Justin Kent sets B.C. course record to qualify for World Half Marathon Championships

Justin Kent has put himself in the mix to represent Canada at the World Half Marathon Championships next month in Gdynia, Poland.

The 28-year-old from Surrey, B.C., set a Comox Valley course record with a time of one hour four minutes 20 seconds on Sunday to meet the 1:05:46 World Half selection standard. On Oct. 21, Athletics Canada will name up to five runners for each of its men’s and women’s teams for the Oct. 17 world competition.

Kent and five of his BC Endurance Project teammates used Sunday’s 21.1-kilometre race as a time trial for worlds. Kent’s time fell 23 seconds short of two-time Olympian Jon Brown’s record on the fast course in Courtenay, B.C., where the runners endured cool temperatures, a little rain and poor air quality from the wildfires in the Pacific Northwest.

“I knew I was capable of running that time but I wanted to see what I was capable of doing,” Kent, who ran his first half marathon five or six years ago, told the Maple Ridge News. “The B or C goal was to get the [World Half] standard, but the A goal was just to give it an honest effort.”

Richard Lee, head coach of BCEP, told CBC Sports it was his A goal to get Kent eligible for selection for Canada’s World Half squad.

“Jon Brown was a two-time fourth-place finisher at the Olympics in the marathon,” Lee said, “so no shame in Justin not getting that record. He has been running well all year and a world championship experience will be very valuable to him.”

Victorious Cliff misses women’s standard for worlds

On July 1, Kent won the men’s race of the first-ever virtual Canadian 10K Championships in a personal-best 28:52 after placing second last year in 29:58.3, three seconds behind Dylan Wykes.

Kent won the 2019 Vancouver Sun Run and before that was the B.C. cross-country and 10K champion in 2016.

Luc Bruchet, a 2016 Olympian who has won two Canadian cross-country titles in the past three years, paced Kent to 17 km on Saturday and finished second in 1:07:41. Theo Hunt clocked 1:09:41 to round out the men’s field.

Rachel Cliff, the former Canadian record-holder for the half marathon and marathon, posted a winning time of 1:15:24 on Sunday to break Stephanie Andrews’ course mark of 1:16:55 but missed the 1:14:08 World Half standard. Erica Digby was second (1:16:36) followed by Lee’s daughter, Kirsten (1:17:19).

The coach wondered if Cliff could sway Athletics Canada, arguing Sunday’s adverse conditions for her time if she is set on racing at worlds. Lee said race director Wayne Crowe had emailed him Saturday evening to say organizers understood if none of the athletes wished to run with the air quality at a “very high risk” level.

“Generally, runners are a hardy bunch so everyone gave it a go,” Lee said. “There was a lot of smoke still around from the [wildfires] that probably had a negative effect on [finishing] times.

“There was a lot of work by the Comox Valley Road Runners and BC Athletics officials to host BCEP on their course, volunteering their time, effort and expertise for the sake of six elite runners who were starved for some sort of normal competition.”

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