Fairplay, Goodwill and Sportsmanship
1989 I decided to get into Ultra-Marathons. I became bored with the normal
Marathon and decided to challenge the feat of time and distance. I was
also drawn by the accomplishments of "Ordinary people doing
extraordinary things" in the Westfield Run.
in 1990 I ran in a 12hr race in Canberra and covered 73.5km. I was more
than happy with my performance. Two weeks later I ran in the Coburg 24hr
race. As I was to find out later it was a bad move for a novice. I pulled
out of the race after seven and a half hours and only completing 50km.
Knee problems and a weak heart!
then crewed for John Breit in the 1990 Westfield and was quite overawed by
his magnificent effort. After that instead of training harder I placed
Ultra-Marathon running in the "Too-hard basket" and it faded
the next couple of years I married and my wife had a beautiful daughter. I
also joined the computer age and started developing my writing passion. (I
haven't had anything published yet, but the "Westfield Book"
will be the first). It irked me that a book on the Westfield Run had never
been published. I was determined to rectify that situation when I left the
1996 we were posted to RAAF Base Wagga. I started thinking about the past
and realised that I wasn't happy with walking away from Ultra Marathoning
six years ago. Was I going to be one of life's great "Gunnas"
that would walk away from the hard things in life?
started jogging again and researching the Westfield Book. Towards the end
of last year I decided to resume my Ultra Career and set myself to run in
the Coburg 24hr Run in 1997. I was going to be there when the Gun went off
after twenty four hours and I was going to have one hundred kilometres
beside my name. Harold Stephens Athletics Track was not going to own me
started training. My main aim was to increase the mileage every week. I
didn't do any cross training, but I got a 44km six hour run and numerous
half marathons under my belt. My brain was in gear and focused towards the
assembled a crew that included my wife and best friend, Belinda, ex
Westfield runner, John Breit( John had promised me after his 1990 run that
he would return the favour one day) and mate, Shaun Chipman.
and I drove down to Melbourne the day before the race. We left our four
year old, Rugrat, Laura, with best friends, Lisa and Michael for the
weekend. Hopefully they would still be our best friends by the end of the
got to the track and set up the tent. We then had a chat with Race
Organiser, Gordon Burrowes. He gave us the exciting news that there would
be five ex-Westfield runners in the event. They included Yiannis Kouros,
Kevin Mansell, Ron Hill, Peter Gray and Helen Stangar. Was Yiannis going
to beat the 300km goal? That would really be something to tell the
day of the race dawned. I went for a walk to Williamstown Beach and
psyched up with Tina Turner, Dead Poets Society, Chariots of Fire and
Forest Gump on the walkman. We got to the track about 9 o clock and
started organising ourselves. There was also going to be a 24hr relay race
on which would make it more interesting.
Mansell and Ron Hill came and saw me before the race. Ron had a box full
of information on the Westfield for me which was most appreciated. It was
also great to meet Kevin after the help he had given me via Australia Post
was now five minutes to midday and everyone was gathered around the
starting line. The butterflies were now in my stomach! I relaxed myself
and concentrated on the game plan of twenty minutes running and ten
minutes walking. The starting gun went off and we were away.
next three hours went by. I was moving well and had twenty four kilometres
under my belt. I was getting lots of food and drinks from my great crew
and was having the time of my life. It was about three o clock when I saw
that a couple of other runners were starting to suffer in the warm
conditions and I slowed down to a walk for the next couple of hours. I had
plenty of time to get the score on the board.
clock continued to click over. It was about five and a quarter hours when
I went through the Marathon stage. I was going great! Night was starting
to creep up on us and I was back into the run/walk pattern. I kept
plodding on and by the six and a half hour mark I had fifty kilometres on
the Board.(Yes there is a lot of cricket talk being used).
was time for a Massage and meal break. I stopped at the Lap Scorers tent
and my crew took me inside to the Massage table. I must say at this stage
that my crew were magnificent during the whole twenty four hours. They
looked after me during the whole race, gave me lots of food and drinks,
knew what to say and knew what not to say! What more could a runner want!
to the story; I had a massage, the crew checked my feet and I had a lovely
feed of mashed spud and peas. Half an hour later and I was back on my feet
and heading out to the track. The plan was to have seventy kilometres up
by midnight. I started walking again, but it wasn't too long before I had
a slow jog going.
at this stage was well on schedule to beat his own World record. The
spirit and camaraderie amongst the runners was evident from the start of
the race. I must particularly thank Kevin and Ron for your kind words on
encouragement throughout the race, Peter Gray for walking five laps with
me on the Sunday morning, all the walkers for your help, all the Ultra
runners for your words of encouragement. I think at one stage everyone on
and off the track were passing words of encouragement to me. Thanks!
kept running, but unfortunately it wasn't long, before my left foot
started to hurt like anything! It happened right outside the Lap scorers
tent and I was immediately reduced to a walk. John kept telling me every
lap to forget the pain and focus on other areas. I think I felt like
telling John where to put his pain, but I realised that he had been
through ten times as much in his running career. The hours ticked by and I
even started putting in the occasional lap of running.
was just before eleven o clock at night when I brought up the seventy
kilometres. It was announced over the Public Address system just past
eleven that I had beaten my Personal best of seventy two kilometres.
