Ipswich ‘ambassador’ inspires people in all aspects of life
WHEN it comes to promoting Ipswich on real or virtual courses around the country, few people can match what Clay Dawson delivers.
The 2020 Ipswich Sports Awards Masters Sportsperson of the Year is a wonderful ambassador for the city.
After six months of dramatically different competition and being awarded a top honour, the Rosewood State High School teacher is as humble as ever.
"It means so much,'' he said after receiving his latest award.
"I'm a very, very proud Ipswich resident and I love trying to put the best foot forward for our town and for our city.''
He does that thousands of times a year, literally, as he conquers long distance running courses around Ipswich and abroad.
His amazing stamina carries a message that Ipswich is a fine sporting city with an incredible diversity of talent.
"You've got to step back and appreciate that sometimes, and the sporting awards was the perfect opportunity to do that,'' Dawson said.
In recent months during the COVID-19 event shutdown, Dawson enjoyed a new sense of accomplishment - in virtual events.
Dawson won the Brisbane Virtual Marathon and Sunshine Coast Virtual Marathon, running timed courses around Ipswich that bettered athletes on their home tracks.
"I think the most satisfying thing was being a bit of a moral victory for Ipswich,'' he said, reflecting on his two hour, 27 minute winning time in the Brisbane Virtual Marathon.
"I'd like to think that will never happen again (when the pandemic is over).''
He also came second in the recent Cairns Virtual Marathon won by a Sydney long distance runner. For that challenge timed and shared against other runners, Dawson tackled a tough course to still record a successful time.
"The person that won did it on a flat, looping course in Sydney and I did it over the hills of Karalee and Chuwar and all around Ipswich,'' he said.
"I'm not saying I would have won but it certainly didn't make life easy.''
His willingness to try something different in the virtual world continued his years of elite success.
"It was a really humbling experience,'' he said.
Dawson, who turns 39 later this month, appreciates the support of his shrewd coach Peter Reeves and his many friends in the NANCI running squad.
They were particularly helpful during his historic Brisbane Virtual Marathon win in Ipswich.
"All the NANCIs turned up and they helped me out, which was very unexpected,'' he said.
"It's a really beautiful group.''
Dawson said that was the appeal of athletics.
"It's definitely a great sport for individual glory as well as team glory,'' he said.
"It inspires people, I found, in all aspects of their lives.''
His ambitions to contest a world event have been put on hold until next year's scheduling is announced.
However, he'll enjoy a reduced competition workload for the rest of the year before plotting his 2021 schedule.
"I'm fitter than I've ever been,'' he said, citing one advantage of having fewer physically draining events in recent months.
"I'll maybe slow down and appreciate it, and then set our goals really solidly (for next year).
"You keep the pan on a light simmer and not a boil . . . and when you're ready to go, you will be ready to go.''
The impending arrival of his second child with wife Michelle will also influence Clay's decisions.
Apart from helping others in the NANCI running squad, Dawson co-coaches the Ipswich Boys Grammar cross country and athletics teams. He has taught for more 16 years at Rosewood State High School.
His 2020 "virtual'' successes followed his usual series of placings in the second half of 2019.
An exceptional effort was winning the Ned Kelly Chase and AURA Australian 100km Championships. His time was the sixth fastest 100km in Australian history.
He notched other wins in the Brisbane Marathon and Queensland Masters 10km Championships and came second in the Rail Trail Fun Run
He finished third in the Springfield Running Festival Half Marathon last September.
Dawson was the 2019 Brisbane Road Runners Club Champion (overall and age category) for the seventh consecutive year.