Community Natasha Wodak’s Endurance: Canada’s Fastest Marathoner Makes Peace with Our Sport

    Natasha Wodak’s Endurance: Canada’s Fastest Marathoner Makes Peace with Our Sport


    Even before the sun rose on Aug. 7, 2021 in Sapporo, Japan, the day of the Olympic women’s marathon, the heat and humidity was punishing. The course ran through near empty streets, with only a few locals breaking with the edict that all Japanese refrain from crowding the streets during a Games at the height of the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic. The sky was devoid of clouds, and the 88 athletes running down the city’s wide boulevards couldn’t escape the sun. Over 120 years of modern marathon running have proven that temperatures over 15 C transform the distance into a war of attrition and a mental game of survival. By 30K into the race in Sapporo, it was 30 C and the humidity was crushing each athlete like a wet vice grip. Commentators said it was perhaps the most difficult conditions ever for an Olympic marathon.

    The perfect day to contemplate quitting.

    Going into the race, Natasha Wodak was beginning to wonder if this would be her last professional race. Then 39, the Surrey, B.C. native could have been content capping a pro career at an increasingly uncertain time to make a living at distance running, and her legacy would have been cemented — a 2016 Olympic appearance in the 10,000m, multiple national records on the track and the roads, and, to cap it all off, a brief but competent final act as an Olympic marathoner. But something didn’t sit well with Wodak. It didn’t seem like enough. So, on a scorching hot day in Japan, she kept running.



    Young track athletes dream of one day running a marathon, and seem destined to eventually make the move up to the 42.195-kilometre race. For many of North America’s best runners, it’s a natural progression: from grade school phenom, to collegiate champion, then on to a pro, brand-sponsored training group along with an Olympics appearance or two on the track, with the third and final act running world-class marathons. Wodak was not one of those runners, initially. 

    “I was not a child running prodigy. I ran my first race with my dad,” Wodak says. “He was a bus driver, and we ran it for fun.” But the experience left an indelible mark, and she enjoyed the freedom of running, joining the school track team in Grade 5. Wodak became the standout track and cross-country runner in her school, but she never won a provincial championship and wasn’t demolishing her provincial competition. “My best finish was third at B.C. High Schools,” she recalls. But her effortless stride and tenacity led her gym teacher to contact Wodak with a cousin, who happened to be one of Canada’s all-time greatest distance runners, Lynn Kanuka.

    Kanuka, who won a bronze medal at the 1984 Olympics in the 3,000m, remembers the first time she heard about this kid named Natasha Wodak. “My cousin said, ‘Lynn, you won’t believe this girl I’ve got. She runs like the wind.” Kanuka became a mentor, encouraging Wodak to continue running so long as she enjoyed it, aware of the immense pressures of competing at a higher level. 

    Wodak was good enough by the end of high school to gain a U.S. scholarship at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, but only lasted three semesters. Homesick and uncertain about what she wanted, she returned home to Surrey. In 2001, she began taking classes at nearby Simon Fraser University, studying criminology and joined the team as a walk on. “I never won a title. I never made a national team,” she says. “I was still partying a lot, having fun.”

    After university, Wodak applied to become a police officer, but was deferred for two years. While she waited for a career opportunity, she became listless, searching for purpose and belonging, but never considered running more seriously, as she assumed that after college, if you didn’t make the Olympics, your running career was a non-starter.

    “I was lost, wondering, What do I want to do with my life?” 

    She began working as a server at a local restaurant, a job she would hold down for the next eight years. In late 2009, missing the structure and simple joy of running, she started showing up at SFU team practices. “I realized that I had unfinished business,” she says. “I could do more, and become good if I just committed myself to it.”

    Wodak continued to train with her old college coach Brit Townsend, joined a well respected local club, the Prairie Inn Harriers, and started competing in local races. She quickly emerged as a fierce competitor, winning the Vancouver Sun Run 10K, and translating her relentless approach to racing to two selections for national cross-country teams. 

    In January 2013, Wodak was extremely fit, and decided to run in her club’s local race, the Pioneer 8K. Wearing black tights and a long sleeve with the club’s black, red and white singlet overtop, Wodak appeared a runner possessed as she slashed through the barren roads on the outskirts of Victoria. She was so focused that she nearly missed breaking the tape. Her time of 25:28 was puzzlingly fast for those outside of the B.C. running scene. Even Wodak admits, looking back, that she was surprised by what she’d just unlocked. “I was like, Whoa, what is going on? I remember actually saying to myself, ‘What the fuck?’ when I saw the time as I crossed the finish line.” As the 8K isn’t a formal distance with known national records, it took some time before it was reported that Wodak had demolished the previous mark, and this led to a fledgling career as a distance runner.