Wrong! It was seventy three and a half kilometres I had to beat. Oh well,
I kept on going and it wasn't too long before I had actually beaten my
personal best. It was all unknown territory from now!
midnight change around was effected and I had completed seventy six
kilometres. Time for a another major massage break! The next hour and a
half is something of a blur. I know that I fainted twice and was feeling
had a massage and my crew managed to get a bit more food into me. John
also suggested that I have a shower as well. I wasn't too keen on the
idea. I didn't relish the thought of getting warm, getting cold and then
having to get warm again. I was soon under the shower and YELP! It was
freezing cold! My wife heard outside and told me later that she did think
about whether to let me go on with the race. One of the relay runners was
having a warm shower and he gave it up for me straight away. Thanks mate,
if you ever read this story.
the shower, I was dressed and sat back down to have some more feed. My
feet were now a mess and there was a mild debate going on in the
background. I think there were about three different methods of blister
removal being discussed. I went with the padding method as recommended by
the St John's officials. My reasoning was that I had yet to experience the
joys of suturing.( that joy can be left for another time) and my Mum was a
St John's member for years and I have the highest regard for their
was also thinking about pulling out. I rationalised that I had already
beaten one goal and I could come back another day. I looked at the time
and worked out that it was half past one in the morning. I said to myself
that it was time to make a decision. I had plenty of time to get the
hundred kilometres up. I think I stunned everyone when I asked to be
helped up and to get out on the track. I dug into my heart and got back
wife told me later that just about everyone on the track expected me to
pull out. I think I amazed myself when I started limping around. John kept
telling me to watch my posture and to pick up my feet. It was dam hard! I
now knew what the Hot Coal Walkers go through. But their pain only lasts
for twenty seconds! The next few hours were a blur. I know that I called
for the Walkman and serenaded the track with a combination of U2 (Sunday
Bloody Sunday), Midnight Oil( King of the Mountain) and Priscilla ( No
more ........ Abba!). I was told by my wife and Glenda Mansell in daylight
hours that my singing left a lot to be desired! The music helped me to
pick up my pace anyway.
came in for a ten minute break at four o clock and then a twenty minute
break at six o clock. I think I needed about two kilometres an hour to
bring up my hundred. I still wasn't confident though. I had another break
at quarter past seven and only need four more kilometres. It was now an
obtainable goal. I got back out about seven thirty and only had ten laps
was in the lap scoring tent. Each time I went past her she would call out
how many laps to go. I could almost feel her love reaching out towards me.
I would have to bite my bottom lip and stop myself from crying. During
those laps I was thinking a lot of things. The past was driving me on. I
was even drawing on Kevin Mansell's hero quote from one of the Westfield
Runs. "I finally found my hero in life. It was me." Ten became
nine, nine became eight, eight became seven etc.
seemed like an eternity but I was soon on the last lap. I felt like
screaming for joy to the whole world. I was on the back straight and I
looked next to me and Kevin Mansell was walking along side me. Kevin had
sprinted around the track to join me and help me bring up my milestone.
Kevin: You are a champion sportsman and champion human. If more sportsmen
and women showed that humanity in the commercial sports they would be
worth following again. Thanks Kev!
crossed the hundred kilometre mark at about 8.40 am and a big cheer went
up from my fantastic crew, the lapscorers and Kevin. It felt great. I had
finally conquered my own body and soul. I was on top of the world! It was
announced on the PA system. I kept plodding around towards our crew tent
and soaked up the great feeling. I was getting congratulations from fellow
runners, spectators and the few supporters that were there. I got around
to our tent and immediately lied down in the car. I was going to have a
sleep and get back up for the last hour .
was lying down and could not wind down. I kept hearing the runners come
past and my body was still in a state of perpetual motion. I think a few
of the runners even asked if I was coming back out. It was half an hour
later when I decided that it was time to keep going. We would repad my
blisters and then take it lap by lap. I got down to the finish line and
then headed inside to redo my feet. Unfortunately it took a bit longer
than what was anticipated and the tiredness started to kick in. I was
almost ready to say that enough was enough. My feet eventually got fixed.
I dug into the last little bit of my energy reserves and got back out
was moving very slowly when I got back out onto the track, but the time
seemed to be flying. I was doing two laps at a time and having a break. It
was now quarter past eleven. I got back out onto the track and kept
minutes were ticking over. It felt as though a sense of relief was
starting to develop over the whole track. It was now fifteen minutes to
midday and John was carrying a deck chair with him. I was wondering why
was he carrying a chair. The reasons soon became obvious! The whole crew
joined me for my last lap. The seconds were counted down and I even
started to run again. The gun went off and it felt great. John put the
chair down and told me to sit. We were all hugging each other and crying.
It was fantastic. I had finally achieved! 103.3km In my own mind I had
finally arrived as an Ultra Marathoner. I have a lot more to learn, but
the sport is going to see me around for quite a few years.
once again to my crew of Belinda, Shaun and John. I think my wife is
definitely hooked on the friendship side that was so evident during the
race. Shaun, you can do anything you set your mind to. John is now
undergoing a Degree in Winemaking. I know that he will be a success in his
new chosen vocation in life, after what he achieved in Ultra Marathoning.
must make mention of the Walkers at this stage. They walked all the way
through the race and did some incredible distances. How do you do it?
to all the Ultra runners, especially Kev and Ron. Thanks to the relay
runners for your support. Thanks to the Little Athletics team. You guys
and girls were great to watch. Thanks for the encouragement from everyone
by the Track. Especially the official from the Little Aths team that
walked with me for half a lap. Thankyou to Gordon Burrowes. It was a great
event. Thanks Yiannis for your kind words after the race. I'm sorry that
you did not get the three hundred kilometres. I hope that I am privileged
enough to be on the same track when you do break the Barrier
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