On Sunday morning, Rachel Cliff ran a new Canadian women’s marathon record, shattering the old record held by Lanni Marchant at 2:28:00. Cliff’s new record of 2:26:56 at the Nagoya Women’s Marathon is another huge step forward in Canadian women’s distance running, and follows in the footsteps of the three Canadian women who have collectively broken six records in the first 10 weeks of 2019.
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An almost 2 minute PB and national record this morning at the Nagoya Women’s Marathon. Could not be happier!!! There were a few bumps on the road in this marathon build but things came together when they needed to. Thanks so much for the support and messages – I really appreciate all of them! And big thanks to @bcendurance (and all my teammates!) @chriswinter2, my fam and friends, @formcoaching @vanrunco @totalsportsus @haasruns @wataruogushi and the organizing committee at the Nagoya marathon. #canadianrunning #nagoyawomensmarathon #lovetherun #marathon
Cliff’s record has been highly discussed, but something that was missed among the excitement was the fact that this record was broken in a women’s-only race. While Athletics Canada doesn’t separately recognize mixed and women’s-only national records, the IAAF does. Currently, Paula Radcliffe holds the marathon world record at 2:15:25 and Mary Keitany holds the women’s-only world record at 2:17:01.
The Nagoya Marathon is the biggest women’s-only race in the world, and Cliff says it felt amazing to be on the start line with 24,000 other women. “Standing on the start line and racing with all women felt so cool. As a female, you’re not used to being the most important part of a race, but at Nagoya we were.” The IAAF began recognizing the two different record categories in 2011 as they deemed it an advantage for women to race alongside men.
When asked if she feels like having two separate categories of female world records is warranted, Cliff says she believes it is. “Women’s running doesn’t have the same depth as the men’s side, so it’s more difficult to put together a women’s-only race with a huge field of elite women and world-class pacers. There’s only a few places in the world where you can make that happen.”
She continues, “I was so focused on the negatives of the race, like not having enough bodies around, that I completely forgot about the positives of an all-female event. It actually ended up being the perfect opportunity because the pacing was amazing. Had you not been looking to run 3:26 per kilometre you might have run into trouble, but it was perfect for me.” Cliff was paced through 30K by W40 half-marathon world record holder Sinead Diver.