Wiebe v Watson; Wodak v Cliff. Modo Spring Run Off Vancouver 8k kicks off Canada Running Series by Paul Gains

Rob Watson. Game Face on!

Rob Watson. Game Face on!

The 2014 Canada Running Series kicks off in Vancouver March 23rd with the Modo Spring Run Off 8km race through picturesque – and world renowned – Stanley Park.

For many runners it’s a signal that spring is upon us and the hard winter training is behind.

There’s a lot of ‘new’ at this year’s event beginning with a new title sponsor Modo, the world’s largest car share program which is surely a suitable match for an environmentally conscious race series. And, organizers are also pleased that there is a new charity benefiting from the fundraising component.

‘Take A Hike’ strives to help ‘at risk’ youth turn their lives around with the help of adventure-based learning specialists, teachers and social workers. The program teaches life skills and attempts to repair relationships between participants and their families. Moreover, graduation from high school is high on the list of priorities.

There are many other benefits to racing this 8km too on an accurately measured, safe course. Besides the souvenir t-shirts on race day, for the first time ever, all finishers will receive participant medals.

rs_srov13-0086The elite fields are expected to be tougher than ever. As an added incentive the Canada Running Series has put up prize money for the top three male and female B.C. athletes, in addition to the regular prize money. That’s a significant gesture that recently hired B.C. Endurance Project coach, Richard Lee, is excited about.

“That’s excellent news,” Lee declares. “Any kind of support is helpful and Alan (Brookes) and Clif (Cunningham) and the Canada Running Series do a great job supporting both Canadian and local B.C. athletes. It’s great they are stepping up to that. As we all know it’s a pretty meagre existence being a full time athlete. Probably half of my group are full time athletes and trying to make a go of it off their running income. A bump in any source of income is great. Kudos to Clif and Alan for putting that together.”

Lee’s training group includes 2012 Olympic marathoner Dylan Wykes, 2013 Canadian Cross Country Champion Natasha Wodak, Rob Watson a two time world championship participant, and 2013 Vancouver Sun 10km winner Kelly Wiebe.

All but Wykes are expected to line up in Stanley Park March 23rd and challenge the men’s and women’s event records which are held by Ryan Mckenzie (23:40 – 2008) and Malindi Elmore (26:49 from 2010).

The men’s race will likely be a battle between Watson and Wiebe. While Watson has announced he will run the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon in May Wiebe is more suited to the shorter races. Over the 8k distance this will be a real test of speed. Watson it should be remembered represented Canada in the 3,000m Steeplechase at the 2009 IAAF World Athletics Championships in Berlin.

Natasha Wodak. SVHM11 058_IJ_SVHM11_1000Meanwhile Wodak leads the women’s field. In addition to winning the national cross country title last November, just a month after making her marathon debut at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, she has won two Vancouver Sun Run 10k races. She faces fellow national team member Rachel Cliff who finished second to her at the Canadian cross country championships and just a step behind in the 2013 IAAF World Cross Country Championships. They finished 24th and 25th in this global event.

Two more of Lee’s athletes, Dayna Pidhoresky, who recently moved to Vancouver from Windsor, Ontario, and 2013 B.C. Timex Women’s Road Race Series Champion Sabrina Wilkie are likely to be in the fray as well. In 2011 Pidhoresky was the CRS overall series winner and has now overcome a series of injuries.

“The Modo is the Spring litmus test to see how winter training has been going,” Coach Lee says. “It has been a bumpy road for a lot of the people in the group. For Natasha it was a new experience for her to recover from a marathon and although she ran well in the fall and won national cross I think she did that more off talent than anything.

“But now the last couple of weeks things have started to come about and people are having some really good workouts. I expect they are going to show some good fitness in the 8k.”

ENTRY is still open to all at www.springrunoff.ca


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