After missing out on qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics, Malindi Elmore put running behind her—competitive running, at least. Having trained seriously since age 15, the sport had driven her to her proudest moments but also her lowest. In 2004, a year after graduating from Stanford University, she achieved a lifelong dream, representing Canada in the 1,500 metres at the Athens Olympics. Four years later, she missed Beijing by 0.7 seconds.
“I had the IAAF “A” standard but that’s when Canada had an “A+” standard to make the team,” Elmore says, referring to the mark that track and field’s governing body sets for entry into the Olympics, and the fact that Canada had raised the bar even higher for its athletes. Two weeks before Beijing, the track world was rocked by a doping scandal. Five athletes—three Russians and two Romanians—entered in the 1,500 metres were suspended for doping infractions. The reduced field forced the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to advance all 1,500 metre athletes straight to the semi-finals.
“I was the fastest person in the world not to make it.”
“Hilary Stellingwerff and I both didn’t make the team despite having standard, and we were fairly appalled by the fact that suddenly [five] women were out of the event and it actually went straight to semi-finals,” she says. “I was the fastest person in the world not to make it.”
The missed qualifications in 2008 and 2012 were augmented by further injuries, causing Elmore to describe the last few years of her running career as frustrating. “I had to kind of take a step away at a certain point,” she says.
After retiring in 2012, Elmore played around with the idea of running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, but a pregnancy derailed the plan. Instead, looking for a fresh start, she took up triathlons. Over the span of three years, she raced 16 Olympic distance triathlons, 12 half Ironmans, and 2 full Ironmans, competing professionally at the 70.3 distance. Her Ironman time of eight hours 57 minutes 22 seconds, set in Arizona in 2016, is still the fourth fastest time ever by a Canadian woman. “I love a challenge, and I needed something refreshing,” she says. “But I’m really not a great swimmer, so it was tough.”
In 2018, when Elmore gave birth to her second son, she started to transition away from triathlons. “I decided swimming and biking takes too long, so I got back into running.” When she says running, she stresses that it was recreational. “I was just running an hour at like 5:00/km pace, which was a fast pace at that point.”
It was while she was out on a run with her husband, two-time track Olympian Graham Hood, that she once again floated the idea of the marathon. “I’d had too much coffee that morning. I had too much energy,” she laughs. But her husband jumped on it. “He was like, ‘That’s a super idea. I’ll coach you.’”
This was in September 2018, and after scouring the upcoming race calendar, the couple settled on the Houston Marathon in January for Elmore’s debut, four months away. It wasn’t much time to get in shape, but rather than buckle under the pressure, Elmore thrived under the added mileage. “I had a lot of injuries because the track was just so hard on my body,” she says. “For me, I seem to be OK with doing more mileage.”
Leading up to the race, Elmore and Hood had settled on 2:40 as her goal time. “I thought it would be reasonable because I’d run under three hours in my Ironman and off not a lot of training.” But two weeks prior to the race, Elmore crushed her final workout, causing the couple to reassess. “We were like, ‘Maybe I can run faster than 2:40. Maybe more like 2:35.’”
Elmore’s fitness had finally clicked into place and her finishing time in Houston reflected it. She finished seventh in 2:32:10, the third fastest marathon by a Canadian this year and only three minutes off the Olympic standard of 2:29:30.
At 39-years-old, Elmore is entering her upcoming race at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon with confidence. She has her sights firmly set on securing a berth in Tokyo and redeeming those missed opportunities in 2008 and 2012. “Probably winning Toronto or at least being top two at Toronto has got to be a goal for people who want to be on the team,” she says. “I’m really optimistic that we’re able to field three women to Tokyo.”