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Updated: 12/31/2021 11:53 AM

The Prairie Inn Harriers Running Club is hosting the 43rd annual Pioneer 8K on Sunday, January 9, just outside of Victoria, BC in North Saanich. The Island Race Series event is expected to attract 500 to 700 runners who will compete over the flat and fast rural race. The latest winners were Vancouver’s James Lam and North Vancouver’s Natasha Wodak.

Start of the Pioneer 8K. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall/Athletics Illustrated

The two won in 2020, during the latest running of the event, 2021 was cancelled due to the pandemic.

It was Lam’s first win at the event. The Trinity Western University Spartan alum clocked a 24:23 finish time. Wodak owns the most wins as well as the course record at 25:28 from 2013. This is also the all-time fastest road 8K by a Canadian. Some years the race acts as the provincial 8K road championships.

Wodak, a 2016 Rio and 2020 Tokyo Olympian had a very strong race in 2020. She won for the seventh time with a 25:55 result – her second-best Pioneer 8K. Wodak has run sub-26 at least three times. She is the former national 10,000-metre and half-marathon record holder and has run the second-fastest Canadian marathon all-time. The Olympian and cross-country phenom turned 40 in December and will likely go after some national masters records. Her wins came in 2010, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2019, and 2020.

The men’s course record stands at 22:58 by Canadian Olympian Carey Nelson from 1985 on a different course.

The race typically attracts some of Western Canada’s best athletes including three-time Olympian and former British record holder in the 10,000m, Jon Brown, two-time Olympian Lucas Bruchet, as well as top age-group athletes from the Island and Greater Vancouver.

In 2020, North Vancouver’s Natalia Hawthorn finished in second place in her first-ever 8K. She sometimes trains with Wodak. Hawthorn had a big 2021 and will look to continue to improve. The 26-year-old ran at least five new personal bests over the past two years including the Pioneer 8K in 26:49, the 800m distance in 2:02.35, 1500m 4:04.20, 5000m in 15:05.91, and road 10K in 32:38. Hawthorn also covered other road distances in new personal best times, however, she was relegated to race in pandemic-forced virtual events.

Hawthorn expects to be back, while Wodak was non-committal at press time. However, Sarah Inglis is a possible entrant. She is currently fit, therefore could challenge Wodak’s record time. Inglis won the Royal Victoria 8K in Oct. in a new personal best time of 25:35. Inglis, who works as a school teacher and trains in Langley, BC (Greater Vancouver) competes internationally for Scotland. Her local club is the Langley Mustangs Endurance Group.

“We’ll see what happens, I’m excited to get back racing and have some fun,” shared Hawthorn. “I’ve got a solid base right now and excited to see how that translates to an 8K road race.”

Lam is unavailable due to injury, so will not be trying to defend his 2020 title.

Thomas Broatch a UBC Thunderbird alum with a 14:18 5000m personal best, set in 2021, will toe the line and is currently, the fastest seed.

The Pioneer 8K is the first of six races in the Island Race Series for 2022. Typically there are eight. The others include Comox Valley Half Marathon, Hatley Castle 8K, Cobble Hill 10K, Bazan Bay 5K and Sooke 10K.

Results and information are available here>>

Read stories and see video footage and interviews from previous Pioneer 8Ks here>>

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