King of the road
GROWING up as a chubby kid in Lowood, Clay Dawson could only dream of one day running a marathon.
However, after losing nearly 40kg since working out and taking up running, the sky is the limit for the humble regional competitor.
While he's yet to tackle a gruelling 42km race, the passionate Rosewood State High School teacher has already provided a lesson in inspiration.
Deciding to try running 18 months ago, Dawson has finished top three in a series of testing races around Queensland.
His wins last year included the Park2Park (10km), Rotary runs at Nathan (11km) and St Lucia (10km), Mt Coot-tha King of the Mountain (10km) and Toowoomba Marathon Festival (10km).
He was 2011 series champion after winning each 10km event in the five-race Allez Cartwright competition. He also was overall winner in the Sunshine Coast Marathon Festival, also over 10km.
Dawson placed second or third in the Resolution Run (10km), Lowood Rail Trail (8km), Royal Run For Research (8km), Brisbane Mousdash (10.5km) and Price Waterhouse Cool Night Classic (5km).
That was all in his first season of competition.
This year, the art teacher's successes include wins or second placings in the Resolution Run, Toowoomba Peak2Park, Rotary Run at Nathan, Koala Fun Run Redlands, Caloundra Foreshore Fun Run and Mothers Day Classic over 8km.
But while proud of what he has achieved, 30-year-old Dawson prefers to use his success to encourage other young people to have a go.
"I'm definitely not a gifted athlete," the former Lowood High School student said.
"I remember running cross countries at school and I wasn't very good.
"It's more just a bit of mental toughness."
Dropping from 118kg to his current running weight of 70kg shows the benefits of doing weights and training regularly with other like-minded people.
Dawson receives that with the My Run Club and the Ipswich and District Athletic Club, based at Limestone Park.
Having completed last year's New York Marathon, My Run Club coach Matt Casos tipped Dawson to one day also experience the thrill of completing the epic journey.
"He's been a remarkable story," Casos said.
"A lot of us get inspired by people like Clay and those guys who haven't been in the system for that long but are just really enthusiastic and just going great guns. I've definitely got the opinion he'll run a great marathon one day."
However, in the short term, Dawson is happy focusing on shorter distances.
He is looking to run a half marathon in this year's Ipswich Park2Park event after winning last year's 10km race.
"Being an Ipswich boy, I remember looking in the paper back when the Park2Park started and wondering who would do that and how could you possibly do that?" he said.
"Fast forward five or six years and I won the 10(km).
"That just blew me away."
The running rookie is also appreciative of assistance from Craig Rule at the Ipswich Triathlon Club and masseur Trevor Hylands.
"Talking to Matt and Craig Rule and working with them as well, I've come to realise that it's probably a blessing that I haven't got that many kilometres under my legs," Dawson said.
"The opportunity to run ragged hasn't really come yet.
"Matt has been a bit of a saviour and so has the tri club too.
"Through them, I've met Alastair Stevenson, Kym Jaenke and Eamon Nunn and all these local runners that have just done amazing things."