Rachel Cliff on women’s-only races: it’s cool to be the main event

Cliff ran the new Canadian record in a women's-only race. Here's what she had to say about her experience

March 12th, 2019 by | Posted in The Scene | Tags: , ,

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.

RELATED: How Rachel Cliff came back from a shaky marathon buildup to set a Canadian marathon record

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. 

Rachel Cliff at 2018 Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. Photo: Victah Sailor/PhotoRun

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. 

RELATED: Rachel Cliff on the depth of the Japanese running scene

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.