A complete history of the Victorian 24 Hour Track Championships
Tracing the history of the Victorian 24 Hour Track Championship clearly illustrates the boom and bust and boom cycles that the Australian ultra distance scene has experienced over the last 30 years. It all started in 1983 with the first ‘Westfield Sydney to Melbourne’ run. Cliff Young, a 63 year old potato farmer from The Otways in Victoria, covered the 850+ km in 5 days 15 hours and 4 minutes for a historic win. I gathered my family into the station wagon and up the Hume Highway we drove from our home in the northern Melbourne suburb of Coburg. Positioning ourselves roadside north of KalKallo, we settled down to wait for Cliffy. And around 10PM, he came into sight, shuffling along and waving to the crowds (and a significant crowd had gathered by then). The crowds continued all the way to the finish at the Westfield shopping ccntre in Doncaster in the early hours of the morning. It was the beginning of Australia’s love affair with ultra distance running and it was all due to Cliffy.
The first Victorian 24 Hour Track Championship was held in February 1984, in response to a request from Geoff Molloy. He wanted to test himself before he applied for a start in the 1984 Westfield Melbourne to Sydney run. The event was organised by Dot Browne of the Victorian Veterans Athletics Club and billed as the V.V.A.C. 24 Hour Track Championship. Eight other runners joined Geoff to give him support. The start time may be of interest to modern readers – 6PM on the Saturday evening. Thrown together in a hurry at the Box Hill track, the event saw Geoff set a new Australian record of 216.000 km, and then go on to win the Sydney to Melbourne race later that year. The 24 hour event was so successful that it became an annual event and continued to be run under the auspices of the Victorian Veterans Athletics Club for many years before they eventually handed it over to Coburg Harriers who still run it each year.
In the second annual Victorian Veteran’s Athletics Club 24 Hour Track race at Box Hill, held in early February 1985, a full field of 38 runners lined up, a huge increase on the 9 starters the year before. Geoff Molloy won again, breaking his 1984 Australian record with 232.400 km. Cliff Young was second with 216.095km, also bettering Geoff’s 1984 Australian record. Margaret Smith was the first of women to finish, coming 5th with a new Australian women’s record of 177.600km. But there was more to the story than that. A deeply religious member of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Margaret’s beliefs prevented her from participating in the first two hours of the race. Her 177.600km for fourth place overall was a national record with many believing her self imposed “handicap” along with searing heat of nightmarish proportions put paid to Australia’s first 200km plus performance.
The Saturday 6PM start time meant that the first half of the race was run in good conditions but the downside was that the second half of the race had to be run during the Sunday daytime period and the forecast was for horrid conditions. And for once the forecast was correct, the clear day ensuring that the scheduled temperature of 35C was reached. In fact, being inland, the temperature was even hotter, being registered at 38C.
In 1986 the race became an official trial for the Sydney to Melbourne ultra run (200 km to qualify), with 44 runners entering and 39 starting. Brian Bloomer set a new Australian Record of 242.598 km and Cynthia Cameron broke the women’s record with 191.216 km. Brian would go on to finish third (with 6 days 17 hrs 20 mins) in that year’s Westfield (Sydney to Melbourne, 960km) behind Greek runner Yiannis Kouros (5 days 5 hrs 7 mins) and NZ runner Siegfried Bauer (6 days 5 hrs 46 mins). Overall, 24 of the runners covered more than 100 miles. The standard of ultra running in Australia has quickly blossomed, due to the popularity of the Westfield classic. After the experience of the very hot Sunday in 1985, the start time was changed to midday on Saturday. Better to have two shorter daytime periods of running and the cooler night in between.
The 1987 VVAC 24 Hour Championship was delayed a few weeks, taking place at Box Hill in late February rather than the early February timeframe of previous years. And unlike the last 3 heatwave schedulings, this time around it was held in very different conditions, with heavy rain until around 5PM on the Saturday, followed by overcast skies and cool conditions. With 7 runners over 200km and 19 runners in excess of 100 miles (160.9km), it was another high quality event. With the big guns absent this time around, 46 year old Ballarat runner Barry Brooks ran a well-judged race, eventually overtaking leader Ian Javes in the 16th hour and going on to win in fine style with 227.574 km. It was good to see him finally succeed as he’d been a gallant runner-up in both the Australian track and road championships in 1986 and rightly deserved his success on this occasion.
