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Veteran Canadian marathon trio misses Paris Olympic qualifying standard in Houston

Canadians Leslie Sexton and national record holder Natasha Wodak finished less than two minutes shy of the automatic entry standard for the Paris Olympic women’s marathon on Sunday in Houston.

Sexton was eighth among elite women in two hours 28 minutes 14 seconds while Wodak, who also lives in Vancouver, clocked 2:28:42 for ninth. The standard is 2:26:50, with the qualifying window closing April 30 ahead of the Aug. 11 marathon in France.

Halfway through the 42.2-kilometre race, Wodak (1:12:08) and Sexton (1:13:17) were on pace to qualify for Paris.

Malindi Elmore of Kelowna, B.C., is the lone Canadian woman to have run standard for Paris, running 2:23:30 in the Berlin Marathon on Sept. 24.

Former Canadian record holder Lanni Marchant of London, Ont., also competed Sunday, reaching the finish in 2:38:32 for 15th. Last year, she only raced twice while dealing with mononucleosis, anemia and kidney stones.

On the men’s side, Tristan Woodfine of Cobden, Ont., (near Ottawa) also ran strong for the majority of the race but also missed the 2:08:10 Olympic standard, placing sixth in a personal-best 2:10:39. Vancouver’s Thomas Broatch was seventh in 2:11:51, also a PB.

Two other Canadians also set PBs in the men’s half marathon: Calgary-born Rory Linkletter (1:01:02, sixth) and Thomas Fafard of Repentigny, Que. (1:02:19, 12th). Linkletter held the Canadian record for nine months in 2022, posting a personal best 1:01:08 in Houston.

Wodak, who is looking to qualify for a third Olympics and second in the marathon, was hampered by a minor right hamstring strain for two weeks leading into Sunday’s race.

The former track runner didn’t have her original pacer, who had a death in the family earlier this week.

She told CBC Sports this week she could ran a last-chance marathon in April — she might join good friend Elmore in running Boston on April 15 — but doubted whether her body would recover in time for the Olympic race.

“I’m not saying it’s out of the question, but it would be challenging and not what [coach Trent Stellingwerff and I] want to do,” she said.

At 42, Wodak stated she got into 2:22:30 to 2:23 shape during a 19-day training camp in Phoenix, Ariz., similar fitness to when she lowered Elmore’s Canadian record to 2:23:12 in Berlin in 2022.

Sexton was top Canadian in the 2022 world marathon (13th, 2:28:52) and second to Wodak on the road last May at the Canadian 10K Championships in Ottawa.

The 36-year-old native of Markham, Ont., ran a 1:12:05 half marathon PB last January in Houston and lowered the mark to 1:11:40 a month later in Vancouver.

For Woodfine, Sunday marked the 30-year-old’s first marathon since May 2022 in Ottawa (2:21:55). His time of 2:10:39 is 12 seconds faster than his 2020 London Marathon effort, 10 seconds back of the PB set by his coach, Reid Coolsaet, and seventh all-time among Canadian men.

Last October, Broatch was the top Canadian men’s runner and sixth overall (2:16:25) in his debut Toronto Waterfront Marathon.

The former University of British Columbia runner was third (1:04:23) earlier in 2023 at the First Half Vancouver Half Marathon (1:04:23). In 2022, he posted a 1:04:09 PB at the Monterey Half Marathon in California.

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