Runners from all over the country met in the Heathcote and Bendigo region on Sunday to tackle the inaugural O’Keefe Marathon backed by Mandalay Resources. The race held along the O’Keefe Rail Trail that historically joins the two towns.
There were 82 marathon participants that braved some volatile weather conditions but provided a tail breeze for the participants from the start line in Junortoun. Another 460 people also ran in the other events offered to bring the total to 552 participants overall.
It was the locals from our region that stole the show with Bendigo athlete Jamie Cook from the Bendigo Harriers Athletics club running in his first marathon winning in a fantastic time of 2:34.10.
The women’s race was sensationally won by Sarah Jalim of White Hills and a member of the Bendigo University Athletics club. In her 10th marathon Jalim ran an 18 minute personal best. Jalim was assisted in the latter stages by race pacer and current Victorian Marathon Champion and Athlete Race ambassador Brady Threlfall.
The times of the winners highlighted the O’Keefe Rail Trail could be considered as the fastest off-road non bitumen run marathon in the country on its slick surface.
The placegetters in the men’s marathon were Kennington based runner Stephen Freemantle in a time of 2:46.49. Third place and 45+ winner was David Meade a past Australian Triathlon Champion in 2:53.25 and another local Bendigo athlete from the Bendigo University Athletics club.
In second place for the women’s race was another Kennington based runner Els Viester running a 28 minute personal best with a time of 3:30.11 and another member of Bendigo University. Castlemaine resident Karina Taylor was third with a time of 3:47.34 and also first in the 45+ female category.
The most popular event on the day numbers wise was the unique Ekiden Relay supported by Bendigo Stadium over the Marathon distance. It is only one of two relays in the country run over the marathon distance. A total of 29 teams with 7 runners each had 203 athletes battle out the unique event with runners all over the trail waiting for the changeover to occur and their chance to run.
The Ekiden was won by one of the four teams from the Eaglehawk Athletics Club in this case the Men’ team in a time of 3:06.45. Second place was the Castlemaine Park Runners C Team just behind the winners in 3.08.12. Third place was a local team called The Year Of made up of Bendigonians.
A total of 112 athletes started in Heathcote for the Athletes Foot backed 21.1km half marathon.
Runners ran out just past Lake Eppalock into a stiff head wind and returned back the same way with a tail wind to the finish. Ben Fahy was the winner in a time of 1:21.21 from Bendigo Harriers athlete Ben Stolz 1:22.50 and another Bendigonion Luke Crameri 1:25.01. Victor Cook of the Bendigo Harriers was first in the 45+ age category with a time of 1:32.29.
The women’s half marathon was won by Rebecca Cladingboel of Moama in a time of 1:32.53. Mia Franzmann of Shepparton was second and winner of the 45+ age category in 1:36.04. Jacinda Herrett of Wharparilla was third in 1:38.49.
Another 80 runners ran in the challenging quarter marathon course over 10.558 km’s from Heathcote. Star local athlete and Victorian state representative Matthew Heislers from the Bendigo University Athletics Club won in a fast time of 37.12 as well as taking out the Under 18 event. Sean Williams of Edithvale 39.12 was second and Philip Barrett of Essendon third 41.44.
The women’s Quarter Marathon and also the Under 18 event was by the inform Victorian state representative Taryn Furletti. Just a 13-year-old junior the star from Seymour and the South Bendigo Athletics club ran exactly 44 minutes. In second place and also winner of the 45+ age category was Vicky Gunn 45.32 of Moama from Cindy King 46.02 of Edithvale.
A total of 43 runners and many of them juniors took part in the O’Keefe Mile and it was the girls that won the day with Bendigo Harriers athlete Zahli Drummond winning in a time of 6.24. The first boy over the line was Oscar Fox in the Under 11’s in a time of 6.35. Other age category winners were Isaac Willits (U15 boys), Georgia Smith (U11 girls), Jude Barrett (U9 boys) and Renee Ford (U9 girls).
The final race was 500m for the the 8 and under runners and 32 youngsters enthusiastically had their time to shine on the O’Keefe Trail.
Even for the challenging weather organisers were ecstatic with the success of the event. “Securing Mandalay Resources as the Gold sponsor of the event for 3 years to ensure its financial future is vital for it to be viable, said Event Director Sandra Slatter. “Also with another 188 participants coming from outside the region to participate, the race is attracting participants from all over the state and country and bringing in significant funds into the region. “Over 100 other people volunteered with the vast majority locals from Heathcote to ensure the event ran effectively, said Slatter.
All results can be viewed here by clicking this link.