Warrnambool runner Josh Bail hopes a "special" maiden gift victory can help propel him in his home-town event next month.
Bail took out the 800-metre open race at the Geelong Gift on Saturday, November 18, 2023.
His next race meet will be at the Warrnambool Gift on December 2.
In an incredible feat, Bail picked up his first sash in his debut gift appearance at Geelong.
"Taking out the win was like 'oh my goodness, what a start'," Bail told The Standard. "Hopefully this summer holds a bit more of that sort of running. I really enjoyed the scene of it."
The victory, completed in one minute and 56 seconds, was made all the sweeter considering his Geelong-based coach Graeme Watkins sponsored the race.
"To have him present me with the sash was a really special moment," Bail said.
"It meant a lot to run under him for the first time - it was my debut race under his banner.
"He's become quite the role model and mentor in my life, even outside of running with injuries and to see there is more to life than running."
Bail's focus is now on the 1600-metre open race at Warrnambool Gift, with the Terang Gift the following day.
He said he would put his "heart and soul" into his run at Warrnambool.
"Hoping to take out the win in the mile there," he said.
"I'm trying to get family and friends there as much as I can.
"Really going to put my heart and soul into that one and try and take it out because it would mean a lot to get it done in front of my family and have that support on the sideline.
"The confidence is right back in, especially after Saturday evening in Geelong.
"Aiming for two-from-two... but it's a fierce competition and there is a lot of very talented athletes out there."
It's been a busy three weeks of racing for Bail, who studies marine biology at Deakin University.
He finished fifth at the Victorian under 20 5000-metre championships on Thursday, November 16, running a 30-second personal best time of 15 minutes and six seconds.
He also won his heat at Victorian Milers Club's first meet of the 2023-24 season at Lakeside Stadium on Thursday, November 9, running 3km in eight minutes and 48 seconds.
"In the last 14 days, I've had three major races... for two wins and a fifth place which was great," he said. "It's been pretty full on."
Bail, who completes 80km of running a week in solo-training, said he was feeling "the fittest I ever have" after a series of injuries in recent years.
A left knee injury from over-training in September 2022 was followed by a torn meniscus in December.
He returned to competition in April and May 2023 before a right knee injury sidelined him again.
"Now this will be my 11th week without an injury," Bail said. "We've had three-and-a-half months of decent training with only a few hiccups.
"As of now, in really good shape and really happy with where I am at and feeling the fittest I ever have.
"(There's been) a lot of compliments from those in my training team and coach, who are going 'you're moving really well Josh and it's really good to see, all your hard work is paying off'."
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