Brown finding his feet at national level

Race walker Alex Brown and his mother Evelyn Armstrong take a walk at the Caledonian Ground....
Race walker Alex Brown and his mother Evelyn Armstrong take a walk at the Caledonian Ground. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Alex Brown has made the best from a happy accident.

In 2011, the then 10-year-old Caversham athlete lined up for a walk at the Colgate Games — not knowing it was actually a race walk.

"I ended up thinking ‘Oh, I’m quite a fast walker just generally, so I might have a good chance at this’," Brown said.

"I was looking for something I thought I was really good at.

"Did a race ... and got, obviously, disqualified because I wasn’t doing it properly."

But that initial walk sparked something for Brown, who returned home, got some coaching and lined up in the same event at the Colgate Games the following year — and won.

Since then, the 22-year-old has found his passion in the sport and and has proved successful, winning another national senior men’s 20km title recently.

He sliced an enormous 11 minutes off his personal best — in his first 20km race in three years due to Covid and injuries — finishing in 1hr 47min 20sec in Palmerston North.

"I feel pretty good. It wasn’t the best of races.

"I was sick for a couple of weeks leading in and got sick in the race.

"I was quite pleased in the end."

His mother, Evelyn Armstrong, who helped get him involved in athletics, also competed in the national road race championships, finishing seventh in the masters 5km race.

"It was good to have her there. It’s always nice to have your parents there with you."

He is extending his support to the walking community in Dunedin, too, having started a race walking group, giving him people to train alongside.

"It was just me for a long time. It’s been about seven, eight, years.

"It’s been quite nice, because I’ve been coaching them, so it’s been quite nice to have other people showing interest and getting into the sport."

It was those people — along with his drive to win — that kept him involved in the sport, he said.

"Well, it’s a bit of a combination. It’s something I’m just really good at, so I enjoy succeeding at it.

"But it’s also something that not many people do and it’s got a lovely group of people surrounding it."

Those people included Caversham club coach Dave Simpson, traditionally a running coach, who had been coaching Brown, with help from national race walking champion and Otago athlete Rozie Robinson.

"The pair of them together work really well."

Brown’s sights are now set on heading to Australia at the end of the year in a bid to get his personal best down to about 1 hour 42min to quality for the world race walking team championships in Turkey.