Malindi Elmore may be better able to handle a sudden delay in the 2020 Summer Games than most.
She is a marathon runner, after all.
As the Kelowna woman watched COVID-19 shut down sporting events and send people indoors, it seemed obvious her chance at a second Games would require the long view.
“I think this is a new normal for longer than we anticipated,” Elmore said.
“That people think it might be a 14-day or a two- or three-week (recovery), I think it’s going to last a lot longer than that, so I’m prepared mentally for that. Because this is going to be maybe more of a marathon than a sprint.”
The International Olympic Committee and Tokyo organizers said Tuesday they couldn’t stage the Games this July and August in Japan with COVID-19 showing few signs of abating.
Elmore — who is the Canadian record holder for the women’s marathon — said before the official announcement that any delay would be the right decision.
“Right now,” she said. “I’d much rather see people be safe and healthy and people’s lives return to normal.”
The 40-year-old mother of two young boys (ages one and five) said she’s not immune to fears of the pandemic’s potential to upend all of our lives for longer than we’d like.
She said it was especially difficult to tell her oldest that he wasn’t returning to school after March break.
“I am not alone that there were some days where I felt pretty down about everything and pretty scared about everything — still am,” said Elmore, “but I’m trying to find a new normal and a new rhythm. It’s a big shift in our thinking and our routines and our sense of what a normal life is all about.”
Prior to coronavirus, Elmore was having a career year. She broke the Canadian record for the marathon on Jan. 19 in Houston. Her time in Texas — two hours 24 minutes 50 seconds — bettered the national standard by 2:06.
The marathon win came two months after UBC Okanagan had hired her to become its fulltime cross-country running coach.
“COVID seems to be changing everything,” she said, laughing. “Prior to the last week or so, things have been going super well. It’s been a great year.”
Elmore called her marathon victory a life-changing moment. Elmore switched to the marathon from triathlon about a year ago. She had also been a six-time Canadian champion in track and field, and competed at the 2004 Athens Olympics in the 1,500 metres.
She was 24 then, and appeared to have a bright Olympic future ahead of her. But she fell victim to Canada’s rigorous qualification standards in 2008 and 2012 only to watch numerous middle-distance runners booted from the ’08 Beijing Games because of doping.
Elmore “retired” from the track in 2012 only to resurface as a triathlete and, eventually, marathoner. Her time at the 2016 Arizona Ironman — 8:57:22 — was fourth fastest by a Canadian woman.
But she had trouble balancing family commitments with the sport’s demands.
Marathons made more sense.
She said her training for Houston filled her with confidence, and all she’d need was to trust in her plan.
“A lot can happen in a race, and that’s why we have competition, but I felt really good on the race day and had a really good feeling the whole race that it was all going to play out the way I had hoped,” Elmore said.
“That was the best performance I’ve had in my career. It was like a 24-, 25-year in the making performance. A lot went into it. All the training, and all the racing and all the experiences that I’ve had, over the course of a lifetime, seemed to come together on the day.”
The Olympic marathon standard is 2:29:30, meaning Elmore is “unofficially” on Team Canada.
Now, all she needs is an official Olympics to race at. Canada’s three-woman marathon team was to be announced in May, which might not happen with the Games still 18 months from opening ceremonies.
Again, though, that takes a backseat to stopping the pandemic for her.
“The Olympics ranks down on my list of worries at the moment,” Elmore said. “In the next few weeks and months as we figure out how to navigate this time, I hope that we’re in a position where we can have an Olympic Games even if it’s postponed, and that that means that we are recovering as a world. We’re all kind of united in this at the moment.”