    Wodak began to race more across the country, and with it came the pressure to perform, the near impossibility of balancing a full-time job with the workload of being an elite runner, while also in the midst of a painful divorce. Her running was winning her races, getting her attention on social media and generating extra income from small cash prizes, but the 32-year-old doubted herself as she watched her peers achieve a different set of milestones: hitting their stride with their careers, earning increasingly more money and putting down payments on houses in the Vancouver area. As she was ascending as a runner, Wodak began to feel as though the rest of her life was in free fall. 

    It was during this time that she also knew she had to make a move from her training environment at SFU. Wodak was running longer distances, and her college coach, Brit Townsend, was more of a middle distance specialist. At the time, the obvious fit was a move to coach Richard Lee and the B.C. Endurance Project (BCEP). On paper, the emerging powerhouse group seemed like the perfect fit: Lee had a reputation as a brilliant distance coach, and he had a stable of talented young athletes. Wodak slotted in, eager to prove her worth and commitment to her emerging career as a distance runner.

    She and Lee decided to up her weekly mileage and overall workload, focusing on the Toronto Waterfront Marathon that October for her debut at the distance. Although Wodak says her first year with BCEP was a positive experience, she began to fear that it was not the right group for her, philosophically. “The dynamic with BCEP was not fun,” Wodak says. Lee took a more restrained and less emotionally engaged or overtly positive approach, and Wodak noticed the team’s culture echoed this tone, ultimately becoming a negative, divisive environment. “It was weird vibes,” she says. “I suppose it became a toxic culture.” But Wodak continued to show improvement, and she kept being told that this group was the best fit, so she buried herself in her training, ignoring the mounting anxiety and discomfort she felt. 

    Her first marathon seemed like a success. She crossed the finish line 10th overall on a day when the Canadian national record was reset for the first time in 28 years at 2:28:00 by friend and occasional training partner Lanni Marchant. Wodak was visibly suffering as she crossed the finish line, and yet in a prophetic sign of things to come, she ran a near even second half to her opening 21.1K, showing an extraordinary patience and determination, two vital and rare traits found only in the finest marathoners. She clocked in at 2:35:16, promising. 

    “That first marathon was an experiment, and a brutal challenge,” she says. “I was friends with Lanni and motivated by what she was doing, but the way I approached training, I was just so tired. It didn’t feel right. And when I finished that marathon I was broken. That success and what I had to trade off in order to get it caught up to me the following year — and for a long while after that — physically and mentally.” 

    Wodak was struggling badly with severe plantar fasciitis. She was also suffering in silence mentally, becoming increasingly hard on herself as she continued to face setbacks. During this period, her relationship with her coach, Richard Lee, also became strained. Wodak was convinced the marathon was more than she could handle, and returned her focus to the 10,000m and shorter road races. 

    By the beginning of 2016, her relationship with Lee came to a crossroads. “Richard and I had serious conversations about me getting my shit together,” she says. “We never found a way to communicate.” 

    Wodak admits that after a year of chronic injuries and little mental support, she was in a profoundly dark place, quietly struggling with the uncertainty of what was in store. “In 2015 and even going into 2016, I was partying more than I should have,” she says. “I was single but injured, trying to have fun.”

    She managed to string together enough weeks of training in 2016 to make her first Olympic team in the 10,000m, a childhood dream, but the reality of the life of an elite track athlete in Canada didn’t match the childhood fantasy. “I wasn’t receiving funding from Athletics Canada, I was serving full time, and all my friends were having baby number two.” Wodak started to wonder if she would make it to another Games. She was 34, battling seemingly endless injuries, and four years seemed like a long time.

    Unreal Rio and the Olympic Games

    Wodak describes the actuality of standing on the track in the Olympic Stadium in Rio and then finding herself in the midst of what was supposed to be the race of her life as strange and surreal as an anxious dream. “Suddenly you realize that you’re there, and it’s happening,” she says, “But it’s not how you imagined it — then it’s done.” After the race, she found her parents and said, “I’m relieved it’s over,”  and began to cry.

