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05 August 2020
By KEITH LOFTHOUSE
Mark Thompson has returned to Stawell and Ararat Cross Country Club, 21 years after winning the inaugural Thompson Family Handicap, sponsored by his parents, to win his second at Ararat’s McDonald Park on Sunday.
Between bookends, Thompson has proved to be one of the finest athletes Ararat has produced. He narrowly missed Olympic qualification for the 5000 metres at Sydney 2000, but has represented Australia 17 times in junior and senior competitions throughout the world.
He still holds the Victorian record, set in 1993, for the under-18 fastest 5000 metres – a dazzling 14.09 minutes.
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Now 41, but looking years younger, Thompson conceded up to 30 minutes’ start to slower runners in the lung-sapping eight-kilometre event – which included four previous winners – and mowed them all down… if not without a scare!
“I thought I’d overtaken all the front markers when I went past Sue Blizzard but 100 metres further on Shev Healy came into view and I’d completely forgotten about her,” Thompson said.
He thought he had left his run too late, but Healy was throwing out distress signals by looking left and right over her shoulder just as the speedster was firing up the after burners.
Typically, the too quick will always over-run the too tired and at the last turn, 200 metres from the finish, Thompson stormed to the lead and sprinted away to score by a margin of 27 seconds in a sparkling time 30.27 minutes.
Teenage rookie Gabe Tonks glided smoothly into third place and has a promising future.
“The glory days are over, but I still get a buzz out of pushing hard, doing the best I can and staying happy and healthy,” Thompson said.
“I’m out of bed at 5.30am every morning with my head lamps on to train in the dark with running mates Paul Fenn and Jade Merrett. I’ve known Paul for most of my life and we’ve talked about doing a couple of marathons together. I’ve never been right at my top for a marathon before so that gives me something to aim for.”
The Thompson was the last of the club’s COVID-curtailed season. The three races were all won by mature-aged schoolteachers.
The lesson in that for students, lapsed footballers and netballers is that sporting lives don’t need to end in the mid-30s. The club boasts five veterans between the ages 69 and 77.
The entire August 5, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!