Simon Gallagher is a runner with natural ability; a self-confessed “mountain goat” who doesn’t need to train to win.
Justine Tracey is no natural; no stylist when she runs. Effort tells on her face with every stride she takes, but she does train, challenging her body each week to climb 4.5 kilometres up Mount Arapiles, no less.
They were an unlikely pair to share the spoils in the eight kilometre Lindsay Kent Memorial Handicap in which the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club and the Stawell and Ararat Cross Country Club combined in honour of the Stawell Gift Hall of Famer, who raced hard, trained hard and got every inch of value from his God-given gift.
Fresh from a week-long jaunt in Bali, during which he celebrated his twenty-sixth birthday, Gallagher didn’t to bother to “run the beaches” as some of his older (and less gifted) club-mates do to maintain their competitive edge.
“I was too far from the beaches,” he said. “But Simon,” one said, “there are other places in Bali to run.”
He returned from the island on the drenching wet Monday before the Kent, perhaps the only day it was unwise to run, but he stayed under cover from Tuesday to Friday as well.
But on Saturday, the tall, sleek Gallagher emerged from his cocoon with long, loping strides and made light of the undulations, the dips, the steady rises and the muddy trails around Stawell’s airport to blitz the strongest field of the season.
The five-time winner of the King of the Hill, a treacherous test of will, climbing Ararat’s One Tree Hill (only ten have been run), had never won the Lindsay Kent before, though he was second in 2012 and third last year.
He defeated the consistent Chris Barwick, another striving for his first win in the Kent, by just 0.15 seconds with the evergreen Jack Trounson third. Reigning Ararat champion Paul Fenn clocked fastest time of 30.18, while Stawell’s best was Nathaniel Warren (31.11).
Tracey, it’s fair to say, found the going much tougher. Her win, in the Amateur section of the event, surprised her. She’d already won at Concongella only last month.
“The hill training has definitely helped me,” she said, still nonplussed by her success, claiming a couple of prize scalps, including Warren, who conceded the winner just under twelve minutes start but was less than two minutes behind her at the finish. Dave Hunter was third some 40 seconds behind Warren/
“I was conscious that I would always slow up on hills and I’ve learnt the benefit of hill training from others,” Tracey said. “I need to run hills if I’m going to tough it out for 21 kilometres in Run the Gap (this) weekend.”
The Ararat Club has a bye on Sunday for Run the Gap but the Amateurs return to the Ironbarks for the five kilometre Axis Employment Handicap on Saturday. Fun runners are welcome and should meet at the North Park clubrooms from 9.30am.