Natasha Wodak smashes Canadian marathon record in Berlin

Natasha Wodak believes that enjoying the process will show up in the results.

The 40-year-old from North Vancouver, B.C., who grew to love training for the marathon, shattered the Canadian record in that distance in Berlin on Sunday.

Wodak finished 12th at the Berlin Marathon in two hours 23 minutes 12 seconds, lowering Malindi Elmore's record of 2:24.50 set in 2020.

Wodak, who was 13th in the marathon at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, was a 10,000-metre specialist on the track for the better part of a decade, and said she didn't enjoy her first marathon experience in 2013.

"I was kind of like 'I don't know how much I want to do this,'" Wodak said.

"But as I've gotten older, and become a more disciplined runner, and I'm in a better place in my life, I really enjoy the training. And I've had a lot of fun with every marathon build, and challenging myself. Because it's new, right? The move to the marathon was a lot of fun, doing new training and challenging myself, and I really enjoyed it. And I think that's a huge part of why I've been successful, is because I really liked the training."

Ethiopia's Tigist Assefa won Sunday's race in 2:15.37. Two-time Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya broke his own men's marathon world record to win the men's race in 2:01.09.

Wodak, who is coached by Trent Stellingwerff, said her recent training indicated she could run 2:24.

On Sunday, she ramped up the pace over the 42.195-kilometre course. Her second half was more than a minute faster than her first.

"I knew at 35K, because we had significantly dropped the pace through the last 5K, that we were well under Canadian record pace," Wodak said, moments before sitting down to a celebratory drink with her family.

"I had a pacer, and he just was like, ‘Let's go, let's go.’ And I just kept on him. I was tired over the last 5K, I was working really, really hard. But I knew that was just because we were running fast.

"I didn't think that I could do 24.12 . . . when I saw that time at the finish line, I was like, 'oh, wow, what?'"

Wodak's record comes amid a surge in Canadian women's distance running.

The Canadian record has dropped five minutes in the past nine years, although Wodak noted the huge improvements in shoe technology have seen distance running times plummet across the board in recent years.

Still, Elmore was ninth in the Tokyo Olympics, and the battle between the Canadian women to make that team was fierce.

"It's really exciting to be a part of women's distance running right now," said Wodak. "We just sort of are feeding off of each other. If Malindi hadn't run 2:24.50, I don't know if I would have set my goal to run 2:24 flat.

"So now Malindi is going to go run Toronto (Waterfront Marathon on Oct. 16), and she's gonna be like, 'OK, I want to run sub-2:23.' We just keep lowering the bar and it’s great when we all build each other up. She wished me good luck (Saturday) and said, 'I hope you have an amazing race.' That's a really cool run community to be a part of when we all support each other."

Elmore tweeted on Sunday, "Congrats Natasha! Huge impressive run today!"

Wodak planned to vacation in Germany with her family. She doesn't plan to race for awhile, and is considering competing in the Canadian cross-country championship Nov. 26 in Ottawa.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2022.

Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press