Seven years back when David McNeill last ran out for the Launceston 10, the now blue-ribbon Tasmanian Running Festival race was still in its infancy.
And so was a fresh-faced 23-year-old, the track runner more equipped to circling half the distance.
The years since his surprised second placing in 2010 has seen McNeill run all over the world amid the northern hemisphere seasons.
The one-time employed Northern Arizona University track and field manager has matured enough to broaden his running horizons and to peak at Launceston.
“But I don’t like running much further than 10k – at least for the races,” McNeill laughed on his limits after his first Launceston 10 win.
“Coming more from more of a track background still, I am a little bit more of a 5000m runner.”
While also bettering his sixth-finish debut in 2009 by six seconds, McNeill, now 30, sliced 47 seconds off that Launceston time on Sunday.
McNeill overcame a steady early pace to come within 17 seconds of breaking Mark Tucker’s 2007 record.
Reigning champion Liam Adams had to be content with second. He stuck hard at the back end of the race, but the best-finishing Australian at the Rio Olympic marathon was observed drifting off to the side and had no answers for McNeill’s kick.
Two-time Olympian Ben St Lawrence just could not repeat his 2013 Launceston feats, conceding the win to his training partner to fall back into third place.
McNeill called it the “epitome of the friendly rivalry”.
“A lot of the guys I train with, I am racing against as well,” he said.
“We have a good balance and for 99 per cent of the time, we’re just good mates working together.
“We all know we’re working towards the same goal, and we’re both aware of our strengths and weaknesses.”
Launceston favourite Josh Harris proved to be the first Tasmanian to finish, the world championship-bound runner claiming sixth in the event’s strongest ever field.
Hobart-based Dejen Gebreselassie led the eager breakaway bunch just before the 5km halfway turn that McNeill sat behind.
But the Victorian, who dared not look sideways or wear a stopwatch, put some distance on his rivals between 6 and 7km marks when increasing the margin to nearly 100 metres.
“I felt really comfortable when the plan all along was to wait a little bit after the turnaround,” McNeill said.
“So I waited until about 6k mark and put in a bit of injection of pace then.
“Look, you’re never really confident until you cross the line, so I kept telling myself to keep it going.
“I perhaps had a sneaky look around at about 8½-km mark and I felt reasonably confident at that point.”