1987 was also the year that the Australian Ultra Runners Association (AURA) was founded. They still continue to guide the sport to this day.
The V.V.A.C. 24 Hour Championship left the Box Hill track to the Coburg Harriers Track in 1988. It has remained there ever since, with the Coburg Harriers initially helping race director Dot Browne and then eventually taking over the event themselves. Ultra running now was enjoying great popularity and this event saw 41 runners on the start line. Such races were still an almost exclusively male domain. In this case, 39 of the 41 starters were men.
35 year old ACT runner Nick Read, better known for his shorter distance exploits, won with 208.859 km, ahead of NZ runner Sue Andrews with 202.890km. I am guessing that Sue’s distance was an Australasian record? Sue had finished 15th in the 1987 Colac 6 Day run (538km) and would return there to finish 13th in 1988 with a much improved 701km. They were the only two runners to better 200km. Again, the event was of a very high standard with 20 runners in excess of 100 miles.
The 1989 Coburg 24 Hour run saw an astonishing 70 entries, with the final start list eventually culled to 50. 40 of those runners finished the race, 10 athletes ran more than 200km, 24 athletes ran better than 100 miles. These results all created new performance records as far as 24 hour events go in Australia. Of the 19 first-timers, 16 performed brilliantly and ran the full 24 hours. In fact, ultra historian Phil Essam argues that 1989 was our Australian Ultra Golden Year (see http://www.coolrunning.com.au/ultra/2004010.shtml).
The start time was set for midday on the Saturday. Luck was with the runners as the weekend was sandwiched between two heat waves with 40C either side of the race whereas Saturday was cooler, even threatening rain with a top of 23C, and Sunday was much the same.
The outcome of the race was spectacular with 44 year old Tasmanian Mike March smashing the Australasian 24 Hour Track Record by 7km when he ran 260.099km (over 6 marathons in 24 hours). Second placed David Standeven also ran very strongly for 242.605 km while 20 year old Kim Talbot ran a sensational race to cover well over 100 miles in her first 24 hours (168.493km) and in doing so pushed herself into 8th best in the all-time Australian female 24 hour rankings.
46 year old Bryan Smith had run 251.310 km 5 weeks previously in finishing 2nd in the 24 Hour World Championship at Milton Keynes, near London. He backed up brilliantly to win the Coburg 24 Hour Championship in March 1990 with an even paced run and a final distance of 249km. Two months later, he would go on to finish second to Yiannis Kouros in the 1990 Westfield Sydney to Melbourne run (1006 km in 6 days 9 hours and 45 mins).
30 year old John Breit took second with 231km and also featured in the 1990 Westfield classic, finishing 7th. He subsequently improved his 24 Hour total to 238.469km in the Toto’s International 24 Hour Challenge in August 1990. Third place went to the ever consistent Peter Gray with 224km. This was after his 220.279km 13th place in the Worlds at Milton Keynes. Aged only 25, Peter also contested the 1990 Westfield, becoming the youngest ever finisher (11th, 7 days, 18 hrs 2 mins). Sandra Kerr ran consistently right from the start to come through the women’s field of Menilyn Tait and Kim Talbot to place first lady, with a PB of 165.009km, in 15th place overall.
The first 9 runners all ran in excess of 200km.
Race director Dot Browne summed up the 1991 Victorian 24 Hour Track Championship like this:
In this 8th year of operation, the field was the best quality I’d ever had. Two Westfield winners in Bryan Smith and David Standeven, ten Westfield finishers, the Australian 50 Mile champion, Carl Barker and Jeff Smith, the winner of the Vets 6 Hour Race held last October. These were in addition to 13 other experienced ultra runners and another 10 who had never run an ultra before, 37 starters in all. Six had travelled from interstate in order to compete.
