Endurance athlete Dale Hurley is hopeful his transition from speed running into marathons will not stymie his bid to win a third consecutive championship with the Stawell and Ararat Cross Country Club this year.
The highly-decorated Great Western footballer swapped footy boots for running shoes in 2012 and found instant success racing over distances between five and 10 kilometres with the club, but his long term goal is to complete 10 consecutive Melbourne Marathons.
Hurley, however, has found that the "long, slow discipline" of training in excess of 30 kilometres in a single session has taken the edge off his speed and that could be critical when he needs to fire against improving young guns Nathan Makovec, Sam Gason and Simon Gallagher.
All are capable of ending Hurley's reign when the season opens with the five kilometre Rhymney Reef Handicap on Sunday.
"I've had a bit of a rough trot battling injuries since my last marathon and I've lost a lot of pace," he said.
"I find I'm content to roll along at about five minute pace (per kilometre) these days and that's why I'm looking forward to the club season.
"The shorter distances will give me a chance to work on my speed."
The last athlete to land a hat-trick of championships was Mark Thompson from 1994-96 and that is something only three other athletes have achieved in the 45 year history of the club.
The 20 race season is open to all runners, of all levels of ability as the handicap system gives everyone, from the slowest to the oldest, a chance of winning sashes, trophies and prizes.
Sunday's event starts at the historic Rhymney cricket ground at 10am. Entry fee is $5 and further enquiries can be made by phoning 5356 2493.