Through the highs and lows of his running career Rory Linkletter attributes his Christian faith for keeping him focused and on the right path. The former Canadian half-marathon record holder has had to make some tough decisions—particularly in 2021 when he was going through challenges, both personally and professionally—but one thing that has never wavered is his passion for running and the career path he chose in high school.
Looking a lot younger than his 26 years, the Calgary-born Linkletter calls Flagstaff, Arizona his home, and although he became a U.S. citizen in 2020, his loyalty and running for Canada is something he is very proud of. “I have competed for Canada since the World Juniors in 2015, and it is something that I will continue to do,” he says.
With a goal of competing in the marathon at the 2024 Paris Olympics, he is training for the London Marathon on April 23 and if that goes well, possibly Chicago in October. But he is very practical and level-headed, taking one race at a time, knowing that anything can happen in training or in a race. He also likes to leave the training to his coach, former U.S. long distance champion, Ryan Hall. But he admits he would like to “take a bite” out of his marathon 2:10 PB he set at the World Athletics Championships last year in Eugene, OR. “Flirting with a 2:09 goal would be awesome, but I will let the training and Ryan dictate my goal.”
Linkletter is firmly committed to the marathon distance, but with his physique he could equally concentrate and succeed at middle distance. He excels at speed workouts which could be attributed to his early years competing in cross-country and track. He didn’t start running until Grade 9. “I was really a ball-sport athlete and was undersized going into high school.” But he joined his school’s cross-country team and immediately liked it. “I started low in the rankings and then saw myself progressing up the ladder. There is gratification in seeing your times and your rank improve among your peers.”
School was in Utah where he and his mother moved to from Calgary after his parents divorced. With the state being known as a classic running hub, it took Linkletter a while to get on to the varsity team, which he eventually did for cross-country and track.
It was then that he knew he wanted to pursue running seriously and made the decision to attend Brigham Young University (BYU). Admitting it was a “rational decision based on my goals to continue to run,” he found success in college, coming second in the 10,000 metres at the NCAA track and field championships— “the highlight of my collegiate career”— and becoming the 3x all-American in track and cross-country. “I had higher finishes in track so the 5,000 and 10,000 metre events were definitely my calling.”
The leap—which essentially it was—to the marathon was necessitated by his desire to make the 2020 Olympic team. “I graduated in 2019 and at that time the Olympics were set for 2020, and I had a better chance of making the team running the marathon than another discipline.” Such was his confidence, he plunged straight into marathon training and debuted at the 2019 Toronto Waterfront Marathon with a credible 2:16:42 performance.
A move to Flagstaff to work with HOKA Northern Arizona (NAZ) Elite followed and the opportunity to run some half-marathons, which he admits he had more success with. But in 2021 he experienced some challenges and seemed to lose his way. The death of his father that year hit him hard but was softened by the birth of his first child, Jason (he met Jill at BYU and married in 2018). He had some bad results and felt “something was off.”
“I felt I had to leave (HOKA NAZ Elite) to be able to reach the next level I wanted,” he reflects. To walk away from a comfortable sponsor was a brave move for Linkletter. He knew that and looking back, is proud of his decision. “I was comfortable there but felt something was wrong and I had to change.”
In late 2021 Ryan Hall came into his life. Hall, the U.S. half-marathon record holder, retired in 2016 to coach. “Ryan was a perfect fit for me. I admired him and approached him to coach me. He is smart and a motivational figure in my life.”
Hall knew that Linkletter was in great shape. “I was grateful for all the great coaching he received before he came to me as it all laid the foundation for the next step that Rory was ready to make,” he says. But there were skills he wanted to work with him on from the outset. “I wanted him to have a healthy body so I re-enforced to him the necessity of eating enough food to be at a healthy body weight, and making sure he nailed his sleep. I also initially reduced his volume as he had been running high mileage for a fairly long time, and I wanted him to focus on his 5 km/10 km development at a lower volume before bringing it back up for marathon training.”
The unsponsored Linkletter said he ran the best races of his life in early 2022, including setting the then Canadian half-marathon record in Houston (1:01:08), a record that had stood for 23 years. Sponsors were noticing and he signed with PUMA shortly afterwards. He realizes he is lucky. “Not many get to have a second chance. I am excited to have PUMA take me to the Olympics and beyond.”
With the World Athletics Championships taking place in July 2022, it was time to put the new coach/athlete partnership to the real test. Linkletter had a good track season leading up to the event. “We hit the 5 km work hard all winter and spring, which set up a nice, short and surprise build for the marathon,” explains Hall. “We worked hard in the gym to increase the power in his legs for not only the shorter distances, but for the marathon as well. I believe one of the reasons marathoners slow down over time is because they lose a lot of power in their legs from years and years of high volume.”
