Perhaps inspired by his son’s cracking attempt on the three kilometre record at Stawell’s state-of-the-art running track last Saturday, the Wimmera’s oldest competitive runner, Gary Saunders, broke through for his first win in almost forty starts this season in the Chris Blake Handicap.
Running on invitation in the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club race, Philo Saunders, who is ten times a national finalist over 1500 metres, lapped his seventy-five-year-old dad four times in the Blake on his way to clocking a sizzling 8.41 minutes, failing by just three seconds into a headwind to break the record set by Glen Devers almost thirty years ago.
Saunders, with his distinctive grey beard flapping in the breeze, took almost exactly twice as long (17.24 minutes) to run the distance, but once handicaps were adjusted his effort was good enough to not only claim victory but to lay claim to being the fastest septuagenarian in the region.
The race was like a benefit for club veterans with last start winner, Bob Freeland, 67, and Stephen Baird, 66, filling the podium.
Incredibly, Saunders thinks he can improve on his reasonably lean season in his seventy-sixth year next year.
“I’m not as fit as I was this time last year and I need to do more,” he said.
“I’m actually a better track runner than I am cross country and I miss running track as part of my training. I go to the gym at least three times a week, but I’d be lucky if I went out for one training run before my weekend racing. I need to do more of that to maintain good muscle tone. “
In the Sub-Junior division of the race, Chloe Hunter narrowly claimed bragging rights for the second week running with a two-second win over her older sister, Olivia. Jack Urquhart was third in the one kilometre event.
The club season winds up this Saturday with the traditional five kilometre Ivan McDonald Handicap at Stawell’s Big Hill. Fun runners are welcome to meet at the venue from 9.30am.