Anyone who runs knows this sport isn’t for the weak of heart. Perseverance in all things is paramount. For the past seven months, Natasha Wodak—the Canadian-record holder in the 8K—has been living this lesson on a daily basis.
Last year, the 32-year-old Vancouver resident had been making waves in the Canadian running scene. At the Harrier’s Pioneer 8K in January 2013, Wodak clocked 25:28, which was good for a new Canadian record. She also happened to run faster than five of the 346 male runners in the race.
That same year, she won the Canadian Cross Country title in the 7K and set a new British Columbia women’s record for her inaugural marathon in Toronto (2:35:16).
This past June, Wodak was diagnosed with an injury runners especially dread: plantar fasciitis. She had been struggling with heel pain before that and says she thinks she may have pushed herself too hard in the late part of 2013 when she was achieving her impressive breakthroughs. In August and September, at the advice of her sports doctor, Wodak tried prolotherapy, a medical procedure that involves injecting a solution into the body in order to strengthen weakened connective tissue.
“That seems to have helped a bit,” she says of the procedure. Wodak has since returned to training in the past six weeks but things have not been ideal. “I’m still feeling pain in my heel. So we are taking things very slowly and cautiously.”
But injuries and setbacks aside, Wodak is making a comeback at Sunday’s inaugural Rock ‘n’ Roll Oasis Vancouver Half Marathon. She says it will be a great opportunity for her to race. Because of all the time she missed training, however, she has realistic expectations—especially since she will run against some formidable opponents like Dayna Pidhoresky, a 1:11 half marathoner and also a Vancouver resident, and American Lindsey Scherf, who won this year’s edition of the Rock ‘n’ Roll St. Louis Half Marathon.
“I’m not in ideal shape for this,” Wodak admits. “But since this is a Rock ‘n’ Roll race in Vancouver, I really want to do it. Whether or not I can be competitive is a different story. I just want to have fun.”
Wodak has maintained a positive attitude throughout this ordeal, but admits her heel injury has frustrated her.
“It’s so temperamental,” she says. “Some days, my heel will just say ‘I don’t like you, I’m going to flare up today,’ while on other days it leaves me alone; it’s weird. But I know it’s not just me that has been injured. Every elite runner I know has had to deal with something and comes back stronger from it.”
In order to stay grounded throughout this ordeal, Wodak, a self-described cat lover, has been dedicating time she would normally spend running volunteering at a local cat shelter in Vancouver. “I’m loving it. I do love cats, but I’m not a crazy cat lady,” she says with a chuckle.
Wodak remains optimistic that she’ll overcome the injury challenges and looks forward to the 2016 Olympic cycle, when she hopes to compete in the marathon—an event she feels especially drawn to because she enjoys training for it.
“I’m focusing on the bigger picture,” she says. “I want to concentrate on making the [Olympic] marathon standard and running in Rio. I’d like to get under 2:30 and think I can run that fast in the next few years.”
If she makes the 2016 Canadian Olympic team, Wodak says she wants to compete in Rio against two of her running heroes: Americans Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher.
This weekend, Wodak will be one of thousands taking to the streets of scenic Vancouver in both the half marathon as well as the 10K. Festivities kicked off on Friday with the Health and Fitness Expo. On Sunday afternoon, headliner Allen Stone and the Bad Rabbits band will get the post-race party started at the Finish Line Festival.