Two former NSW Cross Country Champions – where are they now?
NSW Cross Country Champion 1975 and 1980
Now living and coaching on the NSW South Coast, Rob McDonald, a former high school languages teacher, was a leading NSW distance runner in the ‘70s and ‘80s. During his career he won Australian medals on the track, over cross country and on the road. He also represented Australia at three World Cross Country Championships which he regards as his career highlights. In 1975 and 1980, the Sydney University athlete claimed the NSW Cross Country titles.
His first win was at Macquarie University. McDonald recalled the race.
``Four of us trailed Bruce Adams through the first lap while we all had a look at the course. Then Bruce and I picked up the pace and broke away from the field. I got away from Bruce on the last lap and won by nearly a minute.’’
Over the next few years Dennis Nee, John Andrews and Jim Murphy all won titles. In 1980 running over 12km at Lansdowne in Bankstown, McDonald claimed his second title beating a particularly good field.
``Lawrie Whitty and I swappped the lead throughout the first lap (4km in 12:29). He was flying downhill and I was going past him uphill. Halfway into the second lap I widened the gap up a hill and kept going. John Andrews was third.’’
McDonald’s last major race was in Catania (Italy) in 1985.
``I was invited back to an 11km road race which I'd won previously in 1982. Jose Joao da Silva (Brazil) and I were the invited foreigners. It was a strong field but with da Silva setting the pace, the lead pack gradually decreased in number. I made a move with 3.5km to go but couldn't get a break on da Silva who eventually got away with 2km to go. I ran 32m27, a minute faster than in 1982, but seven seconds behind da Silva.’’
McDonald recently reflected on his fine career.
``I had a great career, but not in the sense that I was a star of the sport or anything like that. I didn't find running until I was in Year 11. Before that I had displayed no ability in any sport whatsoever, which was disappointing at an all-boys school where the rugby league first 13 and cricket first 11 were gods.
``But running is a sport that rewards consistent work and my lack of ability didn't stop me from getting out there each day and running. Then I got lucky and met up with a coach Peter Waters who understood that distance runners take time to develop and so I learnt how to train smart rather than just doing big mileage.
``As a result I had a career that lasted 17 years. Thanks to athletics, I got to travel the world and I met world record holders and Olympic medallists and national champions and I discovered that, even though I certainly didn't have their ability, I had a couple of things in common with them: a love of running and a desire to find out how good I could be.’’
Unfortunately McDonald struggles to run these days
``My right knee won't let me so I have to make do with riding my bikes,’’ he said.
McDonald offered this advice to young athletes.
``Be patient. It takes time to become a champion and there's a lot to learn.
``Don't be put off if you're not selected in talent squads or supported by sports institutes. If you've got the hunger, you can still achieve great things in our sport doing it on your own. Here's an example. Back in 1980 the first four place-getters in the Parramatta 10 (miles) road race were: Rob McDonald 47m49, Brian Morgan 48m01, Lawrie Whitty 48m09 and Steve Poulton 48m40. Talent squads didn't exist back then and all of us fitted our training around full-time jobs. But 30 years later, those times are still quality times.
``So, stick at it, ask questions and learn as much as you can so that you always know why you're doing what you're doing.’’
NSW Cross Country Champion 2002
Former Tamworth athlete Daniel Green won the 2002 NSW Cross Country title, held on the hills of Nowra. First across the line was Sydney-based New Zealander Blair Martin 10 seconds ahead of Green who clocked 39:06. He beat Kim Gillard and Martin Dent.
``I have always loved the Nowra course,’’ recalled Green who continues to run very competitively these days.
``My career sporting highlight is still yet to come! But at this point it would be winning the 2004 Australian Marathon Championship. Albeit, not in a fast time nor a competitive field, but there was still something special about that day.
``The career/profession is a complicated question. I am a co-owner of Run For Your Life (with former Aus 800m Champion Heath Fitzpatrick), but I also work at the Australian Institute of Sport as a Sports Physiologist. In 2011 I have reduced my workload to go ``semi-pro’’ focussing on duathlon for a couple of years to wring the most out of the remaining time I have with any hair left on my head.
``I do still run and I am still competing in races when my body will allow me.’’
Green also offered some reflections on his career.
``It is hard to reflect on my career just yet, as it isn't quite over yet. I have just turned 37 and made a pact with myself that I will grow my chin beard until I either run a personal best or turn 40.’’
Daniel also offered some advice to younger athletes.
``Work hard, but train smart. Distance running is a sport of endurance, and that is not just in racing, but more precisely in training. Your ability to be consistent in your training over long periods of time will be more important than any level of natural talent you may possess.’’
David Tarbotton and Ron Bendall for Athletics NSW
Image: Rob McDonald