Running Writing ©
No. 35    June 2003
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geoff monro (36k)
Geoff Monro 1990s style, running in the Canberra Marathon Eve 10km fun run.

geoff and clubmates (35k)
Geoff with fellow SCT 2001 Winter Award Winners.

geoff in the pennington (29k)
David Appleby's photo of Geoff running in the 'Pennington' 10 mile cross country race.

steeplechase (64k)
Geoff's favourite event is the 3000m steeplechase!

A Master on a Mission

by Geoff Monro

The following article was first published in SCT's newsletter Tuggie Athlete. It appeared in two parts - issue #61 January/March 2003 and #62 April/June 2003. Geoff Monro has been a runner and gymnastics coach for many years and was elected President of South Canberra Tuggeranong Athletics Club at the 2003 AGM.

The World Masters Games in Melbourne was fast approaching and I had just run my 10th City to Surf with the worst cold I've ever suffered. This resulted in my slowest run of 55:57 for 415th place and for two weeks afterwards I really felt terrible but still kept up my daily training. I had run daily for 654 days in a row. I felt I needed to do something drastic or all would be lost and the World Masters would be an experience to forget rather than one to remember.

Most people would ease off the running or take a complete break but I decided to increase the training for two weeks. I ran hills every day at either Mt. Ainslie, Kowen Forest, Mt. Majura or Isaacs Ridge. I also did hill sprints up Crest Road (very aptly named) near my home in Queanbeyan and this, combined with eating more fruit and earlier nights to bed saw me looking back on track.

Track. That's the next thing. I had to do a few sessions of kilometre repeats (I was lucky to break 3:40 at first) then sessions of 6x400m and 10x200m with easy days between. Two days before I left for Melbourne and 3 days before it would all begin I did my last hard track session. This was 6x100m in 16secs, 5x200m in 33 to 31secs, 3x400m in 72, 68, 64 and 2x1km in 3:14. I now felt ready to show the world I could be a champion at the 2002 World Masters Games! I had 687 days of training behind me which was a minimum of 5kms and averaging 12kms including many Sunday long runs of 20-25kms.

After arriving in Melbourne my first race was a few days later on Sunday - the 10km road race. I started well and hit the 5km split in 17:52 (my best for some months) but well behind the leaders of course. It was nice to dream and these dreams have spurred me on ever since I started running as a young teenager. I have dreamed as we all do of being a world champion. As you get older there are many distractions - you need to put in more time at work to pay the bills, a social life beckons and the intensity of top level training can become a grind. It's hard stay motivated to keep striving after so many years of good results. Proving you can be successful in Canberra is one thing but there's a difference between 'good' and 'great'. Me... a world champion? 'C'mon Geoff, Get Real!' You realise while travelling life's winding road you have hopes, you love, you dream, you scheme, you believe, then it comes to you that life really is one big hormone.

Reality check at 8km. My time was 28:55, my best this year but then my legs went to jelly. The next 2km took forever and my race somehow went from a 35 minute (which would have been 16th in age-group) to a 37:30 10km. Paul Wilson won in 30:13 from Sean Quilty (30:29) with Canberra's Peter James doing very well with a 34:40. The next day I ran the 100m finishing well back in 14 seconds. Following this was the 800m and it was looking good as I was running third but was passed in the straight and finished fifth in 2:20.

I started to think to myself that I may not get another chance like this... Melbourne could be my only world championships. Ah well, it was only a pipe dream but I still had the steeplechase. This was an event I was always pretty good at and as I lined up I remembered those thoughts from earlier in the day: 'what if this was my only chance?' There were 6 runners in my age-group in a field of twelve and during my warm-up the best I felt I could do would be 4th or 5th. At the gun I sprinted to the front with two M30's. Why worry about them, I needed to win my age-group and held that lead. I was clearing the steeples well and into the back straight started to think, 'hey, I'm in with a chance here!' but there were five other runners who all looked pretty good when warming up. There were three on my shoulder who all beat me easily in the 10k the day before but I had the lead and all I could see ahead was daylight. On the second lap two of those three noticed my weakness, the water jump. I've always landed two feet in because with my short stature I find it hard to clear the water properly. I know it's just confidence but I can generally make up the distance lost by hurdling the steeples well the rest of the lap. I was worried this tactic would not work on this occasion as both Chris and Shane continued to push the pace over the water jump. During lap three Chris edged in front and the dream I thought may come true started to fade. Like in so many of my cross country races I had raced to the lead only to fall behind.

The crowd were going wild cheering for the runners with Bryan Thomas and the ACT Vets especially vocal. They were shouting "Come on Geoff!" with Bryan at the top of his lungs "This is your race Geoff". Right I thought with renewed determination, 'this is my race' and burst back into the lead. Chris though had tasted the front running and wanted it back. I could feel him surging back onto my shoulder and realised that Chris McKinnon was going to push me all the way. I picked up the pace to create a gap and on the 5th lap threw in my master stroke at the water jump. I put my hand on the steeple as I cleared it which made Chris think I was tiring. I forged further ahead but undaunted Chris chased hard. I was in front though and it was a place I was going to stay. The harder he chased the harder I pushed myself.

