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Peter Norman finishing second in the 200m Final
in the 1968 Mexico Olympics
Amongst the early highlights of my running career were the occasional encounters with world class athletes.  In a previous post, Brushes with fame, I wrote about crossing paths with New Zealand greats, John Walker and Rod Dixon.  Much earlier, in April 1970, at the age of 19, I had the thrill of racing against an Olympic Silver Medallist.

It came about at one of the country athletics meetings to which my club-mates and I used to travel in my early running career.  Most of us were still living at home and these meetings, in Victorian country towns such as Horsham, Stawell, Halls Gap, Strathmerton, Myrtleford and Omeo, provided a great reason for us to get away for a weekend.  The usual routine involved driving up late on the Friday night, often after a volleyball game, camping at or near the track, racing on the Saturday afternoon, adjourning to the local pub on Saturday night in the hope of meeting some girls (rarely successful), and a longish run on the Sunday morning before driving home.  Apart from the attraction of a weekend away with our mates, the track meetings were an opportunity to be big fish in a little pond.

A track meeting at Stawell, Victoria, in the early 1970s
They were usually part of an annual town festival, with the track marked out on the local football ground and other events, such as highland dancing competitions and wood-chopping, going on around the perimeter.  We always fancied our chances of coming away with some trophies, but there always seemed to be a local dark horse who showed us our place.  I can't remember why, maybe because of some family connection to the area, but the big attraction for this particular weekend at the Wimmera Athletic Club meeting in Horsham (300km north-west of Melbourne) was to be Peter Norman, who had finished second in the 200m final at the Mexico Olympics just two years earlier.

A track meeting at Myrtleford, Victoria, in the early 1970s
Early in the afternoon, I had competed in my primary event, the 880 yards, without distinction, finishing unplaced in 2:06.  After the 880, I discovered that there were still some places available in the 220 yards, an hour or two later.  I suspect that was because only a limited number of local sprinters were willing to be embarrassed by Peter Norman, but this didn't bother me as a brash 19 year old with no sprinting ability.  I booked my place in the race and don't recall where I finished (almost certainly last), but my time of 25.7 would have put me about half-way down the straight when Norman crossed the line.  The only thing I really do remember about the race was that Peter Norman was a chatty down-to-earth guy without a hint of arrogance or pretentiousness.  His speed was awesome.

I walked for about 5km this morning, and found that so long as I concentrated on keeping my right foot aligned with the direction of travel, i.e., not splayed to the side, as is my habit, the pain in my injured right knee was not so bad.  I sense that I may be able to resume limited running tomorrow as long as I keep that right foot pointing forward.  Time will tell.