With a couple of hundred metres to go in the women’s marathon, a beautiful, beaming smile broke out across Jess Stenson’s face.
- Jess Stenson finished third in the 2018 and 2014 Commonwealth Games marathons
- In 2022, she raced alongside fellow Australians Eloise Wellings and Sinead Diver
- Stenson said she missed out on a supplement at a drinks station, so Wellings gave hers to Stenson
She took off her sunglasses, looked around at the sizeable crowd in Birmingham’s Victoria Square cheering her on, and mouthed ‘thank you’ a few times, before crossing the line in delight.
“I was trying to juggle being excited and soaking it in with concentrating and not tripping over,” she said.
“These roads can be uneven, and it would have taken one little stumble for me to land flat on my face and not get back up again so I just had to deliver myself to the finish line.”
Soon afterwards came the most special moment for her – embracing her teammates Eloise Wellings and Sinead Diver who finished fourth and fifth respectively.
“I was just really content, and proud of my team,” she said.
“We did it together today, this medal is not just mine. I want all of the girls to feel like they’re wearing it because we did that together.”
The 34-year-old from Adelaide had twice won Commonwealth Games bronze, and there were many different motivations for her this time, including the late Kerryn McCann, the last Australian woman to win the race in 2002 and 2006.
“In 2014, my coach organised a few athletes — Steve Moneghetti, Robert de Castella, Lisa Ondieki — some of our greats to write in a book,” she said.
“I read their messages last night, I thought about Kerryn’s closing kilometres with that battle against the Kenyan woman as she entered the MCG [to win in 2006] and all of that history just really turns into strength that we can use.”
Stenson was also thinking of her son Billy’s smile during the race, and the two-year-old, along with husband Dylan were there at the finish.
“I think I’m a more relaxed runner, as a mother, I can just enjoy the process a bit more,” she said.
“I really wasn’t thinking about the outcome today, I was just trying to tick off each 5k, and as a mum, that’s what you’re doing.
“You’re just responding to one situation at a time which is very much like marathon running. I think I certainly get the most out of myself when I’m just thinking one k at a time and just be calm.”
Diver and Wellings complete a proud trio
Top-five finishers Wellings and Diver stuck in the front pack with Stenson for a large chunk of the race, with Wellings at one point giving her supplement to her teammate when Stenson missed out on hers at a drinks station.
Wellings said the presence of her children Indi and Sonny made a big difference for her during the race.
“This is the first time Indi’s seen me run a marathon so it’s really nice to have her at the drink stations five and 15k and I think you gave me a high five at 25k and that was really fun, really nice just to keep it light,” she told ABC Sport with Indi by her side.
Wellings is at her fifth Games, but she’s only ever run four marathons, in her career second coming.
“I’ve never suffered like that. And I probably say that after every race but honestly, you wouldn’t find many tougher marathon courses,” she said.
“I was really happy and proud to cross the line and fight on like I did, especially when I was really hurting.”
“We all fought to the finish and for Jess to come home strong and win is awesome, we’re really proud of her,” Diver added.
Sparky Liam Adams does it for the ‘weekend warriors’
Liam Adams winged it in the men’s marathon, and almost grabbed a medal in the process.
The 35-year-old electrician from Melbourne made an incredibly fast start to lead for a solid portion of the race.
“I thought I might as well just make a bit of a gap and thought that the Kenyans and the Africans would go ‘oh this [guy’s] no good, just let him go’ and see if I can get a bit of a distance, and then they never let me go,” he said.
He finished fourth, behind Ugandan Victor Kiplangat, Tanzania’s Alphoce Felix Simbu and Michael Muggo Githae, of Kenya.
Adams admits he didn’t have much of a race plan.
“I was sent the map of the course and the format didn’t work on my phone, so I didn’t have a clue, I was just guessing,” he said.
“I didn’t know how many hills there were and that last half was absolutely brutal. Probably went a bit too hard at the start and was carnage in the end.”
He still managed to find something in the tank, surging home to finish just seven seconds behind the bronze medallist, and give hope to all the weekend warriors.
“Those guys are professionals. I’m working 40-hour weeks, they’re probably running 40-hour weeks,” he said.
“I’m getting out there after work and sometimes I just have to go home have a nap and then go have a run after work and still out at 10 o’clock at night, eating dinner late, it’s a pretty shocking cycle that I’ve got.”
Fellow Australian Andy Buchanan was seventh.
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