A grimly determined Paul Atherton broke a four year drought with the club when he mastered the “hill of horrors”, to win the Oscar Furniture Troopers Camp Handicap. The race was held over eleven gruelling kilometres at Roses Gap last Saturday.
Paul had not won since the much less demanding race at Dadswells Bridge in 2007, but set himself the target of Roses Gap three months ago, hell bent on meeting the challenge of the slippery mountain slope which has reduced 90 percent of runners to a walk in previous years.
Paul wanted to emulate his Horsham training mate Susie Ellis, commonly known as “Super Susie”, who is one of the very few who holds no fears for the hill and invariably makes it to the summit without a rest. Club president Gary Howden, who founded the punishing event, was another who trains with Paul and urged him to “grit his teeth” for the treacherous climb up the rocky trail that is pitted with deep craters and gouges.
“I’d done a bit of extra training for this race, including one long session of 24 kilometres, and thought I could win if I kept my focus,” Paul said. “As it turned out, I walked for just a few brief moments because I was surprised to see Gary stop in front of me. So it’s his fault. If he had kept on going, as he usually does, I’d have pushed on as well.”
In an emotional speech after the race, Paul paid tribute to club great, Ray Scott, who was an inspiration to all runners and another to always beat the hill before it beat him.
The brutal nature of the race meant that most of the field stretched out like Browns cows with up to 31 minutes separating first to last. David McAllister also charged up the hill without a pause to record fastest time, a scintillating 44 minutes and four seconds, to fail by just 20 seconds to overcome the winner, once handicaps were adjusted.
Apart from Dave, only fifth-placed Patrick Ellis earned bragging rights after the race for a non-stop conquering of the hill, which at least rewards runners with spectacular views of Roses Gap on the downward slide.
Ten-year-old Raine Mackley, who had the audacity to fight the flying McAllister for the lead in the first section of the race, won the five kilometre junior division in a sparkling 22.26, but on handicap had only six seconds to spare from a gritty Tobias Blair.
By Keith Lofthouse