This time last month, Canadian women’s marathon record holder Natasha Wodak was on a flight to Spain for a much-needed break after withdrawing from the London Marathon the week of the race. She was dealing with two minor injuries during her London training build; then, in a last-ditch effort to put everything together for race day, she caught a stomach bug–the final straw in Wodak’s imperfect prep.
“Withdrawing from London was tough, but I’ve found there’s always a silver lining,” says Wodak. “I instantly thought of a plan B.”
The Canadian 10K Championships were not on her radar in March, but now she will get to defend her national 10K title on Saturday evening against a deep women’s elite field.
With several national titles, two Olympic Games and a Canadian marathon record to her resume, everything now is just icing on the cake for the 41-year-old Wodak. “I have accomplished everything I’ve wanted in my career, and I feel very fortunate to still compete at a high level,” she says.
“Even though I have won this race a few times, the fact that it’s the Canadian 10K Championships still excites me,” she says. “I still get the nerves. Nerves mean it’s important.”
The 10K distance has been kind to Wodak during her career. She represented Team Canada in the 10,000m at the 2016 Olympics and multiple world championships, and earned a gold medal in the discipline at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru.
Although London didn’t happen, Wodak always has her eyes on the bigger picture–which this year means the marathon at the 2023 World Athletics Championships in Budapest this August. “I’m planning to run a few shorter races on the roads and track in preparation for Budapest,” says Wodak.
“Coming off a marathon build, I don’t know what to expect,” she adds. “There are so many talented women in this year’s field, and I know I have what it takes to run a fast time.”
Some of the fast women Wodak alluded to are Brianna Scott, Leslie Sexton, Elissa Legault and Katelyn Ayers, all of whom have run fast 5K times this spring. Last year at the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, Legault had a performance to remember, finishing second in the marathon and earning a spot on Team Canada for the 2022 World Athletics Championships–her first national team.
Legault has made a statement in the last month, winning the 21K de Montreal and Clinique du Coureur 5K in Lac-Beauport, Que., in a new 5K personal best of 15:41. “Ottawa has been a special place for me for a long time,” says Legault. “I did my first half marathon here in 2014–and last year’s marathon was very rewarding.”
As for Wodak, her race plan is to have fun and enjoy the process. “Wins are never a given,” says Wodak. “I want to give this 10K race everything I have.”
The Canadian 10K Championships will be the spectacle of the race weekend, with the women’s race kicking off Saturday at 6:15 p.m. E.T. followed by the men’s at 6:30 p.m. You can stream the event live on Athletics Canada TV.
The 2023 Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend will take place on May 27 and 28, and Canadian Running is in the nation’s capital to report on the Canadian 10K Championships and Ottawa International Marathon. Follow us on Twitter on Instagram for all things Ottawa Race Weekend and up-to-date exclusive news and content.