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Devonport loop propels Murdoch to world stage

Flagstaff Team

Running and relaxing… Murdoch McIntyre on the track and at home with family dog Archie

Devonport athlete Murdoch McIntyre is in top form leading into the Youth Olympics in Argentina next month, having just won an international cross-country event in Australia.

Murdoch (16) took out the combined Australian and Oceania under-18 cross-country championships on the Sunshine Coast in late August. In a commanding performance, he completed the hilly 6km course in 20.14 minutes.

“It was really hot – 25 degrees – the type of weather when you want to head to the beach. In New Zealand, the cross-country races are usually in the freezing cold and are muddy.”

Murdoch did much better than he expected.

“I had food poisoning the week before so I was not in the best shape – I was just going for the best place I could.”

The result was a massive improvement for Murdoch, who nished 9th in the race last year, when it was held in Tasmania.

He is single-minded about his goal at the Youth Olympics in Buenos Aires next month: he wants to break the New Zealand under-17 steeplechase record.

Murdoch hopes to do well in the race, but has little knowledge of half the eld. Selection of the 18 competitors was based on the nalists at the last Olympics.

Eight of the entrants are from Europe, seven from Africa and the rest from around the world. Murdoch is the sole competitor from Oceania.

While he has watched videos of the European competitors (they have good steeplechasing technique, he says), the African runners are a mystery, including their ages. Many don’t have birth certi cates and for years there have been allegations of over-age runners at junior events.

Murdoch is a relative novice in steeplechasing, but has enjoyed the technical aspects of learning to hurdle. He is also keen to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, Alex Shaw, who was a keen steeplechaser.

When he met the Flagstaff last week, the day after he returned from Australia, Murdoch was looking forward to some solid training leading into the Youth Olympics.

There’s nothing particularly fancy about it – Murdoch simply runs around the streets of Devonport.

He does, however, follow a strict routine, getting up at 5am, seven days a week, to set off on the same route: from his home in Aramoana Ave, through Ngataringa Park around the Navy grounds, along the waterfront, through Cheltenham and Narrow Neck, along Seacliffe Ave, then back home to get ready for school at Westlake Boys. It’s a 10km route. If he needs to do 20 km, Murdoch backtracks and runs the same route in the opposite direction.

He loves the lack of cars on the quiet early- morning Devonport streets, and especially likes the section through the Navy sports grounds. “I must know every crack of the road through there.”

He does additional training at AUT Millennium in Mairangi Bay and on the track at Mt Smart.

A promising rugby player at a younger age, Murdoch gave up the sport for athletics. He says he was “100 per cent happy” with the 18-18 draw between Westlake and Takapuna Grammar in the North Harbour Secondary Schools nal.

“My brother and friends were in the TGS 1st XV and I had friends in the Westlake team, so the draw represented my feelings towards the game.

“If I had carried on with rugby I think I could have become a pretty good player,” he says, matter-of-factly. But equally realistically, he adds: “Look at my wrists – they are small. Someone with my sort of body is suited to running.”

He weighs in at around 56kg, maybe a kilogram or two less on race days. He eats pretty much what he wants, as his training burns everything off. “I just eat until I’m full.”

2019 will be Murdoch’s nal year at school. After that, he hopes go to an American university on an athletics scholarship.

His long-term aim is to represent New Zealand in athletics at world championships, the Commonwealth Games and the 2024 Olympics.

Time in the American university system allows athletes to mature, as well as attain a degree.

“A 25-year-old version of me is a much different person to where I am now,” he says.

Published in the September 7 2018 edition of Devonport Flagstaff. View online