Race sponsor Charlie Jones credited course experience and know how as critical factors in winning his own sixteen kilometre handicap. The race stretched all runners as they made their way through the Ironbarks Forest last Saturday.
On the day he virtually wore four hats – sponsor, handicapper, runner, and course marker.
“I knew every bump and bend; every rise and fall on that course,” said Charlie afterwards. “The course is harder in the second half (a slow, gradual climb up what seems like a never-ending rise) and it’s easy for inexperienced runners to go out too hard at the start, leaving nothing left at the finish.”
Showing no signs of wilting, the wiry veteran carved out the longest race on the SACC calendar in a pugnacious 70 minutes and 30 seconds, to sustain a 90 second winning margin over the ever-consistent Gaynor Radovic. Radovic has had a long string of placings, with this being the fourth time this season. Gaynor is showing the benefit of improved fitness by doubling her race commitments at the weekend to run with the Stawell and Ararat Cross Country Club.
The club’s elite performers, Nathaniel Warren and David McAllister were third and fourth on handicap, but ironman Dave’s time was fastest, a sensational personal-best of 62 minutes and 10 seconds.
Despite suffering from a cold, Peter Cutler once again ventured down from Nhill with wife Sheryn and babe-in-arms James to record the third fastest time. Club president, Gary Howden, who will contest the Gold Coast Marathon this weekend, came in sixth and Charlie thanked him for his unwitting help in giving him “something to chase.”
“The way the handicaps worked out,” he explained, “meant that I was chasing Gary all the way. It’s always helpful to have someone in your sights, especially in a long race because they act like a magnet, drawing you to them.”
A dedicated trainer, Charlie said that to be effective over 16 kilometres it was essential that runners have several solid 20 km runs under their belts. Accordingly, the field strung out like Brown’s cows with as much as 37 minutes separating the fastest from the slowest.
Those left gasping at the tail of the field were wishing they were juniors, who were given an easier assignment over four kilometres. Still, Luca O’Flynn and Alex Drew had a ding-dong battle with only a whisker separating them in a dash to the finish.
By Keith Lofthouse