Stawell Amateur Athletic Club rookie David McAllister stunned more seasoned runners with a pugnacious “first-up” win in the Oscar Furniture Troopers Camp Handicap at Roses Gap last Saturday.
Until recently McAllister, who had previously focused on organised fun runs, marathons and charity runs, was content to spend his Saturday afternoons pumping iron or pounding out the kilometres on the treadmill at the Stawell Leisure Centre and watching local football.
A natural talent, McAllister, 39, finished twenty-second of 453 runners (the only Stawell representative) in the Great Ocean Road Marathon in May, but wouldn’t have dreamed of winning a cross country race in August, let alone the toughest on the SAAC calendar.
However, after a couple of invitational hit-outs with the club, McAllister “caught the bug” and lined-up as a new member for the gruelling eleven kilometre event. Non-competing junior Liam Scott acted as pacemaker for the first kilometre of the race with club champion Nathaniel Warren, Gary Howden, Ray Scott and McAllister in close attendance. But young Liam had done his dash before the field started to climb when the event settled into a personal battle between pairs of runners, ensuring a competitive race.
“He (McAllister) was up my behind like a cattle prod all the way,” said Warren, who was first across the line in a time of forty-six minutes and sixteen seconds but lost to the newcomer once handicaps were applied. Only seconds separated closest combatants Howden and Scott, who finished scratched and bloodied after a fall while tackling the “hill of horrors”, perhaps over the same rock that nearly brought his son, Liam, to grief.
Almost impossible to run, the steep and rocky slope is full of deep gouges and craters and only Susie Ellis, the tungsten-tough third placegetter and Scott, managed not to walk over the most treacherous terrain.
Rallying on bitumen for the last two kilometres, Keith Lofthouse finished fourth on handicap after chasing “downhill racer” Paul Atherton and Charlie Jones in a sprint to the finish.
Sommer Darnell won the sub-junior division of the race over two kilometres.