The Saturday, although overcast, was very humid and seemed to take its toll on competitors during the night. Sunday’s sun pushed the temperature up to 36C, not ideal conditions by any means but the performances were very strong.
Bryan Smith produced another brilliant performance with 250.729km. He then backed up with a win in the 1991 Westfield (Sydney to Melbourne, 1011 km, 6 days 12 hrs 50 mins). Brickley Hepburn put in a blinder with a 22km PB to finish second at Coburg with 239.32km and Rudi Kinshofer also made his trip from Adelaide worthwhile by doing a 30km PB to place third with 232.43 km. Peter Gray was next, with a 6km PB distance of 230.732km. He also backed up for another Westfield finish 2 months later.
After some last minute scratchings, the 1992 Victorian 24 Hour Championship at Coburg saw 29 runners (24 men and 5 women). Unfortunately the midday Saturday start meant that runners had to face up to 6 hours of torrid heat before conditions cooled and this wreaked havoc with everyone. As a result, there was only one PB out of the entire field.
David Standeven, 2nd in current Australian rankings, and Helen Stanger, 1st in the female rankings, were the highest ranked runners in this year’s field and they both ran true to form. When Peter Gray passed David in the early hours of the morning to hit the front, David took off, regained the lead and put a gap between himself and the rest of the field within minutes, going on to win with 217.051km Helen Stanger amazed all with her relaxed comfortable style, taking 4th overall and first female with 196.213km.
Alas, there were no more Westfields to follow. Race Executive Director Chris Bates had announced in October 1991 that Westfield had withdrawn their sponsorship. Thanking the athletes and support crews for their participation in the 9 Westfield races, he said: “If anyone besides Cliff had won (in 1983), the event would have died then.” Westfield’s General Manager Alan Briggs said in the economic climate, his company would be better served directing its support back to shopping centres.
This decision would soon have dire consequences for Australian ultra running but those in the 1992 Coburg event probably did not forsee the short term ramifications for their chosen sport.
The roll on effects from the cancellation of the Westfield Sydney to Melbourne event in October 1991 was quick to bite and entries for the 1993 Victorian 24 Hour Championship were few. In an effort to swell the numbers, additional 6 Hour and 12 Hour race categories were added, along with a Coburg Harriers 24 Hour Relay. While the added events blended in well with the established 24 Hour event, they did not have the desired effect of attracting more runners and the fields were sparse – 7 entries in the 6 Hour, 3 in the 12 Hour and only 8 in the 24 Hour.
NZ ultra specialist Neville Mercer blitzed the field but he didn’t do it easily. Although the weather conditions were fine and mild for the first 20 hours of the race, it turned suddenly nasty early on the Sunday morning. A strong cold wind sprung up and the rain started to bucket down. Neville didn’t change into warmer gear early enough, and in his skimpy singlet, he got hypothermia and was dragged off the track absolutely frozen, looking positively blue. He was wrapped in blankets, head and all and given hot coffee. Anthony Ashley-Brown, the masseur, filled a plastic drink bottle with hot water for him to hold to try and thaw his icy hands. As time went by, his body started to warm up and he was keen to get out on the track again. The fact that he had only a few km to go to achieve a PB was great motivation. He struggled out there again and went on to achieve a 9km PB with 229.755km. An amazing effort. He had little opposition from any other runner. Peter Gray finished in second place around 50km behind him.
Race Director Dot Browne saw out this final event and then announced her retirement. The event could easily have folded at this stage if Coburg athete and administrator Gordon Burrowes had not stepped up to the mark and offered to take over.
The new Coburg management team were keen to make whatever changes were required to ensure the event continued. The timing was moved from February to April in an effort to escape the traditional hot weather of late summer. Gordon Burrowes also added a full 24 Hour Relay division, allowing open entry for relay teams of ten runners. Each runner in the team was to run for 30 minutes before passing the baton onto the next member of the team. This meant that each member would run 4 or 5 times over the 24 hours. The event was still badged as the Victorian 24 Hour Track Championship but was now called the Coburg 24 Hour Carnival.
