Stawell Gift: Coming to grips with tricky track
DANIEL Batman isn’t the first and won’t be the last big name to learn the hard way when it comes to the Stawell Gift.
Running 120m uphill on the grass track at Central Park is totally different to anything world-class sprinters such as Batman have experienced.
The impact on the body is different to a tartan track, different muscle groups are used and there is the complex world of handicap racing.
Last year Batman arrived at Stawell not knowing what to expect but it didn’t take long for him to find out.
He was in the seventh heat on Easter Saturday off 0.25m.
His dreams of getting his hands on the $32,000 winner’s cheque were gone in little more than 12 seconds when he was comfortably beaten out of the placings.
“I didn’t have any idea,” Batman said. "Usually I run with my head down and gauge myself from the lines on the track. As there was no lines on the track I didn’t know if I was running straight or not.
"I looked up and I saw this guy eight metres ahead of me and I sort of shit myself.
"I thought, ‘No way, how can I be this bad on grass?’ "
Batman enjoyed the festival atmosphere of the Gift and learnt a lot by watching Joshua Ross write his name in the history books by becoming only the second man to win from scratch.
“Watching Josh last year helped me so much because just watching how he ran, how the key was getting a good start and then coming over the top in the last few metres,” Batman said.
“That was the first pro race I have ever seen and watching Josh made me realise there is more of an art to it than I realised. It’s not just turning up and going for a run, you have to know how to run on grass and how to run in professional races.”
Batman returns to Australia’s richest footrace this weekend confident he has figured out what it takes to run at Stawell. A lift in his handicap to 1.75m has helped his confidence, as has three weeks of training on grass in Canberra.
“Last time I hadn’t even done anything on grass, and running on grass is whole different running, different muscles and everything,” he said.
“Since the Commonwealths I’ve trained every day on grass and have just started to get used to it over the past few days. I’ve watched a couple of tapes, but actually watching Josh last year was the best experience for me.”
Batman is keen to move on after the Games, which he described as “terrible”.
After being run out in the semi-finals of the 200m, Batman was a member of the 4 x 100m relay team that was disqualified in the final.
“It was a pretty bad Games in terms of results for me. They were terrible for me,” he said :eek: .
“I just have to be more optimistic about the future.”
Batman will be joined by his wife, Nova Peris, who won the 200m at the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur. Peris will run the last race of her career in the women’s Gift off 5m.
“She started her career in the pros and she thought it would be great to finish her career there,” Batman said.
National champion Sally McLellan is the main drawcard in the women’s Gift.