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Canadian marathoner Malindi Elmore achieves Paris Olympic standard in Berlin

One hundred and twenty hours of running the past 10 weeks, along with 10 physiotherapy appointments and 22 weight training sessions, paid off big-time for Malindi Elmore on Sunday.

The 43-year-old from Kelowna, B.C., achieved the qualifying standard for the women’s Olympic marathon next summer in Paris, concluding 13th among female participants at the Berlin Marathon in two hours 23 minutes 30 seconds.

“The key to success is healthy and consistent training layered with solid recovery, some long [and] work with sprinklings of speed. And always gratitude for all the help and support along the way,” she wrote in an Aug. 13 Instagram post.

A two-time Olympian, Elmore took 80 seconds off her 2:24:50 previous best to win the Masters (40-and-over) women’s title and finished 11 minutes ahead of her closest competitor.

Elmore owns the second fastest time in history by a Canadian woman, trailing only good friend Natasha Wodak, the Vancouver resident who took down the former’s national record in Berlin last Sept. 25 in 2:23:12.

The women’s world mark fell on Sunday, with Tigist Assefa of Ethiopia shattering the 2:14:04 set by Kenya’s Brigid Kosgei at the 2019 Chicago Marathon by over minutes in 2:11:53.

The Berlin course is a favorite for runners chasing world records because of its flat terrain and cool weather.

It’s seen a succession of men’s records tumble over the last two decades, but Assefa was the first to break the women’s world record in the German capital since 2001.

Elmore, the oldest marathoner in Berlin this weekend, covered the first half of Sunday’s 42.2-kilometre race in 1:11:50, reached 30 km in 2:23:31 pace and remained there 10 km later.

In August 2021, Elmore placed ninth in the women’s Olympic marathon, overcoming the scorching heat in Sapporo, Japan to finish in 2:30:59. It was the best Olympic marathon finish by a Canadian woman in a non-boycott Games and nine years after the former triathlete left the track.

Elmore made her Olympic debut in 2004 and was 37th in Athens. She retired from professional running in 2012, only to return seven years later after reinventing herself as a marathon runner. In January 2020, she set the Canadian record in her second race, clocking 2:24:50 in Houston to clinch her spot on the Olympic team for Tokyo.

Berlin was the third marathon over the past year for the mother of two.

Last October, Elmore was the first elite Canadian woman to reach the finish at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2:25:14, good for fourth overall in her debut Canadian marathon.

“Why would I stop now? I’m still enjoying running and I still feel I’m improving,” Elmore told CBC Sports before the Toronto event. “I think I’m in a good place to have a really strong next two years of being fit and healthy and Toronto is kind of a building block for the ultimate goal of [competing in] Paris.”

Earlier this year, Elmore took top Canadian honors in a second-place performance at the Ottawa Marathon, clocking 2:27:45 behind Ethiopia’s Waganesh Mekasha (2:24:47.1) but over the 2:26:50 automatic Olympic entry standard.

On Aug. 17, the Berlin Marathon was far from Elmore’s mind. After a night out for dinner, smoke filled the sky as the McDougall Creek wildfire, raging for days in the back country, was nearing the urban interface in West Kelowna, she wrote on Instagram.

With embers rumored to have travelled several kilometres across Lake Okanagan, Elmore’s husband/coach Graham Hood — the former Canadian record holder in the men’s 1,500 metres — packed some belongings in their cars as they prepared to evacuate home with their two sons.

“The next two days were agony as not only our neighbourhood was under siege, the fire was decimating West Kelowna and spreading North through Kelowna and Lake Country,” wrote Elmore. “We were surrounded and so, so worried about everyone, the people, pets, structures, wildlife, infrastructure and long-term damage to the City. There were a lot of tears.

“We have so much gratitude to the fire crews and RCMP who saved people and homes working tirelessly for 48 hours as the weather worked against them.”

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