By Jaryd Clifford | Australian Athlete
Some races you never forget. They ingrain themselves in nostalgic memory, a reminder of human spirit and the will of the battling competitor. Over time, the characters become larger than life, their battles mythologised in storytelling. It is in these races that the greats of our sport are born. On 15 February 2018, the men’s 5000m at the Australian Championship became one of those races.
Engulfed by the Gold Coast’s oppressive heat, the race was an unforgiving war of attrition. Pat Tiernan’s scathing attack defined the race, decimating the field so as only the toughest remained. As the race entered its latter stages, there were three blue Nike singlets, trailed by a solitary white one, emblazoned with the red Wisconsin ‘W’. Even though it was not the case, an outsider looking in may have perceived the situation as three against a gallant one. It was a formidable sight.
As the pace continued in its upward ferocity, it appeared the leading three were unstoppable, as if the mighty effort evoked no pain, although it was undeniably doing so. In stark contrast, Morgan McDonald, the collegian, looked to be flailing in a desperate effort to hang to the coat tails of the ominous blue brigade. He was testing the elastic band, its rubber stretching to its limits, but then he would inch his way back – a cruel repetitive cycle. It was as if he was floating in and out, you could say like a butterfly.
When the bell sounded for the final round – the final lap – Morgan still had shown no sign of superiority. He still allowed a noticeable gap to form, and it was for this reason that, for many, what happened next was quite unexpected. If he had been floating like a butterfly before, this was his sting like a bee.
Entering the back straight, Tiernan was finally beginning to labour under his self-inflicted barrage of pace. However, everyone else was hurting too, only Morgan could muster a final devastating surge. The commentary described it most astutely: “He was waiting and hiding at the back…but he is looking super strong now.” He was unleashed with cannonball intent and he hit the front without a backward glance. As he approached the line, he looked about in disbelief, before crashing to the ground, jubilance masked by exhaustion. It was a maiden Australian title, a world leading time, and the first instance where three Australians had broken 13:20 in the same race. It was a historic foot race, and he was champion.
Read the complete article and loads more in ‘Australian Athlete’, a biannual bookazine celebrating Australian Athletics brought to you by Athletics Australia and Runner’s Tribe here: https://australianathlete.org/