Leef wins hardware at national masters championship

Yukon MP Ryan Leef can win both electoral and track races. Competing in his first Canadian Masters Outdoor Championships, Leef won a gold and silver on Sunday in Toronto.

Yukon MP Ryan Leef can win both electoral and track races.

Competing in his first Canadian Masters Outdoor Championships, Leef won a gold and silver on Sunday in Toronto.

It was the first time Leef, who qualified for the masters with his 40th birthday this year, raced track in six years – since the 2008 Can-Am Police-Fire Games.

“That old feeling comes back real quick and it was nice to be on familiar ground again,” he said.

Leef won gold in the 800-metre race in the M40 division with a time of 2:12.71. He also raced to silver in the 5,000-metre.

“The 800 was more of a surprise to me than anything,” said Leef. “I entered that to build up a bit of speed. I wanted to get back on the track and mix it up in the more tactical setting.

“To win it was a total surprise to me because I’m more of a distance guy and I’m in marathon or longer kind of shape right now. To sneak out there and win it was a bit of a shock.”

Leef finished the 5,000 at 17:01.15, about 40 seconds behind the winner. His time was about 34 seconds faster than what he posted at the Yukon Five-Kilometre Road Race Championships last week in Whitehorse.

“I was really happy with the five,” said Leef. “I wanted to run a decent eight as a sort of a measuring stick to see where I’m at. It’s something I was excited about doing. It’s tactical, it’s fast, it’s a whole new world for me.

“I got dumped early on because the opening mile was way too fast and I just let everybody go,” he added. “So I was at the back of the field through three kilometers and then the speed for everybody caught up to them and I started gaining ground on everybody. I got into a nice rhythm and started picking people off and reeling in the entire field.”

Leef, who represented Yukon in athletics at the 1989 Canada Summer Games, has also excelled as a long-distance runner. He has 19 marathons under his belt, the vast majority of which were completed under the three-hour mark. Before running for office in 2011, Leef fought in three amateur mixed martial arts bouts. He has since hung up the gloves.

“For me it’s great to see people racing well late in life,” said Leef. “I was watching 80-year-old runners smashing world records.

“It’s great to be surrounded by people in their 40s right up to their 80s that just don’t see age as an inhibiter to being active, to being competitive, to being good at what they do, in or out of their respective age groups.

“From that point of view, it’s a really refreshing and inspiring event to be a part of.”

While on the line Leef gave a shout out to Yukon’s Special Olympics team who captured a record 14 medals at the 2014 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games last week in Vancouver, B.C.

As a distance runner, he is impressed by Yukon’s Darby McIntyre – the youngest on the team at just 14 – winning a silver in the 5,000-metre and achieving his goal of breaking the 19-minute mark with a time of 18:57.77.

“I was excited to see Darby McIntyre’s results at the Special Olympics,” said Leef. “He ran a stellar 5,000 there.

“I’ve been keeping up with their results and it was really exciting to see. As a track guy I was keen to see how Darby was making out. To go under 19 minutes at his age was an exceptional time.”

“Yukon has a pretty good track and field team despite the fact we don’t have a track or field,” he added. “That’ll be something we’ll have to talk to our MP about.”

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