, but it turns out she had more to give and she surged again."
Sunday marked Sexton's fourth Canadian 10K Championship race with her previous best in Toronto on Sept. 21, 2013 when she was fifth in 35:24. In September, she stopped the clock in 15:37 to win the virtual women's 5K.
The recent shorter runs have been part of the 34-year-old's training ahead of the Philadelphia Marathon on Nov. 21.
Following Sexton across the line on Sunday were Cleo Boyd (33:21) and Natasha Wodak (33:34). Wodak won the national 10K in 32:31 in 2019 and last year's virtual women's race in 32:41.
The Vancouver resident expected a tough race against Inglis and Sexton after taking a month to rest following her 13th-place finish in the Tokyo Olympic marathon on Aug. 7 in Sapporo, Japan.
"That was a fight," Wodak said. "I'm definitely disappointed. I didn't have the fight. I think I used it all in the Olympics."
Evan Dunfee, who earned Canada's first Olympic race walking medal in 29 years this past summer in Tokyo with bronze in the men's 50 km event, grabbed bragging rights from his brother, Adam, on Sunday in their first head-to-head race since 2017.
Evan walked the course in 41:34 and Adam ran in 38:26.
"We thought would be evenly matched," Evan said. "He has been running regularly to get in shape, but I don't think he has put on a race bib in 20 years. He kicked my butt today. It was really awesome.
"Dealing with a bit of [a] hamstring [injury] and to walk 41 and a half coming off Tokyo with a torn hamstring I will take that."
Ottawa-born Josh Cassidy took off from the start ahead of the elite women as the lone wheelchair racer on Sunday and completed the course in 21:50 six days after his fifth-place finish (1:28:56) at the Boston Marathon.
With files from Paul Gains