RunAsOne at the Australian Athletics Championships

The last time the Australian Athletics Championships were held in Adelaide in 1992 none of Isobel Hume, Zoe Toland, Izzi Batt-Doyle or Jacob Cocks were even born. The four of these now late twenty year old’s are pretty fortunate then that for once in their lifetime, at a time that so happens to be in the middle of their athletic careers, the national championships arrived back in Adelaide. Right in front of their RunAsOne friends and family. Who knows if it’ll ever happen again. Running a PB or winning a National title is probably not everything they ever wanted but it’s kind of close and with only one shot, or one opportunity, did any of them capture it?

Starting with the last distance event on the Nationals timetable, the Women’s 5000m saw two RunAsOne athletes enter off very different preparations. RunAsOne co-founder, coach and Tokyo 2020 Olympian Izzi Batt-Doyle had been having a very encouraging summer as she returned to the track since her Valencia marathon PB in December 2023. With a newly minted 5,000m PB and 3,000m PB to add to a second Falls Creek training camp, Izzi had certainly prepared herself for whatever the race threw at her. On the other hand, another Isobel, this time of the Hume variety, and based in Melbourne, had been struggling with injury, and didn't have any new PB’s from her summer to show. Two athletes, two different preparations, the one 5,000m race to put it on the line.

Izzi on the start line of the women's 5,000m final

For Izzi B-D, this race was another stepping stone in her bid to qualify for the Australian Olympic team for Paris. The qualifying time of 14:52, only seven seconds faster than her new PB, was always an unlikely prospect given the usual tactics involved in a ‘championship’ race. It meant the other important selection criteria of a top-two finish was the more pressing matter. Issie H had her eyes on the best race possible given her intermittent build. After a few slow laps to start with Izzi B-D went to the front to quicken up the race with a bit of fartlek. The other contenders in the field have strong kicks in a slow race whereas Izzi’s strength at the moment is being able to hold a hot pace consistently, something you probably get the confidence with when you average 3:24/km for a marathon. Issie Hume had to settle into her own rhythm when this happened, showing that even when you’re in a National final, you still have to be able to race on your own like many recreational runners find themselves. 

Issie in full flight during the women's 5,000m final

Despite looking in control, in the back end of the last lap Izzi B-D began to be swamped by faster kickers Lauren Ryan, Rose Davies and Maudie Skyring but managed to finish 4th in a time of 15:26 (and less than two seconds off second spot). Despite it not being a top-two finish, there are still three spots available in the 5,000m (provided Izzi’s not selected for the marathon it’s worth adding) so don’t despair. If Izzi can find those extra seven seconds or enough ranking points sometime between now and July it’s possible there won’t be many other Australian women in front of her when it comes to selection (besides perhaps Rose Davies and Lauren Ryan who did finish top two and excluding the already qualified Jess Hull who is expected to skip the 5,000m at Paris). For Issie H, she ended up in no-woman’s land almost twenty seconds either side of any other finisher but was still able to push herself to a time of 16:50 for a new track 5,000m PB to give her a springboard into the rest of 2024. 

 Izzi leading the pack during a tactical women's 5,000m final

Earlier on Sunday there was a trio of Men’s 5,000m finals. A deeper field at the championships meant that there were three 5,000m races in total; an ‘A’ race catering for the sub-14 minute runners, a ‘B’ race for anyone with a qualifying time between 14:00-14:15 and a ‘C’ race set up for U/23 athletes and a Fijian runner to have a crack at his National Record. RunAsOne coach Jacob Cocks, who is the older and better looking brother of RunAsOne co-founder Riley Cocks, had been targeting a sub-14:00 5,000m all summer long and for him, the ‘B’ race was the final opportunity. Jacob’s summer had been improving since an iron infusion in December saw him regain some confidence and form on the track. A 14:06 qualifier in late January was followed by a pair of 1500m and 3,000m PB’s with another 14:06 thrown in for good measure in a race in Melbourne. Jacob’s time’s may seem elite but as a coach by morning, school teacher by day and Nintendo Switch King by night, he sets an impressive example for other RunAsOne athletes to follow by continually placing himself on start lines in search of PB’s. 

Jacob during the Box Hill Classic 3,000m 

On Sunday around midday that meant he was lining up against familiar foe over the summer, Victorian Seth O’Donnel, in the ‘B’ final. Similar to the Women’s race, there were a few slow laps before things started winding up halfway through. Jacob and Seth dictated the race as the pair were clearly the superior athletes and perhaps even out of place amongst the other ‘B’ athletes. With 13:00 flat on the clock as the bell rang heading into the last lap Jacob needed to pull a 59 second last 400m out of his backside to crack his sub 14 minute goal. In the end, he was three seconds too slow and recorded a new PB of 14:02 for second place instead, a time that would not have looked too out of place in the ‘A’ final a few hours later. Second place is great, a PB is awesome but you didn’t have to be a lip reader to know what Jacob thought of those extra few seconds. Despite his disappointment Jacob was still grateful for the PB and is clearly heading back in the right direction in 2024 after a tough finish to 2023.

Jacob early in the 5,000m at the Australian Athletics Championships

The final athlete of the RunAsOne contingent, Zoe Toland, may have been left until last in this recap but that’s only because like any Tuesday or Friday morning session, it’s ideal to progress through the reps, getting quicker and better as you go. Zoe Toland had been bringing that same ethos to her season, giving her 1500m PB and 3,000m PB nudges throughout early 2024. At the National Championships last year, Zoe ran a 4:23 PB for 10th place. Being in front of a home crowd at this year’s championships, she smacked that PB by a couple of seconds in her Thursday heat to record 4:21 for 5th place and qualify for the finals. Watching first hand of Zoe’s excitement it was easy to think she may have peaked already in the heat. 

Zoe with her family after a PB in the 1500m heats

Two days later on the Saturday though, up against Australia’s two fastest ever 1500m runners with a few other international representatives thrown in for good measure, Zoe again toed the start line in front of a raucous home crowd. The race split in two with six up front and Zoe at the head of a smaller pack of five in a race of their own a few seconds back. As the race wound its way around the track closer and closer to the finish, Zoe was still right where she needed to be, executing her race plan to near perfection. In the final kick for home Zoe chased down 6th place right to the line and if the race went for another 5m probably would’ve had her. It didn’t though, which is good, because over the actual 1500m, Zoe ended up with another PB of 4:20.59 for 7th place making her ‘the only athlete to record a PB two years in a row in the National 1500m final’ according to her coach, Riley Cocks. Talk about capturing your opportunity. All of this from someone who joined RunAsOne as a recreational runner at first before her consistency to training and approach led to a rapid progression. 10th in 2023, 7th in 2024 and now with another twelve months to go until 2025’s championships what will Zoe be capable of then?

Zoe striding out in the women's 1500m final

Well you’ll just have to wait and see of course. As will Zoe and the other three athletes featured who were all back training the day after their races. Running at the elite level may seem a fair bit different in some aspects but for the most of it, attending training regularly, putting effort in and putting yourself on start lines is all it really boils down to. These four RunAsOne athletes are exceptionally good at those basics and set a brilliant example as role models for anyone else in RunAsOne. With role models like these, who knows how many RunAsOne athletes will be at the next National Championships?

Issie & Izzi after their 5,000m at the Australian Athletics Championships
By Fraser Darcy
You can watch the replay of these races and the other events at the Australian Athletics Championships on 7plus.