The changes proved successful with 13 ultra runners and 11 relay teams entering the 1994 carnival. Russian Igor Streltstov was the winner of the 24 hour with 221 km and Victorian Sandra Kerr was the first of the women with 154.600 km. Yan Yean Road Runners won the relay event with a massive 355.033 km.
1995 saw an improvement numbers wise, with 11 ultra runners and 15 relay teams of 10 runners ensuring that the event remained viable. The weather was not ideal – a very cold, strong, persistent SW wind for the runners to contend with and a temperature range of 10C to 16C – but at least it was not hot!
All eyes were on the all conquering Yiannis Kouros who had recently become a naturalised Australian and who lived locally. He had been after his own world record (286.632km, set in France while a Greek citizen) but had to eventually settle for 282.981 km. To put this in perspective, the distance of 280 km in 24 hours had only been exceeded 3 times in running history and each time it had been this man who has done it. His Coburg achievement ranked as the second greatest distance in a solo 24 hour run for the entire world and was an Australian and Australasian record set by an Australian citizen.
The relay teams produced Australian record performances – Yan Yean Road Runners set a new Australian Open 24 Hour Relay distance of 380.89km while Traralgon Harriers set a new Australian Veterans 24 Hour Relay disatance of 369.94 km.
The 1996 Victorian 24 Hour Championship was held once again at the Harold Stevens Athletics Track in Coburg on the weekend of 13-14 April, starting at noon on the Saturday and finishing at noon on the Sunday. Once again, the chief organiser was Gordon Burrowes and he was ably helped as usual by the usual throng of Coburg Harriers. Weather conditions were atrocious. It rained for most of the 24 hours of the race and during the night, the rain was so heavy and continuous that competitors were forced to fight their way through water that was several inches in depth. Add to that the wind that blew furiously overnight and you had conditions that will be talked about for some time to come. A number of entrants ran/walked most of the second 12 hours out towards the second lane to avoid the water, thus adding considerable distance to each lap.
The great Yiannis Kouros was dominant and the race was worth seeing just to view his performance. He held the world 24 hour track running record at 286 km and was hoping to extend that to some 306 km. He made his intentions clear early on, powering through the marathon point in 3 hrs 3 mins. However the atrocious weather conditions slowed him and he had to be content with ONLY 294.50km. He had broken his record by some 8 km and become the first person to run in excess of 290km in 24 hours, in a performance that marked him as so far ahead of the rest of the world that he can be confidently called a ‘superman’. Along the way, he set a number of new Australian records at intermediate marks.
The 1997 Coburg 24 Hour Championship saw a good field assembled with 12 ultra runners, 4 ultra walkers and 9 relay teams. Temperatures varied throughout the 24 hours. On the Saturday afternoon, it was 25C with a blue sky. Competitors were hit with the full impact of the sun and found the first 5 hours very trying. I was on the drinks table and was kept busy with the constant need for water. The night was clear and the temperature dropped towards zero. It was VERY cold and all (competitors and officials) suffered. Finally a clear morning ensued and Sunday was warm and sunny, an ideal end to the event.
The event was certainly full of interesting features. The indomitable Yiannis Kouros was trying for his world 24 hour running record of 294.504 km (done in this event last year) and was well ahead of schedule at the 12 hour mark. However, a knee problem forced him to slow and he finished up walking to a still incredible final posting of 266 km (165 miles). It was a case of Yiannis and then a 60 km gap to the next finisher. Helen Stanger was next in with a creditable 206.86 km and incredibly, it was one of the walkers in Carmela Carassi who came in third with 166.86 km.
The 1998 Coburg 24 Hour Carnival was delayed until late August after a major track refurbishment meant that the track would be unavailable during the traditional April/May timeframe. August is winter in Melbourne so it was a risky gamble and numbers were down overall. All types of weather were encountered over the 24 hour period with high winds and intermittent downpours on the Saturday, an icy cold night and calm and sunny conditions on the Sunday morning. But at least the track was brand new and provided a super running surface for the 12 competitors who were in attendance.