    A month after the Olympics, one of Wodak’s high school teachers asked her to speak to a class about her experience as an Olympian. After she delivered a monologue about following one’s dreams and not giving up, a student asked a pointed question: ‘Was it worth it?’ Wodak hesitated. “Then I found myself saying, ‘I don’t know.’ I wasn’t sure if all the heartache and stress was worth it. And I can’t tell these kids the truth: I’m 34 at the time, I’m single, I’m living in a basement apartment with a roommate. You think making the Olympics is supposed to make me feel better about myself, but it didn’t — and running wasn’t filling that void.”

    After Rio, her modest contract with ASICS ended and the company opted not to renew. She was also injured, again. And then the bottom fell out of her structure as an athlete after one conversation with her coach. “Richard more or less said I was uncoachable,” she says.  

    Unsure what to do, Wodak contacted her longtime mentor, Lynn Kanuka. “I could tell that she wasn’t enjoying running,” Kanuka says. “I invited her over to talk. It was more about giving her guidance. She said, ‘Maybe I’m done.’” Kanuka said maybe she should approach running differently. “And Natasha blurts out, Why don’t you coach me?” Kanuka was taken aback, but accepted the challenge, cautioning her that this would be a lengthy process. “My goal was to find her a happy place again in running before we talked about goals,” says Kanuka of those first months in 2017. “She needed to love to run again. She forgot how to love it.”

    Wodak also met another person who would play a crucial role in her life. “A friend set me up on a blind date with this doctor,” she says of her first encounter with Dr. Alan Baggoo, an orthopedic surgeon in North Vancouver. Baggoo was also a passionate runner, and they became inseparable. “He was so kind from the beginning,” she says. “On one of our first dates he even offered to look at a MRI I had recently done.” Baggoo identified that she needed surgery, had osteoarthritis, with a bone fragment chipped off.

    Throughout 2017, Kanuka says she decided to take the pressure off and “just run free and easy,” with very mild workouts, including light fartleks and pickups. “We waited for her body to respond on its own terms,” Kanuka says, “and it did.” Kanuka created a relaxed environment. “We’d invite out Alan and I’d have a couple high school students I coached join us, and I would say to Natasha, “Just go out and run it, and when you’re fit you’ll run it well.’”

    During this rebuilding phase Wodak also began working to address her anxiety and periodic struggles with depression. “It can be hard for her to stop those negative thoughts from creeping in,” says Kanuka. “But if she approaches her relationship to running from a positive place and is able to enjoy what she’s doing, she can keep those voices at bay.” 

    Wodak represented Canada again at the 2017 World Championships in London, placing a respectable 16th in the 10,000m. She followed that in 2018 with a Commonwealth Games appearance in Australia. In 2019, Wodak dominated the Pan Am Games 10,000m, winning gold, and then later that year ran the World Championships in Doha, Qatar, placing 17th overall. Wodak had strung together a few consistent and meaningful years, accruing further international experience on the biggest stages, and she seemed destined for another shot at running an Olympic 10,000m final in Tokyo. In January 2020, she set a new Canadian half-marathon record, and seemed primed to run very fast that summer. Then came COVID-19.

    Wodak’s Marathon Project

    By August 2020, with no other racing opportunities, Wodak heard about the Marathon Project, a one-off event to be held in Arizona in December specifically for elite distance runners to have a shot at running an Olympic qualifying standard, in the hope that the Games would still proceed the following year. “I began to think, “It’s now or never,” says Wodak about the marathon. “At the time, it was actually plan B, and my intention was to eventually qualify for the 10,000m and focus on that instead.” 

    Wodak pitched the idea to Kanuka, and the two got to work on constructing a plan. Kanuka had never run a marathon, and Wodak had only previously run about 140K a week at her peak, far less than the typical elite marathoner. “ The first marathon she was hurt and not having fun, but still did well,” says Kanuka.

    We decided that the second marathon would be a different experience in every way.

    Wodak began offsetting her lower mileage starting point with several elliptical sessions a week. “We decided to make it a progression and not push it too hard all the time,” says Kanuka. “She’s got an intensity to her. There’s nothing you can’t ask her to do that she won’t try. The hardest thing was holding her back.”

