Bob Freeland, a “class of 1966” foundation member of the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club sacrificed a week of “beer and biscuits” to win his first ever 16 kilometre Charlie Jones Handicap in the Stawell Ironbarks last Saturday.
Freeland, 63, likes a beer but he is otherwise a dedicated adherent to a healthy diet and a rigid training routine.
The veteran has won a dozen or more races over shorter distances with the club in its 47 year history but in recent times has battled weight and an achilles tendon problem and wins have been scarce.
“I’m seven kilograms lighter than I was a year or so ago. I’m running 10 kilometres every day, swimming a kilometre a day, I’m enjoying it and can’t get enough of it,” he said.
“Every Monday night at Central Park I’m training a group of runners of all ages and abilities in an intensive speed session – anyone can come along – and that’s helped me too.” Three of Freeland’s “disciples” finished behind him in the race.
In preparation for the 16km, Freeland ran a strong 15km at Halls Gap during the week and that was enough to help withstand a spirited challenge from another veteran Peter Barham who had tested himself over 22km just to make sure he could run the distance.
Finishing as strongly as he started, Freeland had 21 seconds to spare from Barham, a methodical runner who builds gradually into a race. Recent winner Rachel Coverdale continued to build on her form and fitness and was third on handicap, but fastest of all was “Super” Susie Ellis was out to make time and did just that covering the distance in an impressive 71.21 minutes.
In the Sub-Junior division of the race Logan Casey had just 0.06 seconds to spare from his brother Jacob at the end of a hotly contested 1.5km. Promising 10-year-old Liam Davey ran fastest time of 6.07 minutes.
Race action returns to the Ironbarks on Saturday for the five kilometre Steve Baird Handicap. Meet at the North Park Clubrooms at 1.30pm. Fun runners are welcome.
By Keith Lofthouse