By Paul Gains
Kenya’s Magdalyne Masai hasn’t run a marathon in three years but that’s no cause for alarm.
Her last effort resulted in a magnificent Canadian All Comers record of 2:22:16 on the streets of
The 28-year-old returns to the scene of her greatest achievement for the 2022 TCS Toronto
Waterfront Marathon on October 16 as the defending champion. In the interim, she also gave
birth to her first child, a son Jake Jr, with husband Jake Robertson, the New Zealander who was
5th in the 2018 Toronto Waterfront Marathon.
Returning to competition is a delightful dream.
“I am really excited because that was my last race that I did—until now,” she explains with a
smile. “I lost (races) with the pandemic and now with Jake Jr. My training has been going well.
We have got a lady who helps us take care of Jake Jr. when we are tired because we need to
nap sometimes. And also, Jake Sr. has been helping out. He takes care of him when I am tired.
So we get to help each other by sharing duties.
“We do have family nearby, but they also have their own children, or they are working and they
have family life.”
Masai comes from a long line of great Kenyan 10,000m runners. Her older sister, Linet, was the
2008 Olympic 10,000m bronze medalist and 2009 world champion while eldest brother Moses
was 4th at those Beijing Olympics. He went on to earn the bronze at the 2009 World
Championships. Another brother, Dennis, won the 2010 World Junior Championships 10,000m
in Moncton, New Brunswick.
Like runners across the globe, Magz, as she is affectionately known, was severely impacted by
the Covid pandemic. The postponement of the 2020 Boston Marathon, for instance, was one
“It was a shame,” she concedes. “Because I was supposed to be in Boston in 2020 and I
thought I had an opportunity of doing well in a major marathon which could have changed our
lives. But things did happen that were out of our control so we just lived with it.”
A hefty appearance fee plus the opportunity to win prize money awaited her in Boston, thanks to
her great Toronto result. But the race was postponed from its usual April date until October.
That called for a change in plans. They flew to Jake’s hometown of Mount Maunganui,
200 kilometres south-east of Auckland, to wait out the pandemic.
“We were in New Zealand for the first six months of the pandemic, so I was training normally
with Jake and with Zane, my brother-in-law,” she reveals. “Then with a couple of friends we met
in New Zealand. New Zealand wasn’t really affected so life was kind of moving along normally.
So we were able to move on with our daily lives. There were small restrictions.
“The problem was we were training with no goal which was hard sometimes. You would go two
weeks, one month, and then hit those low points and then go, ‘What am I doing this for?’ There
Magz laughs at her words. Now, she is happy to report, things are going well as she prepares
“It is getting exciting. I am starting to feel ‘ok’ again,” she reveals.
“I don’t really start a week with a goal. I just train and then at the end of the week, sit down and
count up how much I have been doing. So far, the most has been 145 km (in a week). Mainly I
go with the feeling of the body. So far, my longest run two weeks ago was 40 km. It felt really
good, and it has given me confidence. It gives you the feeling of the marathon.”
Besides maintaining her fitness during the pandemic—and raising her newborn son—Magz took
on responsibility for the housing project she and Jake started three years ago. Initially it was to
be a single house for foreign runners to live in when they travel to Iten for altitude training.
“It has been built and we have built three more houses,” she reveals with excitement. “When we
got back from New Zealand and I was expecting Jake Jr., I wasn’t training seriously. So, I was
training and in charge of the building. They are next door to our house.”
If they appear to have extremely busy lives, it’s not surprising they have outside interests which
help distract them from their work. They both follow NBA basketball. In fact, Jake attended a
Toronto Raptors game two nights before his 5th place finish in the 2018 Toronto Waterfront
Marathon, which obviously had a positive effect on his performance.
And, like many of her compatriots, Magz is also a keen supporter of Manchester United Football
Club—something she has in common with Toronto Waterfront race director, Alan Brookes.
“I still follow Manchester United but they have been awful,” she says smiling. She buries her
head in her hands before adding, “I have been following them but, honestly, how can they finish
6th (in the 2021-2022 Premier League standings) with Cristiano Ronaldo? What a good player.”
It is too early to affix a goal for her upcoming TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon appearance.
Marathons are unpredictable. But with training going well and with her determination to keep
improving, her Canadian All Comers record could fall. Actually, racing again after being starved
of competition for three years might prove to be the strongest motivator.
About the TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon
One of only two World Athletics Elite Label races in Canada, the TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon is
Canada’s premier running event and the grand finale of the Canada Running Series (CRS). Since
2017, the race has served as the Athletics Canada Canadian Marathon Championship and has doubled
as the Olympic trials. During the 2021 event, participants raised over $3.08 million for 151 community
charities. Using innovation and organization as guiding principles, Canada Running Series stages great
experiences for runners of all levels, from Canadian Olympians to recreational and charity runners.
With a mission of “building community through the sport of running,” CRS is committed to making sport
part of sustainable communities and the city-building process.
To learn more about the TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon, please visit TorontoWaterFrontMarathon.com.
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