Cam Levins and Moh Ahmed: ready for battle at Ottawa 10K

Cam Levins and Moh Ahmed: ready for battle at Ottawa 10K

It’s been nearly four years since Cam Levins last ran a road 10K, but on Saturday evening in the nation’s capital, Canada’s greatest marathoner will take on a stacked field at the Canadian 10K Championships.

Levins has gone through a lot in the last four years, changing coaches and sponsors and rewriting the Canadian national record book for the half-marathon and marathon. The Ottawa 10K will be a foreign experience for Levins, who has never competed at the iconic race weekend, but he won’t be alone–he’ll be joined by Tokyo Olympic 5,000m silver medallist Moh Ahmed, running his first road 10K.

Moh Ahmed Worlds
Canada’s Moh Ahmed finishes second to Kenya’s Daniel Ebenyo in the 5,000m heats at the 2022 World Athletics Championships. Photo: Kevin Morris

Ahmed holds a personal best and Canadian record of 26:34 for 10,000m on the track, but in his eight-year professional career, he has yet to test himself on the roads. The last time the two Canadian running titans went head-to-head was at the 2016 Canadian Track and Field Championships in Edmonton over 5,000m, with Ahmed taking the win in 14-flat, winning the national title and earning a spot on the 2016 Rio Olympics team. In that race, Levins was a distant seventh, 16 seconds behind Ahmed, sustaining a severe ankle injury, which ultimately held him back from qualifying for the Olympics.

A mutual respect

The two icons of Canadian distance running share a mutual respect. After Levins’s fourth-place finish in the 2022 World Athletics Championships marathon, Ahmed called his performance “a gold medal for Canadian distance running.”

Ahmed saw Levins’s result on his way to prepare for the World Championships 10,000m final, where he finished a respectable sixth. “To break the Canadian record by two minutes–that’s special,” Ahmed said post-race. “That guy has worked really hard. He’s gone through a lot and kept himself in it. It’s inspiring.”

Moh Ahmed
Moh Ahmed in the 5,000m at the 2022 Prefontaine Classic. Photo: Kevin Morris

The 2:05 marathoner says he had no idea Ahmed was competing until the public announcement earlier this month. Levins shares that, like all of us, he was surprised to see Ahmed was planning to run a road race, but it wasn’t an opportunity he wanted to pass up. “I am grateful that I get to test myself against an athlete of his caliber,” says Levins.

Pinpointing Ottawa

Saturday’s Canadian 10K Championships will be Ahmed’s first race of the 2023 season before he heads to Italy to compete in the 5,000m at the Florence Diamond League on June 2. For Levins, these championships have been circled on his calendar for months.

“We decided to do this race not long after the Tokyo Marathon,” says Levins. “I’ve had time to focus and prepare for this shorter event.” The 34-year-old says he and his coaches have made some subtle changes in training for the 10K that he hopes to incorporate into his next marathon build.

Cam Levins
Photo: Courtesy of Cam Levins

It’ll be a busy weekend for Levins in Ottawa. He plans to race the 10K on Saturday evening and to pace the lead group in the women’s marathon the following morning. “I am definitely most excited for my own race, but the weekend should be a fun experience overall,” says Levins.

The record

Both men will first have their eyes on the national title, but also the Canadian national 10K record of 28:11, set by Ben Flanagan last year at the BAA 10K in Boston. Flanagan, the defending Ottawa 10K champion, will miss this year’s race due to a scheduling conflict. The 27-year-old will be racing in the 5,000m at the LA Grand Prix in Los Angeles on Saturday night.

“I need one more 5,000m race to solidify my ranking position for Worlds, and it’s unfortunately on the same weekend as Ottawa,” says Flanagan. “I’ll be rooting for these guys, and I am sure we will see an under-28 team.”

The 2023 Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend will take place on May 27 and 28, and canadian running will be in the nation’s capital to report on the Canadian 10K Championships and Ottawa International Marathon. Follow us on twitter on Instagram for all things Ottawa Race Weekend and for up-to-date exclusive news and content.

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