Hello Compadres, Its Mitch here. I’m not great with introductions, so I’ll keep this short. I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is “My story” because by any means, I am not an intricate enough human to infact have a story. Instead, much like the great man Steve Prefontaine wrote, I have a Canvas- and each run is just adding a new colour too it. Anyway, moving away from the sentimental guff, I am a 17 year old Middle distance Athlete from Melbourne and I’m writing this blog to share my experiences through the up’s, and downs of my brief running career.
Through the junior (and upon reflecting, greatly insignificant years) of Primary school, I was fortunate enough to represent Victoria at some XC nationals and the one Track nationals in Canberra. If these experiences taught me anything, it was that this was the sport I would love forever. I remember being a narrow minded and long haired year 6- idolising every steps the likes of Kane Grimster, and Jordan Williamsz took. I know what your all thinking, we can read Blogs from world champion’s and Australian Representatives, but I thought I would give a quick highlight to my younger days before I proceeded into the more interesting part of my running which as undoubtedly been the past year and a half.
I’ll splash some colour here, for the first 3 years of High school I blended into the backgrounds of the running circles as the kids around me began to grow in height and width. Here I was, standing on the start line with the Man Mountains of the Rouse Twins, the greasy Greek machine of Dean Neofitou and wondering what the rare beast in James Clements was doing touching his hair every 2 seconds. Nevertheless, I stood on that start line, the gun went bang! And I got destroyed by my competitors. Time and time again, I went to the front and then got demolished by field, neither big enough nor strong enough to keep up with them. Consistent 4th and 5th placing’s left me wondering whether I was really good enough for the sport. I wanted to give up, I wanted to call it quits, but I now praise my choice for digging through the tough times, and cherishing those special ones.
At the age of 15, myself and my coach Stephen Ellinghaus sat down to talk about my woeful season. Coach asked me “How do you think you performed this season” and me, not willing to admit my abysmal season replied with something along the lines of that I was doing well in comparison to the size of my competitors and in a desperate attempt to take the burden off my own shoulders, blamed it on every man and his horse. Steve’s reply, which is something that will resinate with my forever, was that. “Don’t make excuses, make opportunities” Simple but effective. Now, I can’t say this these words inspired me instantly and I soon become a dominant force, because I haven’t yet reached that state! But over time, it hit me that I can’t achieve what I want, when I want and how I want.
Ill look back onto the end of my 2012 track season, I failed to make yet another Nationals in Sydney, running times of 4:13 for the 1500, 2:02 for the 800, 9:23 for the 3000 and 1 minute for the 400m. Ashamed of my season, I took a few weeks of running to again decide whether this was the sport for me. It was through this time that I realised something… I was the underdog. I was the kid that everyone had now written out of their minds. Kids like the Rouses went on to run times of 9:01 and 4:01’s and I was still yet to break the 1 minute mark. I came back to training, determined for the first time in my adolescent life. Here’s a simple but effective tip, Consistency is the greatest virtue of a successful athlete. I went through the winter season not missing a session, not giving up on any session, and searching for my best through them all. The 2 weeks prior to the State cross Country championships I went to Thailand, where I endured the hardest training of my life. I’ll never forget a beautiful moment I shared with my dad one day. Up at 6, Dad and I went for a run down to the local creek/river/filthiest watering hole I have ever seen in my life, to complete a reps session. If I can remember correctly, it was 600,400,600,400 twice. 35 degree’s, locals scattering everywhere- and wild dogs at the ready to rip me to threads I began the session. Times began to fall, and on this rickety old concrete path I found my form. I had two reps to go, I was down, I was out. I was dehydrated, I was exhausted… but I wasn’t ready to stop. My dad got me up, he looked me in the eye and said “Every hurting step, breath and thought. Every time you say I can’t you push harder? These sessions will make you stronger; these sessions will make you the best. These will get you through races”. I honestly believe this session was what truly earnt me the silver medal at the Cross country championships, and 5th at the nationals.
