Racing is back! For one day, at least
Update 14/06: In the 48 hours since this feature was published, there has been significant conversation and criticism around our lack of coverage of the women's race. I would like to provide some context for our decision making process and offer an apology.
When we were told about this event, it was briefed as a men's race featuring a very deep field of talent across distances from 800m to the marathon. We weren't aware that a women's race would be held concurrently (starting 5 minutes after the men). TEMPO goes to the greatest lengths to provide race coverage - we had videographers on motorbikes and photographers on bicycles, but even with that set up we were scrambling to cover the men's race adequately. It is logistically impossible for TEMPO to cover two races happening at the same time. We made a decision to cover the men's race based on who was taking part, the likelihood of a lap record, and the depth of the field. Gender was not part of this decision making process. If the same set of circumstances were presented again, I would make the same editorial decision in briefing our photo and video teams.
Had the two races been held back to back (i.e. one starting after the other finished) we would have given both races equal coverage - as we have done time and time again.
Listening to the feedback on social media, I understand our decision not to report on the women's race in the below article has caused frustration. For this I apologise - we couldn't cover it, but we should have reported on it.
When I was finalising the piece I considered including the women's results along with one image our photographer captured of Linden on course (for full transparency, we captured 3 frames from the same sequence). I had zero information on how the women's race played out, and working to a deadline, I made the decision that rather than providing what some might see as token coverage, I would keep the article focused on the in-depth coverage of the men's race. This was a mistake, and I understand why it has upset people. I do however want to stress that this was not a decision based on gender.
We hold Linden, Andrea, Sarah, and Nat in the highest esteem - Andrea Seccafien was one of the first athletes we ever featured on TEMPO, and Linden was featured in an in-depth article in March of this year. I've shot Sarah and Nat countless times over the last two years - both in races and at training and always enjoyed a healthy professional relationship. I apologise to the athletes involved if they felt disrespected by TEMPO that we didn't cover their race.
I'm proud of the work TEMPO does in covering women's athletics, especially here in Australia. More than half of our content is focused on female athletes. I appreciate the standards our community holds us to, but I reject any assertion that TEMPO has a culture or pattern of shunning women's athletics.
We won't be making any further public comment on the issue.
Today at The Tan in Melbourne we saw a race* (*definitely not a race - completely unofficial and complying with all state regulations and definitely not a race) that no one could have predicted would ever be held - especially not in the middle of June when most of the athletes taking part would usually be overseas.
But sure enough, lining up at 11am from the accepted start line - The Pillars of Wisdom, were some of Australia's finest athletes from the 800m to the marathon, some in their first race for 2020.
Among them - Stewy McSweyn, the National Champ in the 5,000m and 10,000m and surely our brightest prospect on the world stage, as well as Rio Olympians Brett Robinson, Sam McEntee, and Dave McNeill, marathoner Jack Rayner, 800m national record holder Joseph Deng, Pete Bol, Jordy Williamsz, and many others.
There was an energy around athletics for the first time since...well, since mid March when Gen Gregson broke the women's record at The Tan. There's something that changes in these athletes when they put on their race kit - there's a level of focus; like this is a job and today is a test. Which I guess in a way it is, even though it's an unofficial lap around The Tan - it's not a qualifier for anything, there are no points, there is no prize money.
The general feeling pre-race was Stewy McSweyn would be near impossible to beat, and that if he really had a dig there was a chance he could take down Craig Mottram's 10:08 - the current record around The Tan.
If he was going to beat Mottram's time, it would be solo basically from the gun. The below shots were captured at the 500m mark, with McSweyn having already established a handy gap on the field.
The Anderson Street hill can bring a hot lap undone, not only because of its incline but also the propensity for Kathmandu puffer jackets to congregate aimlessly in the middle of the path - resulting in a lot of lateral movement and zig-zagging.
McSweyn was on, cresting the climb and then taking the downhill right hander to get off Anderson Street at around 3:53 on the clock. That's 1.4km in. If you know The Tan, think about that. Starting at the Pillars, getting to the turn off Anderson Street in under 4 minutes. Mind bending.
Behind Stewy, the main group was still together - for now.
The interesting thing by the halfway point was happening behind McSweyn. He was going to win, and pending any sort of coordinated pram traffic on the path would be within seconds of the course record.
The main pack started to splinter on the downhill past the Shrine of Remembrance, with Sam McEntee and Jack Rayner moving clear of Dave McNeill, Brett Robinson, and Jordy Williamsz.
As McSweyn came into view with 200m to go, it was clear he was going to be agonizingly close, but just shy of Mottram's record. Pulling up on the line, McSweyn ran a 10:12, ahead of Rayner in 10:16 and McEntee in 10:19.
Check Rayner's Strava if you want to make yourself sick.
It was classic low-key Stewy after the win - he went and sat in the gutter for a couple of minutes by himself, caught his breath, and then went and prepared for his warm down, the way he and his teammates do after every session. Job done, test passed.
You can see more info on the times ran at Run The Tan.
Update 14/06: Linden Hall put herself on the Top 10 board with a 12:08 - good enough for 5th fastest all time, while Andrea Seccafien ran 12:22 for 14th. Sarah Billings was back after performing pacing duties at the time trial back in March, and ran 12:26. Natalie Rule also lined up but didn't PR - her PR remains her 12:42 from 2019 - good enough for 22nd all time. As outlined at the start of the feature, we were unable to provide any greater coverage of the women's race on this occasion.
PS - Stay locked to TEMPO next week for a couple of videos from the race (not a race).