Athletics: Race record challenge

Port Chalmers to Dunedin road race record-holder Alan Moir. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Port Chalmers to Dunedin road race record-holder Alan Moir. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Even though 40 years have passed since Alan Moir (63) set the Port Chalmers to Dunedin road race record in 1974, he still keeps an eager eye on it every year.

His 37min 40sec record time has not seriously been threatened in the annual handicapped event's 112-year history.

The 12km race has been held every year since 1902, except during and after World War 1, (1915-20) and last year, when the road was blocked by a landslip.

Moir, who was 23 when he smashed Tom Marshall's 1963 race record (38min 25sec), remembers the 1974 race well.

''It was funny, when I finished the thing, it was almost like I could have run it again. I felt really good. I never knew what the record was before I ran it.

''I was pretty pleased I beat two jokers [Stuart Melville and Euan Robertson] who represented New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games earlier that year. That's what gave me a thrill. Everything clicked, I just felt really good. I put a lot of training in that year, but it all just came together,'' he said.

Moir, now retired, took to running in the late 1960s after trying his hand at rugby and being ''cut in half'' due to his lack of size and pace.

He started training in some empty paddocks near the Burnside freezing works. After a few weeks he felt stronger and was able to run for a couple of hours.

Moir joined the Ariki club in 1968 and was soon running more than 160km a week with former New Zealand Commonwealth Games 10,000m gold medallist Dick Tayler, who is also the only Otago runner to clock a sub-four-minute-mile (3min 58.8sec).

The same year Moir set the record, he finished second in the national road championships in Invercargill. He was part of the Otago team which won the team section. Robertson finished third, Melville fourth and Harry Genge 16th.

''I beat those guys three times in a row,'' Moir said.

''But I didn't beat them often. For the four or five times I beat Euan Robertson, he probably beat me 40 times.''

Tony O'Brien (Mornington) has come closest to Moir's record, finishing within 15 seconds of it and beating Moir by two seconds in 1975.

Although no-one has come close to threatening Moir's record since, he thinks someone will break it one day.

''I probably thought someone would have got it by now, but there's only one other guy [O'Brien] who has gone under 38 minutes,'' he said.

''I honestly believe runners now need to do more track racing to get the speed up. That's the stuff that toughens you up.''

Caden Shields (39min 34sec) was the last runner to crack 40 minutes, in 2007. Michael Wakelin clocked the fastest time in 2012, finishing in 42min 6sec.

Paul Allison, who ran the third-fastest time (38min 5sec) in 1988, said any 40-year-old record was ''pretty good'' and it had ''stood the test of time''.

''I can't see it being beaten for another 10 years, at least,'' he said.

The forecast for tomorrow's race, the 30th since women were first allowed to compete in 1983, should suit the field and any morning showers should be gone before the race starts at 1pm.

Ben Anderson (Caversham), who ran the Clyde to Alexandra 10km road race in 33min 11sec last month, will fancy his chances to record the fastest men's time, but will face strong challenges from Michael Wakelin (Hill City-University) and Neale McLanachan (Leith).

Mel Aitken (Leith) will be looking for a good hit-out a week out from the Dunedin marathon, in which she is looking for a third straight Otago women's open title.

She ran the Clyde to Alex road race in 37min 59sec, but will have to fend off challenges from Bridget Thompson (Ariki), Julie Wilson (Ariki) and Shireen Crumpton (Hill City-University) for the fastest women's time.

Only five runners have won the race and recorded the fastest time in the same year in the event's history. The last person to do it was Tom Marshall (North Otago), in 1960.

While there is a separate title for men and women, the overall winner is shared. Since women started competing 21 years ago, four have claimed the overall win in the handicapped race. Gaya Gnanalingam was the last to do it, in 2011.

 -by Robert Van Royen 

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