TORONTO. April 7th. Natasha Wodak leads the West all-star team into this Sunday’s Toronto Yonge Street 10k and to say she is excited about the prospect is a bit of an understatement.
“Yeah I think it’s a really awesome idea,” she said from her hotel room in Santa Cruz, California where members of the West are locked into a warm weather training camp.
“One of the things I always loved about cross country was that it was a team event. It wasn’t just about your own result, which is why I think I loved it so much.
“It’s really cool that when you cross the line it’s not over because you are part of the West team. You turn around and wonder ‘where are my other teammates?’ It’s exciting to be part of a team. It creates a good story. It’s great for the sport and it’s going to be a lot of fun. I am happy to be a part of it.”
The accumulated times of the top two males and top two females from each team will decide the winning team. There is a trophy to be won but the bragging rights are most important.
The 32 year old personable Vancouver runner has been on a roll since winning the 2013 Canadian National Cross Country Championships last November and declares her love for the team concept. Just last week she handily won the Modo Spring Run Off 8k in Vancouver, the race which launched the 2014 Canada Running Series.
Wodak’s team from Western Canada will tackle an East all-star team that includes two of her biggest rivals Krista DuChene and Tarah Korir. The former represented Canada at the 2013 IAAF World Championships in Moscow while Korir returns from six months of high altitude training in her husband Wesley Korir’s native Kenya.
Although Wodak has twice won the Vancouver Sun Run 10k she achieved national celebrity when she was the first Canadian finisher at the 2013 IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland crossing the line a respectable 24th in her first major international competition. She has her sights firmly set on representing Canada at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and will attempt to qualify by running the Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon next month. The Toronto race is an important stepping stone.
“You know I have only ever raced Tarah once or twice and Krista I have raced a lot,” she says of the upcoming 10k confrontation. “They are both very talented. You know we are all kind of around the same speed at 10k I think, so, it should be a good battle out there.”
Korir won the Toronto Yonge Street 10k in 2012 with a time of 32:07 and along with DuChene she will be supported by Toronto’s Rachel Hannah, who certainly knows the course well. She was second in 2013 (33:40) and third in 2012.
The East team also includes two-time Canadian Olympian Eric Gillis who originally hails from Antigonish, Nova Scotia but is a long term resident of Guelph, Ontario. Wodak can point to Canadian international Rob Watson and defending Toronto Yonge Street 10k champion Kip Kangogo as the top male contenders for the West. All in all, it will be an exciting contest.
Almost ten months ago Wodak switched coaches joining up on a full time basis with Richard Lee who is now coach of the BC Endurance project. The adjustment was difficult at first because she found herself increasing her weekly training volume to about 130km. Combining the heavier endurance regime with her part time job as a restaurant server was also a challenge.
“I am still serving at The Boathouse (Kitsilano Beach location) two or three days a week,” she reveals. “There have been a few days that have been hard; when I am having to do double runs then go into work at 5pm and work six hours on my feet.
“Its definitely exhausting but everyone has a job. Most elite runners in Canada are not fortunate to make enough running to just run. I try to not work the night before a race. but sometimes I do. I have been doing it for so long so it is what it is.”
Wodak and several other West team members will fly directly to Toronto from California for the race. The camaraderie amongst the group, she says, is critical to her ongoing success.
“Training with Rich’s group; we are all similar in age,” she declares, “we all have the same goals, we all want to make national teams, we all want to go to the Commonwealth Games, go to the Olympic games. Those are our dreams and goals, We work to run. It is really great, we all really support one another. It has been a lot of fun. I am really enjoying going to the workouts.”
Canada Running Series organizers are expecting some of the West team to join in the ‘Tune up’ Training Run on Saturday, April 12th. The run is free, and part of the Toronto Yonge Street 10k runners expo and begins outside the Sheraton Hotel at 9:00 a.m. Eric Gillis will be among the East team members participating.
For everyone, there will be the thrill of the race-day dash down the middle of Canada’s most-famous street, from Eglinton to Fort York. There are finishers’ medals waiting for everyone after they cross the line on Fort York Boulevard and a post-race victory party with live music from The HoneyRunners Band in Garrison Common Park. Family and friends can “Follow” their favourite runners on Facebook and Twitter and via “Live Results”. Ten important local charities that include Kids Up Front, Camp Toronto Triple Threat, Right To Play and Children’s Peace Theatre are also hoping to go home winners.
Entry and information at www.toronto10k.ca [online entry available until midnight, Monday, April 7th].
PRELIMINARY TEAMS: EAST VERSUS WEST
Eric Gillis (Guelph ON)
Nick Sunseri (Toronto ON)
Peter Corrigan (Toronto ON)
Kyle O’Neill (Aylmer, ON)
Krista Duchene (Brantford ON)
Rachel Hannah (Toronto ON)
Tarah Korir (St Clements ON)
Kate Bazeley (Cornerbrook NL)
Lisa Avery (Orillia ON)
Kip Kangogo (Lethbridge, AB – Kenya)
Rob Watson (Vancouver BC)
Adam Byles (Vancouver BC – Australia)
Richard Mosley (Burnaby BC)
Natasha Wodak (Vancouver BC)
Dayna Pidhoresky (Vancouver BC)
Erin Burrett (Nanaimo BC)
Sabrina Wilkie (Vancouver, BC)
Catherine Watkins (Vancouver, BC)