|Me (in green hoops) at the
16km mark en route to my PB marathon|
(2nd, 2:19:06) behind Rob De Castella (1st, 2:14:44) at Point Cook,
Victoria, in June 1979.
I've often said that to be a great runner you need to inherit the right genes from your parents, have the self-discipline to do the necessary training and hard-nosed racing, and be lucky enough to avoid serious injury. I think Rob had all of those attributes and used them to become the best in the world.
|Winning the Cinque Mulini race|
We were more acquaintances than friends, but often trained with the same groups, especially on the long Sunday runs in the Dandenongs (see post titled Ferny Creek 21). As I recall, after running the regular 21 Miler for some years, I decided I needed to add some distance to bring it up to 25 miles some Sundays, and was gratified to see Rob occasionally following suit a few months later. There were also some Wednesday evening runs in Melbourne. They were fast 15-20 milers after work over inner city parks and roads and I can remember grimly hanging on to the small bunch of class runners as we flew across Royal Park at better than 6 minute mile pace.
Although he had already represented Australia internationally as a cross-country runner, that first marathon in 1979 signalled the start of a famous career that included Commonwealth Games, World Championship, Boston and New York titles, along with a world's best time.
He was always a class, or two, above me as a runner, but I felt a kinship because I knew first-hand how hard he trained to get where he did.