Monday, 25 May 2015

National Track Champs 1985


Apart from the first time I ran at the nationals as a junior, I had only ever run a single event at the National Athletics Champs and that was the 1500m. However I'd come to realise that I perhaps didn't have the speed for the 1500 and being Wellington champion over 5000m for the last three years I decided to give that distace a crack at the nationals. The 5000m was held on the Friday so I still had a backup over the 1500 if things didn't go so well.
The trouble with running a 5000m for a 1500 runner is that the pace at the beginning seems quite easy, after all you have become used to running laps in around 60 seconds, so 67 seems a doddle. However running at that pace for twelve and a half laps saps your energy and will power. So a 1500m runner begins to doubt his abilities at around four laps to go and it becomes worse at three.
And so it was for me in this race. I had contemplated running it in bare feet as the track in Dunedin was quite soft but decided to go conventional. I found it easy keeping up with the pace over the initial stages but gradually got more and more weary until I had to let the leading trio go. Although I rallied at the end and came home with a good finish, I failed to get up to third by a couple of seconds. The fourth placing remains my best performance at a Nationals (outside mountain running).


I really had no idea as to how my legs would stand up to running a hard 5000m then trying to run a decent 1500 the next day but as it was they coped fine.
1500m heat. Mike Gilchrist leads from Phil Clode and Me.
I had drawn a heat with Mike Gilchrist, Russell Haswell, Mark Furlan and a then unknown Phil Clode from Waikato. Mike made the pace quite honest and I sat very close to him the whole way. Then coming round the last bend I pulled alongside him and we both glanced back to see a wall of people all contending for the qualifying spots. I think we both uttered a mild profanity at that and added an extra touch to the accelerator to pull away form the rest of the field and qualify for the final.
There were a few people in the heats who had run their best times for the season and still failed to make the final. Alastair Leslie had run 3:48.60 in the other heat and not qualified and in our heat Neil Gaudin missed out with 3:48.39.


Since I had made the final I was contemplating a better performance than in the 5000m which meant I was angling for a medal. In fact without John Walker in the race the title was up for grabs, despite the fact that the field contained Tony Rogers who had made the final at the Olympics the previous year. I thought that there would be a good battle for the title and that, although Tony was the obvious favourite, many in the field would probably consider him beatable. I hoped to challenge him myself having set my sights a bit higher up than usual. I thought that even if I didn't succeed I may have been in with a chance to pick up some of the scraps.
I've drawn lane 1 with Andrew Stark, Russell Haswell and Mark Furlan outside me. Tony Rogers has drawn 6 with Mike Gilchrist outside him.
Unfortunately I drew lane one for the final. From lane you have two options: either go out hard and take the lead or get swamped by the field and take your chances. Not being a front runner myself I chose the latter option. I thought that Tony would probably lead and the main challengers would hang on to him, dragging me through with them.
After 300 metres I'm in a bad position close to the rear of the field.
Things didn't go to plan for me. I got too far back in the pack and when Tony began his run for home after only 300 metres nobody went with him. This really annoyed me and I cursed the rest of the field for being such a bunch of wimps then decided I wasn't going to let Tony have it all his own way so took off after him. This meant dropping to the back of the field and then running round everybody on the bend.
Having just completed one lap I'm after Tony while the rest of the field figures out what to do.
Unfortunately I couldn't quite bridge the gap. I got close, but not close enough to make contact and use him to drag me through. For the next couple of laps the gap between us remained the same as the pack gathered itself for the final onslaught.
With a lap to go I'm all on my own.
By the beginning of the final lap I could feel the oxygen debt building in my legs but pushed on as best I could. Tony was away and one by one people began to pass me. Mike Gilchrist, Mark Furlan and Colin McDonald went past then finally down the home straight Andrew Stark passed me.
Andrew Stark beats me to the finish.
So I ended up a couple of places worse than I had in the 5000m and in my best time for the season (3:47.18). The other guys in the race congratulated me on such a gutsy effort but really what I did was run on my emotions at the time. Perhaps if I had been prepared to let Tony go and race just for second I may have got that place. But you have only got the opportunity once a year and you have to make the most of it on the day, otherwise it's another twelve months wait.

Friday, 15 May 2015

3000m PB - Porritt Classic 1985

I don't know if the meeting was called the Porritt Classic in 1985 but that's what it's known as these days so I thought I'd stick with that in the title.

In my prime as a track runner I used to seek out competition where I could which, more often than not, meant travelling north. The meeting at Porritt Stadium in Hamilton was a popular one with amny athletes and good competition was virtually assured. In 1985 there was a bit of added spice to the meeting with a bunch of juniors over from England or a bit of out of (their) season competition.

The 3000m was probably my favourite distance. I thought I lacked the pace to be a decent 1500m runner and seemed to lack the endurance to run a decent 5000m (although my cross country results tend to suggest this was all in the head). Unfortunately in those days 3000m races were few and far between so I took the opportunity to run them whenever I could.
Stan Grimes leads the chasing pack with Barry Ellis and me trailing.
The race started at a reasonable clip but one of the English juniors (who I suspect was a D Taylor from other results around that time) decided it was not quick enough for him so set off on his own, whilst Stan Grimes made the pace for the chasing pack. The gap between the leader and the chasing pack extended out to around 30m but the pace was reasonably brisk and it was looking like we were on for a good time, at least sub 8:10.

I've left the pack and am hauling in the leader.
With about three laps to go the gap to the leader had not closed and there didn't seem to be any urgency in the pack to close it, so I took matters into my own hands and set off after the leader. With just over a lap to go I had caught him and had a little breather while I considered my options of winning the race. It's always a bit of a worry when racing someone you don't know as you've no knowledge of how fast they are able to finish but I just had to back myself.

Just before the 200m mark I kicked with everything I had, sailed past the leader and ran away from him all the way to the line. The pace had been good and I was hoping for a PB but got a real shock when I was told I had run 8:04.1. That meant that I had run the last 200m in 26 seconds, probably my fastest finish ever.

In the following weeks I defended my Wellington 5000m and 1500m titles. In the 5000m I had a similar finish of 26 seconds over the last 200 so it showed that all the training I had been doing was most effective and I was in rare form.

Unfortunately I failed to get invited to compete in John Walker's 100th sub 4 minute mile attempt and ended up running in the B grade race virtually on my own. This was a big disappointment because I knew I had the form to break the mark that night but didn't have the support I needed.