SAYERS? LONG TREK TO VICTORY
BATTLING against the inclement conditions as well as a quality field of long distane runners, Stephen Sayers managed to make it two victories from two starts in the annual Poolside Water World Great Ocean Run from Red Rock to Coffs Harbour Jetty on Sunday.
The victory was an emotional one for Sayers as well as it had been eight years since his previous victory over the gruelling course which includes 45 kilometres of beaches, creeks and headlands.
In that time the new champ has overcome severre injury to return to the winner's circle.
He left no-one wondering about his intentions as he seized the lead from the start and continued to stretch his lead throughout the race, eventually winning by over 16 minutes.
Had conditions not been so adverse the long-standing record held by this year's runner-up, Jim Bennington, may well have been in peril. However with the 30 knot southerly setting in early, Sayers decided as early as Arrawarra that record-setting would have to wait for more propitious conditions.
Bennington's runner-up position in a touch over four hours was a great return to form for the local legend. He exchanged places for most of the journey with Tony Byrne from Tenanbit before surging away at Charlesworth Bay.
Former winner, Michael Smart finished strongly to just fail to close the gap to the place-getters.
First lady for the day was an event debutant, the ebullient Penny Burgess from Grafton.
Her effort in completing the course in 4:38.31 stands as one of the fastest times by a woman and was considered probably the most impressive effort for the day given the conditions.
Burgess overcame Browns Plains' athlete Angie Gratton who continued her strong run of current form.
Gratton's runner-up finish means that she now has the impressive record of two victories, six runner-up finishes as well as another two thirds.
The perennial podium finisher was was backing up after competing successfully in the Blue Mountains 45km Six Foot Track event recently.
Third woman over the line was another first-timer, Emerald Beach's Tina Thompson whose last outing over a comparable distance was in 1984.
With 46 finishers, the event remains one of the Premier Ultramarathons on the Australian distance running calendar.
The presence of Runners World correspondent Julia Thorn as a competitor is testimony to the respect the event has earnt over the years.