It’s that time of year again when you can practically smell the hopes and expectations of assorted Rats, Swifts, Warriors, Pumas and Lions as their seasons of aspiration draw nigh.
But for me it’s that time of year when I can’t help but wonder where all the lapsed footballers and netballers disappear to, like butterflies retreating to cocoons.
Why do our former club-mates think that “retirement”, through injury or “old age” at thirty-five, is an invitation to put the feet up, running the risk of joining the ranks of the obese, with all its inherent hazards?
Our region is blessed with an array of tennis, golf, bowls and running clubs that are practically begging for new members to boost dwindling reserves, but all of us have friends with couches growing potatoes.
In my eleven years with the Stawell and Ararat Cross Country Club and Stawell Amateur Athletic Club, recruits from more rigorous sports have been rare and yet success stories have been told in this very newspaper about those who have shed ten to twenty kilograms in one season and moved on to run half and full marathons.
We had hoped that others might be inspired by Dale Hurley, the highly-decorated Great Western footballer, who swapped his footy boots for running shoes and found instant success winning back-to-back championships with the SACCC in 2012-13.
Our feedback indicates that potential members are fearful they are not fast enough to join a running club; that athletes such as Hurley, Paul Fenn, Ashley Cowen and Tom Walker would blow them away.
The facts are, however, that handicap racing gives everyone – the fastest, the slowest; the youngest, the oldest - an equal chance of winning sponsor-donated sashes, trophies, cash and prizes.
The last time teenage track star Tom Walker clashed with Gary Saunders, the SAAC’s oldest (at seventy-seven) but not always slowest runner was in a three-kilometre race at North Park in October.
Gary received a ten minute start from Tom and ran fifth.
Tom clocked a blistering time of 9.15 minutes and finished fifteenth.
Recently, I found myself in the trusty hands of a local chiropractor, who is very fit but runs alone.
I asked him why he doesn’t join a club.
“I haven’t got a competitive bone in my body,” he announced.
It’s a comment I’ve heard before, so I said: “I also train alone, and it’s no fun! Running with others of like mind is fun. No one forces you to be competitive if you are having fun.”