Linkletter didn’t go into the championships with a goal in mind. “It is hard to set a goal in a World Championship. Unlike a major marathon where you know other people’s paces, at the Worlds it is a wait-and-see. You find out on the day who is in good shape.” Linkletter was on form setting a personal best and enjoying every minute: “It was fun and exhilarating and I just went with the flow.”
With a focus on London next month—he will also be running the New York City Half-Marathon on March 19—Hall is working on his speed. “I need him to keep and increase his 5 km speed. If he has that in place and continues to develop his aerobic capacity, then good things will happen.” Recovery is a strength of his. “He typically responds to high volume and a heavy training load very well. He is as diligent with his recovery—sleep, nutrition, massage, etc.—as he is with his training. It doesn’t matter how we train if we aren’t able to recover and absorb that training.”
Linkletter’s typical week consists of two runs a day, some days incorporating sprints or track work; a long run and two strength/cross-training sessions a week. Five weeks of hard training will be followed by a down week that may include a race. It’s gruelling and tough but Linkletter enjoys it. Hall says he is a workhorse: “he has the ability to ‘bring it’ to the workout.”
His favourite workout Hall calls ‘K’s for Days.’ These are 20 x 1 km repeats with a 200-metre jog recovery between, each at a little faster than marathon pace. “Kilometre repeats are the staple of any training. For me it is easy, I focus on running for three minutes and get through them one at a time,” say Linkletter.
Not surprisingly Linkletter doesn’t have to worry about what he eats. He admits he is constantly eating, never counts calories and isn’t on any nutrition plan. “I don’t have any rules, I eat until I am full!” His indulgence—or some would say quirk—is to eat breakfast at odd times of the day. “I will have lunch or dinner then follow up with waffles and syrup or cereal.”
The 2024 Olympics may be 17 months away but the qualifying window opened in January and ideally Linkletter wants to nail his place early, in London. But he is very pragmatic about it. With the selection based on ranking and time he knows he will have competition. “I am trying not to get caught up in it. I may run the best marathon of my life but if three others run faster then so be it.”
Then there is that little rivalry between him and Ben Flanagan who broke his half-marathon record in October 2022 by just eight seconds. (The record has since been broken again by Cam Levins in February in a time of 60:18). “I see it as a carrot to chase down the road,” he says.
Having gone through a few hurdles in his life, Linkletter is now settled and content with his life. Being Christian is the forefront of who he is, he says. He is running well, has a supportive coach and a happy home life with a second child expected this year. “I get up every day and love my training and I get to come home to be with my family. I live in this beautiful place surrounded by people I love. It is perfect.”
Twelve weeks out from the London Marathon Linkletter started his marathon training block – here is a typical week.
Monday: a.m. – 10 miles; p.m. – 6 miles
Tuesday: a.m. – 5 x 2 miles @ half-marathon effort; p.m. – strength and cross-training (included squats, lunges with dumbbells, hip thrusters, stairs, stepper)
Wednesday: a.m. – 10 miles; p.m. – 6 miles
Thursday: a.m. – 10 miles; p.m. – 6 miles
Friday: a.m. – long run, 36 km (22 miles) @ 3:30/km pace; p.m. – strength and weights (similar to Tuesday)
Saturday: a.m. – 8 miles easy; p.m. – 5 miles easy
Sunday: a.m. – track, 8 x 800 metre @ 5km / 10km effort with 400 metre jog recovery/some fast
200 metres /cool down; p.m. – 5 miles
3000 Metres (indoors) 7:49.13…..Louisville, KY – 2022
5000 Metres 13:29.67…..San Juan Capistrano, CA – 2022
10,000 Metres 28:12.42…..Palo Alto, CA – 2019
10 Kilometres 28:43……Charleston, SC – 2022
15 Kilometres 44:41…..Jacksonville, FL – 2021
Half Marathon 1:01:08…..Houston, TX – 2022
Marathon 2:10:24…..World Athletic Championships, Eugene, OR – 2022
Photography by Mike Van Mierlo
Read This Story in Our 2023 Running Issue
Featuring Rory Linkletter, Canadian long-distance runner. Add to your bucket list with the top Destination Marathons Around the World. Train for 10 km right up to a marathon – plus a 70.3 program. Increase your strength and work your core with Canada’s Top Fitness Trainers. Enjoy plant-based, post-run breakfasts and so much more.