Racing to win: Winner of 5km course Joel Harrigan (foreground) and the 10km course Tim Kitching (background).
Racing to win: Winner of 5km course Joel Harrigan (foreground) and the 10km course Tim Kitching (background). Bruce Thomas

Tim takes out Coffs fun run

ONE of the best sportsmen to ever compete on the Coffs Coast, yesterday added the 10km Australia Day Fun Run to his list of honours.

Tim Kitching, 34, took out the third staging of the event, setting a new record of 38 minutes 52 seconds and lowering the mark set last year by Joel Harrigan by one minute 36 seconds.

Runner-up Richard Pearson was also under the 2010 time.

Jules Cranshaw finished in third berth.

From the late 1980s, Kitching won numerous titles and created many records as an athlete, particularly in triathlon and surf-related sports.

He at one time held an Australian ranking for the 10,000m, close to Olympic standard, and won feature events overseas.

Since returning to the local region he has gradually re-established his name as a serious force in athletic competition.

Both long course events have new champions after dual-winner Harrigan set his sights on the 5km event – which he won – and Amy Clark took out the main event.

Last year’s top female Melissa Bulloch did not compete.

Since the event was established in 2009 under the patronage of Coffs Harbour Surf Life Saving Club, the entries have more than doubled in size with the total reaching 304 yesterday.

With so many facing the starting line behind the surf clubhouse, the starter asked runners to “assist with self-seeding so nobody gets run over”.

Once the crush going out the gate to reach the sand on Park Beach had cleared, numerous spectators remarked on the familiar spectacle.

In the early morning light, the scene was reminiscent of that classic piece in the film Chariots Of Fire as the runners pound their way along the beach, only in this case on a much larger scale.

Club president Terry Maher was thrilled with the big leap in numbers.

“Last year was a stinker and while it’s still hot today, I think there was a bit more breeze to make it a little more comfortable for the runners,” he said.

“The registrations caused a few teething problems which held us up but that can be fixed in future and the decision to start before 9am was the right one.

“From the number who turned out it looks like we’re on the mark with the race and it will get even bigger in time.

“Fortunately, we’ve managed to attract good sponsors like Genesis Gym and MBF who have been down here handing out water bottles to the runners, so it’s always going to go upward.”

Maher was quite amused by the exploits of certain younger starters who arrived late at the start but still managed to chase the field and take very high placings.

“Without mentioning names there were some young blokes who must have had a late night, as they told me they slept in and had to move quickly to be here in time,” he laughed.

“It’s great to be young and fit.

“I’m glad they did make the effort as they were the ones who managed to push us over the 300-mark and set a new record for runners taking part.”

Starting a half-hour earlier did provide some relief from the oppressive conditions which marked stagings in 2009 and 2010.

“We had the breeze behind us in the run going south which made it much more pleasant,” one runner remarked.

“It got harder running into the wind coming back but with the temperature lower it was manageable.”

Looking at final results, some of the better performances do stand out from the rest of the field.

Such as 47-year-old runner Greg Robson who tackled the 2km dash and ran third behind opponents aged 17 and 19 years respectively.

Despite the substantial age difference, the still very-fit Robson was just six seconds behind the winner and two seconds off the runner-up.

While many runners were aged less than 30 years, the 40-and-overs from both sexes made up more than half the fields for the 15km long course events and in comparison to their younger rivals, probably took an overall “points decision”.

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