Gordon Burrowes had finally retired as Race Director and a new Coburg Harriers committee, led by race director Bernie Goggin, had taken over the event. A new perpetual trophy, labelled the “Gordon Burrowes Endurance Award” was instituted, with Cliff Young the inaugural recipient. One of their other changes was to do away with manual lapscoring and bring in a computer lapscoring program. This has now become the norm in all such events.
1998 was the year that Helen Stanger, shattered three of her Australian Records with 150 km in 15hr.01min, 200 km in 20hr.56min and 228.680 km for the 24 hours. Andrew Lucas suffered burnt feet in a house fire a few days before yet recorded 168.405 km. Shirley Young broke the 100 miles as she approached her 70th birthday with 162.330 km.
The 1999 Coburg 24 Hour Championship returned to its usual April/May scheduling period, with the weekend of 8-9 May being targeted. The race was won by Yiannis Kouros with 251.229km He entered the race with the purpose of beating some of his smaller record marks (12 hour and 100 miles) but compared with his fantastic performance at Adelaide in 1997 he never looked on target to get them during the course of the race. He left the track at the 17 hour mark with 200km to his name, almost two hours outside his Adelaide 200km record but still a long way ahead of anyone else in Australia. He came back at 7am in the morning and brought up another 51km before the bell rang at midday. Cliff Young once again wrote himself into the record books when he ran 147.487km to set a new M75 24 hour record. It was definitely the best performance of the race.
The new Coburg Harriers committee, ably led by Bernie Goggin, had reviewed the event finances after their first couple of years in charge and they realised that they needed more entrants if the event was to remain viable. The 2000 Coburg 24 Hour Carnival was enhanced to include 6 and 12 hour options to complement the traditional Victorian 24 Hour track championship and 24 Hour Relay. The strategy worked with 25 ultra competitors and 3 teams in attendance.
56 year old Brian Smith won the 24 Hour run with 201.130km in very warm conditions. 70 year old Shirley Young came in third overall with 176.900km and was the winner in the women’s section, setting a new W70 world age record
Numbers continued to build in 2001 with a large field of over 30 runners and walkers competing in 3 separate races over 6 hours, 12 hours and 24 hours. The race started at 10 AM on Saturday 7 April and ended at 10 AM on Sunday 8 April. The venue was once again the Coburg Athletics Track in Melbourne and the weather was kind – it stayed mild and mostly overcast for the full 24 hours of the event. 61 year old Tasmanian Vlastic Skvaril won the 24 Hour race with 193.087km, well ahead of Jerry Zukowski and Howard Neville. Warren Holst won the 12 Hour race with 115.214km and Yiannis Kouros made a surprise appearance to win the 6 Hour race with 73.977km. Special mention to 75 year old Stan Miskin who walked to a final distance 142.791 km, blitzing the previous M75 running record of 132.8 km, held by Aussie running legend Drew Kettle. Along he way, he also broke Drew’s records for 12 hour, 50 miles and 100 km. A fitting achievement at the age of 75!
2002-2008 saw fields in excess of 40 on each occasion and a whole host of AURA age records and walk records broken on each occasion. The event had truly entered a new golden age of participation and excellence. Details and race results to be added as soon as I find some more time.
The 2002 Coburg 24 Hour Carnival started in light rain but the weather soon came good and the event was held in perfect conditions thereafter. This year saw one of the largest fields of runners and walkers ever gathered together for a 24 Hour event – 23 in the 24 Hour, 5 in the 12 Hour and 24 in the 6 Hour for a grand total of 52 runners and walkers. It was also the first time the Coburg 24 Hour Carnival and the Australian Centurions Annual 24 Hour Walk were combined and it was a win-win situation for both organisations.
In the 24 hour run Mick Francis went to the lead from the start and maintained his pace to eventually win with 216.298km. Jerry Zukowski and Rainer Neumann filled the minor places throughout the run but could not make any inroads into the lead, eventually finishing with 177.550km and 167.102km respectively. Mikela Ward came first in the women’s category with 104.54km – her singing throughout the race got her home! In the 24 hour walk, Carol Baird, Lyn Lewis, John Harris and Karyn Bollen finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th respectively, all achieving Centurion Status by walking 100 miles (160.934km) within 24 hours.