    Wodak says she leaned heavily on her network of colleagues and friends in the running community: Lyndsay Tessier, who finished ninth at the 2019 World Championship marathon; Lanni Marchant, who doubled in the 10,000m and marathon at the 2016 Olympics; Krista DuChene, who ran the marathon in Rio at 39; and Dayna Pidhorsky, who had qualified for Tokyo in the fall of 2019. She also began training periodically with Malindi Elmore, whom Wodak had raced back in high school. Elmore went on to run the 1,500m at the 2004 Olympics, but like Wodak, took a multi-year hiatus from the sport before returning in her 30s. Elmore grabbed the second of three Olympic marathon spots just before the pandemic hit, running a Canadian record 2:24:50 in Houston at age 39.  

    As Wodak was running workout PBs and feeling confident, she began to realize that she was now a different sort of runner—perhaps the runner she’d always been destined to become. “I had done my time in the 10,000m,” she says. “I thought it would be cool to run the Olympic marathon. I was excited about what was to come. I felt really healthy — a new Natasha.”

    In Arizona at the Marathon Project, Wodak was one of the surprise performers, finishing in 2:26:19, and making it look relatively effortless. It qualified her for the Tokyo Olympics.

    The Quarantine Games

    Everything about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics was disorienting. For one, it took place in 2021, but the IOC insisted on continuing to refer to it as the 2020 Olympics. The marathon itself also did not take place in the host city, but was moved 1,150 kilometres north to Sapporo, in the hope that it would be cooler on race morning. It was not. There would be no fans allowed on course, creating a somber, post-apocalyptic mood. The Japanese government maintained extreme restrictions throughout the Games, including a 19-day quarantine for all athletes, who were expected to leave immediately after finishing their event. When Wodak arrived at the Canadian team hotel in Sapporo, she was tested and ushered up to her room, passing by a security guard stationed on her floor to ensure she and other athletes would not leave, save for a sanctioned daily run in the immediate area. Luckily, Malindi Elmore’s room was next door.

    “We set up my space as a viewing room, watching the Games on TV,” says Elmore. “We’re compatible — process oriented, patient, and both of us liked keeping things fun. We have a similar training and race day philosophy.”

    Wodak felt an added comfort knowing she was going to toe the line with Elmore, who she lovingly refers to as “Mamma Malindi,” even though they are less than two years apart in age. “We had trained together, and did a key session together and ran stride for stride about five weeks out,” says Wodak. ”The plan in Sapporo was we’d stay together for the first half, and then every woman for herself.”

    For the first 20K in Sapporo, both Wodak and Elmore ran with a large group of athletes carefully dolling out their effort. Then, Elmore made a move, and gapped Wodak at the halfway mark. “I could have panicked,” says Wodak, “but I stayed calm and maintained my pace, and by 25K I was passing people, too.” Elmore maintained her lead all the way to the finish line, coming in ninth overall, but Wodak was less than a minute behind in 2:31:41, placing 13th. Besides powerhouse Kenya (which won both gold and silver), Elmore and Wodak were the best performing duo in the race. “Natasha is one of the most feisty athletes I know,” says Elmore. “She can put herself in a deep, dark place and handle it, and that’s a rare ability.”

    In the end, Wodak and Elmore managed to make their way together to Tokyo, spending one evening in the Olympic Village before their abbreviated Games experience came to an end. Wodak was satisfied she’d not given up on herself during the most punishing moments late in the Sapporo race, and was still wondering if this would become her last run as a professional. “We were having sundaes and wine on our one night in the Olympic Village, and out of nowhere, Malindi looked at me and said, “So, Paris. Let’s go to Paris,” Wodak recalls, shocked by Elmore’s determined attitude. But this “why not us?” attitude resonated.

    Elmore says she’d picked up on Wodak’s somber mood that night. “At one point, I was thinking the same way as I sensed Natasha was going into Tokyo,” says Elmore. “The thought is, ‘Let’s gracefully move on from the sport.’ But why? We’re still running at our absolute best, still getting so much support. Why should we be defined by a number on our birth certificates? Last year, Sinead Diver ran 2:21 just shy of her 46th birthday. I don’t know what we’re capable of, so why impose these artificial barriers?”

    By the time Wodak finished her glass of wine in the Olympic Village, she started to see the next three years as an opportunity, not an end.

    An Opportunity to Run Faster

    Shortly after Tokyo, Kanuka broke the news to Wodak that she would be retiring. “When I first took her on I said that I can’t see further than the Tokyo Olympics,” says Kanuka. “This sport, which I love, has governed my life since I was 18. I wanted to experience other things. It wouldn’t have been fair to her.”

