WHEN Peter O’Dwyer first ran in the Maryborough Gift, Michael Jackson’s Black or White was top of the singles chart. Allan Border was Australia’s Test cricket captain, and Paul Keating had just replaced Bob Hawke as Australian Prime Minister.
Today, O’Dwyer will contest his 22nd Maryborough Gift, more or less in the role of a captain coach for his “POD squad”.
Although he does not consider himself one of the likely winners in the 120m gift race, the 46-year-old believes it is still well worth his while joining his fellow runners on the track.
“I haven’t missed one, after I ran my first one in 1992. My best at Maryborough is third and that was back in 1996 I think,” O’Dwyer says.
“I’m going up mainly to watch some of my other runners. If I’m around it (professional athletics) all the time then I might as well do it. It keeps me fit and healthy.
“I’ve had niggling injuries: Achilles and calves. It’s just a management thing at the moment. I hope to be full fitness by the end of the season but it kind of counts me out for Maryborough.
“If I made the semi-finals it would be pretty huge, and if I made the finals of the 300m veterans it would be a pretty good result too. A good start to the season.”
O’Dwyer coaches gift backmarker Matthew Wiltshire, as well as Maryborough Women’s Necklace contender Holly Dobbyn and veteran-novice Andrew Drummond.
He says, far from being a distraction to the job of mentoring others, his decision to run gives him extra insight into how his runners are managing and what track conditions are doing.
“It enables me to know what the runners are going through. You get a good feel for the runners around you and how they are going,” O’Dwyer explains. “You also get a feel for their speed, how fast they are going and if they are bludging.
“Running also gives you an idea of the track, and how the guys are handling it. If you know how the track is going you can offer advice.
“I’ve also got a good support crew around me, which helps out when I am running. Mainly parents and a couple of masseurs around me as well.”
That said, O’Dwyer insists he is not just making up the numbers. With a handicap today of 9.25m, he remains competitive and will start behind several other runners who are significantly younger.
“I’m still not at the limit (12m at Maryborough) and I’m doing my 26th Stawell Gift this year,” O’Dwyer says.
After running in the gift and also the veterans 300m race, coaching will again be front and centre ahead of Saturday’s Daylesford Gift at Cricket Willow.
“We have a lot of our younger guys running at Daylesford. It is a smaller gift, with less pressure.”