The Limestone Coast sporting community was worthy enough to enjoy the tutelage of South Australian running royalty last weekend.
Over three busy days of activity, Australian Tokyo Olympian Izzi Batt-Doyle and former Australian representative Riley Cocks were flat out teaching the next generation of Mount Gambier athletes of all ages the art of running.
The starter’s pistol fired the fun into life on Friday night when the pair were swarmed by over one hundred juniors during an unmissable Little Athletics session at Mount Gambier High School.
Smiles were seen everywhere as the stars conducted some running games before posing for photos and autographs.
Saturday morning was no time for rest as they joined the local park run community before travelling to Blue Lake Sports Park to introduce the South Gambier Football Club to a new dimension of running it had never seen before.
Following two intense days of coaching and activities, many would take a breather on Sunday morning, but Batt-Doyle and Cocks were up bright and early going for a 30km run along the rail lands before returning to Mount Gambier High School to conduct a skills and Q&A session with some of the more talented athletes of the area.
Mount Gambier runners are the latest to be taught under the pair’s RunAsOne coaching program, which includes more than 200 people.
Batt-Doyle said all the energy the pair put in throughout the weekend was worth it.
“It has been full on, very busy but very rewarding,” she said.
“Seeing the younger kids running around was a lot of fun and it was cool to work with some footballers in their preseason.
“We also got to meet so many people in the Mount Gambier running community and get to know Mount Gambier.
“It is very rewarding to give back to the community and meet so many young and enthusiastic athletes.”
Cocks said he enjoyed the challenge from each differing experience throughout the weekend.
“When we had the little ones it was all about participation and making sure they stayed engaged with fun-based athletics games where you mix in running and jumping,” he said.
“On Saturday with the football club we put a different spin on it and worked on their technique and form specifics, plus the stop, start higher intensity work that is specific to football.
“On Sunday we worked out the level of the older age groups and just wanted to make everyone feel part of it which is something we design each session for to include elite and recreational runners.”
Batt-Doyle was one of 486 Australian athletes who travelled to Tokyo in July and August this year and helped the nation achieve its second best ever medal haul, just four behind Athens 2004.
The South Australian won selection in the 5000m event after breakout SA State Track Championships campaign where she broke a 25-year record.
Batt-Doyle made it all the way to Tokyo and ran 5km around the Tokyo National Stadium in the solid time of 15:21.65.
However, in a tough field featuring the world’s best, it was only enough for 15th and she was eliminated after the heat.
Despite the short stay in Tokyo, Batt-Doyle was grateful to achieve her dream which appeared highly unlikely.
“It was very challenging, but the one-year delay of the games was actually a silver lining for me because I had two broken feet in 2019 and would not have been anywhere near Olympic level in 2020,” she said.
“So the postponement and pause of racing was a positive giving me the opportunity to get healthy and qualify for the games.
“I actually improved my personal best from 15:41 to 15:04 in a few short months, so I was absolutely stoked to qualify and fulfil a childhood dream.
“It was challenging, but an incredible experience regardless of no crowds, protocols, a short stay in the village and COVID tests every day.
“I will work very hard to take the next opportunity.”
Although he did not join Batt-Doyle at Tokyo, Cocks is also in fine running form having just smashed the South Australian half-marathon record.
With Paris on the radar, he hopes to continue taking giant leaps in the long-distance world.
“I am just about to run my debut marathon which has been a long time coming,” Cocks said.
“I hope it will be a successful transition, but every time I have gone up in distance from a youngster running 800 metres I seem to get more competitive.
“Hopefully that is my ticket to an Australian team in the future, especially after seeing where Izzi got to after putting in the extra hard work and commitment.”
Some may label the three-day program as exhausting, but Batt-Doyle said the taxing physical nature of the weekend was compensated by the mental-health boosts.
“We thrive off being busy and filling days with a lot of activities,” she said.
“I feel exhausted, but energised at the same time because it is inspiring and rewarding to feel you might have a bit of an impact on peoples running.”
Batt-Doyle and Cocks are also partners and are the joint force running the RunAsOne program based out of Adelaide, with the latter claiming they would love to target more regional areas after success in the Limestone Coast.
“It is something we like to do more of in the future,” he said.
“But we are very busy with our own training and business back in Adelaide.
“We also train a number of athletes from the lower South East area, so it was a great opportunity to meet and train with them face to face
“It is really good to see how much running is taking off in the South East and with so many good events hopefully it continues to grow.”
The duo has certainly left their mark on the region and their advice will be in evidence around sporting venues for years to come.