Wily veteran Keith Lofthouse travelled to Stawell’s Big Hill last Saturday with some confidence that he could finish the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club season with a third win.
But then world class ultra-marathoner Kieran Ryan, more than half his age and more than twice his speed, arrived just five minutes before the start of the five kilometre Ivan McDonald Handicap and his expectations imploded.
“It was a hot day and I thought to myself, ah well, no shame in running second to Kieran,” Lofthouse said. “But then I saw him yawn, twice! Never in my life had I seen him yawn before and I reckoned he must have had a big night out. Sure enough, he’d been to an engagement party, didn’t get home until 3am and might not have been as well hydrated as I was before the race.”
Lofthouse had finished third behind Ryan and Nathan Baker at Halls Gap the week before and was still receiving the same generous 7.45 minute start from the local champ and decided there was no better time to take advantage.
“We have to race up the Big Hill twice but we start on the downhill and that really is a free ride for about 500 metres. We had three fit young footballers (Scott Carey, Karl and Liam Scott) running on invitation and I was able to keep in touch and managed to pass the Scott boys when the heat got to them on the second lap.”
“I was really buggered on the last lap – the heat hit me too – and all season I’ve never felt so bad after finishing a race.”
When handicaps were applied, Lofthouse could have saved himself some effort as he had over a minute spare from Big Hill specialist Bob Freeland with Ryan, recording fastest time of 19.31 minutes, but still a further 0.45 seconds behind in third place.
Ryan said he was just “happy to get around” given his further celebrations planned later that afternoon and his body focused on a 100k Ultra Marathon scheduled for Gippsland in December.
In the Sub-Junior version of the race it was an all-Horsham affair with Logan Casey posting fastest time and too proving too strong for brothers Jordan and Jay Jay Nitschke.