By Paul Gains
Natasha Wodak’s first race after surgery on her foot three months ago proved successful as the 35 year old Canadian Olympian handily won the Race Roster Spring Run-Off 8k in Toronto’s High Park.
More than 3,500 runners were led to the start line by piper Duncan McIntyre, a tradition since the race’s inception 40 years ago, but Wodak was never challenged. This edition launched the 2017 Canada Running Series.
With a cold wind blowing across the hilly course, Wodak, the Canadian record holder at 10,000m on the track (31:41.59) and at 8km (25:28) on the roads, tucked in behind a few of the male runners early on until she dropped them one by one. She crossed the line with a smile while flashing ‘V’ for victory signs. Her winning time was 27:55.
“I figured I was capable of running about 27:45 to 28:00,” the Vancouver resident said afterwards. “I thought that would be really painful for me at this point. But I felt really strong and it felt more like a tempo run than anything, So I am really pleased with where I am at considering it has been such a short time since I have been back running since my surgery. It’s good. I am excited for the spring”
“Everybody told me it was super hilly but with the uphills come the nice down hills so it evens out. It was a beautiful course and I had lots of guys out there to talk to and complain about the hills and stuff. I thought it was a great course. Lots of fun.”
Wodak earned $1,500 for the victory which will come in especially handy since her contract with Asics ended following the Rio Olympics Games. Next on her schedule is the Vancouver Sun Run, a race she has won on two previous occasions. A fall marathon is also in the cards.
“I still have two weeks of training until the Sun Run so I can get in little bit better shape,” she continued. “This was a good opportunity to get back racing and hurt a bit. You can train all you want but races are only going to give you that certain hurt that you need. I am excited.”
Following the race the good natured athlete joined in with the children’s 800m race saying “Those kids run fast.”
Second place in the women’s division went to 45 year old Lioudmila Kortchaguina in 28:45. The Russian born master’s competitor represented Canada at the 2007 IAAF World Championships in Osaka and sports a best marathon time of 2:29:42
There was little surprise in the men’s race as Tristan Woodfine of Speed River Track Club crossed the finish line first as expected. But what the mass of spectators near the finish area could not have known was drama played out on the back end of the course during the first 2 kilometres. Woodfine had a technical issue.
“I was leading but my shoe came untied so I had to stop and pull over and retie,” he said with a laugh. “I was worried it would come off. A few of the guys passed me so I then had to work hard to catch up again.
Woodfine led through the half way 4km point (12:08) with Sergio Raez Villanueva a couple of seconds behind.
“Probably around the 4km mark he actually caught up with me and we ran together from 6km until 7km then I put in a surge,” he revealed. “I could always hear him behind me. So I knew he was right there and it kept me honest.”
Woodfine’s winning time was 24:15 while Raez Villanueva was timed in 24:29. Kevin Tree took third in 24:59.
“I am very happy,” Woodfine said later. “It’s a hilly course, a tough course, so I wasn’t too concerned about a fast time. It was just go out and see where that leads me. It was a successful race. It was my first time here.”
Proceeds from the Race Roster Spring Run Off 8km go to the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.
The next race in the Canada Running Series will be the Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal on April 23rd.
Complete results and photos: