Spurred on by the embarrassment of a self-confessed bulging waistline, Bob Freeland, a foundation member of the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club, turned back the clock to win his first race in 14 months at Haven Hall, near Horsham, on Saturday.
Suited by the fast and flat nature of the five kilometre course, the easiest on the club’s 18-race calendar, Bob made the most of his favourable handicap and withstood a late challenge from Stephen Baird to win the Community Axis-sponsored event by just 10 seconds.
Confessing to a weakness for biscuits and chocolate, Bob had made a conscious decision “to do something” about his fitness after finishing no closer than ninth at his first five starts for the season
“I knew I was carrying a bit extra and I had to increase the intensity of my training to at least an hour per day,” the persistent veteran said. “You have to put effort into your training, it’s no use just jogging because all that does is teach you how to jog. I am absolutely rapt to win again because I heard Stevie Baird’s tell-tale footsteps and I had to find a bit to hold him off. I couldn’t have done that without the extra work I’ve been doing near where I live at Big Hill.”
Underlining the merit of Bob’s win was the fact that Squeak Baird was able to back-up and beat a hot field in the King Of The Hill at Ararat less than 24 hours later.
The affable Bob made his debut with the club one rainy day in 1966, lining up with life member Keith Haymes and others at the Stawell High School and scampering up to where the gold mine is today. The cross-country stalwart managed a 37 minutes, 30 second 10km at Warrnambool in his heyday, but in 2010 the elite honours are shared by current club champion Nathaniel Warren and David McAllister who again recorded fastest times (17.38 and 17.58).
Most impressive of all was ten-year-old junior Raine Mackley who gave a start and a beating to many more seasoned campaigners, carving out the distance in a stunning 20.52.
Layla Atherton bolted away to a strong win in the sub junior division of the race.
By Keith Lofthouse