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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Overweight party boy Ben St Lawrence transforms himself

Overweight party boy Ben St Lawrence transforms himself

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Ben St Lawrence changed his lifestyle markedly and is bound for the London Games

By Nicole Jeffery
The Australian
May 21, 2011

EVEN Ben St Lawrence struggles to believe the transformation he has undergone in the past five years.

In that time he has turned from an overweight party boy who could barely run 10 kilometres, into the fastest Australian ever over the distance.

St Lawrence returned to Sydney this week from a successful US tour during which he smashed the national 10,000m record by five seconds, clocking 27min 24.95sec at Stanford University, where he finished third in a quality field. At 29, he is establishing himself as a world-class distance runner.

He holds one of the top five times in the world this year over 10,000m and one of the top three times over 5000m after his brilliant second to former world champion Bernard Lagat at the Melbourne Track Classic in March.

After making his Commonwealth Games debut in Delhi last year, St Lawrence has stepped up again, but his rise has been so rapid he's finding it hard to comprehend.

"With every big result, I have to pinch myself and reassess my goals," he said. "Even two years ago, I saw Collis (Birmingham) break the (10,000m) record and I remember being blown away thinking someone could go that fast.

"Five years ago, I would have been lucky to run 10km.

"But I just focus on the training I need to do and the results seem to be taking care of themselves.

"After this last couple of months, my goals are to make an Olympic final and see how highly placed I can be.

"I'm definitely beyond what I thought I was capable of."

Until the performances of his contemporaries at the Melbourne Commonwealth Games in 2006 inspired him to revive a promising junior athletics career, St Lawrence was on a very different track.

At university, he had abandoned running and joined the party scene, packing on 20kg, which he has now stripped off to reveal a lean 64kg runner's frame.

"My lifestyle was the exact opposite of an elite athlete," he said.

"It was party central for me, eating unhealthy food and drinking way too much. After four or five years of that, I really packed on the weight and felt horrible."

At first he ran to get in shape but that first move back to fitness has snowballed to the point where he does not know where the journey will end. His current good form was rewarded last week when Athletics Australia confirmed his selection for the 10,000m at the world championships in Daegu, South Korea, adding to his earlier selection for the 5000m.

However, he is likely to focus on the shorter distance this year.

"I am leaning towards doing the 5km and getting the experience of trying to make the final, because the 10km will be a one-off race so I won't get as much experience there," he said.

He is older than most athletes breaking into the world scene but does not believe it has narrowed his window of opportunity.

"In running years, I see myself in my early 20s rather than my late 20s," he said.

That means he is not only looking at next year's London Olympics, but also the 2016 Games in Rio.

"I might look at doing the marathon there," he said.

After all, he's already taken the scenic route to an athletics career.

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