The Optus NSW Regional Distance Running Championships campaign is reaching a “fascinating” crescendo, with this weekend’s Dubbo Stampede set to play a major role in the standings.
The championships sees competitors accrue points for competing in either the 10km, half marathon, or marathon events at numerous running festivals around the region across the year.
Races at Orange, Bathurst, and Mudgee have already been completed with this weekend’s event at Dubbo to be followed by competition at Forbes and Carcoar.
While there’s competitors of all ages and experience levels in the running, it’s two young siblings who are shaping as the ones to beat.
Canberra pair Joshua and Sophie Torley are both well-placed to take out the overall crown, with Josh leading the men’s while Sophie has rocketed into contention with two wins after not contesting an eligible race at Orange.
Both were eye-catching winners of their respective events at last weekend’s Mudgee Running Festival.
Joshua has registered for the 10km Cheetah Chase, as well as the 5.3km Dingo Dash, however Sophie had not registered to race as of Friday morning.
With Sophie potentially not taking part, the stage is set for female joint series leaders, defending champion Danielle Hart and Leigha Willis, to take control.
“It’s fascinating because the people who did well last year (Hart and Joshua Torley) are going hell for leather again,” championships founder Andrew Baulch said.
“Josh has realised it’s a great opportunity for him to really put a gap between himself and the rest.
“He won the half marathon here in record time last year and he’s won every race he’s gone in so far this season.”
While the battle for the overall title is a talking point, Baulch is most proud of how the championships has developed in such a short time.
Last year was its first edition and it only took half marathon results into account and this year the numbers have boomed, with athletes also earning points when taking part in the marathon and 10km event.
“I looked back a few years ago and there was only 18 people across men and women who raced multiple events,” Baulch said.
“People didn’t have knowledge of other events and these events felt they were in competition with each other, and that has completely turned around now.
“So many people are running multiple races now and it really is a successful concept.
“It’s our ambition to have this kind of thing make sure the central west is a haven for middle distance runners and to have people from all over race in these events.”
The action at Western Plains Zoo on Sunday starts with the 42.2km Rhino Ramble at 7am. The 5.3km Dingo Dash and Wallaby Wheel gets underway at 7.30am with the 21.1km Zebra Zoom at 7.45am and the 10km Cheetah Chase at 8.15am.