Now finally, onto my previous track season! (Sorry for rambling, I got on a roll and it was a good procrastination from my ¾ studying). Having never been to the March Nationals for track before, this instantly became my goal. I remember coming off the first race after cross country which was a 3000m Event. In this first race, I took 12 seconds off my PB. As you can imagine, I was fired up beyond belief, I had the inkling in my head that this would be my season. State all schools came around, I was feeling good. Again, much like the year before I lined up on the even bigger Brick walls in the Rouse Twins, the “Does my hair look ok?” machine Dean Neofitou and the “Honorary Kenyan” James Clements. This time, it would be different for me… or so I thought. Bang went the gun! I started in front, and I got absolutely poleaxed by my opposition once again. A time of 9:29 said that I had a shocking race by any stretch of the imagination. Fuming, instead of using this as my usual time to think about whether I wanted to pursue the sport, I used it as my motivator to never see myself in that position again… and to this day, I haven’t.
Times began to fall as much as Luke Percy when he laughs, by the end of the season, I had run a 3:54, 1:54, 8:27 and a 52.4 for the aforementioned events. All of this, in the space of 4 months of consistent, hard training. This does not mean however that you should train through soreness, as this only causes injury, but always push your limits no matter what people tell you they are. Going into the state Championships in February, I had never won a State gold medal after 9 years of trying. I had entered 2 events, the 1500 and the 800m for fun. The 1500m was Friday night, and again- I found myself on the line with the “Basketball kings” the rouse Brothers, the “Hairstraighening cry baby” Dean Neofitou and the “Speed Demon” Shaun Walton. Again, the gun went bang! But this time, I was ready. This time I held on, this time I out sprinted them, this time… I won. I had done it, 9 years of persistence, three years of having the stuffing beaten out of me by my competitors, finally I had done it! Adulation filled my whole body, it felt good to win. The 800m was just two days later, and in this race I went in as the fastest qualifier. The race came down to the last 100m where it would be sprint between myself and Hamish Baylis… or so again I thought. Overtaking Baylis with 20 to go, I heard the greasy sounds of a muscly Greek come up on my outside shoulder. With 1 meter to go, the ball of muscle out lunged me and pipped me on the line. This did not faze me though, as I have known dean for 7 years and love him dearly as a mate and as a competitor. I can safely say that the sense of comradery amongst all competitors is outstanding in the sport. The next step was Perth.
In Perth, my focus was to hopefully come away with one medal, but by carrying a bruised disk in my back, my hopes looked oblique. Nevertheless, I went in confident and determined to stick to my goal. On the Thursday night I raced in the 3000m event, where I was overjoyed to place second in a time of 8:40.1. Whilst this was an amazing feeling, I couldn’t help but feel slightly deflated as I was off my PB. I had 2 days to recover, before my 1500m which was one of the best races I have ever been a part of. Going through the first lap in 58 seconds, fast times would be undoubtable, as the winners went through in 3:52. Having a personal best of 3:58 before the meet, my goal was to just beat this, but by coming fifth and running a 3:54 this was a greater feeling than that of my 3000m silver.
Again entering the winter season positive, I was fortunate enough to collect the gold in the men’s under 18 6000 against some amazing individuals and good mates such as Nathan Pearce, Dan Young, Ben Kelly and others. Speaking of Dan young, how big is his rig- and I want to give him a plug for a name to look out for in the future, he is a superstar. Heading to the nationals, I had the goal to make them run early, the Prefontaine way. I went out in the first Kilometre in 2:50 pace, but feeling comfortable. The favourite to take the crown in Morgan McDonald Passed me with ease patting me on the back at the 3km mark saying “Thanks for the first lap” and proceeded to demolish me (All in good fun). I ended up placing third in what was my greatest achievement of the year as I honestly left nothing, vomiting for 3 hours post-race, and unable to walk properly the next.
I know this blog seems long, but I wanted to highlight the fact that everything can come together if you be consistent, and be yourself. Don’t worry about anyone elses times but yours, you cant control them. Love the sport and be happy.
Run Hard, or run Home.
DB Mitchell Dyer over and out.