Last spring, Moh Ahmed and his Bowerman Track Club teammates were training in downtown Portland, Oregon, when he ran into fellow Canadian Cam Levins, who had just finished a workout.
Not knowing that his 2012 and 2020 Olympian teammate was still living in the city, Ahmed spent a few minutes catching up and invited Levins to join him for a 70-minute run.
It felt like 2012 for Ahmed, who recalled Levins’ powerful, stocky form “when he was in his prime.” That year, Levins won the Bowerman Award for Most Outstanding Men’s Track and Field Athlete of the Year after his NCAA Division 1 double gold medal performance in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters.
“It was like I used to run,” Ahmed, who was seventh in that NCAA 5,000 final, recalled of that spring race during an interview this week with CBC Sports. “It looked really fucking good.”
They have not competed against each other since the men’s 5000m final on July 7, 2016 in Edmonton at the Canadian Track and Field Championships, which doubled as the Rio Olympic Trials. Ahmed won in 14:00.93 while an ill Levins was seventh, almost 16 seconds behind.
The next day, an MRI revealed a peroneal tendon tear in his left foot, stress fractures in two bones, a bone spur and bone chips that doctors had to shave and remove that month, forcing him to miss the Summer Games.
“I couldn’t give him a great final run [on the track] but we had a lot of fun battles up to that point. I would describe our relationship as a friendly rivalry over the years,” Levins, who transitioned to road racing in 2017 and hasn’t looked back, improving on his 2018 Canadian record in the marathon, adding the national mark in the half marathon and setting a North American record at the Tokyo Marathon in early March.
‘The whole race is going to be a challenge’
On Saturday at 6:30 pm ET, Ahmed and Levins will be at the start line for their Ottawa 10K debut. It will also mark the 32-year-old Ahmed’s first road race since he ran the 5K and 8K as a high school student in St. Catharines, Ontario.
The Somali-born athlete noted that road races are a different stimulus, adding: “You’re not going round and round [a track] and returning to the same point [multiple times]. The pace will probably be fast and the whole race will be challenging.”
I’m not going to get ahead, just compete and [put forth] a good effort— Distance runner Moh Ahmed in his first road race since high school
It will be Ahmed’s season-opening race and his first since last July 24 when he placed fifth in the 5,000 final at the World Championships in Track and Field in Eugene, Oregon. The 2019 bronze medalist also clocked 27 minutes 30.27 seconds for sixth place in the 10,000.
The record for the Ottawa 10K is 27:24, which has been held by Ethiopia’s Deriba Merba since 2009. Ben Flanagan of Kitchener, Ontario, holds the Canadian mark of 28:11, set last year in Boston.
“I’m not looking for goal paces,” said Ahmed, a three-time Olympian whose fastest 10,000 is 26:34.14. “I’m not going to get ahead of myself, just compete and [put forth] a good effort.”
His first Diamond League race of the season will be on June 2 at the Golden Gala event in Florence, Italy, with subsequent 5000s on the professional track and field circuit in Monaco (July 21) and Zurich (August 31). In between, the Canadian record holder in the 5,000 and 10,000 will double up at the worlds on August 19-27 in Budapest, Hungary, and hopes to finish his season at the Prefontaine Classic on September 16-17, site of the Final of the Diamond League in Eugenio, Ore.
“I feel good, I train hard,” said Ahmed, who became Canada’s first Olympic medalist in the 5000 with silver in Tokyo in 2021. “I’m doing the same. [I did] when i ran 12:47.20 [in July 2020 for a personal best and then-North American record].”
MOH AHMED – SILVER 🥈
Turn on the jets on the last lap and roar to second in the 5,000m in a time of 12:58.61 pic.twitter.com/iwCRcsruXt
Levins, 34, runs Saturday in preparation for the Canadian Half Marathon Championships to be held in Winnipeg for the third year in a row on June 18. He won a year ago, setting a record of one hour, three minutes and 23 seconds before the race was cancelled. because of the heat.
Solid 10K needed to improve at half marathon
Three months ago, the Black Creek, BC native ran a men’s national record of 1:00:18 to win the half marathon title at the First Half event in Vancouver. Levins told CBC Sports that he needs to perform well over the 10K distance to reduce that time.
He added that while Ahmed’s appearance is “very exciting for fans of the sport,” it will make the goal of setting a Canadian and/or field record more challenging. His 29:24 PB on the road is 90 seconds slower than the 27:53.58 he ran at the Stanford, Calif., track as part of his worlds marathon last year.
“He is on a completely different level than when we were competing [11 years ago]Levins said of Ahmed. “I felt I had an advantage against him [then] And now I feel very helpless.”
In February, Athletics Canada named Levins and four athletes to its team ahead of others for this year’s worlds, but recently withdrew, saying it wants to devise a different career plan before the Paris Olympics next summer.” mainly because it is a difficult course.”
The two-time Olympian changed his mind last month when he watched Eliud Kipchoge, the Kenyan widely considered the greatest marathoner of all time, battle it out at the finish of the challenging Boston Marathon for the first time. He failed to keep pace with the leaders and finished sixth, a distant three and a half minutes behind fellow Kenyan winner Evans Chebet in his first marathon loss since October 2020.
“I realized that I could put myself in the same position by going to Paris if I don’t pre-synchronize what I’m doing between now and then,” Levins said. “Have a very good [PB of 2:05:36 from the Tokyo Marathon in March] I don’t think I need to overload the number of marathons I’m doing.
“There will be another marathon [for me] in the fall. i just can’t say [which one] because I’m negotiating a contract [with the organizers].”