Before the men's 10,000-meter race started, Cam Levins might have been the only person who believed he could keep pace with the world's fastest distance runners.
After his performance Saturday at Olympic Stadium, everyone else knows it too.
"I have the strength to stay with these guys," said the Southern Utah University standout after finishing 11th with a time of 27:40.68. "I don't have the strength quite yet to kick with them, but I can run with them. It's such a great feeling to know that it's true."
Levins stayed with the pack until the leaders began their kick on the final lap. Great Britain's Mo Farah thrilled the crowd by coming from behind to win the gold medal with a time of 27:30.42. His training partner, Galen Rupp of the United States, passed bronze medalist Tariku Bekele of Ethiopia in the final 100 meters to earn the silver medal. The two train together in Oregon.
The 23-year-old SUU track athlete was a mere 10 seconds behind the winners, a feat that thrilled those who support him in his home country of Canada and the town where he transformed himself from an impressive college athlete to an international contender, Cedar City.
"I want to say thanks for all the support," he said of his fans in Black Creek, British Columbia, and Cedar City. "Thanks for watching back home, and hopefully I can do better for you guys next time."
Next time could be next week, when he takes on many of the same runners in the 5,000-meter event. He said the way he raced Saturday has given him even more hope that he may be able to pull off an upset.
"I'm more confident now," he said. "I'm that much more confident that I can run with these guys. It's going to be a fun race."
He said that while Olympic Stadium was loud and electric with energy, he was not intimidated.
"You know what, I walked in and I was a bit shocked at first," he said. "All the noise, the atmosphere, I really felt calm going in. It's just part of it. It powers you; it powers you in those last laps. It was just a fun, fun experience."
Levins is from such a small community that he and some friends actually organized his high school's cross country team. He had no scholarship offers so he put himself on a recruiting website and got a call from Southern Utah.
"They were offering enough for me to go there," Levins told KSL before his race Saturday. "And it just seemed like a great fit."
He was just another hopeful college runner until he took to heart the message in a book "Once a Runner," by John L. Parker, three years ago. It convinced him to increase his mileage to levels that many coaches advise against.
He went from running 15 miles a day to 25 and eventually 30.
"I know it's not necessarily the smartest thing to do," Levins said. "But it's what I did, and the results prove that for at least now it's perfect."
Some might argue with his methods, but no one is arguing with his results. He ran the second-fastest 10,000-meter time in NCAA history and earned SUU's first national championship of any kind. Three days later, he won the national championship in the 5,000-meter race.
Levins said that as he pushed himself just to stay with the race leaders in those final laps, he thought of those who may have seen in him at least a little of what he felt.
"I just refused to let go because a lot of people believed in me," he said. "A lot of people cheering for me, mostly from afar, but I did see my parents in the crowd."
He said his goal in the next race is simple.
"I'm out here to enjoy it," he said. "I'm out here to have fun, and that's what it's all about. I'm going to go and try to recover and just see what happens."
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