Leon Monaghan is a handy local tennis player, but not once in his fifty-five years had he given any thought to competitive running.
But good emerged from the doldrums of lockdown when Monaghan, for “something to do,” joined his seventeen-year-old daughter Elise, a promising junior athlete and gymnast, in casual runs that first became a habit and then something more serious.
Still, he needed some coaxing from fellow racquet man Nathan Baker to embrace the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club and commit to something as foreign to him as cross country running on some challenging courses.
His first two runs yielded an unflattering sixteenth and a twentieth but in the eight kilometre Best’s Wines Classic at Great Western last Saturday, Monaghan discovered the key to competitive pursuit and was rewarded with a stunning win.
“I saw someone moving along at a good steady pace and didn’t so much as chase him but kept him in sight and he sort of dragged me along,” Monaghan said.
The “bunny” up ahead clung to a narrow advantage but once handicaps were applied, positions were reversed and Monaghan was a neat thirty seconds clear of the nearest chasers, Matilda Iglesias and Keith Lofthouse.
“For me, getting out and having a run is not about winning, but I was absolutely shocked. I had no idea that might happen,” he said.
“I’m certainly much fitter than when I started, and I’ve learned a bit about interval training and hill running which has obviously helped.”
When asked about potential half-marathons and beyond, Monaghan laughed it off as a place he never wants to be. “I think eight kilometres is about my limit. I’m 55 and I want to run for a long time, but not a long distance.”
Wiry veteran Keith Lofthouse represented both the Stawell and Ararat Cross Country Cub and the Amateurs in the race within a race and notched his twelfth win in his fourteenth year with the SACCC.
“I marked the course and I was anxious to see it go off smoothly and that charges me with a certain amount of adrenalin,” he said. “That kind of juice is only good for about four kilometres before fatigue sets in, but half a race run at speed is better than none!”
He finished with over a minute to spare from daredevil Paula Pettingill who raced without sense of preservation and “blew up” with two kilometres to run. Endurance runner Matilda Iglesias, was runner-up in the Amateurs race and topped off her very fine day with a third on debut with the Ararat club.