Celia Sullohern may not live in Newcastle any more but when she runs on the Fernleigh Track the Yamba 25-year-old feels at home.
Ms Sullohern spent four years living in Newcastle while she was studying to become a physiotherapist and became well acquainted with the iconic track in that time.
She trained under Rio Olympian Scott Westcott and was thrilled to be back in town over the weekend having a run with her former mentor.
“I was here for the first year of the Fernleigh 15, which was fun,” Sullohern said.
“We used to do a lot of our sessions and long runs on here, so it’s nice to have a run along the track again.
“Being pretty flat and straight and a good surface means you can really get into a rhythm and that’s pretty unique.
“I like the history of it too, being an old rail line and running through the tunnel, and I think the event could join the iconic courses of Australian running.”
Sullohern etched her name in history last month when she won arguably Australia’s most iconic running event in the City2Surf.
“It was such a shock,” she said. “It was a bit of a last-minute decision to enter and I had no expectations at all, so to be the first female across the line was amazing.”
She holds the record for the fastest female time in the Fernleigh 15 and will head back on October 22 eyeing another swift effort and victory in this year’s event.
Westcott, who is the Fernleigh 15 organiser, was thrilled to have Sullohern back running the event for 2017.
It is the sixth time the 15-kilometre race has been staged.
“When I used to coach Celia we did a lot of running on the Fernleigh Track and we thought, let’s have a race along here, so she was part of that motivation to get a race going back in 2011/2012,” Westcott said.
Westcott said the course appealed to all abilities and this year there was also a five-person relay option.
“There’s no sharp corners, it’s big sweeping bends and it suits anyone,” he said.
“We’ve added the relay component because there’s a lot of people who couldn’t do it;15k is a long way and I didn’t want to cannibalise the event by having a 5k and a 10k.
“I wanted to keep it true to the 15k distance, so we’ve got a five-runner relay. A lot of schools and running groups are putting in teams of kids and a lot of folk who can’t run 15k can do it too.”
Sullohern’s record for the women’s race is 52 minutes and 10 seconds. Aaron Royle holds the men’s record of 46.14.
Being pretty flat and straight and a good surface means you can really get into a rhythm.Celia Sullohern