Natasha Wodak takes down Malindi Elmore’s Canadian women’s marathon record in Berlin

Natasha Wodak shattered the Canadian women’s marathon record on Sunday in Berlin.

The 40-year-old of Surrey, B.C., ran two hours 23 minutes 13 seconds to finish 12th.

She broke the previous Canadian mark of 2:24.50 set by her friend Malindi Elmore in 2020.

Ethiopia’s Tigist Assefa won Sunday’s race in a course record 2:15.37, the third fastest time ever and 18 minutes faster than she had ever run.

“I wasn’t afraid of my rivals, even though they had faster times than me,” the 26-year-old Assefa said.

Wodak had run a single marathon in 2013 and wasn’t prepared to sacrifice her love of road and track racing to attempt another.

But once the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was postponed and rescheduled to July 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic, a marathon quickly became Wodak’s primary focus.

On Dec. 20, she competed in The Marathon Project and completed the 42.2-kilometre event on a flat 6.9 km loop course on the streets of Chandler, Ariz., in 2:26:19, then a personal best by nearly 10 minutes and the second-fastest time in Canadian history.

Specializes in 10,000 metres on track

“I want to see what I can do in the marathon before I run out of time,” Wodak told CBC Sports in October 2020. “Many of my friends and other women are running so fast in the marathon. I’ve been inspired over the past [few] years and I want in on that.”

In recent years, she has picked the brains of Canada’s elite female runners, including Elmore, and incorporated their workouts into her program.

Wodak, who has specialized in the 10,000 metres on the track, was 13th (2:31:41) in the marathon at the Tokyo Olympics, where the then-41-year-old Elmore placed ninth (2:30:59) — the best Olympic marathon finish by a Canadian woman in a non-boycott Games — 17 years after her most recent Summer Games appearance.

Elmore made her Olympic debut in 2004 in the 1,500, but she fell short of qualifying for the Games in 2008 and 2012, leading her to walk away from the athletics world.

The mother of two ran in her first-ever marathon in 2019 after making her comeback.

In April, Wodak finished 19th at the Boston Marathon in 2:35:08 behind Elmore of Kelowna, B.C., who was 11th (2:27:58).

Kipchoge’s legs, body ‘still feel young’

He’s done it again.

Two-time Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge bettered his own world record on Sunday.

The Kenyan star clocked 2 hours, 1 minute 9 seconds to shave 30 seconds off his previous best mark of 2:01:39 set on the same course in 2018.

“My legs and my body still feel young,” the 37-year-old Kipchoge said. “But the most important thing is my mind, and that also feels fresh and young. I’m so happy to break the world record.”

Kenya’s Rosemary Wanjiru was second on her debut in 2:18:00 — the second fastest debut ever run — just ahead of Ethiopian runner Tigist Abayechew in 2:18:03.

Kipchoge and Assefa’s combined time of 4:16:46 ensured the marathon was the fastest ever. The men’s record has now been set eight times in a row in Berlin, favored by runners for its flat course.

It’s Kipchoge’s fourth win in the city, matching the record set by Haile Gebrselassie. The Ethiopian great, like Kipchoge now, also set two world records (in 2007 and 2008) in Berlin.

Conditions in the German capital were ideal for fast racing — cool, around 11 C after a night of showers, with no more precipitation and no wind. Some 45,527 runners from 157 nations were registered to take part in the first Berlin Marathon without restrictions since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Participant numbers were reduced by nearly half under strict restrictions last year, and the 2020 race was called off due to the pandemic.

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