It was the last lap and the dream was becoming a reality. Chris was still there but I thought 'never, ever, ever give up - keep on pushing hard'. Down to the finish line I held my arms up cherishing an unbelievable victory. It's mine! It's real! Me... a World Champion! I then collapsed, completely exhausted. Chris was a mere 3 seconds behind and what a challenge he had given me. What a race. It took me at least 10 minutes to stand up. Later on the victory dais with that Gold Medal around my neck I raised my arms. A dream had come true. World Champion. It felt good!

The morning after I was still on a 'high' and had to get up for the 8km cross country. I was staying at the 'Nomad's Backpackers' for $16 per night which included a free breakfast and coffee! I stepped out the door to be greeted by pouring rain and gale force winds. This would be one tough cross country. Moments before the start the wind and rain eased and the sun came out. It looked to be a great course - fast and flat in parts, winding around and including a few hills. I ran strongly to place 9th in my age-group with Peter James also running well to collect a bronze in the 40-44's. The fickle Melbourne weather saw the wind and rain return for the following races but I was off to the track for the 400m hurdles!

I was feeling a little tired from the steeple and a few celebratory drinks as well as my strong effort in the cross country a few hours earlier. I managed to qualify for the final of the 400m hurdles then went for a good look around Melbourne city which included a 2 hour lunch at the very flash Melbourne Casino. I then made my way back to the track for the hurdles final and just missed out on a medal finishing 4th in 67.1 with 3rd place being 65.9. I then ran the 200m heats at 11pm with was my sixth race in 3 days.

Wednesday: After a much deserved sleep-in I cycled around seeing a bit more of Melbourne then relaxed before running the 1500m heats and managed to qualify for Friday's final. For the rest of the day I just took it easy as my effort so far was beginning to take its toll. Over time in Melbourne you meet plenty of interesting people. The 'Masters' really opened my eyes as I was meeting people from all corners of the world. All these athletes have one thing in common regardless of their age - when you talk to them you can see that glint in their eyes. When you listen to them they are so full of life. There were so many inspiring stories and deeds. Like the 99 year-old who was so fit his warm-up took at least an hour. With all the media around him his race became a minor event compared to his warm-up and all the interviews which he lapped up! Then there was the 60 year-old gentleman who ran an amazing 15:48 in the 5000m and the 65 year-old lady who sprinted the 400m in 69.10! Yes, being active is living!

Thursday: I woke with a very sore back and spent most of the day doing very little. Just walking over to the markets and having lunch was very painful. The 5000m was to be held late that night and although I had an afternoon nap I was still in a fair amount of pain as I started my warm-up. I jogged and stretched awkwardly and as I lined up for the race thought I'd just run and have some fun. I started off very slowly in last place thinking I could only improve. After the first lap I thought I'd get the crowd going and did a cartwheel on the back straight. The crowd cheered and I loosened up and suddenly felt okay. The second time down the back straight the crowed cheered expecting another cartwheel but I just waved and put the thumbs up. I decided to catch a few competitors in the second half of the race and moved from last to 18th out of 24 runners with a slow time of 19:30.

Friday: I was feeling a little better although my back was still quite tender. I filled the morning relaxing and socialising. The latter was one of the highlights of the 'Masters' and I'd spent a lot of time during the past fortnight getting to know many of the international athletes as well as some friendly locals. In the afternoon I ran the final of the 1500m but alas my back played up and I finished in 5:15. It was off to dinner once again at the Casino before a days rest and the half-marathon on Sunday.

Sunday: The organisation of the half was a bit ordinary compared to the rest of 'The Masters'. The start was 20 minutes late and there were no kilometre markings. The course was a bit complicated nearing the finish and only a few of the volunteer marshals knew the correct route to direct myself and other runners. In spite of these hick-ups it was a thoroughly enjoyable event as I took a very relaxed attitude into the race knowing I was very tired. I had met a friend earlier in the week named Allen Jones (I didn't ask him if he was going to race at Bathurst) and we 'enjoyed' quite a race...

We took it easily for the first 15 minutes with many runners passing us as we chatted and ran 'for fun'. After all, that is why we run! After a while the competitive edge emerged and I stepped up the pace. We had two 'wins' each since the start of the 'Masters' but you can't leave it even hey! I gap opened with me in front and I concentrated on passing other runners. It felt good to be moving through the field rather than being passed as often happened during my running career. At the end of the second lap who would come up to my shoulder but Allen! I was shell-shocked and we ran together again for a while with Al pushing the pace. What a competitor, so strong.

Up ahead on a long straight stretch I saw a drinks table. As Allen went for a drink I put in a surge for about 200 metres which left me in the clear. Somehow about 3km later he was back by my side and we were both running shoulder to shoulder passing many other runners. At the next drinks table I faked it by reaching for a drink but knocking it away. Allen also went for a cup and as he took a sip I went for another sprint but this time made sure I got away. My tactic worked and I stayed ahead turning up a seemingly endless hill in the last kilometres of the race. I was feeling very tired but the fear of Allen just behind and ready to pounce kept me running strongly. I didn't let up, continually passing others into the last 200m and over the finish line in 83:55. What a run, with no km markers and a slow start. Allen finished only 15 seconds behind and if I had slowed at all he would have been the 'winner'. Allen never gave up but neither does a World Champion!


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