When Martin Dent lines up for the adidas Sydney:10 on Saturday it will be with a hint of nostalgia, but clear focus on the future.
“As I am originally from NSW, I started out racing in the state road champs out at the Holsworthy Army Barracks,” Dent said.
“I guess the first time I raced there I was 14. That's 18 years ago. It will be great to return to the NSW champs. It will be like the old days again, because my family are coming along watching and supporting me.”
The NSW road championships date back to 1927, and like distance running generally, have undergone many changes over the years. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s the event – which Dent often won junior titles at – was held at Holsworthy Army Barracks in Sydney’s south-west, but with increasing security restrictions and reduced access the venue became unviable. It’s often said that necessity is the mother of all innovation, and it was the necessity of finding a new home for Athletics NSWs premier road race that drove the innovation of the Sydney:10.
But it wasn’t just any old traffic-free course that would do. Runners, of all abilities, wanted an accurate, flat and fast course which they could challenge their personal bests over the classic 10km distance. With Athletics NSW moving their office premises in 2006 to Sydney Olympic Park, it seemed prudent to explore that precinct, and in 2008 the NSW Road Championships were held there in conjunction with the Sydney Striders. It continued in a similar fashion the following year, and last year a further step was taken to open the event up to all runners, regardless of their membership status with Athletics NSW.
Thus when Dent lines up on Saturday as the favourite to take out the Sydney:10, it will have somewhat a different character to when he raced the state titles at Holsworthy: a larger field with a wider range of abilities, more inclusive and more social. But by no means does that diminish those with a quest to set a personal best, or in Dent’s case, to challenge the course record of 29:45 set by Russell Dessaix-Chin in the event’s inaugural running. Backing up from his recent win at the Sydney Morning Herald Half Marathon, Dent is keen to continue his strong racing form after an injury setback hampered his plans earlier this year.
"Training has been going really well. I have been improving every week and I am now getting back to my best. I feel I am ready to run fast, but I am not really sure exactly how fast. If the conditions are good I will be having a crack at a quick race,” he said.
"My next race after the Sydney:10 will be the Launceston Ten, where I will be aiming to defend my title. I haven't decided where I will race after that, but probably either City to Surf or National Cross Country. Doing both would be difficult, with only six days between the two races."
Dent has come a long way in the last 18 years, representing Australia at two Commonwealth Games, one world championship and multiple world cross country championships, but he has unfinished business in the sport.
"For the last 12 years I have been trying to make an Olympic team, next year is probably close to my last chance,” he said.
“I am planning to do a marathon later in the year to try and put myself in a position to be selected."
The adidas Sydney:10 is on this Saturday, 4 June at Sydney Olympic Park. Online entries close on 5pm, Thursday with late entries available on the day up until 45 minutes before the starting time (10km is the first event at 7:45am).
Photo courtesy of Inside Athletics.