HERVEY Bay long distance runner Steven Page had the goods to defend his Race the Rattler crown yesterday.
Page stormed into the Old Gympie Railway Station with a time of 1.07.17, outclassing his rivals to retain the Race the Rattler title.
Page’s time was slightly slower than his winning effort last year – but only just. Last year he won in a slick 1.7.02.
The Hervey Bay runner was thrilled with his performance.
“I found it tough this year, especially the last four kilometres,” he said.
“I started strong and went out with the mindset of wanting to stamp my authority on the race.”
Page signalled his intentions immediately at the gun, breaking free before the first turn on to Mary Valley Road to open a lead of 100 metres.
It was easy going for most of the 18.6-kilometre journey, but the gruelling course began to take its toll during the final stages.
Page’s nerves were given a test at The Dawn when a team runner passed him.
For a moment, the Race the Rattler champion thought he had been overtaken.
It was a similar story last year, when Page was overtaken by Gympie long distance talent Jack Curran, who in fact was running for a relay team.
An eager crowd gathered on the platform of the Old Gympie Railway Station waiting for the result, and a butcher positioned on the course phoned ahead with an update on the lead.
Despite Page’s best efforts, the official victory went to Peter Alder at the helm of the historic Valley Rattler.
The crowd cheered as the Valley Rattler steamed into the station in first place, ahead by a couple of minutes of the first runner to break the tape, Patrick Tiernan of the team The Losers.
Alder lost last year’s epic race between man and machine and vowed to return this year with a new strategy to upstage the runners.
His plan couldn’t have been better executed.
“Everything went to plan,” he said. “It was all a matter of timing.”
Alder said the race was easy to lose, but the weather was favourable.
Early forecasts tipped rain, which would have made for slippery tracks, particularly in the final push uphill to the finish line.
But the clouds stayed away and the tracks remained dry, giving the Valley Rattler all the grip it needed to surge across the finish line.
“We kept an eye on the time a bit more this year,” Alder said, reflecting on his game plan.
“We saw the lead change down at The Dawn when the team runner went out in front.”
Valley Rattler fireman Tony Hallam was equally thrilled with the victory.
“We’ve been talking tactics all week,” he said. “It was my first time as a fireman and it was Peter’s seventh start.
“He told me to keep the team and water up, so it was his experience that got us over the line first.”
Alder made his debut as driver last year, taking over from the retired Ted Mitchell. Prior to that, he
had served Mitchell for five years as fireman.
Winning the women’s individual race was Clare Geraghty, of Camp Hill, with a time of 1.10.40.
In the team’s event, The Losers, comprising Jack Tiernan, Ben Cook, Jack Curran and Patrick Tiernan, finished first, continuing its dominance after taking out the event last year.
The winning team’s time was 1.04.13.
Mary Valley Heritage Railway marketing officer Camilla King was thrilled with the outcome of the event, in its 12th year and gaining in strength.
“A record-breaking crowd gathered at the Old Gympie Railway Station to witness the arrival of the runners for this year’s race,” she said.
“The number of entries this year exceeded expectations, including 163 individual runners and 52 teams.”
Head-to-head, the Valley Rattler has opened a slim lead in the ongoing battle of man verus machine, with seven wins and five defeats.