Gary Howden in “grandma” mode

INJURY-plagued veteran Gary Howden needed to “run like a grandma” to win the opening race of Stawell Amateur Athletic Club’s cross country season at Stawell last Saturday.

In the two years since his last win with the club, the 58-year-old has missed more than half a season and been uncompetitive due to nagging hamstring strains.

“I was absolutely flying when I first broke down and been frustrated ever since, not being able to get back to the level of fitness I once had,” Howden said.

In desperation, Howden sought advice from Essendon Football Club’s Dr Bruce Reid, and while assured that he was still able to run, he would need to be conservative – to “run like a grandma” – to remain injury free.

“What he means is that I can’t be explosive,” the Horsham runner said. “I can’t risk starting or finishing off a race with a dynamic sprint.

“The problem might resolve itself over a period of time, but in the meantime I just have to take it easy and be aware that I can’t do what I once could.”

Fresh from a three-week holiday in the temperature extremes of Finland and Lombok (east of Bali), Howden had trained minimally prior winning the 5km Barham Insurance Handicap.

“It was minus 13 degrees in Finland and up to 30 at Lombok; then a week of work in Queensland before a little running on the beach at Warrnambool. But virtually nothing in Horsham, so I still have some fitness up my sleeve,” he said.

Howden still ran a credible to 22.54 minutes to resist a challenge from the ever-improving Jess Cass who was 0.20 behind, with Rachel Coverdale surprising herself with a gritty third in her first run with the club since 2015.

The sub-junior 1km event resulted in a clean sweep for the Baker boys – the youngest Jerome earning bragging rights over Barney and Johnno who dead-heated for second.

The club returns to the Ironbarks this Saturday for the 5km Rupanyup Garden Centre Handicap. Fun runners are welcome. Meet at the North Park clubrooms from 9.30am. Ararat cross country starts April 8.

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