If Gary Saunders was a racehorse rather than a runner he might have been the subject of a stewards’ inquiry by now.
What sort of jungle juice is he on? How could a 72-year-old, the equivalent of a 10-year-old in racehorse years, win for the third time in 13 races by running the fastest times he has posted in his own memory?
Flushed by his latest success in the five kilometre Andrew Darnell Memorial at Horsham last Saturday, the grey-bearded athlete, who looks nothing like one, had no easy answer.
He is certainly fitter, with a dedicated programme of stretching, strengthening and circuit work at the Stawell YMCA, but that’s been part of his training regime for about three years now and most of his improvement has happened this year.
“It might all go back to 1983,” he suggested, clutching at straws. “I cut a tendon all the way to the middle toe when I trod on glass carrying two kids into the Wimmera River at Glenorchy.”
“I had lots and lots of repair work done but it never came good until about five years ago. During the long recovery the muscle wasted away as I was trying to protect the foot and I was unbalanced when I ran. Add to that I had a hernia operation last year and that has relieved a lot of pain.”
Testament to that is the fact that his 2014 times, over all distances, from 3km to 10km, are faster than they were in 2008.
Conditions were also favourable to him in the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club event on a fast, flat course on safer banks of the Wimmera, in a race that he had won three times before – not forgetting a fourth time when he threw away a win after taking a wrong turn.
Typically a fast starter who defies back-markers to run him down, Saunders was always in control and was too strong for a determined Rachel Coverdale to post a 0.23 seconds win, with recent winner Matilda Iglesias third.
Promising youngster Rhys Bubb led the Seniors for almost half a race and faded, but his 22.51 minutes was still too sharp for a gritty Luca O’Flynn in the Junior division.
Rhys’s brother Jonte finished with a withering burst to clinch the Sub-Juniors race from Jordan Nitshcke and Jacob Casey who chased hard.
Race action returns to the Ironbarks tomorrow for the five kilometre David O. Jones Stawell Mitre 10 Handicap. Fun runners are welcome and can ring for details on 53562493.