Bob Freeland ended the Stawell Amateur Athletic Club season on a high, winning the five kilometre Ivan McDonald Big Hill Handicap at Stawell on Saturday five days before his 68th birthday.
Plagued with nagging foot problems for most of 2017 and thinking his fifty-year career would end, the veteran runner won two of his previous three races and also notched a runner-up in between the victories.
Freeland relegated champion schoolboy athlete Tom Walker to second on the podium in both wins who conceded 16 minutes to the winner.
Just four weeks ago, Freeland had a 51 minute start on Walker in the 16 kilometre Stephen Baird Handicap won by Horsham’s Sharon Howden.
“Tom ran incredibly well and he was unlucky that Big Hill is virtually in my backyard – this is where I train,” Freeland said.
“That’s the thing about handicap racing – the slowest and oldest has as much chance of winning as the youngest and fastest.”
Freeland’s said he turned his season around due to a gentler training regimen, with less hard slog running and combining gym, swim and golf.
“Most runners know that your weekly workout must also include a run that is long, slow and disciplined,” he said.
“I’ve been doing more of that, plus my usual speed session on Mondays and I’ve come good.
During the race, Freeland thought that 75-year-old Gary Saunders once again would be the man to beat.
“He was flying, but then he tripped and hit the ground like a bag of spuds,” he said.
“I didn’t think he was going to pick himself up again but Gary’s as strong as an ox. Had it been anyone else they just might have stayed down.”
Freeland’s winning margin over Walker was over a minute with Mark Urquhart sliding into third place a further twenty-three seconds behind. Romy Maloney finished strongly to defeat Jay Jay Nitschke and Will Maloney in the one kilometre sub juniors race.