© Copyright – 2017 – Athletics Illustrated

The 33rd annual Vancouver Sun Run happening on Sunday, April 23 will see a strong mix of Canadian and international talent toe-the-line. The athletes will be looking to take a crack at some of the prize purse as well as make haste on the fast course – especially the first kilometre, which offers a big downhill start.

Natasha Wodak. Pioneer 8K, Victoria, BC. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall.

Approximately 40,000 participants will follow in the footsteps of some fast women, which includes a handful of Olympians and national record holders.

The top two Canadian runners are both from Vancouver in Rachel Cliff and Natasha Wodak. They are very familiar with each other having trained and raced together for several years on the tracks, cross-country courses and roads, both locally and around the world.

Cliff and Wodak have competed together for Team Canada at the NACAC Cross Country Championships and the IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

Wodak holds the national record for the 10,000-metre distance with her best from the 2015 Payton Jordan Invitational in Palo Alto, CA, where she finished in the time of 31:41.49. She also owns the 8K road record from 2013, set in Victoria, BC, where she ran the Pioneer 8K in 25:28.

She competed in the 2015 IAAF World Track and Field Championships that took place in Beijing as well as the 2016 Rio Olympics.

In 2016, Cliff moved from specialising exclusively in the 5,000-metre distance and added the 10K to her portfolio. In June of 2016, she set a 10,000m best of 32:21.98 and then added a new personal best in the half-marathon in March of this year, running in the New York City Half Marathon. She finished in 1:12:07.

Rachel Cliff
Rachel Cliff at Canadian Championships. Photo credit: Christopher Kelsall.

She has competed in the 2007 and 2015 IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

Wodak and Cliff are two fast runners, but they will have their hands full with Polish competitor Karolina Jarzynska, who currently calls Colorado Springs, CO home.

Jarzynska took some time off in 2015 to have a baby and it had been a few years since she had set any standards that looked like she would be a threat in 2017, until March 19 of this year, where she ran an impressive half-marathon performance of 1:09:54 at home in Poznan, Poland. With this race, she set two new national records in the 20K (1:06:08) and the 21.1K.

This performance suggests a sub-31:50 time on the track and 32:10 on the roads. The Sun Run can be a fast course if run with the right tactics. Jarzynska may be a serious threat.

She already owns the national 10,000m record of 31:43.21 from 2013, less than two seconds off of Wodak’s best.

The top Kenyan athlete is Jane Murage, who has familiarised herself well with the west coast, winning the TC10K in Victoria for four consecutive years. She is also the defending Vancouver and Victoria Half Marathon champion.

She has a Sun Run best of 33:17 and was a third-place finisher in 2015 and 2016.

Other strong contenders for the top positions are Lindsay Carson who has lived for several years in Whitehorse, YK. She is now in Burnaby (Vancouver) and perhaps has taken advantage of more specific training on the bare roads throughout the winter. She has a 33:47 best performance and a second-place finish in the Sun Run.

Emily Setlack is in a similar position, living in Cold Lake, AB. She has run nearly as fast with a Sun Run best of 34:02 from 2016, which placed her fifth overall.  She outright won the 2016 NACAC 10K Championships in Guadalupe, in hot conditions.

Hilary Stellingwerff at GoodLife Fitness Victoria Half Marathon. Photo Credit: Christopher Kelsall

There is no telling what Hilary Stellingwerff will be able to pull off. She is a two-time Olympian specialising in the 1500m distance. She has retired from the track but plans to race well on the roads. She has run 5K as fast as 16:26, 8K in 27:51 and the half-marathon in 1:16:00, and did not train specifically for any of those events.

“I’ve always wanted to run the Sun Run, but it’s never fit into my spring schedule until now. Road racing, especially over 10K, is so new to me that I don’t really know what to expect,” shared Stellingwerff. “I’m just looking forward to running hard at a relatively new distance (I’ve probably only run three road 10Ks) and mixing it up in what will no doubt be a very competitive field. Although I’ve retired from the track, I still find a lot of satisfaction in testing my physical and mental limits in running, so this is a great way to continue.”

Other strong athletes include Langley, BC’s Lisa Brooking (33:37), Kinsey Gomez (34:03) of Moscow, ID, Victoria Coates of Kingston, ON and Vancouver’s Catherine Watkins, who will likely finish as the first master (40-plus).

“I’m excited to toe the line for this year’s Sun Run. Although my training is not where I would like it to be due to me battling a virus the past couple of weeks, I am looking forward to running hard and seeing what I can do,” said Watkins. “The Sun Run is one of those races where even when I am not at my fittest, I can often still put together a good race. I hope to defend my masters title again this year,”

As for Brooking, she simply loves the race atmosphere.

“I absolutely love the Sun Run! The pure volume of people that participate is truly remarkable and is something I encourage everyone to participate in.”

Brooking is a registered nurse who completed her masters program while at Trinity Western University this year, helping the Spartans to top finishes in the national U Sport championships in cross-country and outdoor track.

“I also enjoy that it’s an event that encompasses all fitness levels and embraces a team approach. Many of my fellow ICU nurses and Trinity teammates are participating, which is fabulous!”

“As for the elite field, I expect nothing but the best to be toeing the line this Sunday. Last year, I had a surprising one-minute PB and 8th place finish after recovering from an illness I acquired at Pan Am XC In Venezuela. Since then, I am grateful to be healthy and running strong.”

Brooking not only helped the Spartans in U Sport (formerly CIS), she competed in the NACAC cross country championships helping Team Canada win gold. She went on to help Team Canada finish ninth in the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Uganda. in March.

“All of this success could not have happened without my bombsquad teammates and coach, Mark Bomba who had helped me uncover my potential,” added Brooking.

She hopes to run another personal best, which should help to make the women’s race finish very exciting.

The 33rd annual Vancouver Sun Run takes place Sunday, April 23 in downtown Vancouver. It is one of the biggest 10K road races in the world and the largest in Canada with over 40,000 finishers expected.

The Sun Run course offers a first km downhill start, then is flat for the first mile. The course is gently rolling thereafter, with the only significant rise as a short, steep hill at 5K to the Burrard Bridge.

See men’s story here>>

Details can be found here>>

Lisa Brooking


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