Team Canada is looking very strong heading into the World Championships but the initial draft of the squad left one very important name off of the list–four-time Canadian record holder Rachel Cliff.
Cliff was not named with the rest of Team Canada on August 30, despite having run standard in the 5,000m. The problem was that four Canadian women had run standard, and the team could only bring three. Andrea Seccafien, Jess O’Connell and seven-time Canadian record-holder Gabriela DeBues-Stafford had been named to 5,000m, but DeBues-Stafford had declared in the 1,500m as well. The meant that Cliff was the slowest of the women who’d run under the 15:22:00 standard, and therefore, one of the only people with standard who was left off the team.
However, the World Championship schedule wouldn’t allow for DeBues-Stafford to successfully compete at both the 1,500m and 5,000m, and ultimately she chose to contest the 1,500m.
In the past two years Cliff has set four national records, all on the road. She started her record board rewrite in January 2018 when she broke Lanni Marchant’s half-marathon record, running a 1:10:08. She followed that up with a marathon debut only 53 seconds off Marchant’s marathon record, and on her second crack at the event ran a shocking 2:26:56 to eclipse the old record by over one minute.
Cliff initially had her sights set on the 10,000m at this October’s championship, but after missing the standard and declining her spot on the marathon team, she had resigned herself to calling her season quits in August. But days before the national championships, Cliff ran the 5,000m world standard in Heusden.
Doha will be Cliff’s second outdoor world championships. Her first was in 2017, where she finished 20th in the 10,000m. “I was kept in the loop through everything this month. I knew that Gabriela wasn’t sure what she wanted to run, and that I would be told on September 7 what her decision was. It was challenging to not know if I was on time off of gearing up again, but I was never kept in the dark.” She found out for certain on September 8 that she was named to the team.
Cliff hasn’t set concrete plans for after Worlds, but she does say that she misses the roads. “I’m really excited about the marathon distance right now. Stepping away from the roads this summer made me realize how much I like the event.” But before Cliff can talk fall plans too seriously, she’s got a World Championships to run. The start list for the women’s 5,000m can be found here. The event runs on October 2 at 11:25 a.m. ET.