Like a fine wine Don Rodgers gets better with age
RUNNING: For those cruising Grafton and Junction Hill's streets about 5am, the bobbing headlamp and metronomic running style of Don Rodgers may be a familiar sight.
The 67-year-old runs the same 16km loop three days a week, does Grafton Parkrun at 7am every Saturday and a 28km loop from his Warragai Ck home on Sundays.
His training regime is a winning formula. Since running a personal best 5km parkrun time of 22:09 on December 29, Rodgers has improved his time a further 11 times. His most recent was last Saturday, when he shredded 33 seconds off his best to finish in 20:31.
In the process he broke the Grafton Parkrun age-graded record, which rates the runner's time as a percentage of the Australian parkrun record in that age category. His M65-69 age grade of 83.27 per cent surpassed the feats of accomplished athletes Reece Edwards (82.087 per cent for 15:43 in M25-29) and Celia Sullohern (81.177 per cent for 18:14 in W25-29).
However, while Rodgers has literally turned heads in recent months in his surges to the front of the pack, he says he's still a long way from his best, which dates back to long before the parkrun era.
"I've been running most of my life and I'm just starting to get fit again,” said the retired corrective services worker, who was governor at Grafton jail in the 90s.
"I used to be able to break 40 minutes for 10km, and three times I ran the marathon under three hours.
"I run to keep fit, keep the weight off and because I just love it.
"I worked in corrective services for 35 years and it's such a sedentary job you've got to do something to keep active.
"I made a big misatake in 2008-09 when I did five marathons and 12 half marathons in 12 months. It really flattened me and I didn't run for about five years after that.”
Rodgers did ease back into running, and started competing on and off from 2013.
This year he has surged back to form in a big way, and Saturday's run was the fourth time he's crossed the line first at Grafton Parkrun.
"Although it's not technically a race,” he said.
"I take my hat off to all those people who come back every week and put in their best effort.
"Parkrun is the best kept secret in Grafton. If people knew about it and realised they don't have to run, I think they could get a lot more people doing it.”
Rodgers is in tip-top shape for this Sunday's Gold Coast Half Marathon. It will be his fourth this year, after running a similar distance at the Gold Coast Running Festival (April 26), Runaway Noosa Marathon (May 25) and the Bay to Bay Running Festival at Gosford (June 16).
On Sunday he hopes to run under 92 minutes for the 21.1km journey.
"But my big aim is not Gold Coast,” he said. "It's to get my parkun time down to my year of birth - 19:52. Just 39 seconds to go.
"I think I can get down around that. Then I'll back off and enjoy it a bit more.
"And I'd dearly like to Sydney Harbour Half or Full Marathon mid-September, depending on how I feel.”
GOLD COAST MARATHON
A HUGE contingent from Grafton will bombard the Gold Coast this weekend. The following indicated via the Grafton Parkrun Facebook page they will be running:
5.7km: Zahli Cronin, Sarah Dougherty, Sandra Fahey, Michael and Tracie O'Connell, Ben and Kate Shaw + family, Darryll and Kristy Smidt + family, Shell Whitton.
10km: Scott and Karen Barnier, Carroll and Keith Brown, Madeline Cronin, Tracy English, Susie Kidd, Chrissy, James and Joshua Kidd, Melissa Optland, Katie Porra, Joshua Rowe, Jenny Shepherd, Darryll Smidt, Steve Whitton.
Half-marathon: Sarah Blackman, Russell English, Nyssa Lesniak, Bill North, Don Rodgers, Ben and Kate Shaw, Kristy Smidt, Michael Summers.
Full Marathon: Kylie McGrath, Michael O'Connell, Michelle Reardon.