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After some very fast recent marathons in Valencia, Dubai and Xiamen, World Athletics is getting perilously close to filling its 80-athlete limit for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. For athletes wanting to compete in Paris, they need to squeeze into the top 80 globally, men and women, respectively. Additionally, being faster than the standard will matter.

The standards are 2:26:50 for the women and 2:08:10 for the men.

For Canada’s Natasha Wodak, Sunday, January 14 is all about just running faster than the standard — it is her only mission. It is something she has already done a couple of times. She currently holds the Canadian record which she set in 2022 at the Berlin Marathon with her 2:23:12 performance. Her first big marathon performance came in 2020 at the Covid-spawned Marathon Project in Chandler, AZ, where she punched her ticket to Tokyo with a 2:26:19 finish.

The veteran has run internationally for over 20 years including multiple World Athletics Cross Country Championships, Tokyo Olympic Games and Budapest World Athletics Championships.

“I have one goal: run the Paris Olympic Games marathon standard,” shared Wodak.

For the women, the 80th spot is held by Agnes Keino of Kenya. She ran 2:24:55 at the Vienna City Marathon in Wien, Austria in April 2023. A maximum of three male and three female athletes per country may be chosen. For the men, the 80th spot is currently taken up by Eritrean Tesfay Henok who ran 2:07:55 at the Volkswagen Ljubljana Marathon in Ljubljana, Slovenia on Oct. 22, 2023.

Top-seeded women for Houston

Vicoty Chepngeno of Kenya is very much a threat in the marathon even though it is her debut over the distance. Last year, she ran 1:05:03 in Houston for a half-marathon personal best and a new course record. It is a very competitive international time. Athletes are now debuting faster than ever over the 42.195K distance. According to her half-marathon best, she could well run below sub-2:20 and perhaps toward 2:16.

Bosena Mulatie of Ethiopia is pretty much just as good, having clocked a 1:05:46 in Feb. 2022 at the Ras Al Khaimah event in the United Arab Emirates.

But Wodak is not necessarily racing Houston, but going for the standard.

Course records for Houston

Men’s Marathon – 2:06:51 (Tariku Jufar, 2012)
Women’s Marathon – 2:19:12 (Keira D’Amato, 2022)

Men’s Half Marathon – 59:22 (Feyisa Lilesa, 2012)
Women’s Half Marathon – 1:05:03* (Vicoty Chepngeno, 2022)

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