Lisa Weightman broke the Australian all-comers’ record and picked up an AU$25,000 bonus in taking the Australian half-marathon championship on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast on Sunday (4).
Races between evenly-matched contenders sometimes become cat-and-mouse affairs, but when Weightman took on fellow Australians Sinead Diver and Ellie Pashley at the IAAF Bronze Label road race, the pace was on from gun to tape.
The trio were together until nearing the 20km point, and still in touch with each other there. But it was 40-year-old Weightman who proved the strongest finisher, turning a 12-second margin over Diver into a 21-second win over the final 1.0975km.
Weightman ran 1:08:48, taking 12 seconds off the all-comers’ mark she had set a hundred or so kilometres down the road at the Gold Coast nine years ago. Diver was second in 1:09:08, the only one of the top three not to record a personal best (which stands at 1:08:55) and Pashley third in 1:09:14. It was the best top-three finish in a women’s half marathon on Australian soil.
The men’s race had drama of its own. It, too, had a close finish, just eight seconds separating the first three. Australian-born Kevin Batt, now representing Ireland, won in 1:04:12 from Louis McAfee, 1:04:14, and James Coleman, 1:04:20.
The story of the race, though, was in defending champion Jack Rayner who had crossed the line, seemingly a winner, some two minutes earlier. Rayner had run off course, apparently following a lead cyclist, at a roundabout some five kilometres into the race. Although he led by some 300 metres at that point, and quickly regained the course, race officials deemed he had run some distance short and had no option other than to disqualify him.
Weightman and Diver make it a race for the masters
Both would quite understandably rail against its being pointed out, but both Weightman and Diver are in their forties. Neither is showing the slightest sign of slowing down.
Diver has done her best running the past year, reducing her marathon personal best to 2:24:11 in London earlier this year and running her half-marathon PB in Marugame just a couple of months earlier than that.
Due to family and work commitments, Weightman has always raced sparingly – and well, representing Australia at the World Cross Country Championships (earning team bronze in Edinburgh in 2008) and finishing 17th individually the following year in Amman, and at Olympic, world and Commonwealth level in the marathon. She was a Commonwealth bronze medallist in 2010 and took silver on the Gold Coast last year.
A week ago, Weightman ran a 31:55 10km road personal best in Sydney and she took that form into the Sunshine Coast race.
“I was chatting to Dick (Telford, her coach) yesterday and we both knew I was going very well over 10km, but we didn’t know how I was going to go over the 21.1km distance,” Weightman told Athletics Australia after the race.
Very well, in fact. Weightman said the bonus money was very welcome and would go straight into her training funds.
“The $25,000 will go a long way to supporting my running career for the next couple of years,” she added. “I don’t have a sponsor at the moment and (husband) Lachlan (McArthur) and I have come up here with our child Pete to train for the next couple of months, so it will really help.”
Pashley, who has achieved the qualifying time for the 10,000m at the IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019, said last week that her tactic in racing against Diver was to hang on for longer. She did that to good effect on the Sunshine Coast, the trio being together at 15km, and she was only six seconds behind Diver at 20km. Her 1:09:14 shaved some six seconds off her previous fastest.
Behind the top three, Leanne Pompeani was fourth in 1:11:46 and Makda Haji Harun fifth in 1:12:02.
Batt takes win but acknowledges Rayner
Jack Rayner’s disqualification handed the win to Kevin Batt, a gift the Irish runner felt a touch uneasy about taking.
“Obviously, it’s a bit of an unfulfilling win,” Batt said. “To me Jack was the winner but it is what it is and I definitely don’t feel like the winner, so it’s a bit of a weird feeling.
“I tried to stay with Jack as long as I could but he is just on a different level. I held with him for four kilometres but then he just continued on at his pace and I ran my own race.”
Batt, who represented Australia in the U20 race at the 2010 World Cross in Amman, will now turn his sights to the marathon, with his debut coming up later in the year in Dublin.
Rayner gave his view of the decision after the race, saying there had been confusion caused by the presence of another vehicle at the roundabout. “I followed the bike, because he was one of the officials. I think we were meant to go straight but we went left and he realised shortly after that it was the wrong way. By then it was too late to turn back.”
Near the 13km mark of the race, Rayner said he was told by the race referee that he could be disqualified.
“I didn’t know whether to stop or keep going but I didn’t want to pull out. I kept going but I just didn’t push myself as hard as I could have.”
The race director said: “Unfortunately . . . he went off-course. We are not exactly sure how that happened but he ended up running 40m short, so he was disqualified.”
Len Johnson for the IAAF