Two Canadians hit the Olympic standard at the Marathon Project
A contingent of Canadian runners had a successful day in Arizona at the Marathon Project, a 100-person race, this past weekend with two runners hitting the Olympic mark and making their way onto a growing list of Olympic hopefuls.
On the women's side, Natasha Wodak ran a sizzling 2:26:19, good enough for a fifth-place finish in the event, which was won by American distance runner Sara Hall in 2:20:32
Wodak's mark gets her the Canadian Olympic standard and puts her third on the list of potential marathon candidates for the Tokyo Olympic Games in May 2021.
Dayna Pidhoresky won the Olympic Trials back in the fall of 2019 at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon while Malindi Elmore broke the Canadian marathon record running 2:24:50 in Houston last January.
Rachel Cliff ran 2:26:56 in Japan in 2019, but a nagging injury and a COVID-19 pandemic have prevented her from running this year.
Wodak, 39, also a top Canadian runner at the 10,000-metre distance, posted a message on Instagram following the race, and said "Getting to the start line of a marathon healthy & fit- knowing you’ve done everything you can to prepare - is an accomplishment in itself. Feeling really happy & excited about the marathon build I was able to put together with the amazing support from some very special people."
On the men's side, Ben Preisner was the top Canuck finishing at 2:10:17 placing him seventh overall in the race, which was won by American Marty Hehir in 2:08:59.
Preisner was making his marathon debut, and hit the fourth fastest men's marathon in Canadian history at 2:10:17, and, more importantly, hit the Canadian Olympic standard.
"In terms of race execution and the time I achieved, it is definitely up there in terms of career highlights," Preisner told CBC Sports following the race.
"I trusted the training we [had] done and didn't feel the need to be right in the middle of the front group," he said. "Staying slightly behind the main pack, but within striking distance, through [32 km] allowed me to focus only on myself and keep mentally focused. I believe the consistency I maintained helped tremendously in the last 10K."
The time puts Preisner at number two on the Olympic depth chart behind Trevor Hofbauer who won the Olympic Trials in 2019 and ahead of Tristan Woodfine who ran a 2:10:51 in London this past fall.
There are up to three spots available for men's and women's marathons on the Canadian Olympic team for Tokyo but runners will not be number until next spring. Only those who won the Olympic Trials in 2019 are assured of a place on the team.
Canadians Kinsey Middleton, Justin Kent, Cam Levins, and Rory Linkletter also competed in the Marathon Project.