Natasha Wodak has been running cross-country since grade four. The Surrey, B.C. native says she loved it then and continues to love it now. This year’s Pan Am Cross-Country Cup is taking place in Victoria, B.C., in the runner’s own backyard, and she can’t wait to compete.
Team Canada member: 17 times
Canadian 10,000m record holder
2019 Pan Am 10,000m gold medallist
Deciding to run cross-country in fall 2019 wasn’t a given for Wodak. She was coming off the year of her life, but that year had included travel from Denmark to Doha for two World Championships, along with countless trips between Canada and the U.S. to race. “Nationals was so close to home that I had to run,” she says. “There were so many friends and family who came out to watch. My friends’ kids are all kind of between the ages of seven and 10 now, so it’s cool for them to see Auntie Tasha running, especially at a time when they’re getting into sports.”
It was Wodak’s fourth-place performance at Nationals that secured her position on Team Canada. “I’d taken two weeks off after Doha and wasn’t in fantastic shape when I ran Nationals, but I wanted to support the running community when a national championship was so close to home,” the runner says. She jokes that she really had to swallow her pride during that race. “I knew I was going to get beat. It doesn’t feel great to be the Canadian record-holder over 10,000m and get beat at your own game, but it was a good reminder that I can’t be at my best all year round.”
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The runner’s proudest cross-country moment came in her senior year of university. Her SFU team was ranked seventh heading into the NAIA national championships and ended up winning. “That’s the best part about cross, it’s a team sport,” she says.
Wodak feels that cross-country is a great strength builder that sets her up well for a strong track season. “I ran cross-country in the spring of 2019 and went on the win a Pan Am gold medal on the track. This system works for me.”
Wodak has been in this game a long time–she knows what works for her. Running cross-country works for her but so does keeping the mileage low. Wodak says she’s never been a high-mileage runner, but especially not since her toe surgery in 2017. “When I was training with Richard Lee I was running between 125K and 135K weeks. And I ran well in that program [she set the Canadian 10,000m record while under Lee’s tutelage] but I struggled with a lot of injuries.”
Since her surgery Wodak says her minutes of training look similar, but now a lot of it is done in the pool or on the elliptical. “I still do double runs but a lot of it is cross-training,” she says. “I’m not putting the same strain on my body. When I came to Lynn [Kanuka, her current coach] I was 35. I have years of miles in my legs already, so I can get away with running a little less mileage than someone who’s just getting into it.”
Wodak stresses the importance of listening to her body and not getting worried about what others are doing. “I go on Strava and I get stressed sometimes because I compare myself, but I have to remember that I’m doing what works for me.”
This weekend the runner is competing in Houston at the half-marathon. It’s a stacked women’s field, so be sure to check back for all of the results from that 21.1K.