Self-doubt turns into dig, dig, dig

Leith filled the first four places in the open men’s event at the 5km Barnes Cross-country...
Leith filled the first four places in the open men’s event at the 5km Barnes Cross-country yesterday. From left are Glen Chisholm (fourth), Ray Knox (first), Andrew Lonie (third) and Hamish McKinlay (second). Photo: Wayne Parson.
Ray Knox (Leith) is  proof that the postman always knocks twice, at least when it comes to Athletics Otago handicap events.

Knox (56), a Dunedin postman, won the Port Chalmers to Dunedin Road Race in 2005 and although he has featured in a number of races since, yesterday’s victory in the 68th annual Barnes Cross-country, at Kettle Park, was his first piece of Otago silverware since then. The past five years in particular have been a balancing act with family and work commitments, combined with a series of foot and knee injuries.

Knox contested the 5km event from a handicap of 3min. Going into the race, he thought he would have a chance of getting close to the front but doubted his ability  to hold on.

He added that his training had been "up and down", and weight gain over the past five years, due to not running regularly, combined with age-related incentive lapses were factors in him not  rating  his chances yesterday.Knox began to feature at the end of the second of four laps, when he trailed Phil Morris (Hill City) by 50sec. When he noticed Morris at the head of the field, his competitive streak kicked in.

"It became a case of keeping everybody else out," he said.

Halfway through the third lap, Knox had run into second place and within 8sec of Morris, whom he overtook at the top end of the course to take the lead. He entered the final lap with an 18sec lead as promising junior Hamish McKinlay (Leith)began to feature in third place, 44sec behind him.

Halfway through the final lap, McKinlay was making inroads, which did not go unnoticed by Knox.‘‘I looked around and noticed Hamish closing in and I thought ‘I’m going to struggle to hold him out’.

"So I had a big, big last lap. I didn’t know if I had enough. My fear was that I was going to get run down right at the end. I thought he’d smoke me with just a few metres to go. I just had to dig, dig, dig, until I got over the line."

And dig he did, as he held the young gun out by 20m to win the cross-country classic in an actual time of 22min 25sec.

"I remember thinking over that last lap that this could be my last chance to win. So I had to make the most of my chances once I was in the front."

Second-placed McKinlay clocked an actual time  of 18min 22sec. The Leith club recorded one of its most successful results in the event, filling the first four places, with Andrew Lonie third and Glen Chisholm fourth. And with Clifford Kelway-Pope ninth and Mark O’Donnell 19th, it was a rare team victory for the club.

Knox’s  victory was the first in 25 years for a representative of the Leith Club.

"This is a really good race to win," he said afterwards.

"I’ve run it heaps of times but to actually win, it feels really good."

Three-Peaks champion Stafford Thompson (Hill City-University) recorded fastest time, clocking 17min 34sec.

She only registered with the Caversham Club a week ago, but Claire Anderton made every post a winning post in taking the open women’s title.

Anderton (36), a horse trainer at Wingatui, has tinkered with running on and off for several years but yesterday’s race was uncharted territory.

Competing from a handicap of 3min, her objective was to just go as fast as she could.

"I’ve never really done one of these before. I didn’t know how it all worked."

Anderton clocked a running time of 17min 13sec for the 3.75km women’s course, to achieve fifth-fastest time.  Shauna Pali (Hill City-University) clocked the fastest with a smart 15min 3sec.

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