Lara Hamilton may not have been around the athletics world for long but she definitely means business. After winning the Under 20 Australian Cross Country title in the 2017 championships, Lara has quickly become one of the most competitive and successful distance athletes of 2017.
After coming into the sport from a Cross Country Skiing background, her past inevitably prepared her for the pain and pressure of endurance racing. It wasn’t until her School Cross Country coach identified her potential that she ever contemplated challenging herself on the athletics track. After reaching almost instant success, Lara directed her efforts towards turning herself into an athletic force to be reckoned with.
“I have come from a cross country skiing background, competing throughout high school and I travelled to Austria at the end of year 12 on a training camp. I was asked by my schools cross country coach in year 12 (2015) after running well at an athletics carnival if I wanted to give IGSSA a go. I ran to cross train for skiing but otherwise nothing too serious. I surprised myself and came 3rd, progressed to CIS and came 2nd, and managed 5th at all schools and I thought I’d give running a go from then on! I continued on and placed 1st in the open female Sydney harbor 5k and 2nd in the Summer Starter 5k open that year. Over time, I grew a love for road racing and xc and signed up to Sydney Uni Athletics club in 2016. (sic)”
Lara is currently training with Run Crew, under Gary Howard and Ben St Lawrence. After joining them in March 2016, at the beginning of her first year of studies at the University of Sydney, she has not only come to understand the sport and all that it requires, but has also come to love every minute of her time spent with her new squad.
“The beginning of 2016 I spent getting used to training seriously in running, and competing in cross country events. I am absolutely loving my time with Run Crew. They know how to manage athletes properly, and really take the time to come up with a program that suits you. Running is definitely not a one size fits all endeavor.”
Currently she boasts an incredible 10km road race PB of 35:57 and 5000m track PB of 17:27. Like many athletes however, the road to success has not always been smooth. After facing a few injuries in 2016, she has managed to persevere and realize the importance of the waiting game that so many athletes must play.
“I had a few injuries later in the year in 2016, I managed to fall down some stairs on a trail and sprain my ankle, then decided to use the time I had off to get my wisdom teeth out as well! Since then, I’ve been a bit more careful and with proper management have stayed injury free, and seen continual progression in my performance.”
After beginning her track debut just one year ago at the 2016 Australian University Games, Lara has never been hungrier to push her limits and try the vast assortment of events that endurance racing has to offer. With the 5000m being her favorite event, it comes as no surprise that she, just a week ago, smashed her old 5000m PB, and grabbed the bronze medal, at her second Australian University Games.
Lara’s success however, has not been limited to the one event. In her single year in the sport she has managed to follow up on her second at the 2016/2017 Under 20s Australian National 5000m Championships with gold at the 2017 Under 20s Australian Cross Country Championships and the New South Wales State Cross Country and Short Course. Lara also managed to take out third at the recent Sydney Running Festival 10000m Harbour Bridge race.
As with most disciplines, success in the endurance events requires a personal drive as well as external motivations to push you to better your best. Lara has found inspirations both inside and outside of the sport.
“Outside of athletics, since I grew up in a pretty surf and cross country skiing loving family, I have to say I found Layne Beachley pretty inspiring. I read her book as a young girl and loved how she overcame adversity to succeed in a sport where women aren’t recognized to their full potential. I was inspired by Norweigan XC skier Petter Northug and his ruthlessness in his 50km events to kick with 5km to go. Within athletics I have to say Ben St Lawrence and his journey to not only competing at Rio, but getting the fastest time for an Aussie over 10000m, that’s fantastic!”
When looking back on her time in the sport thus far, Lara has only positive words to say.
“I have to say I absolutely love a trip to the Blue Mountains to run the trails up there. On a recent trip I took a bit of a tumble on an uneven rocky surface. I couldn’t help but laugh afterwards as I thought, this is what it’s about, getting out there and throwing yourself into it, on and off the track. Relay events are also a highlight of the season, particularly the XC relays. I love the team aspect built into quite an individual sport.”
“A particularly memorable moment this year was winning the U20 National XC titles. I was so nervous, I’d put in the hard yards and just wanted to perform my best on the day. It was a really mentally tough race for me, but bringing it home was one of the best feelings I’ve had to date in the sport.”
With the 2017/2018 season looming over her head, Lara has set some goals to drive her to fully reach her potential and, even with just a year’s experience behind her, we at Athletics NSW know that she has both the mental and physical potential to achieve them.
“Some new PB’s would be amazing, across 1500, 5k and 10k! I like seeing my hard work pay off, whilst taking into account that not every race is going to turn out the way you wanted. I’ve learnt that as long as you try your best on the day, it’s hard to be too disappointed, because you couldn’t have done any more.”
Incredibly, outside of the sport of athletics, Lara has various commitments and interests which both help to keep her grounded and allow her to achieve a balanced life.
“I am currently studying a double degree of Vocal Performance (Classical)/Arts (Digital Cultures) at USYD. I have sung since primary school, and have grown to love performing and exploring what my voice can do. I also have a passion for managing and using social media as a marketing tool. I am currently managing The Invisible Exercise’s social media – I really love to see growth and engagement, and learn and share others inspiring stories whilst on the program. I still love to fit a surf in here and there, and in the winter time take a trip down to Perisher to cross country ski.”
As the first track meets of the season come rolling past, Lara has begun to contemplate where her athletic potential may take her in the future.
“I would love to one day represent Australia in the Commonwealth Games and in World Championship level races, the idea of travelling to compete against the best is something I’d like to make reality. Maybe, if the timing is right, the Olympics – every elite athletes dream! However, it’s important to recognize the baby steps it takes to get to these big end goals. For now, it’s about gradual improvement, enjoying the sport and seeing where that leads.”
With Lara’s head in the right place and a depth of understanding for the sport and what it takes, we have no doubt that we will be seeing her next to Australia and the world’s best athletes in no time.
Article by Georgia Winkcup