Following the success of the recent Australian cross-country championships, this weekend the focus switches to the road with national titles in the marathon in Sydney and the road championships in Adelaide.
On Sunday in South Australia, for the third consecutive year, the popular City-Bay Fun Run will host the national road titles, over 12km.
The two favourites are Victorian duo Madeline Hills and Jack Rayner who will be looking to add to their title hauls in 2018, Hills the cross country and Rayner the half-marathon.
For Hills, her graduation in recent years from the steeplechase to the 5000m/10,000m has been a success. At 10km in 2018 she has been impressive, eighth on the track at the Commonwealth Games, road wins on the Gold Coast and in Hobart, and winning the national cross-country title.
But her battle will be with arguably the most impressive road runner in Australia this winter, Sinead Diver (VIC).
Diver, stronger on the road, than in cross country will ensure a terrific race awaits us. On the clock, she is the fastest Australian over 10km in 2018, with her 31:59 in Launceston in June, and has also claimed wins in Melbourne and Sydney.
She also has two very impressive sub 70-minute half-marathons, including the national title in August in a world masters record time of 69:20. Her strength over the longer half-marathon distance is certain to help her over the 12km race distance in Adelaide.
“I’m looking forward to the race in Adelaide this weekend,” Diver said.
“Conditions are looking good and there’s a really strong field so I’m hoping for a fast time. It would be nice to get the win but we’ll have to see how the race pans out.”
The race has very solid depth with numerous others with podium potential. Canberra-based 2014 Commonwealth Games 10,000m representative Emily Brichacek (ACT), has been solid in 2018 with road 10km runs of 32:56 and 33:12. Adelaide athlete, Casey Wood (SA), daughter of three-time winner Grenville Wood, will fly the flag for the local hopes. She has been in good half-marathon form in 2018 where she has run a PB of 74:47 on the Gold Coast and placed third in the national title.
She has also been selected on the Australian team for the inaugural Commonwealth Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff next month. Former 1500m specialist who has been graduating to 5000m on the track, has form over the longer distance, following her second place recently in the 14km City2Surf in Sydney.
A rising star to watch is local 21-year-old Caitlin Adams (SA), second in the national cross country and with 33:36 10km form on the Gold Coast in July.
Another local to watch is steeplechase specialist Izzi Batt-Doyle who has 33:35 10,000m track form.
National half-marathon champion, Jack Rayner, is on target to claim his second national road title of the year. His performances from 10km to the half-marathon have been impeccable. Three sub 29-minute 10km road wins in Launceston, Adelaide and Melbourne, the national half marathon title and a 63:12 PB on the Gold Coast.
Rayner’s toughest competition looks to be between 4-time winner of the City-Bay, Liam Adams (VIC) and national cross-country champion Andy Buchanan (VIC).
Adams, a Rio Olympic marathoner has been solid in 2018 over 10km and the half. Third in the Victorian 10km road champs, he also had a win in Hobart and clocked times of 29:14 and 29:15 respectively.
He has also run 64:44 in the half. A cross country specialist, Buchanan, is keen to prove himself on the roads. He has already recorded a 10km road PB of 29:23 on the Gold Coast in July.
“I’m looking forward to having a strong race against some of the best runners in Australia,” Buchanan said.
“I’ve never been super thrilled with my performances at City-Bay and hoping to change that this year.
“My coach (Scott Westcott) and I worked really hard towards national cross country again this year and it was one of my major goals for 2018. I was really stoked to go back to back and will continue to build on this form for the world cross country trials early next year.”
But for the remainder of the winter he will switch focus to the road.
“I have always enjoyed cross country a little bit more then racing on the roads. I’m hopeful that City-Bay can be the start of a successful road season ahead of Burnie 10 in October.”
Local interest will be in the four members of the successful national cross-country team of Riley and Jacob Cocks, Adrian Potter and Daniel Canala. The history making win, the first ever by SA in the 100+ year history of the event, saw all four team members finish in the top-13, with Riley Cocks a brilliant second.
“It was great to share the success with my South Australian team mates of which three of us are trained by Adam Didyk as part of the team tempo group.,” Riley Cocks said, but he is now looking for success on the roads.
“I think that my patience on a tough course paid off at Maleny. I am hoping that I can transfer my strength from cross country to fast times on the road in the coming months.
“Having finished second last year at the national road running championships I am definitely looking to back that performance up and put in another good showing this weekend.
“My goal is to better my time from last year (35.50) as I know that will put me into a competitive position.
“I think that with so many top-quality runners this year the pace will be on through the early stages which with favourable weather conditions (fingers crossed) will hopefully set things up for some fast times.”
South Australia distance running is currently strong, led by Jess Trengove.
“SA running is in a great position currently and I think that Sunday’s race provides another opportunity for us to again prove that we can match it with some of Australia’s best distance runners. I am also excited about racing with my team mates including my good friend Izzi Batt-Doyle who is currently in Australia ahead of her last season in the United States at Washington University and my brother Jacob Cocks who was a part of the South Australian team at the national cross-country championships.”
Another South Australian, although based in Canberra, is Paralympian Michael Roeger, the T46 (arm amputee) 1500m and 5000m world record holder.
He had a blistering start to his 2018 road season where he clocked 29:49 in the Sydney10 in May, just defeated by Ben St Lawrence, and in July a near two-minute half-marathon PB of 65:22. All set to run the national cross country and strengthen the winning SA team, he ran into serious health issues.
“At the end of July, I was rushed to hospital with a GI bleed, and was in hospital for a week,” Roeger said.
“My haemoglobin kept dropping and was very low, had to have a blood transfusion. It was pretty disappointing not to start in the national cross would have loved to have been out there with my SA team mates but was advised not to start.”
Understandability his goals for this weekend are modified as he builds back to full health.
“I’m looking to have a solid hit out over the 12k, it’s a really good elite field. Coming off a bit of a rough few months the goal is top 10. I’ve been doing some big k’s the last four weeks and won’t taper going into City-Bay with the goal of breaking the T46 marathon world record in Melbourne next month.”
The largest fun run in South Australia has a variety of distance, 3km, 6km, 12km and half-marathon. For information and to enter go to city-bay.org.au
David Tarbotton for Athletics Australia