    Wodak and Kanuka began working on a succession plan, and one name immediately came to mind: Trent Stellingwerff. The noted exercise physiologist and coach had worked with Wodak and other marathoners in the past in his capacity at Athletics Canada, leveraging his research findings to prepare distance runners for various aspects of performance, including the heat of Doha and Tokyo.

    Stellingwerff immediately felt like “the right fit” as her coach when they got to in the fall of 2021. “Like Lynn, he allows a lot of input,” Wodak says. “Trent is a scientist, so I’ve been learning a lot. But he’s a feminist too, and he’s in touch with the mental side of running and life in general. We talk easily about emotions.”  

    Wodak’s twin goals for the three year gap between Games were to lower Elmore’s national record of 2:24:50, and then position herself to qualify for Paris. “It’s a massive jump when you’re at the pointy end of the performance curve,” says Stellingwerff of getting an athlete from 2:26 to 2:24 and beyond. “That said, Natasha is a diligent athlete and student of the sport. She showed up with a few years of training logs for me to pour over. Right away, we saw some rhythms in there and opportunities to make improvements. I’m constantly saying to athletes that a gap is a gift. It’s an opportunity to run faster.”

    Under Stellingwerff, Wodak has maintained her high volume of cross training, primarily on the elliptical. “She’s not running any more mileage than she did with Lynn,” says Stellingwerff, “but she’s doing 30-plus [kilometre] days that are bigger and emphasizing threshold half-marathon work on tired legs: a 2-hour to 2:20 workout, with the last portion at half-marathon pace.”

    And although Wodak now does most of her training on her own, she’s become a part of a loose network of world-beating athletes affiliated with Stellingwerff, including Gabriela DuBues-Stafford, who now lives and trains in Victoria. Wodak also reunited with ASICS in 2021, with the brand paying her a living wage and offering her what she describes as “the most support she’s ever received,” including a significant cash bonus if she could break the Canadian marathon record in the company’s super shoes.

    Wodak is also now taking each marathon as it comes, adopting Stellingwerff’s patient, methodical approach, even if she doesn’t achieve her primary goals. A case in point was the 2022 Boston Marathon, Wodak’s first marathon under his guidance. “Boston beat me up,” Wodak says with a laugh. She ran the first few kilometres in the large lead pack, along with Malindi Elmore. But Wodak faded to a 19th place finish. “You can fake an 800m on a bad day, but you can’t in a marathon,” says Stellingwerff. Wodak says her new approach to running and competing has allowed her to rebound quickly, physically and mentally. “As a veteran athlete, I didn’t sit and pout, and I’m proud of that.”

    Sleepless in Berlin

    Coming out of Boston, I told myself, ‘That was my shitty marathon,’” says Wodak. “I had been on and off birth control—one thing that was really important was getting off birth control.” So she and Stellingwerff made a number of adjustments and set the target as Berlin, the race that has facilitated more world and national records than any course in the world.

    Wodak did most of her training in the Glen Valley area of Langley, B.C. throughout the spring and summer of 2022. “ Everything was clicking,” says Wodak. “Lynn came out for a lot of sessions, and also I went to Victoria and trained with Trent. I felt surrounded by a great team and knew what I was doing.” 

    Wodak arrived eight days before the race in September of 2022, and occupied an AirBnb on her own. “I was so fit, and so nervous because I was so fit,” says Wodak. “It felt too good to be true.” 

    One other adjustment that Stellingwerff has made to Wodak’s approach is to practice everything in advance — eating three hours beforehand, having a race day temperature plan, preparing for jet lag, mimicking the course in training, rehearsing the pre-race and on-course fuelling, and having a detailed race plan. But the nine-hour time difference between B.C. and Berlin haunted Wodak for the week leading up to marathon Sunday. “I wasn’t sleeping. I was waking up super early — four-five in the morning.” But the day before the race several days of little sleep caught up to her.

    “I was racked with anxiety, crying,” she says. She put in a phone call to her friend, Lindsay Tessier, talking through the Berlin experience, and spent the day with Alan Baggoo, now her partner of many years and a source of stability, reassurance and unconditional love, who came to Berlin to support Wodak on her quest to break the Canadian record. That night, she was able to quiet her mind, remind herself of how happy, healthy and fit she was, and finally get a few hours of desperately needed sleep.

