Veteran cross country runner Keith Lofthouse surprised even himself when he won the eight kilometre Tyler’s Rural Handicap for the third year in a row and a fourth time overall at Rupanyup on Saturday.
From eight starts in the race, Lofthouse has only once finished further back than third.
The sixty-eight-year-old had given himself “no chance” before the race, which he has dominated since its inception in 2009.
“I knew there were others that were ready to win and I thought the handicapper had my measure after I could only finish seventh at the Concongella Vineyards a week before,” he said.
“I realise now that the two courses are entirely different.
“At Concongella we have a couple of hills and uneven ground, especially through the vineyard, but here it is flat and fast and I’m able to find a rhythm that I can’t find anywhere else.”
Confidence and experience on the course proved to be a factor early in the race when Lofthouse was headed first by Vicki Tyler, then by Rhonda Rice, with Sharon Howden on his tail.
“Vicki gave me a 20 second start but had passed me on the first lap of the footy ground,” he said.
“She was breathing hard and I suspected she had gone out too fast too soon.
“I felt pretty good but with the girls already ahead or breathing down my neck I thought the best I could do would to run an honest fourth.”
Passing front-marker Gary Saunders with less than three kilometres to go, Lofthouse said he had a few peeks over his shoulder and recognised Howden as his only serious challenger.
“I was running scared for the last two kilometres because I thought Sharon might run me down, as she has done before,” he said
“I actually had the staggers before I reached the line, but luckily she didn’t know that.”
In the one kilometre sub juniors race, Jordan Nitschke gave his younger brother Jay Jay a sizeable start but was too good.
Julie Hertz ran a personal best time to claim the 20th and final running of the ten kilometre Garry and Pauline Jenkins Handicap.
She started with a handicap – a serious strength-sapping vitamin B deficiency for which she needs regular injections and it was 18 months before she managed to win her second race over her pet distance.
Runner-up Keith Lofthouse, who conceded just on six minutes start to Hertz, ran his fastest 10 km in several seasons but the handicap was too great, and had to settle for his third consecutive second in the race he had last won in 2009 and 2010.
Sue Blizzard returned to the podium for the first time in a year.
She has been finding form after a long recovery from a leg injury.
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