Rob Blythman warmed up for his first tilt at the Great Ocean Road Marathon in May by dispatching one of the hottest fields the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club could boast in the season opener at Stawell last Saturday.
Built like a sprinter but training for long distance, Blythman, from a favourable handicap, made up for a winless 2016 to beat cross country newcomer Andrew Barnett, whose sparkling debut came on the back of a brilliant career in orienteering.
Once handicaps were adjusted, Blythman had almost a minute to spare from the pony-tailed runner-up in the five kilometres Barham Insurance Handicap with Sharon Howden, as usual, quickly finding the form to finish third just seconds behind the free-striding Barnett.
Conceding nine minutes (or up to two kilometre starts) to the bulk of the big field, the task proved too great for schoolboy champion Tom Walker who ran a blistering 15.46 minutes to wind up in fourth place, just a 0.01 seconds behind Howden. But even he lowered his colours to Gift-quality runner, Philo Saunders, who ran on invitation and recorded a sizzling 14.47.
It was a remarkable effort given that the Stawell 1600 metres winner a week beforehand had been training exclusively for races of no further than two kilometres.
Blythman, whose only previous marathon reduced him to a walk some years ago, said that he is aiming to break 3.45 hours on the Great Ocean Road.
“My first marathon took four hours and I’ve learned a lot from it; to be well hydrated during the run and well-nourished because I just ran out of fuel last time.
“I’ve been lucky not to have injuries; I’ve stuck to an online training plan, not overtrained, but I still have to run a three-hour session before I can be confident of getting the distance, he said.
In the one kilometre Sub-Junior version of the Barham, 2016 champion Olivia Hunter began the season with a seven-second win over the Urquhart boys, Tom and Jack.
The club returns to the Ironbarks next Saturday for the five-kilometre Rupanyup Garden Centre Handicap. Fun runners are invited to meet at the North Park clubrooms at 9.30am.