Launceston runner Milly Clark paid a heartfelt tribute to Kerryn McCann after getting her elite campaign back on track with a storming victory in the Melbourne Marathon.
Since contesting the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro and setting a personal best on the Gold Coast in 2019, Clark's marathon-running career has been decimated by COVID.
Four times she prepared for races which were then cancelled and she eventually abandoned her attempt to qualify for this year's Tokyo Olympics.
However, the 32-year-old bounced back emphatically at the MCG on Sunday morning, clocking a time of 2:26:59 - more than a minute inside her personal best, a new Tasmanian record and a qualifier for the 2022 world championships in the US.
"It was weird to get back into a big race again and great that it actually happened," Clark said.
"I was so nervous. I'd had some really strange dreams about the race the past few nights. Sometimes I won it, sometimes I came last, sometimes I didn't finish. It was nice how reality turned out."
Finishing 2:20 ahead of two-time Olympian Eloise Wellings also saw Clark claim the $20,000 winner's cheque and the Kerryn McCann Memorial Award - named after the late marathon inspiration, whose biggest achievement came at the same location in 2006 when she retained her Commonwealth Games crown.
"I'm very honoured to receive this award, it's such a special moment for me," said Clark, who averaged 3.29km per hour in the race.
"Kerryn McCann is such an inspiration for female runners. She reminds us that we can have it all, we can have a family, we can have a life and there's more to running than just finish lines.
"Seeing photos of her with her family and seeing her cross the finish line were definitely going through my mind when I saw my family and friends.
"To be able to replicate that today, I'm really honoured and thankful to be here."
McCann died from cancer in 2008, aged 41.
Trained by veteran coach Philo Saunders, Clark has long targeted the Melbourne Marathon, recording a 33:02 10km in late October.
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