© Copyright – 2019 – Athletics Illustrated

Who doesn’t like a competitive battle to the end? The 2019 Chevron Houston Half Marathon may prove to be just that. Some of Canada’s top women will be taking in the 21.1K race on Sunday, January 20th.

Houston is a popular January race for North American elite athletes and the 2019 edition is no exception.

As for the half-marathon, currently, the women competing make up a strong half-marathon field.

Vancouver’s Natasha Wodak had a strong year. At the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games she ran a brilliant 10,000-metre race and finished with a furious kick. In global championship events, distance records do happen, however, they are the exception; the rule is tactics and slower times. Not for Wodak at CMG, where she finished in the time of 31:50.18. Even though she owns the national record at 31:41.59, Gold Coast was a career-like performance.

Natasha Wodak at 2016 Pioneer 8K. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall

Wodak ran a strong half-marathon in New York a few years ago in the time of 1:11:20. She also set the national road 8K record at 25:28 from Victoria in 2013. Her two records are identical performance-wise.

Wodak hopes to take the national half-marathon record in 2019, whether she does it off the hop in Houston remains to be seen, however, an indication of her fitness may be demonstrated at the Harriers Pioneer 8K this weekend.

“I look forward to racing the Pioneer 8K to get an indication of where my fitness is. Then we will see for Houston,” shared Wodak. “I would like to break the national record in 2019 – it is difficult to tell if it will happen in Houston – this early in the year – but I am feeling healthy and fit.”

Kinsey Middleton of Boise, Idaho reported to be in, is now out, as she suffered from a cold that derailed some of her training in December, otherwise, her performance would be of interest

“Unfortunately, I just had to withdraw my spot at Houston due to a nasty cold that made me miss a few weeks of training,” said Middleton. “My coach and I decided to open the season in March at The Woodlands half instead and then focus on the 10,000m on the track. I am very excited for what’s to come!”

She is a dual citizen, however, the IAAF considers her Canadian. She finished the Toronto Marathon in the time of 2:32:09. In Houston 2018, she ran a very solid 1:12:30. Her marathon performance slightly outclasses her half-marathon best, so expect more from the former Oregon State University and the University of Idaho athlete.

Her marathon is the third fastest Canadian debut all-time and will likely be better than the upcoming IAAF World Track and Field Championships and Olympic marathon standards, yet to be published.

Dayna Pidhoresky winning TC10K in Victoria. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall/Athletics Illustrated

Dayna Pidhoresky had a career year in 2018.

The Vancouverite originally from Tecumseh, ON became the first woman to win the Around the Bay 30K four times in March last year. Three other women have won three times. It wasn’t her fastest performance, but she had wind and cold temperatures to deal with.

“It was okay, perhaps not quite as windy as last year, but was colder. I noticed it was a bit harder to breathe at that temperature since I’m not used to it,” she said after the race.

What makes Houston so interesting is that not only is the Canadian field of women fast and competitive, but they have all had recent half-marathon best performances including Pidhoresky, who ran an official pb of 1:12:38 last year in Edmonton. She ran a best back in 2011 on a course that may or may not have been approved for certification due to changes around road construction, but finished in 1:11:46.

Her marathon best is 2:36:08 from Ottawa 2017. Although she has not quite had the marathon that she expects from herself, her 21.1K to 30K performances are outstanding.

Pidhoresky tempered her enthusiasm and expects Houston to be a seasonal rust buster. She is planning for a spring marathon.

“When I signed up for Houston way back when, I envisioned myself being a bit sharper than I currently am — but our spring goals changed a bit, so, although I am in a good spot fitness-wise, I don’t know if I will be able to take full advantage of the fast field and course and hopefully good conditions.  It will certainly be a rust-buster for me and a great chance to see where we are at.  I’m hoping to stay focussed and positive throughout the race.  I’m not in PB shape like I had initially thought I would be, but I think I can still put down a decent time.”

Lyndsay Tessier may be over 40, but she is not over-the-hill, as they say, but far from it. The 41-year-old Toronto native blasted a 2:30:47 marathon in Berlin four months ago. Last year, she ran Houston in the time of 1:14:29 – expect more from her in two weeks’ time.

In the 45-49 age-group watch, Vancouver’s Catherine Watkins compete for the age-group win in Houston. It’s been a few years, but in 2014, she ran a 1:16:48. With all of her Vancouver-area training partners setting new bests at the distance it may be time for her to update her best – or certainly set a formidable benchmark for 47-year-olds.

SHOESTRINGS: The Chevron Houston Marathon has Canadian Sasha Gollish and Kate Bazeley listed as running the 42.2K distance with Gollish apparently debuting and Bazeley, former Canadian marathon champion, coming in with a personal best of 2:40:49.

Toronto’s Gollish can do it all, earn a Ph.D. in engineering, race triathlon at the national level, win national U Sport Cross Country Championships in her mid-30s and race middle-distances on a whim and compete well. She is listed as debuting in the marathon, however, did start the 2018 Berlin Marathon and had a rough go with severe cramping making it to 31K before having to drop out.

Sasha Gollish winning 2017 U Sport Cross Country Championships in Victoria, BC at Beacon Hill Park. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall/Athletics Illustrated

Her range is inspiring, with a 2:02.90 800-metre best, 15:24.12 in the 5,000-metres and a half-marathon best of 1:11:05 from Indianapolis. It will be interesting to see what she can do in the marathon.

As usual, a collection of East African runners are listed as favourites for the money in each of the four races: women’s and men’s marathon and half-marathon.

Canadian Tristan Woodfine, who owns a best of 2:18:55, will toe the line in the marathon will Kip Kangogo and Rejean Chaisson. Also in the half-marathon are Reid Coolsaet, Evan Esselink, and Trevor Hofbauer – Canadian marathon champion – as well as Chris Balestrini and Kyle Wyatt.

Elite lists and information about the Chevron Houston Marathon is available, here>>