On Sunday morning in Chandler, Ariz., Natasha Wodak took a really big swing, and it paid off. Wodak ran a 2:26:19, which is the second-fastest time in Canadian history and her first marathon in seven years. It’s also a personal best by nearly 10 minutes, and well under Olympic standard (2:29:30 for women).
The implications of Wodak’s race, beyond the huge PB, are big. Wodak just put herself in a very strong position for selection for the 2021 Olympic team in the marathon. Thus far, only Dayna Pidhoresky is guaranteed, but Malindi Elmore’s personal best of 2:24:50 makes her the most likely candidate for the second position. There’s a third position up for grabs, and Wodak now has the next-fastest time (behind Elmore) of any Canadian. The spot was previously held by Rachel Cliff, the former national record holder, at 2:26:56.
Watching @tasha_wodak coming across the finish line.. the expression of giving it your all! Well done In 2:26:19 for 5th place! @ReidCoolsaet @alnbrookes @CanadianRunning @BC_Athletics @AthleticsCanada
— Jonas Eastcott (@JonasEastcott95) December 20, 2020
The Marathon Project was held in perfect conditions on a looped course – designed superficially for runners to hit Olympic standard. In a year with such little racing, it was a big gift to those who got to compete. Wodak steadily clicked off 5:35 miles, running much of the race alone. She said ahead of the race that 2:26 was the goal – and she delivered.
Kinsey Middleton was the other Canadian woman in the field, however, she unfortunately, didn’t record a split past 30K. Honourary Canadian Sarah Inglis (who is Scottish but trains in B.C.) ran a 2:29:41 in her debut – a great performance as well.
Marathoners still have several months to achieve Olympic standard, with the window remaining open until May 31. The team will be selected shortly thereafter. If Cliff can come back and run a personal best, she’s still got a strong shot at the team. However, if she’s unable to run faster than Wodak’s 2:26:19, the marathon may no longer be an option.