Veteran cross country runner Keith Lofthouse surprised even himself when he won the eight kilometre Tyler’s Rural Handicap for the third year in a row and a fourth time overall at Rupanyup on Saturday.
From eight starts in the race, Lofthouse has only once finished further back than third.
But at the post race presentation, the sixty-eight-year-old apologised to the sponsor and to other Stawell Amateur Athletic Club members for his pre-race declaration that he had “no chance” in the race he has dominated since its inception in 2009.
“I knew there were others that were ready to win and I thought the handicapper had my measure after I could only finish seventh at the Concongella Vineyards a week before.
“I realise now that the two courses are entirely different. At Concongella we have a couple of hills and uneven ground, especially through the vineyard, but here it is flat and fast and I’m able to find a rhythm that I can’t find anywhere else.”
Confidence and experience on the course proved to be a factor early in the race when he was headed first by Vicki Tyler, then by Rhonda Rice, with Sharon Howden on his tail and closing fast.
“Vicki gave me 20 seconds start but had passed me on the first lap of the footy ground. She was breathing hard and I suspected she had gone out too fast too soon.
“I felt pretty good but with the girls already ahead or breathing down my neck I thought the best I could do would to run an honest fourth.”
Passing front-marker Gary Saunders with less than three kilometres to go, Lofthouse risked a few peeks over his shoulder and recognised Howden as his only serious challenger.
“I was running scared for the last two kilometres because I thought Sharon might run me down, as she has done before. I actually had the staggers before I reached the line, but luckily she didn’t know that.”
In the one kilometre Sub Juniors race Jordan Nitschke gave his younger brother Jay Jay a sizeable start but was too long in the stride and too strong.
The club returns to Stawell on Saturday for the five kilometre Horsham Physiotherapy and Podiatry Handicap. Fun runners are welcome to meet at the North Park clubrooms from 9.30pm.