When it comes to racing trains, it seems Peninsula athletes have plenty of puff after runners finished first and second in the women’s section of last month’s Puffing Billy Great Train Race. First-time runner Kiah Fry, of Blairgowrie, was the first female across the line in 49 min 57 sec, with Mount Eliza’s Gemma Maini hot on her heels in 51 min 13 sec.
The race was won by Tynong North runner Ben Kelly in 45 min 01 sec. Coincidentally, Ben — also a first-time Great Train Race entrant — and Kiah have the same running coach, although they train with different clubs.
Puffing Billy made it across the line in 1:05:19, which was more than 12 minutes slower than in 2018, possibly the result of wet conditions. Billy was beaten by 486 of the 2258 runners who set out on the 13.5km course from Belgrave to Lakeside station at Emerald Lake Park and which took them through forests, under rail bridges, up three hills and finally on to a soft downhill trail for the final 3-4km.
Shane Thiele, from South Yarra, won the veteran male category in 51 min 03 sec; Tracey Austin, from Kew, won the veteran female category in 57 min 48 sec; Brody Thrum, from Lancefield, was the under-18 male winner in 52 min 50 sec; and Jaimee-Lee Code, from Narre Warren North, was the under-18 female winner in 54 min 14 sec. Two blind runners also took on Puffing Billy this year with the support of their guides. Kevin Murfitt finished in 1:34:54 with Francois Jacobs getting home in 1:38:51.
The Great Train Race, which celebrated its 38th running on Sunday, May 5, is a major fundraiser for the Puffing Billy Railway, a not-for-profit organisation run by more than 600 volunteers.