2020 has been a surreal year with the Covid19 virus affecting all corners of the planet. There has been wide disruption to normal activity including for local and national athletics.
The response to the various level restrictions have meant very few planned events from proceeding, especially those normally involving large participation. Thus some athletes have been getting a form of runner’s cabin fever – plenty of training but no real racing which of course sucks.
So with the National Road Relay planned for Fielding in a few weeks Athletics Wellington decided to proceed with the Wellington Road Champs to give athletes the chance of a blowout.
With most of NZ (apart from Auckland) back to level 2, special arrangements were needed to meet the rules around the size of gathering and social distancing. In practice, this meant cutting the number of races back to 4 and limiting start numbers.
Each race was treated as a separate event in order to meet the requirements for maximum numbers able to attend. Precautions were also put in place to make sure there was no after-match mingling, something runners would normally find hard to do.
Other refinements made for the day included handheld timing in place of electronic timing, all under the control of the unflappable Mr GoPro or Daryl the Dude.
Conditions on the day were pretty good (especially early on) considering all of the crap weather we have been having lately. The weather gods can’t quite decide if it is winter or spring.
Race 1 was the 10km race for those 40 minutes plus runners.
Mark Moore was in this field so it was Mark and then daylight for most of the race. So basically a solo time trial for him. I am not sure why he chose the early 10km rather than the later sub 40 minute 10km but there must have been a good reason. Which is a pity because he may have been able to go that much quicker.
After a respectable period of rest, event number 2 got underway. This was the 6km race for masters (MW50+, MM60+) and the juniors (U20, U18, U16.
Included in this field were a lot of the high school kids who ordinarily would have been in Hawera fighting it out in the NZ Secondary Schools XC champs which were cancelled as the country went out of Level 1 and back to the more restrictive Level 2/3 lockdown.
Given the scale of this event, the cancellation (it had already been postponed once from its original June date) for 2020 was a wise decision and to the credit of the NZSSAA (Tony Rogers), it was made early.
But back to the 5km race; Olympic Harrier’s Will Anthony wasted no time in hitting his straps and didn’t hang around to be challenged. This kid is quick and his time of 14.57 proves it; I would bet a dollar to a doughnut that he would have medalled if the schools' event in Hawera had proceeded as planned.
Making an easy run for second place was Thomas Strawbridge (who won the U20 grade) followed by another rising star, Jack Hunter (won the U16 grade).
Poppy Rae was the first female home (18.14) to win the U16 grade while 10 seconds back was Caitlin Bassett to win the U20 grade.
Event no 3 was the 2.5km for kids aged between U10 and U14. So an out and back race half of which is kind of up hillish (nasty) and the other half definitely down hillish (less nasty).
Some of those little people, the youngest, in particular, must have wondered what they got themselves into as they tried to propel their small frames and tiny legs all the way to the 1.25km turnaround and back again. The results show how they finished and a gold star to every one of them.
The headline act was of course event 4, the 10km for those able to run the distance in under 40 minutes.
All of the local elite runners were on the start line except for Nick Horspool.
At this stage, I should mention that #Mad Harry appears to have disappeared without a trace for 2020 and "we" don’t know why.
The leading group was comprised of all the local fast men, Eric Speakman, Hamish Carson, Isaac Murphy (last year’s champion), Seamus Kane, Dan Jones, with possibly Niam MacDonald hiding at the back.
The following group also had some well-performed runners too many to mention.
The photos pretty much tell the story of how the race unfolded, some individuals drifted off groups while others caught up to the next one. As happens, a number just ended up isolated on their lonesome putting social distancing into practice.
But at the front of the field, Hamish Carson ruled the roost developing an early gap around the halfway point of lap 1 and never looking back.
Eric S chased hard and for a moment there it looked like he might be moving closer, but as the race progressed this was not to be.
Dan, Isaac and Seamus were all now off the pace but still moving solidly.
So what can one say about the sub 30 minute time posted by Hamish, except “oh my”? This kind of performance on the road in this day and age is not something that happens often either in Wellington or across rest of NZ, so it is extra special to be a witness to see it all happen.
But there were other good showings as, well and the ones I noticed were from Geoff Ferry and Ryan Hunt. But what about those who went under 32 minutes. Not counting Hamish, or Eric (2nd) or Dan Jones (3rd) - there we 6 of them including Ben Twyman who surely must be poised to knock out a fast half-marathon time (hint, hint) in the near future.
Remember also that this race probably doubles as a trial for road relay team selection because there have been few opportunities for real racing this year, and selectors will be looking at the times posted very carefully.
Getting close to breaking 32 minutes was Malcolm Hodge who ran 32. 03. Brother Tim was also in this race and I’m sure it’s the first time both have raced each other in ages. Malcolm reigned supreme on this one but I am impressed by Tim’s comeback and if I were Malcolm I would be worried.
There were women in the race hidden amongst clumps of blokes. There were not a great number presumably because most ran in the first 10km race.
In the women’s grade, Ruby Muir claimed the overall crown with a time of 35.16 followed by Nicole Mitchell in 37.32 and Esther George in 3rd with a time of 37.52.
So looking at the results you would have to say “Ruby is back” and showing her class as a former National XC Champion and successful off-road specialist.