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Rachel Cliff debuts the marathon only 53 seconds off the Canadian record

The track-turned-road runner finished in 2:28:53, just 53 seconds off of Lanni Marchant's Canadian marathon record of 2:28:00

Rachel Cliff, the Canadian half-marathon record-holder, ran her marathon debut on Sunday morning in Berlin. The track-turned-road runner finished in 2:28:53, just 53 seconds off of Lanni Marchant’s Canadian marathon record of 2:28:00. 

Cliff wasn’t sure what to expect coming into the Berlin Marathon. “It’s an unpredictable event. It was a shorter build than usual. One of the advantages of a short build is that I was fast, but a disadvantage was that I was a little low on volume.” Despite her relatively low volume, Cliff knew her workouts were strong, and that she was in shape to run well.

In an interview post-race, she walked us through her game plan. “I was aiming for 3:30/K pace. I thought on a good day that I could break 2:30, at least 2:32. I was monitoring my 5K splits closely, and shooting to be around 17:30.”

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Cliff ran the first half of the race off the back of a group of women. “After I found my bearings, there was a group of girls slightly ahead of me, but I could tell they were going a couple seconds faster than I wanted to. I chose to hang back.” She jokes that around the 25 kilometre mark there was a Japanese man who asked if he could have her bottle when she was finished with it, and Cliff was looking for someone to run with. “I knew he’d stay with me because he needed my bottle.”

Cliff felt good 25 kilometres in, and knew from her halfway split that she was on Canadian record pace, but she wisely said, “You don’t know if you’re having a good day until around 35K. You can know if you’re having a bad day, but you can’t be sure that you’re having a good day.” Cliff knew that she had to be patient. “The pain of a marathon is very different than anything I’ve done before. You feel pretty in control until you start slowing down and don’t know it. I felt good, but I didn’t think I had the extra gear I would need to get the record.”

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When asked if she’s looking to become a full-time marathoner, Cliff says that she still has the track bug. “I think I’ll do another one, but for now I still want one more complete track season. I can tell you for sure that the 10,000m will feel a lot shorter now.”

For now Cliff will take a couple weeks off running and re-evaluate. “I think the mileage I’ve had from marathon training will help me on the track. I’m very pleased with how little speed I’ve lost. As long as the next few weeks of recovery go well, and I can stay healthy, I think this marathon will help me in my track season.”

Even if Cliff decides to remain a trackie primarily, she said there was something special about the marathon and trying something new. “There’s something kind of magical about not knowing what’s coming. I really respect the marathon.”