Natasha Wodak, two-time Olympian, is one of Canada’s favourite runners. The current marathon record time holder at 2:23:12, Wodak is again seeking to come under the Olympic Standard time of 2:26:50 to compete in her third Olympic Games. In January, she laced up in Houston and finished at 2:28:42, a result she called “frustrating and heartbreaking,” and blamed, in part, on tight hamstrings and a right calf cramp. Today, Wodak announces her next race will be the Hamburg Marathon on April 28. Wodak, 42, still wants to race—and fight—at the 2024 Olympic Games.
iRun: Love, love, love hearing you going again for the Olympic Standard again. Obviously you didn’t script it this way but is there a way you can frame this as fun?
Natasha Wodak: Well, it’s always a privilege to get to do this running thing! The first part of getting back into shape after a marathon is not fun. I have osteitis pubis which flares up after marathons and time off. So the first month of running is usually pretty painful. But thankfully it gets better and then I enjoy training again. I always love marathon builds so it’ll be fun doing another one this spring!
iRun: That’s such a cool perspective. Your journey (all of our journeys) is so unexpected— can you enjoy the ride?
NW: I always say “if you aren’t enjoying the process—something needs to change.” This marathon build will definitely be challenging as it’s pretty rushed after my last marathon. We are gonna keep some shorter races in there to make sure I am still “having fun” (I love racing!) Once the weather gets nicer and fitness comes around again, there’s nothing I love more then nailing a marathon session with friends out in Glen Valley.
iRun: How long after Houston did you decide you’d be back in the saddle again, and what helped you make that decision?
NW: 2 days, lol. I was emailing spring marathons on day 3. . .
iRun: So dope. You’re running’s Rocky Balboa.
NW: I know I can run the standard. I have already—twice. I need to see this through! And I am not a quitter, so even though i know it’s gonna be really hard—I am willing to go for it!
iRun: Why Hamburg?
NW: It fit well in the timeline (April 28). They have a pace group with 3 pacers going for Olympic standard. And I have good luck in Germany [see below, where Wodak set the Canadian record in Berlin in 2022].
iRun: Let’s get into Houston. Pros and cons from that race?
NW: Cons: I did not run the Standard and my body felt like shit. Pros: I did not give up and fought to the end.
iRun: Minus the Standard thing, that’s something else all runners will be able to relate to—even when it’s an off day, fighting to the end is something transferable. Do you know, in Houston, what activated your hamstrings, or what caused you to cramp? Will this training block see anything change?
NW: I went into Houston with a minor hamstring strain. We thought the taper would fix it but it was still lingering a bit. It was fine until 25K. At that point both hamstrings felt achy and tight. Around 30K my right calf got painful. We think that was from compensating from the painful hammies. I am working on a more consistent/frequent strength routine, which we think will help with the hamstring issues.
iRun: Between recovery and training to race again, you must have coach Trent Stellingwerff and everyone else on your team working hard to figure out the best program. Are you already running hard again or how will it work?
NW: We are easing back into things. Week 1 was no running. Week 2 was 45K of just easy running. Week 3 was 81kK with 2 small fartleks. I’m in week 4 post-marathon now (and 12 weeks out from Hamburg) and we will probably run 100-110 km with 2 Fartleks and a Long Run. The actual “marathon build” will likely not start for a few more weeks (so a 9-10 week build).
iRun: Broken down like that it makes sense, so that’s the physical. But how will you keep nerves at bay at that German start line?
NW: There’s other Canadians racing as well. So having familiar faces there will be nice and calming.
iRun: Talk directly to Canadian fans and those rooting for you—what should they know about where you’re at today in your journey?
NW: It’s not easy getting back into shape. I am trying not to panic that I don’t have enough time. BUT then I remind myself to trust the process: Be patient, stick to the plan, and the fitness will come back quickly! One day at a time.