This is Race Results Weekly’s second article on TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon, and we use it with permission.
AGELESS ELMORE TO TRY FOR FIRST CANADIAN MARATHON TITLE ON SUNDAY IN TORONTO
By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2022 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission.
TORONTO (15-Oct) — In 2003, Malindi Elmore ran her last race as a collegiate athlete for Stanford University. She finished eighth at the NCAA Division I Track & Field Championships in Sacramento, Calif., in a field of 12 women, clocking a then personal best 4:11.78, and was part of Stanford’s winning women’s team. She went on to have a great career as a middle-distance runner, getting her 1500m time down to 4:02.64, competing in the 2004 Athens Olympics, and winning the Canadian 1500m title four times before moving on to a career in triathlon.
Now more than 19 years later, she is the only one of those 12 women from that 2003 NCAA final who is still competing in athletics, and at 42 years old is arguably competing better than ever. She hasn’t run a 1500m in ten years, but Elmore’s third act as a marathoner might just be better than her first. In January 2020, at the Chevron Houston Marathon –just before the pandemic shutdown– she lowered the Athletics Canada marathon record to 2:24:50 and qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. Everyone was surprised except for Elmore.
“Everything has been kind of pointing in that direction the last few months of training,” Elmore told Race Results Weekly that day. She continued: “We really locked into that pace.”
At the 2021 Olympic Marathon in Sapporo, Elmore finished ninth in 2:30:59. She was not only the top Canadian on that day but the first woman over 40. At 41, she was Canada’s top marathoner and has enjoyed being the national record holder for over two and a half years.
But 20 days ago in Berlin, Natasha Wodak –another over-40 athlete with a track pedigree– bettered Elmore’s national record, lowering it to 2:23:12 and improving her personal best by more than three minutes. Elmore has had some time to reflect on Wodak’s achievement and said yesterday that getting her record back was not her main motivation for tomorrow’s TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon, which is hosting the Athletics Canada Marathon Championships.
“My focus is to come here to race,” Elmore said at a press conference yesterday. She continued: “I’m not a big chase-times kind of person. Sometimes it’s inevitable with Olympic standards, but that’s not what excites me about running. I love to get out there and see how well I can do against the field, great Canadians, and international athletes. Times follow racing, is my perspective.”
Elmore, who has two sons with her husband and coach Graham Hood (himself a two-time Olympian), has carved out a balanced life in Kelowna, B.C., where she is the head cross country coach at the University of British Columbia – Okanagan. Being an athlete, coach and parent gives her a vastly broader perspective than she had more than 20 years ago when her athletics career began.
“I never expected to be here,” Elmore told Race Results Weekly yesterday in an interview. “A few years ago, when I saw you in Houston after I ran, that was mind-boggling that we were putting the Olympics back on the table as a real possibility. She added: “Looking back 20 years ago when I was, like, doing tempo runs, I was an eight/fifteen runner, and there was no way I wanted to do long runs and the mileage. How things have changed for me. It’s just another reminder that sometimes you just follow the path, take what’s exciting as it comes, and not always plan and have these big goals.”
When asked what has contributed most to her longevity, Elmore said that taking breaks and having balance in her life was key.
“I took some breaks, some natural breaks, along the way,” Elmore explained. “It wasn’t just training hard for the last 20, 30 years.” She continued: “The marathon was way less daunting for me after doing Ironman training. It was easier, in a way. Then, taking a few breaks and having my children just changes kind of your focus a little bit. At the end of the day, what really matters is the kids, and you can kind of take the pressure off of performance, even though it’s really important. I’ve got a really full, fulfilling life.”
Interestingly, Elmore said that the carbon-plate revolution in running shoe design was not a big factor in her longevity, although she freely admits that they help performance. Many athletes find the shoes to be more protective and aid in recovery.
“I can’t train in the carbon shoes as much as maybe some people,” said Elmore, who is sponsored by Saucony. “I run in normal shoes and save the carbon shoes for the last few workouts before races. She added: “The carbon shoes, I’m not going to dispute, are performance-enhancing and also may help some people recover quicker. But, I’m also 42, so I just have to respect recovery, regardless of my shoes.”
Elmore loves the feeling of comradeship she gets from knowing that other mature women are still running so well. American marathoner Sara Hall, 39, was a teammate of Elmore’s at Stanford, and she admires Kenya’s Edna Kiplagat, 42, twice the World Athletics Marathon Champion, and another American, Keira D’Amato, 37, who set the since-broken USA marathon record last January.
“I feel a lot of camaraderie towards them because we are approaching the sport similarly,” said Elmore. “We’re just seeing the joy in the sport and how what we can do to contribute to the sport and be the best we can be. (We’re) also finding a lot of joy in other aspects of our life. She continued: “I think it’s great it’s not ‘have a career or raise children or even, ‘have a career outside of sport, that you can only do one thing at a time.’ You can simultaneously live a fulfilled and rewarding life in many domains and be good.”
The winners of tomorrow’s Athletics Canada Marathon Championships will receive CAD 8,000 in addition to any open prize money they may earn. There is also a CAD 15,000 bonus for a new national record (2:07:09 for the men and 2:23:12 for the women). Whatever happens, Elmore will be back at work like usual next week, coaching her athletes.
“I have, like, the dream job,” she said. “I get to work with 40 young university students and work with them to be the best they can be and, hopefully, some life skills. It’s a win-win. They inspire me to do my best.”