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Lindsay Burch wins women’s masters category at 2024 Austin Marathon

The Whistlerite has qualified for World Championships in September
Whistler local Lindsay Burch (front, centre) won the women's masters division at the 2024 Austin Marathon.

The Austin Marathon on Feb. 18 was Lindsay Burch’s first crack at the venerable Olympic discipline since COVID-19 emerged. She went in with one particular aim: to break the three-hour, 21-minute barrier. 

Why three hours and 21 minutes? Because anything faster punches you a ticket to the 2024 World Championships in Sydney, Australia. 

Burch accomplished her goal and then some. The longtime Whistlerite reached the finish line in three hours, one minute and 49.80 seconds—enough to prevail in the entire women’s masters division. At 51 years of age, she bested all the 40-year-olds in the field, making the cut for worlds and also for the Tokyo Marathon. 

“My expectations were not super high, although my training had gone really well,” Burch said. “I wasn't really planning on going as fast as I went in the marathon, but I just felt good and strong, and so overall, I was really happy with how it went.” 

Distance runners typically control their speed in the first half of any given event so they can go all-out in the second half if necessary. Burch kept up with the three-hour pacers in the early going, and played some mind games with herself regarding strategy. She feared opening up too fast, but she also felt good. 

To slow down or not to slow down? That was the question. 

Dropping back slightly to avoid a crowded pack of men, Burch proceeded without difficulty until the 30-kilometre mark, when her ankle flared up in pain. That meant she couldn’t relax on the well-deserved downhills in the back half of the race, and had to lose contact with the three-hour pace group. Burch grinded her way through, knowing she was still awfully close to a great time. 

“I have to say that the one drawback to running a 3:01 is that it's pretty damn close to three hours,” she remarked. “It's kind of difficult to not reach the goal of a three-hour marathon. Pretty tempting when you're that close.

“Also, Austin was a super hilly course, so I think on a less hilly course, without the ankle issue, I have a pretty good chance of getting under three hours. That would be pretty exciting at my age.” 

Running and travelling

As a lifelong runner, Burch has had to surmount various obstacles to achieve longevity in her sport. An Achilles injury forced her off the trails for about a year and a half, during which she hired a personal trainer (whom she consults twice a week) and changed her focus to strength-based exercise. Her approach has paid dividends, so far. 

“I’m finding myself running personal bests at my age,” said Burch. “Mindset-wise, that just makes me happy because I'm also in my 50s, and I think it's important as you get older, to be stronger. I feel stronger than I ever have, and now I'm keen to keep pushing.” 

Burch also loves to travel, and quips it’s much easier to convince her husband Dave to spend money on it if she takes part in a race. Marathons have already brought her to New York for the first time, and she has also run in Berlin. 

The two aforementioned cities, along with Tokyo, London, Chicago and Boston, each host a major marathon, and Burch hopes to qualify for all six based on her results in other events. Austin does not host a major, but it was an enticing destination nonetheless. 

“The whole purpose of me running marathons is to be able to travel to cool cities,” Burch said. “Dave and I had been looking at Austin for a while because we heard it was a super fun city with great live music and restaurants and bars. I started to look into the marathon there, and realized the timing was really good for me, based on giving me enough time to train properly.” 

It’s too late now to register for this year’s Tokyo Marathon, but Burch has her sights set on eventually earning the coveted Six Star Medal (which is awarded to those who complete every major). She’s also gunning for a top-10 performance in her age group at worlds.