    On race day, Wodak methodically followed her well rehearsed plan. This included connecting with her pacer at the start line, an American living in Berlin named Tony Tomsich. He was tasked with navigating her through the chaotic beginnings of a Marathon Major so that they could settle into a controlled but very fast 2:24 pace. Wodak paid Thomas out of her own pocket to set her up for success: $800 to take her halfway in 1:12, and then a few hundred more if he could get her on time to the finish line. “It’s a strange relationship, running with a pacer,” she says. ”You have to place so much trust in this person you don’t really know. But I realized I had to trust him, as I had no other choice. Luckily, he was such a great pacer. I turned the auto pace on my watch off, and just went with every 5K split. At one point there were 10 guys hanging out with us, so clearly we were doing something right.”

    But Wodak was dealt another curveball when her bottles were not present at the first two tables, a crucial threat to a marathon run with such a razor thin margin for error in both pacing and fueling. “I took a Maurten for the first time ever in that race,” she says. “And I was like, “Hopefully I don’t shit my pants!” 

    At 25K, Wodak was feeling oddly energetic and relaxed, so she asked her pacer if he could increase their speed. By the time they hit 30K, Wodak knew she was running the race of her life. “We went 16:37 and 16:36 for my last two 5Ks. We were sprinting through the city of Berlin. It was so much fun. The marathon is so often about patience, patience, patience. But this was really fun.

    There are very few moments when you feel good in a marathon, feel like you’re flying. I will always treasure that moment.

    Wodak finished in 2:23:12, running the second half of the marathon over a minute faster than the first 21.1K — and lowering the Canadian record by one minute, thirty-eight seconds.

    From Budapest to Paris

    “After Berlin, I said on Twitter that she messed up my pace algorithm because she ran about 75 seconds faster than my outside prediction,” Stellingwerff says with a laugh. “I thought on a special day she could get to 2:24 low. I respect the beast that is the marathon perhaps a little too much. There’s a head attached to the body, and there’s a large emotional and confidence piece that plays a big role in performance. The link is way stronger than we currently know.” 

    After an illness derailed her plan to run London this past spring, Wodak had to be strategic in how she would approach the next 12 months in order to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympics, but also have the time to properly prepare for her end goal. So, she decided to run the World Athletics Championship marathon in Budapest this past August. If the weather were mild on race day, Wodak would have an opportunity to run a fast time with a world-class field, and possibly place high enough in the race to achieve auto-qualification for the Games. 

    Both Stellingwerff and Wodak felt she was in the shape of her life, perhaps capable of 2:22:30 in ideal conditions. But it was unusually hot and humid on the start line. “Budapest was a good day, just not my best day,” says Wodak, who finished 15th place in 2:30:09. “The bigger picture is that I went to World Championships, I was 15th in the world, I ran my race plan, I had an amazing experience, I had my family there, Alan there. I look back and I am grateful that I am healthy, gave it my all, and hopefully inspiring other women. I want to show young Canadian women that we’re going to fight for top 10, not just going to participate. I go to compete.”

    She now must run under the qualifying time of 2:26:50, and also be one of the three fastest Canadian women during the qualifying window. (Her Tokyo teammate and friend Malindi Elmore opted to skip the World Championships and qualified in Berlin instead.)

    It’s now all about Paris,” says Wodak, who says she’s leaning towards either running the Houston Marathon in January, or the Tokyo Marathon in March. “The majority of Canadian women will be running a marathon this fall,” Wodak points out. “By no means will I go out and try to run a Canadian record in 2024, but I still want to run a good time and be competitive, knowing I have to get under 2:26.”

    Wodak has started thinking about her future beyond Paris and has started working with a small group of athletes in a coaching capacity. “I coach seven women, aged 29 to 45. They are all running PBs. I text them workouts and training weekly,” she says of the fledgling group. “I think it will be what I do when I’m done competing. It comes down to surrounding yourself with the right people. Having goals, people you trust, a coach you trust and people that believe in you. We call ourselves Fierce Athletics.” 

    And what if Wodak doesn’t qualify for a third Games in 2024? Wodak was surprisingly positive about whatever the outcome may be. “If Paris doesn’t work out, I’ll go to Berlin and try to run a new Canadian record,” she says. “I won’t let it get me down. I’ve done so well in my career, and I can’t be disappointed in myself if I give it my all. Whatever happens, I’m looking forward to what’s next.”

    Top first, second, fourth and fifth photos by Todd Duncan. iRun photographs by Peter Power. Race photos by Victah Sailor for the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend. Other photographs courtesy of Natasha Wodak.