The 2003 Coburg 24 Hour Carnival once again saw a big field of 42 runners and walkers. The event started at 10AM on the Saturday in sunny conditions that intensified throughout the day. By the time relief was in sight on Saturday evening, competitors had endured some 8 hours of direct sun and heat. As day turned into night, it was a case of sunburnt bodies, blistered feet and heat induced exhaustion. With the 6 and 12 hour events completed by 10PM, the 24 hour competitors laboured on through the hours of darkness and waited for the final surge of adrenaline which comes with the dawn. But come the morning, there was little left in the tank for most and the run/walk home was more of a shuffle than a surge. The toll from the first day’s conditions was now obvious and most finish times were slower than would be expected for such a prestigious event.
In the 24 Hour Run, Ian Valentine defied the odds and improved on his personal best by some 24 km. After an early battle with Allan Devine, he cleared away from the field during the night. It was only during the last few hours that the consistent Bill Beauchamp made up ground and started to bridge the gap. But the lead was too big and Ian recorded what must be his biggest win so far. Peter Gray made it 16 finishes in a row for this event with a creditable 4th place. In the 24 Hour Walk, Australian record holder Carol Baird and England based Nigerian walker Charles Arosanyin staged a seesaw battle during the first half of the race. Only 1 lap separated them at the 80 km mark which was passed in around 10 hours. But Carol once again showed her experience and pace judgement and maintained her pace during the night as Charles slowed markedly. With the walkers’ main aim being the 100 mile target, Charles looked likely to miss out with 5 hours to go. But to his credit, he staged a last minute comeback and reached his goal in 23:35:31 to become Australian Centurion Number 46.
The 2004 qualifying event was once again a combined run/walk event, with the Australian Centurions joining the Coburg Harriers as co-hosts. A final starting list of 43 competitors fronted the line with competitors split across the usual divisions of 24 Hours (26), 12 Hours (5) and 6 Hours (12). After scorching conditions the previous year, 2004 saw cool blustery conditions on the Saturday followed by a cold night with intermittent drizzling rain. The Sunday morning was cool and overcast, providing perfect conditions for those still on the track.
The number of older runners and walkers in this event – Ken Matchett (82), Stan Miskin (74), Shirley Young (74), Ellwyn Miskin (72), David Padgett (72), Fred Brooks (70), George Audley (68), Ron McGregor (62), David Jones (62) and John Timms (61) – must form some sort of record!
The Men’s 24 Hour Run was won by Rudi Kinshofer with 187.434km but Carol Baird was the overall winner with 189.292km. With a number of centurion walk performances under her belt, she relished the chance to run instead and was the star runner of the carnival. As usual, the walkers provided their own particular brand of excitement with two new Centurions completing the 100 mile walk within 24 hours. Experienced Kiwi ultra distance runner/walker Bob Lee covered the 100 miles (160.934 km) in 22:44:44 for a comfortable victory. Young Melbourne walker Graham Watt, after 5 unsuccessful attempts, finally achieved his goal with a nail biting finishing time of 23:59:23. In fact, he looked to be well off the required pace with 6 hours to go but rallied superbly and stormed home with his fastest laps of the whole race coming in the final 2 hours. And it was all needed as he reached his goal with only 37 secs to spare!
The 2005 Coburg 24 Hour carnival saw a big field of 19 walkers and 34 runners competed in a variety of events throughout the 24 hour period. The carnival started at 10AM on the Saturday morning in overcast cool conditions. The sun broke through after several hours but was never too debilitating with the day recording a maximum temperature of 19oC. A cold still night was followed by a sunny Sunday morning as the 24 hour competitors closed in on their various individual targets.
