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A big day

Rolet de Castella (#95) on his way to his first
sub-3 marathon at age 57.

Earlier this month, I wrote a post about Robert de Castella and earlier this week, on ABC Radio, I heard him interviewed at length.  During the conversation, the running background of Rolet de Castella, Rob's father, was discussed.  I didn't know Rolet well, just enough to say hello, but I did know that he was one of those runners who had defied the odds and revived their running careers after severe heart problems.  Rolet had a stroke in 1974 at age 50, and a heart attack a year later, but loved his running so much he was soon back on the roads each time.  In 1975 he read about the Pritikin Regression diet, adopted it, and was soon running seriously again.  By coincidence, the 1979 Victorian Amateur Athletic Association Marathon Championship was a very big event for Rolet, Rob and me.  I found an article by Dick Batchelor in the Spring 1979 edition of the Victorian Marathon Club Newsletter about that day.

DE CASTELLA'S DAY - Dick Batchelor.

The remarkable 2:14:22 run by Rob deCastella at Point Cook on June 23rd means that Australia now has at least five world-class marathon runners (Chettle, Barrett, Scott & Wardlaw are the others).  These five enjoy a clear margin of four or five minutes over other Australian runners.  Australia must take its full quota to Moscow next year.

First event at Point Cook was the inaugural Victorian Women's Marathon Championship, starting at 12:30 in perfect conditions - cool and almost windless.  Very fittingly, the event was won by Lavinia Petrie, who has fought for such a race for several years.  It must be said that the women's times were rather slow, but we hear that such accomplished performers as Angela Cook are training for their debuts, so standards could rise dramatically.  Results: 1. Lavinia Petrie 3:02:07; 2. Kathie McLean 3:04:33; 3. Jacquie Turney 3:25:29; 4. Barbara Fay 3:25:55; 5. Glenda Humphreys 3:30:18.

Most of the 136 finishers in the men's event improved on their best times, with increments of 5 or 10 minutes not uncommon.  The "traditional" course was used, an out and back journey with only one hill (an overpass) to be negotiated!  When I saw the leaders after they had rounded the turn, Vic Anderson was striding powerfully in front (67:15 turn) with deCastella (67:29) and John Bermingham running side by side about 25m back, followed by Paul 0'Hare (67:31), Dave Byrnes (67:45), Graeme Kennedy (68:05), Bob Guthrie (68:22) and Neil McKern (68:35).

At 16 miles deCastella took the lead, Bermingham dropped out but big Vic and the others kept hammering away.  At 20 miles, from all accounts (your correspondent by then being several miles back down the road), Pat Clohessy urged de Castella to speed up and he cleared away from his pursuers, covering the final 3 miles in under 15 min!

The very consistent Dave Byrnes came through strongly in the closing stages to be second in a PB 2:19:06 with Vic Anderson third after doing so much of the early pace.  As the clock approached the 3½ hours cut-off, few people noticed a compact and mature runner who crossed the line in 127th place – 3:25:14.  Four years ago this man suffered a severe heart attack, despite having been a regular jogger.  Encouraged perhaps by the athletic achievements of his two sons, this man rehabilitated his health with a stepped up running program and careful dieting.  He completed his first marathon last year and June 23rd was his first time under 3½ hours.  His name? Rolet deCastella, and what a unique "double" he and his son achieved on June 23, 1979, at Point Cook!!
Rolet went on to run many more marathons, including a 2:58 at age 57.  He died of a heart attack while out running at age 73.

Just an easy 5km for me today.