In a remarkable warm-up for the opening event of the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club season, club president Gary Howden trained in China, Vietnam, Thailand and finally in Horsham before winning the five kilometer Dooen Engineering Handicap, held in the Ironbarks Forest last Saturday.
Seeming refreshed and invigorated after his extended business and pleasure trip to Asia, Gary surprised himself when adjusted handicaps favored him with a 44 second win over club stalwart, Col Barnett, who actually ran the fastest time of the day with a blistering 19 minutes and 14 seconds.
Gary, who owns the Horsham Telstra Store, had only recently returned from overseas and counted a 3km walk along the Great Wall of China with wife Sharon as one of his hardest workouts.
“They don’t call it the Great Wall for nothing, but what was most surprising were the great steps you had to negotiate. They really got the heart and the hamstrings pumping,” a flushed winner said.
More serious training followed along the banks of the picturesque Truc Buch Lake in central Hanoi where Gary was inspired by elderly Vietnamese exercising from 6am to traditional music, blaring from old radios and loudspeakers.
In Phuket, Gary challenged himself to a steep run to a monument honoring Prince Abhakara Kiartivongse, who is known as the “Father of the Royal Thai Navy,” and back in Horsham only had time for “a couple of runs” before Saturday’s race.
“I still don’t think I had done enough to be able to win first-up,” he said. “I ran a slow fourth kilometer but managed to shave 20 seconds off that to run the last km in 4 minutes and 15 seconds, which really pleased me.”
Gary’s actual time of 20.45 carved nearly half-a-minute from his effort in the corresponding race in 2010 in which he could only manage 15th. Third in the Dooen Engineering Handicap was another Horsham runner, Campbell Pallot who was having his first run with the club and can anticipate a successful year, along with his Horsham “stablemates” Glenn Ryan and Dominic van Dyk who also made their debuts with the club.
“In Horsham we don’t have any hills so it’s great to come to Stawell to run something a bit more challenging, over terrain we just don’t see at home,” Campbell said.
In the junior division of the race, over two kilometers, Tobias Blair looked fit and strong and was a little too seasoned for the gallant runner-up Ellie Atherton, while in the sub-juniors Amy Greenhalgh showed grim determination in a nail-biting finish to beat Layla Atherton by a breath.
By Keith Lofthouse