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26 Sports feature
AIR FORCE November 12, 2009
By John Martin
WITH her race number
finally secured, CPL
Cassie Fien barely
remembers standing on
the start line for the world half-mara-
thon championships on a cold, rainy
day in Birmingham, England.
But she vividly recalls what the
commentator on the public address
system said just before the gun went
"'Ladies and gentlemen, you are
watching the best women in the world.'
"I thought, wow, they are the best
in the world and, hey, I am one of
them. Sort of," she said.
And then her mind returned to her
worst fear that she would come last in
the race. "I felt like a very small fish in
the ocean and a fraud."
CPL Fien may come to look back
on that moment as the one when she
shifted up a gear as an athlete.
She certainly did not disgrace
herself, coming 31st in a time of 1hr
12min 55sec. It wasn't her best time,
but it was close.
"I felt a little disappointed with the
outcome but it was my first interna-
tional meet of many (I hope)."
Pundits have known for a while
that CPL Fien is a very special talent
in distance running -- but now she has
seen just how far she has to go.
She learnt a lot from observing
and interacting with the other athletes,
some of them full-time profession-
als. Talking running, living running,
"I didn't know how to warm up for
a world championships race so I just
followed the Americans, hoping they
"When I got back from warming up
it was time to put my numbers on and,
let me tell you, trying to put numbers
on your back by yourself is not easy.
I think I pulled a muscle. I ended up
asking one of the American team man-
agers to help me.
"I started the race out very cau-
tiously as I did not want to blow up. I
went through the first 10km in 34min
and 26th position.
"It felt so easy and comfortable and
the course was really nice with lots to
see. I was running with American and
"The American and I stayed
Many of us have got
lost in strange, new cit-
story that will be difficult
CPL Fien woke up in
the Crown Plaza hotel
on her first morning in
Birmingham and decided
to go for a 45-minute
run. The race was a week
off so the run would
But she saw more
sights than she bargained
"I headed off in one
direction and thought
if I go out straight I will
come back straight, all
good in theory," she
"As I turned around
to go back I spotted a
canal and thought I will
go down here as there
is a canal right near the
hotel and this will take
me all the way back.
"As it turns out
Birmingham is built
around a whole canal
system with many canals
going in many different
She stopped once to
ask for directions.
"Two long hours later
I found my way back
and all I could think was
thank goodness I am a
together and we took it in turns taking
the lead. It was so cool. I felt like a
"After a while I dropped the
American and continued on my way.
The second half was not as pretty, as
this is where all the hills were hiding. I
was fine going up them. I was passing
people but on the downhill everyone
was passing me. No matter how fast I
turned my legs over I could not keep
"I switched off for the last half of
the race. I knew I would not pick up
too many places and with the hills I
knew a personal best was out of the
question so I just kept it on cruise
To date, CPL Fien has been her
own coach and while she doesn't see
that changing in the near future, seeing
how the professionals did things was
"I know the way I train has to
change a little bit.
"I know I need to think about
things a bit more rather than just wake
up in the morning and wonder, 'ah,
should I train today and what should
CPL Fien has wanted "for years
and years" to run marathons.
But she is emphatic that she will not
tackle her first race of that distance for
two more years, for fear of burning out
at a young age. But the marathon is her
ultimate goal, particularly
the Commonwealth Games
"I am still going to stay
true and not embark on my
first marathon until I am
26 years old. I want to do
it right and get really fast
at the 5km, 10km and half-
marathon," she said.
"Who knows, maybe
I can even attempt to set
an Australian record at the
half-marathon distance and
set myself up to be one
of the best marathon run-
RAAF Base East Sale and
wants to thank everyone
there for their support
which she said had been
She has been in the Air
Force for four years, previ-
ously working as a Military
Working Dog Handler at
RAAF Base Amberley
before remustering last
year.The PTI work fits in
more with her love of
sport and physical fitness.
Expect her to heed the
lessons of Birmingham.
Her determination is
"If anything, it has
built on my hunger and
desire to be the best I
"I love the sport, I
love the opportunities it
has given me and I will
be running until the day I
die," she said.
'I know I need
to think about
things a bit more
rather than just
wake up in the
should I train
today and what
should I do?'
NEW FOCUS: CPL Cassie Fein, a PTI at
RAAF Base East Sale, practises her Military
Self Defence at the base gym, above, and
in her Australian uniform, left.
Photos: AC Terrence Hartin
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