Mountain runner Jade Dowling is off to Italy after her impressive start in the demanding international sport.
Mountain runner Jade Dowling is off to Italy after her impressive start in the demanding international sport. David Nielsen

Rising to top

AT the top of Hobart's Mt Wellington, in the snow and minus 11 degree temperature, Jade Dowling discovered a talent she was previously unaware of.

She had just won the Australian junior mountain running championship in her first attempt at the sport.

Her training amounted to little more than pushing herself over the hills of Limestone Park - a far cry from the terrain and climate of Mt Wellington.

Adding to her extraordinary achievement is Jade is 15 years old and it was an under-20 race.

Her win on April 29 has earned her the right to represent Australia at the world junior mountain running championships at Ponte di Legno in the Italian Alps near Switzerland in September.

"I thought it would be a test of my fitness and fun," Brookwater-based Dowling said of her reasons for entering the Hobart event.

"I heard about it and just wanted to try it.

"I didn't think I'd win or make it (to the team for Italy)."

It was fun once the achievement had sunk in, but not so much fun on the way up, as the freezing air and oxygen deprivation bit hard.

"My mouth tasted like blood and my chest was really sore," the St Aidens College year 11 student said.

A national track and cross country athlete, Dowling made it up the 4km track in 33 minutes, shocking many.

"We were actually quite surprised because they told us 16 and 17-year-olds wouldn't be competitive," Dowling's mum Charmaine said.

"Her goal at first was just not to come last."

Dowling will head to Italy with a similar attitude as she did in Hobart.

"It is about the same as Mt Wellington," she said of the 4km course she'll have to endure. "The hardest part is a 22 percent gradient."

But there is one big difference. At the world titles the race begins at an altitude of 2500m above sea level and ends at 3km ASL.

Dowling has never experienced serious altitude, let alone run up a mountain in the Alps against the world's best, some of whom will be four years older than her.

With altitude training before the race out of the question, Dowling is happy running around Limestone Park to prepare.

"I reckon running these hills is harder (than running up a mountain) because you don't run as hard going straight up," she said.

But Dowling has expanded her training regime, now running up Mt Coot-tha regularly and riding her mountain bike.

"Mountain biking makes your legs feel like they do running up hill," she said.

Just like in Hobart, Dowling goes into the world championships with low expectations

"I'll be the youngest in the race probably," she said. "I hope to just come about mid-field."

Just like in Hobart, she may yet surprise everyone.



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