Kelowna's Malindi Elmore has had the Canadian marathon championships in Toronto on her bucket list since 2012, when she first "came up with this crazy idea of running marathons."
Elmore will make her TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon debut on Sunday, when the race returns for the first time since 2019, and the 42-year-old will be keen to reclaim the Canadian record she lost recently to Natasha Wodak.
Wodak ran two hours 23 minutes and 12 seconds in Berlin last month, beating Elmore's previous mark of 2:24:50, a personal best that makes her the Canadian to beat on Sunday.
Elmore's remarkable story includes shattering the Canadian record in 2020 in her marathon debut. The former middle-distance runner on the track then finished ninth at the Tokyo Olympics 17 years after her previous Olympic appearance in Athens.
The COVID-19 pandemic all-but erased the TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon, one of only two World Athletics Elite Label races in Canada. Last year's marathon was held as a virtual event.
Defending Canadian champion and fellow Tokyo Olympian Dayna Pidhoresky should challenge Elmore for the national title. She ran 2:29.03 at the Toronto race in 2019, which remains her personal best. Leslie Sexton, who was 13th at the world championships this past summer in Eugene, Ore., pulled out of the race earlier this week.
Trevor Hofbauer hopes to repeat as the Canadian men's champion. He ran 2:09.51 to win in 2019, a time that ranks him No. 2 all-time among Canadians. Cam Levins, who ran to a historic fourth place at the world championships and crushed the Canadian record with his time of 2:07.09 there, isn't racing Sunday.
Rory Linkletter, who was 20th at the world championships, will be among Hofbauer's stiffest challengers for the Canadian crown.
The field also includes Canada's "running vet" Lee Wesselius, who was second at the 2021 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.
The 28-year-old from River Glade, N.B., is a large animal vet near Kemptville, Ont., about 30 minutes south of Ottawa. Wesselius was named to his first national team for the NACAC Half-Marathon Championships in Costa Rica last May. He raced to a bronze medal, helping Canada capture the team gold.
Sunday's race will include an elite field of international runners who will push the pace, including Magdalyne Masai of Kenya, whose time of 2:22.16 is the fastest ever run by a woman on Canadian soil.
The fast and flat 42.195-kilometre course starts and finishes in front of Toronto City Hall, and the follows the lakeshore first west to Humber Bay and then east to The Beaches neighbourhood.
The men's race features several fast Kenyans, including Barselius Kipyego (2:04.48).
There are also 5K and half-marathon races on Sunday.