It was particularly gratifying to see 29 of the 53 entrants choosing to compete in the 24 Hour events. The 24 Hour Run for Men was a closely fought event between Rudi Kinshofer and Tony Collins. Rudi led from the start and, by half way, had a significant lead. Tony gradually bridged the gap in the second half of the race and was hot on Rudi’s heels when the final gun sounded. The 24 Hour Run for Women saw New Zealander Norilie Lopez complete an easy win. She was content to retire once she had reached her 100 mile target in around 21 hours and 27 mins. The 24 Hour Walk events saw 3 walkers – Geoff Hain, David Billett and Jill Green – reach the 100 mile mark and thus achieve Centurion the Centurion standard. Standout runners in the 12 Hour events were the 2 winners, Ken Marsh and Michelle Thompson. Both completed in excess of 100 km and were comfortable winners.
The 6 Hour Run events provided more than their fair share of interest. In the first heat of the Men’s event, Tasmanian Simon Phillips ran a very impressive 72.638 km. No one in the second heat could match it but with Yiannis Kouros starting at 4AM on the Sunday morning, the stage was set for an interesting wait. Where Simon had headed out hard and then slowed, Yiannos started slowly and built into his rhythm as his race progressed. The final results show that Simon completed 196m further than Yiannis so he took the overall award. Head to head, it would have made for an interesting battle. We were delighted when Yiannis indicated his desire to run and many spectators turned up on the Sunday morning simply to witness him in action – it is not every day you get to see the World’s greatest ultra runner in action. The 6 Hour Run for Women proved just as interesting. Legends Dawn Parris and Shirley Young were always close to each other and they finished 6 metres apart with the final results showing Dawn completing 49.330 km and Shirley completing 49.324 km.
The 2006 Coburg 24 Hour carnival saw 25 walkers and 27 runners submitted entries and all bar a few late scratchings keenly contested the various running and walking events on offer. The carnival started at 10AM on the Saturday morning in typical Melbourne autumnal weather – variable and impossible to predict! The forecast threatened showers but luckily the race was spared and conditions, although slightly on the cold side, turned out to be nearly ideal for such an event. It was particularly gratifying to see 31 of the 52 entrants choosing to compete in the 24 Hour events.
The 24 Hour Run for Men saw Garry Wise run to the easiest of victories with 185.818 km. Gary, who ran 100 km in 10:52 last year, made no mistakes in his first 24 hour track race. Interestingly, second place getter Robert Boyce (170.587 km) and third place getter Rodney Ladyman (163.852 km) were also doing their first official 24 hour track runs. Michelle Thompson, who was the only entrant in the 24 hour run for women, was also doing her first 24 hour run, having won the Coburg Carnival 12 hour event last year in 101.9 km. Her winning distance of 166.053 km puts her straight into the higher echelons the Australian rankings.
The 24 Hour Walk events also saw strong fields and dominant performances. Of particular significance was the fact that 4 walkers – Jens Borello, Pat Fisher, Deryck Skinner and Geoff Hain – reached the 100 mile mark and thus achieved the Centurion standard.
We were thrilled to witness a special contest between octogenarians Ken Matchett (84 years young) and Stan Miskin (80 years young). Ken, entered as a runner, broke the World M80 record for 12 Hours. Stan, entered as a walker, broke the World M80 100 km and 24 hour records. It is unusual to see one runner of this age competing at such a high standard but to see two!
2007 saw the Carnival entries close and potential entrants turned away when the event filled with 4 weeks to go. 53 of the 54 entrants made it to the start line with a mix of 35 runners and 19 walkers spread across the 24 Hour, 12 Hour and 6 Hour categories. Of the 54 entrants, 31 chose the 24 Hour event, a pleasing sign for the future of the sport. The race started on the Saturday morning at 10AM in warm sunny conditions but in less than 2 hours, rain had set in as Melbourne turned on one of its famous weather changes! The showers did not clear until late afternoon and all were then diving for dry clothes and shoes. From then on, the skies remained overcast and further squalls, some quite heavy, created an ongoing challenge for competitors, support teams and race organizers. The flip side was that night time conditions were relatively mild and competitors were not forced into too many layers of clothing.
