One hundred and twenty hours of running over the past 10 weeks, along with 10 physiotherapy appointments and 22 weight training sessions, paid off big for Malindi Elmore on Sunday.
The 43-year-old from Kelowna, British Columbia, met the qualifying standard for next summer’s women’s Olympic marathon in Paris, finishing 13th among female participants in the Berlin Marathon in two hours, 23 minutes and 30 seconds .
“The key to success is healthy and consistent training accompanied by solid recovery, some long [and] work with bits of speed. And always gratitude for all the help and support along the way,” she wrote in an August 13 Instagram post.
Elmore, a two-time Olympian, shaved 80 seconds off her previous mark of 2:24:50 to win the Masters women’s (40 and over) title and finished 11 minutes ahead of her closest competitor.
“Making an Olympic qualifier and personal best today meant a lot to me, especially since my dad was there for his birthday too,” Elmore told Kelowna-based castanet.net. “I loved running through Berlin because the crowds and applause were incredible.”
Elmore owns the second-fastest time in history by a Canadian woman, behind only her good friend Natasha Wodak, the Vancouver resident who broke the former’s national record in Berlin on September 25 with 2:23:12.
“A really beautiful race,” Wodak wrote on X in response to a comment from Elmore’s husband and trainer, Graham Hood. “Only 18 seconds off my Canadian record. It made me sweat [monitoring the tracker] At 2:30 am hahaha when I was flying through the streets of Berlin.”
Canada can qualify up to three athletes in the women’s Paris Marathon, with the qualification window open until April 30. If more than three run under the 2:26:50 standard, Athletics Canada and the Canadian Olympic Committee will decide which athletes will be named to the team. If fewer than three Canadian marathoners meet the standard, an athlete could compete in the Olympic Games based on her world ranking within the qualification period.
Meanwhile, the women’s world record fell on Sunday, with Ethiopia’s Tigist Assefa beating the 2:14:04 set by Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei at the 2019 Chicago Marathon by more than minutes at 2:11:53.
The Berlin circuit is a favorite for racers chasing world records due to its flat terrain and cool climate. There have been a succession of men’s record falls over the past two decades, but Assefa was the first to break the women’s world record in the German capital since 2001.
Elmore covered the first half of Sunday’s 42.2 kilometer race in 1:11:50, reached 30 km at a pace of 2:23:31 and stayed there 10 km later.
“[I] I executed it perfectly with almost identical splits. [1:11:50 /1:11:40) for my two halves,” she said. “I stayed patient and relaxed and then did my best in the last 10 km to run people down.”
Reinvented herself as marathoner in 2019
In August 2021, Elmore placed ninth in the women’s Olympic marathon, overcoming the scorching heat in Sapporo, Japan to finish in 2:30:59. It was the best Olympic marathon finish by a Canadian woman in a non-boycott Games and nine years after the former triathlete left the track.
Elmore made her Olympic debut in 2004 and was 37th in Athens. She retired from professional running in 2012, only to return seven years later after reinventing herself as a marathon runner. In January 2020, she set the Canadian record in her second race, clocking 2:24:50 in Houston to clinch her spot on the Olympic team for Tokyo.
I think I’m in a good place to have a really strong next two years of being fit and healthy, [with] the ultimate goal of [competing in] Paris.—Malindi Elmore in October 2022 about the 2024 Olympics
Berlin was the third marathon last year for the mother of two.
Last October, Elmore was the first elite Canadian woman to finish at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2:25:14, fourth place overall in her Canadian marathon debut.
“Why should I stop now? I still enjoy running and I still feel like I’m getting better,” Elmore told CBC Sports before the Toronto event. “I think I’m in a good place to have a really strong next two years, being fit and healthy, and Toronto is kind of a cornerstone for the ultimate goal of [competing in] Paris.”
Earlier this year, Elmore earned top Canadian honors by placing second at the Ottawa Marathon, clocking 2:27:45 behind Ethiopia’s Waganesh Mekasha (2:24:47.1), but above the Olympic entry standard .
On August 17, the Berlin Marathon was far from Elmore’s mind. After a night of dinner, smoke filled the sky as the McDougall Creek wildfire, which had raged for days in the backcountry, approached the urban interface in West Kelowna, she wrote on Instagram.
Embers rumored to have traveled several kilometers across Okanagan Lake, Hood, the former Canadian record holder in the men’s 1,500 metres, packed some belongings into their cars as they prepared to evacuate their home with their two children.
“The next two days were agony as not only was our neighborhood under siege, but the fire decimated western Kelowna and spread north through Kelowna and Lake Country,” Elmore wrote. “We were surrounded and very concerned about everyone, the people, the pets, the structures, the wildlife, the infrastructure and the long-term damage to the city. There were a lot of tears.
“We are very grateful to the fire crews and RCMP who saved people and homes. [including ours and our neighbours] Working tirelessly for 48 hours while the weather played against them.”