In a continuing Series of interviews with local Race Directors, today with have a chat with life-long Kelowna resident, Malindi Elmore, race director of the Cherry Blossom Triathlon.

Triathlon BC (TBC): It would be remiss of us not to begin with a recap of your incredible running career.  For the few that don’t know your provenance as a runner, can you touch on your success, both as a 1,500m Olympian (2004 Athens) and 17 years later, an Olympic marathon runner at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics?

Malindi Elmore (ME): Haha yes – I have bounced around through a variety of endurance sports over the years including running middle distances in high school, university and on the National team until 2012.  I then retired and took up triathlon which led me to this wonderful world of multi-sport.  I did a pile of triathlons from Olympic to Ironman Distances between 2012 and 2018, and in those years I also had two little boys.  After my second son, I decided to go back to single sport focus with the marathon and exceeded my expectations by setting a Canadian record and qualifying for the Olympics.  Its been a wonderful 20 year journey as an athlete – and not giving up any time soon!

TBC: Are you still piling on the miles today, with the idea of vacationing in Paris in the summer of 2024?

ME: Indeed that is the goal! Since we were in “lock down” for Tokyo, the Olympic experience was quite muted. I am hopeful I can qualify and represent Canada in 2024 and that my family, including my kids and parents and sister (also a former triathlete!) and her family can be on the streets of Paris during the marathon.  My parents and sister were in Athens in 2004 and it feels like a lifetime ago as I was just finished university and my sister was still a student. Now we are “all grown up” and have kids so it will be fun to share this experience with them.

TBC: Shifting gears, together with your husband Graham Hood, also a two-time Olympian (1992 Barcelona / 1996 Atlanta), you were somehow roped into hosting the 2016 Kelowna Apple Triathlon. How did that materialize, was that your first foray into organizing a multisport event?

ME: We actually started our triathlon race directing by starting the Cherry Blossom Triathlon in 2014, along with our friend, James Young. We saw a gap in the calendar and thought it would be cool to do an early season race that would appeal to both early season keeners as well as attract new people to the sport through a less intimidating pool-swim format.  We had a blast designing the race and loved the positive vibes. When the Apple was looking for a new Race Director team in 2016 we keenly jumped on board to help with the iconic Kelowna event.

TBC: A year before hosting the Kelowna Apple Triathlon, you dipped your toe into long course triathlon racing at the Arizona Ironman.  Not surprisingly, your Ironman debut was rather successful, finishing 3rd overall with a blistering sub-9 hour finish.  Does time still allow you to play in the swim/bike/run world as an athlete?  Is another long course triathlon on the radar at some point? 

ME: I loved the challenge of training and competing in an Ironman.  I was inspired by watching Ironman Canada several times, including cheering on Graham as he ventured into the sport before me. There is something about that early morning mass swim start that gave me chills and seeing the determination and resilience of thousands of athletes doing something so challenging and gruelling motivated me to learn to swim and become a stronger cyclist.  I loved my first dab at Ironman – but once I had two young children at home I decided to focus on running again as it is more time efficient.  I may pick it up again one day but I think I would be starting from scratch again with swimming!

TBC: When you are not setting marathon records, you are a mom of two children, wife, athlete, Race Director and the lead coach for the UBC-Okanagan Cross-Country Team. Does that leave you with any spare time, and if so, how do you like to decompress from all those roles?

ME: There’s not much time left at the end of the day!  I love spending time with my kids outside so we ski alot in the winter and during the summer I love camping, hiking or being out on the water.  At home, I love gardening and reading which I find relaxing.

TBC: How have you seen multisport evolve – if at all – since the first rendition of the Cherry back in 2014?

ME: I love how triathlon is a sport for anyone and we all have our strengths and weaknesses; and our favourite and least favourite legs but that all together it in one sport.  I have seen adults with kids and jobs (and maybe not alot of sport specific experience) decide to train and do a triathlon and I find it so inspiring and motivating. I love when people finish the Cherry for their first time and are so happy and proud that they did it.

TBC: As somebody that’s grown up in Kelowna, you’ve seen it grow from a small town to the City it is today. What are some of the challenges you’ve seen as a Race Director over the years?

ME: The biggest challenge with The Apple Triathlon is how much the City has grown since it started.  I remember watching my dad finish the 1985 Apple in City Park, when I was only 5 years old. I was so proud of my Dad and remember how hard he trained – going for bike rides and runs and swimming (and I learned much later how hard swimming was for him and how slow he was and that the open water swim was quite the feat!)  Back in 198,5 Kelowna was maybe 50,000 people and the roads were much less busy.  The City has nearly tripled in size since the 1980s and the logistics make it so much more complicated and expensive.

TBC: Race Directing is often a thankless job. Can you touch on a few highlights, or….low lights?

ME: The smiles as first timers cross the line each year keeps me coming back for more.

TBC: The Cherry Blossom Triathlon features a beginner friendly pool swim, a looping bike course with a small climb and a flat run course, a very welcoming event for everyone, particularly the aspiring athlete that has never participated in a triathlon.  With your pedigree as a successful athlete, what words of advice can you offer to ensure a fun time is had by the first-year participant?

ME: Sport is about having fun, being active and setting new goals.  Regardless of the level of athlete, process needs to drive goals: prepare appropriately for your goals, time and ability, and then make sure to execute to the best of your ability on race day.  Be sure to be proud of the work you do to get to the start line – the race is the reward for the preparation.

Featuring an indoor pool swim, beginner friendly bike course and a scenic trail run along the Mission Creek to finish, the Cherry Blossom Triathlon takes place out of the City of Kelowna, on May 7th. Hit the button to register today.