2017 Australian Half-Marathon Championships

With temperatures sitting in the low 20’s, the Victorian Half-Marathon team ventured to the Sunshine coast to contest the Australian Half-Marathon Championships.

With injuries striking the women’s team of Virginia Moloney, Erchana Murray-Bartlett and Jessica Lees (all Collingwood Harriers) late in the week, the Victorian men’s team remained healthy enough to storm home with the national team title.

Three scoring athletes are used to determine a state versus state scoring system, the Victorian Men’s team of Mitchel Brown (Essendon), Michael Kernahan (Mentone), Zachary Newman (Melbourne University) and Toby Rayner (Glenhuntly) led a medal hopeful charge, with Melbourne University’s Nick Earl a late withdrawal due to illness.

A 6am race start greeted competitors for the 21.1km journey, in the team competition Victoria comprehensively defeated all other states, with Queensland 2nd on 23 points, Victoria’s 11 points were secured by 3rd, 5th and 7th place runs from Mitchel Brown (1:05:40), Toby Rayner (1:08:03) and Zachary Newman (1:09:15) respectively.

Athletics Victoria spoke with Brown following the race, Brown remarked that the race and early pace was dictated by individual entrant, two-time Australian Olympian Collis Birmingham.

Returning from a European training stint, Birmingham was targeting Pat Carroll’s 23-year old Australian all-comers record of 1:01:11.
Whilst Birmingham has run faster, clocking 1:00:56 in Marugame, Japan in 2013, the national championship setting ensured Birmingham’s run was completed without pacers. Brown told Athletics Victoria the early pace was strong, as only Chris Hamer (ACT) decided to chance going with Birmingham, a tactical move indicative of the former Box Hill runner’s current form, early bravery that paid dividends with a finishing time of 1:04:08, taking over 4 minutes off Hamer’s 2009 personal best.

Birmingham finished well clear of the field, victorious in a course record of 1:03:18, making a substantial breakaway following the early feature hill, appearing at 5km. Birmingham told the Sunshine Coast Daily that whilst he felt strong throughout the race, “When we turned around and were coming back there was a little bit of wind and it was pretty hard work but I’m happy with the effort.”

Brown elaborated on the race following Collis’ big move, suggesting that tactics quickly encouraged a race for 3rd place, as Brown engaged in a long-distance stoush with Queenslander Isaias Beyn, as New Zealand’s Aaron Pulford, a Zatopek 10 regular, set an honest pace for the chase group until fading after the 11km mark.

Brown kicked home over the final 400 metres, finally detaching himself from Beyn’s determined shadowing routine, whilst pleased with his tactical acuity, the Essendon stalwart mirrored Birmingham’s sentiments, in finding the second half of the race difficult in moderately windy conditions.

Athletics Victoria’s focus turns to Wollongong this weekend, with the Australian Cross Country Championships providing a grassy battleground for over 130 of Victoria’s best junior and open cross country runners, be sure to stay tuned to AV’s news and social media streams to keep up to date.

Notable Victorian Performances:

1st Collis Birmingham (Eureka) – 1:03:16 Course Record
3rd Mitchel Brown (Essendon) – 1:05:39
6th Toby Rayner (Glenhuntly) – 1:08:02
7th Dejen Gebresellassie (Mentone) – 1:08:59
8th Zachary Newman (Melbourne University) – 1:09:15
9th Michael Kernahan (Mentone) – 1:09:39

 

Anglesea Surf Coast Ekiden Relay Wrap

Round 8 of the AV XCR ’17 series saw competitors travel to the Anglesea Family Caravan Park, offering a picturesque racing backdrop, with a variety of surfaces and undulations to test runners throughout the 42.2km “Ekiden” relay event.

The Ekiden concept hails historically from Japan, with the first Ekiden taking place in 1917, covering 508km from the ancient Japanese capital of Kyoto,

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to the modern capital of Tokyo. A nationally popular event in Japan, the national university championships often draw crowds exceeding 1 million spectators along the New Year’s festival Hakone route, with network television covering the event live.

Athletics Victoria’s event differs slightly from the traditional stage race, with runners starting and finishing each leg at the same point, taking in some of the best views of Anglesea whilst traversing challenging uphill sections, sometimes lasting up to 600 metres in length.

The Premier division men’s competition was a close affair, with Essendon, Box Hill, Geelong and Knox all swapping leads throughout the race. The race begun with a blistering leg from Rio Olympian Liam Adams, swapping his usual marathon distance for a more conservative 9.8km leg (32:23), tagging teammate Mitch Brown with a 34 second lead on the field.

Brown held Essendon’s lead through the 8.8km leg (30:09), however Geelong’s Harry Smithers had closed the gap substantially, embracing his inner mountain goat across the hills, Smithers clocked 29:30, pulling back some 39 seconds.

Peter Kerr (Geelong) swapped his usual Australian triathlon kit for the navy blue of Geelong, pulling the team into the lead over the back section of the course (28:39), Kerr changed ahead of Knox’s Nathan Percy, who had run the equal 2nd fastest time for the 3rd leg (28:18) to keep Knox in the mix.

Knox’s 4th leg involved a trump card of sorts, with 3-time Olympian Jeff Riseley narrowing the gap to Geelong’s Nick Wightman over the 6km loop, Riseley’s time of 20:23 proving the fastest of the day.

After 32.5km of racing, Knox and Geelong were locked in a proper stoush for the Ekiden title, as mere seconds separated Knox’s Mark Richards and Geelong’s Jarrod McMullen. Richards changed with David Friend in the lead by less than 30 seconds, whilst Mitch Thompson of Geelong closed much of the gap on Friend down over the final 4.6km leg, less than 10 seconds separated the two teams after 42.2km of racing, as Knox claimed a narrow victory after an enthralling afternoon of racing.

The Women’s competition involved fewer lead changes, yet still featured an exciting two-team chase in the final stages. Early stages of the race pitted Frankston, Geelong, Glenhuntly, Western Athletics and Knox against each other.

Kiah Fry of Frankston made the most of the hilly loop, developing a lead of over a minute on the trailing Geelong and Glenhuntly teams. As Frankston lacked the numbers to complete the relay event, the ensuing legs saw Glenhuntly build a healthy lead through Anna Saw, Amelia Aslanides and Rebecca Beagley. However, Knox’s strategical arrangement of runners threatened to pay off late in the day, combining Australian representative Melissa Duncan’s pace with Katie Gamble and Kate Seibold’s experience, Knox began to reel back Glenhuntly.

At the final change Knox remained in 2nd, with Glenhuntly’s making a mad dash for the finish line. Glenhuntly’s Dana Dekkers kept calm under pressure, as Knox’s efforts throughout the second half of the race couldn’t quite close Glenhuntly’s dominant early lead. Western Athletics finished 3rd, an encouraging result, marking the first Premier division relay medal for the club.

A day of fortunate weather conditions ensured the challenging course was enjoyed by all competitors throughout the day, with thanks to Brett Coleman and his local Geelong team, proving instrumental in set up, course marking and marshalling throughout the event.

With only two events left in the XCR’17 series, the penultimate round is the Burnley Half Marathon on September 10, a great lead in to the Melbourne Marathon on October 15, pre-entries close Midday September 6, with entries available on the day at a higher rate.