Park2Park stalwart backs Ipswich’s running events
EVEN with a young family and dealing with injury, Clay Dawson wasn't going to miss one of his favourite events.
It's not completing a Gold Coast marathon or winning a national competition.
It's the annual Ipswich Park2Park event that stirs extra excitement in Dawson's belly.
Since 2011, Dawson has been one of the 10km event's most consistent performers, winning three times and finishing second twice.
However, it's not only the thrill of competing and testing his progress that attracts the Rosewood State High School arts teacher.
"I do love the community atmosphere of it,'' Dawson said.
Apart from running against other competitors he knows, he enjoys seeing the involvement of everyone, including school students who man the water stations.
"A lot of the local high schools get involved,'' the teacher said.
"When you're about to give up, feeling at your worst, you see these bright faces with water ready to cheer you on.''
Another advantage of competing in Ipswich's Park2Park is who you might meet.
Dawson was last year stoked to race against and chat to Australian marathon legend Steve Moneghetti.
Dawson, 34, finished second to the former Olympic runner, whose "perfect'' tactics proved the difference against his younger opponent.
"It was fantastic,'' Dawson said. "It was a dream come true for sure.''
Managing injury and with a nine-month-old son, Dawson has scaled back his road work, spending more time in the gym.
The popular runner has been less than impressed with his recent form, though he sets high standards. He considered finishing fourth at the recent Rail Trail as disappointing despite 15 weeks off with his torn hamstring.
That aside, he wasn't going to miss the latest 10km Park2 Park run.
"I wasn't planning on entering this year,'' Dawson said.
"I was given free entry into a 100km race (around Southbank) on that day and had some crazy ideas. I originally wanted to run the Gold Coast and Brisbane marathons and I'm still signed up for the Brisbane Marathon.''
However, he made the decision to "stay true'' and run the 10km and 5km Park2Park events again.
"It (the 100km race) is on the bucket list, to do an ultra marathon one day, but it didn't make sense to do it this year,'' he said.
"It (Park2Park) is a home course, a home event and it just felt wrong to not do it.''
In many ways, Dawson is one of the faces of Park2 Park. He's inspired so many people with his successes over the years after being a self-confessed chubby kid.
Preparing for his sixth Park2Park, Dawson rates his win in 2011 as the one that stands out most.
"I still remember the first one because it blindsided me,'' he said.
"I was just starting out as a runner and I literally had no idea. I was aiming for a top 10 finish.
"I still remember running the last 200m in disbelief.''
Since then, Dawson has amassed countless wins and placings around Australia and overseas in events from 5km up to marathons.
Asked what advice he'd give to beginners, Dawson was happy to give some tips.
"Break it into small sections,'' he said.
"If you do it as a great big 10k or half marathon, it will be a nightmare.
"One hill at a time and one small section at a time and it goes a lot quicker if you do it that way. You'll get through it a lot easier.''
More than 2400 runners are expected to contest this year's Park2Park half marathon, a new half marathon relay as well as the regular 10km and 5km events.
A family challenge is also being held.
The Queensland Times is one of the major backers of the annual Ipswich Park2Park races.
Schedule for ths year's Ipswich Park2Park events on July 31.
6.30am: Half marathon and half marathon relay
8am: 10km run
8.45am: 5km run
9am: 5km walk
10am: Family Challenge
10.30am: Mascot marathon, entertainment and awards presentation.
More information: park2park.com.au