© Copyright – 2013 – Athletics Illustrated

TC10K-Natasha-Wodak-FraserLast week it was announced that Vancouver’s Natasha Wodak, who has been on a tear during the recent year-and-a-half, will be competing in her first marathon. Her debut will happen at the 2013 Toronto Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon on October 20th. “I started preparing for Toronto about three weeks ago.  I’ve been building my mileage since then,” said the thirty-one-year-old. “My training has changed quite a bit with a new distance and new coach.  I’m doing a lot more running!”

Wodak was previously coached by Simon Fraser University coach, Brit Townsend. According to Wodak, it made sense to move to an experienced marathon-specific coach in Richard Lee. Lee is at least partially responsible for Dylan Wykes’ excellent marathon performances over the past two years. Wykes owns Canada’s leading marathon time of 2:10:47 and competed in the 2012 London Olympic Games Marathon. “I’ve also been in the pool quite a bit doing pool running.  The harder workouts are very different than what I was doing before.  There are more reps and less rest between each.  I am enjoying the training very much,” said Wodak.

For Wodak, who began to perform at a whole new level during the 2012 cross-country season, her graduation to the marathon seems a natural progression. In October 2012, she won the provincial cross-country championships in Abbotsford, BC. She carried that performance over to a top-three finish at the national cross-country championships on November 24th, where she finished just 16 seconds behind champion Megan Brown and nine seconds behind Kate Harrison. Harrison and Brown run for Athletics Toronto. Both events were held near her home town (Port Moody at the time) in Greater Vancouver.

Wodak parlayed her new level of fitness to the international stage by winning the North American, Central American and Caribbean Cross Country Championships (NACAC) in Jamaica, helping Team Canada to a gold medal team finish. Her rise continued to the world stage where on March 24, 2013 in Bydgoszcz, Poland, she ran well at the 2013 IAAF World Cross Country Championships finishing 24th; along with training partner Rachel Cliff, leading Team Canada to a strong, eighth overall placing. In each of the cross-country championships, training partner Rachel Cliff finished one position behind Wodak at Worlds, they finished together with identical times of 25:30 over the 8k course.

Wodak demonstrated versatility by racing well on the track. In late August 2012, she won the BC 10000 metre championships in Victoria, BC, finishing in the time of 33:44.10. When competing at the Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational on April 28th 2013 she ran faster yet again, against a competitive field and finished in the time of 33:09. In early April, she raced the Mt. Sac Relays and finished the 5000m event in 16:00 after having led for most of the way. She expected more at that time and later vindicated herself by transitioning her successes from track and cross-country to the roads.

Before her self-described sub-par performance at Mt. Sac, Wodak, on January 8th shocked the running community by winning the Pioneer 8k road race in Victoria, breaking the course record and running to a Canadian record time of 25:28. She wasn’t finished there, as she defended her Vancouver Sun Run title with yet another improvement and a time that was again indicative of her Pioneer 8k performance, by running 32:42, proving she has range as well as versatility, by racing in a dominant fashion in three disciplines, cross-country, track and road.

The Toronto Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon as well as the Tamarak Ottawa Marathon are two Canadian races that Athletics Canada takes seriously in regards to Canadians hoping to qualify for international competition, for events such as the IAAF World Track and Field Championships, Commonwealth and Pan American Games and ultimately the Olympics.

The current Canadian Marathon record of 2:28:36 is held by Silvia Ruegger. Her time was set in Houston, Texas nearly 30 years ago, in 1985, on a fast course. For Wodak, it is unlikely that during her first marathon she will take Ruegger’s Canadian record, but she may exceed her own expectations. When asked about her plans for Toronto, she said, “My goal is to run 2:35 in Toronto.”

The McMillan Calculator indicates that her 2013 Vancouver Sun Run performance of 32:42 points to a 2:33 finish time. Her Pioneer 8k result of 25:28 translates to a marathon finish of 2:30:35.

Two of Canada’s top marathon runners, Lanni Marchant of London, Ontario and Krista Duchene of Brantford, Ontario, will be competing in the 2013 IAAF World Track and Field Championships that take place in Moscow, Russia.  Marchant and DuChene both earned spots on Team Canada when they ran the 2012 Rotterdam Marathon in 2:31:51 and 2:32:06, respectively.  Although the Toronto race could have offered a very exciting three-woman all-Canadian race. Wodak at least has a good opportunity to take home a financial reward as Toronto offers Canadian as well as international prize money. And this is also an opportunity to establish herself an excellent marathon runner.

Worlds start August 10th and run to the 18th.