All-the-way winners in Barnes cross-country

Tim Bolter (left) and Hamish McKinlay set off in the Barnes Cross-country senior men's race, held...
Tim Bolter (left) and Hamish McKinlay set off in the Barnes Cross-country senior men's race, held at Kettle Park yesterday.PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
Embarking recently on a training programme for the Dunedin Marathon in September helped set Steve Stewart (Caversham) up for victory in the 69th Barnes Cross-country held at Kettle Park yesterday.

A fourth-year runner, Stewart, a Dunedin project manager, had the rare distinction of leading the annual 5km handicap race from start to finish. But despite what many considered a generous handicap, Stewart was in no way confident he could do the business and "take it out".

"I had basically 40 hounds chasing me," he said of starting from the front mark.

"That made me a bit nervous."

Having extended his handicap advantage of 1min 20sec over club mate David Stott out to 2min at the completion of the first lap, Stewart stabilised this advantage on the field over the next two laps, as Stott faded from his pace.

Another Caversham club mate Alex Brown, competing from the 6min mark, ran into second place and appeared to threaten Stewart's lead as the field entered the fourth and final lap.

But despite nerves and periods of self-doubt Stewart held his composure to lead the field home in a time of 26min 25sec. Brown, able to take only a minute out of Stewart's lead on the final lap, finished second 1min 47sec back, clocking an actual time of 22min 12sec, and Andrew Lonie (Leith) was third, 12sec further back, clocking an actual time of 18min 54sec.

"We do lots of distances," Stewart said of his training runs.

"But this one, you have to go as hard as you can," he said of admitting to having a good base to fall back on during the race.

Stewart said that combining his training runs with gym work certainly helped.

As for the rare occurrence of leading the race from start to finish, Stewart said it was a matter of "leading by example".

Before he took up running four years ago, Stewart said he had a break after doing 15 years full-time in the army and playing social grade rugby for Kaikorai and Pirates.

Fastest time on the 5km course was clocked by Russell Green (Hill City-University) who recorded 17min 10sec.

It was somewhat of a Caversham club sister-act in the associated 3.75km three-lap open women's race, when Alison Newall won her first individual open women's title, and her sister Gail Sharp finished hot on her heels for second.

Newall, a Dunedin office administrator, was another to lead from start to finish starting from the 30sec mark. Her sister started from the 2min 45sec mark.

Heading into the final lap Newall held a 45sec lead over her sister. Lesley McCormack (Caversham) was close behind in third and a chasing Gaya Gnanalingam (Leith), off the 4min 30sec mark, loomed as real threats.

Midway through the final lap, Newall dug deep to muster a second wind and hold out the chasing field headed by her sister. She collapsed, exhausted, at the end of the finishing chute having battled self-belief demons to win the title in an actual time of 21min 58sec. Sharp clocked an actual time of 20min 15sec and Gnanalingam was third in an actual time of 18min 38sec.

Newall never thought that she would come away from the event victorious.

"I haven't got the endurance yet. I just hoped that I didn't have to walk," she said at the finish.

Becoming aware she held the lead, heading for home all she could do was keep telling herself to "keep running. Just keep running".

"I just had to endure the pain until the end and make it worth it. I also thought hell, we've got to try and sprint on sand. It was so hard."

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