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How Sarah Elliott improved 47 minutes to become a 2:50 marathoner

The Guelph, Ont. resident has set a personal best at every race she's done in 2017 including her latest performance at the Berlin Marathon

Berlin Marathon Results
Sarah Elliott
Sarah Elliott of Guelph, Ont. runs on the rainy streets of Berlin as part of the 2017 Berlin Marathon. Photo: Andrew MacKay.

She’s set a personal best in every race this year. And her latest was a 10-minute PB over 42.2K at the Berlin Marathon.

Guelph, Ont.’s Sarah Elliott ran 2:50:16 and was the second Canadian woman, behind Kate Gustafson, to finish the marathon in the German capital on Sept. 24. It was her first time running under three hours, having previously run a bittersweet 3:00:04 in Rotterdam earlier this year.

RELATED: Top Canadian results from the 2017 Berlin Marathon.


“Today was an unbelievable day – running 2:50, a time I once thought [was] reserved for the super elites,” Elliott, who works for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, wrote on Instagram immediately after the race.

Elliott, who recently moved to Guelph from Toronto, was a 3:37 marathoner in 2010 and has since taken more than 45 minutes off of her time. Once she improved to the 3:10 range, her family suggested she get a coach or join a local training group. It was only then that she ran her first-ever interval and speed work session as part of a structured training program.

Of Berlin, which was her fourth Abbott World Marathon Major, she says conditions (wet and humid) weren’t perfect but proved far better than the hot conditions she faced while training or in other past races. She went through the halfway point in 1:25:45, meaning that her second half was slightly faster than the first, running a negative split. She finished 37th overall amongst females and was thrilled to have plenty of on-course support. She credits some of the cheering with her decision to sport a Canada singlet.

Berlin was a major breakthrough for Elliott, who has gone through her fair share of struggles. At last year’s Toronto Waterfront Marathon, she was forced to drop out due to fatigue. She was later diagnosed as being anemic and credits reintroducing red meat to part of her recent success.

“When I started running marathons and ran in the 3:30s, I thought that if I got to 3:15 that would be amazing,” she says from Munich. “I had no concept of how fast I could really go.” Now that she’s at the 2:50 mark, she hopes to improve to the 2:45 range for the marathon and continue to make small but progressive improvements.

Another race, another PB

In 2017, Elliott has lowered her PB in each of the races she’s done including over 10K, half-marathon, 30K and the marathon. She raced the Chilly Half-Marathon in Burlington, Ont. in March before lowering her best time to 1:20:15 in May at the GoodLife Fitness Half-Marathon in Toronto. For 10K, she ran 36:56 in Ottawa before improving to 36:34 at the Toronto Women’s 10K in August. At Around the Bay, she ran 1:59:02 for 30K, another PB.


The key to improvement

“Training with a group has been pivotal,” Elliott says when asked about one major area she can attribute her improvement. “They push me so far out of my comfort zone. Running with a strong group of women and getting through tough workouts and overcoming mental barriers helps when I’m out on the race course.”

She trained with Nicole Stevenson and the Angels out of Toronto, even commuting to Toronto from Guelph on weekends for workouts, and says she hopes to find a new group in Guelph, which is about an hour west of the Ontario capital.

Next up for the Guelph runner? Perhaps a 5K, to complete the resetting of all of her PBs in 2017.