The 24 Hour Run category included some of our top runners and the race lived up to expectations. Current Australian 48 Hour champion Martin Fryer passed the half way mark in just on 123km, already well in front of his nearest rivals. His final distance of 228.686 km was not far outside his best and made him a comprehensive and worthy winner. Paul Every ran many laps with Martin as their paths crossed in the race and he also beat the 200 km mark, taking second place with 200.996 km. The first 8 finishers all ran further than 100 miles (160.9 km) in what was a high standard event. Further down in the field, 85 year old Ken Matchett stole the show with his wonderful run of 108.830 km. The television cameras were there to record Ken’s achievement in setting a whole swag of new World and AURA M85 records. Ken will claim records for 50 km, 50 miles, 100 km, 6 Hours, 12 Hours and 48 Hours. His performance also won him the Gordon Burrowes Endurance Award for the gutsiest performance in the carnival. On the walking side, two of the 24 Hour competitors, Terry O’Neill and Geoff Hain, walked in excess of 100 miles to make it 10 in all for the meet.
Since 2008, the 24 Hour has run as a separate standalone championship, such is the increasing popularity of the event, and a separate 6 Hour Championship has been scheduled some 5-6 weeks before. This has proved a good scenario and we continue to see bumper fields in both events.
2008 saw the Coburg 24 Hour Carnival expanded in concept and spread over 2 weekends, with 6 Hour events being held on Sunday 30th March and 24 Hour and 12 Hour events being held on the weekend of 19th – 20th April. And it worked with 31 entries in the 6 Hour (24 made it to the start line and 23 finished the event) and 48 entries in the 24 Hour and 12 Hour events.
In the Men’s 24 Hour run, Tim Cochrane build up what looked like an insurmountable lead, only to retire in the early hours of the morning. Mick Francis had been content to run his own measured race and his patience paid off. Within 2 hours of Tim’s retirement, he had erased the deficit and subsequently surged home to record his biggest 24 Hour distance on Australian soil – 231.258 km. John Pearson and Geoff Last also passed Tim’s overall distance to take second and third places with 203.338 km and 187.925 km respectively. In a race of great depth, the first 9 runners recorded in excess of 100 miles. By way of contrast, the Women’s 24 Hour Run saw only one competitor but what a performance. Sharon Scholz had set herself the target of reaching 100 km inside 12 hours, easily beat that mark and then continued on to a final 24 Hour distance of 184.117 km. This was the first 24 Hour run for Sharon, a relative newcomer to the sport and her race was indeed impressive. And the walk division saw two centurion walks with Andrew Ludwig (22:34:20) and Catherine Cox (23:54:28) both reaching the hundred mile walk target
With 38 competitors in the 6 Hour events and 37 in the 24 Hour Carnival 5 weeks later, it was another big yearly total in 2009. The men’s 24 Hour run had been keenly anticipated given that so many of our top runners had entered and it lived up to all expectations with Jo Blake powering home to win with a magnificent 243.651km, still full of running at the end. Martin Fryer, conscious that he faced an international 48 Hour event in only 5 weeks time, eased back and ran comfortably through to take second with 234.647km while Scott Orchard, urged on by his vocal support crew, dug deep to pick up 7 laps on Anth Courtney in the last 2 hours and take third place by a small margin – Scott with 204.579km and Anth with 202.646km. That gave us 4 male runners in excess of 200 km – a huge effort and an indication of the rapidly improving standard of Australian ultra running. Reading down the finishing list, a further 5 male runners ran in excess of 100 miles in the allotted 24 hours. In the women’s race Susannah Harvey-Jamieson ran a superb inaugural 209.458km and became one of only a very small number of Australian women to have broken the 200km barrier. The walkers also performed well with the Australian Centurions pleased to see four walkers reach in excess of 100 miles – Belgian couple Rudy Schoors and Caroline Mestdagh, Geoff Hain and former Coburg 24 Hour run winner Ian Valentine.
The 2010 Coburg 24 Hour Carnival saw 33 entrants in the 6 Hour and 35 entrants 5 weeks later in the 24 Hour. The 24H was a torrid affair with the Melbourne temperature quickly soarin towards 30oC soon after the 10AM start time. This meant that competitors were faced with the daunting prospect of some 7 hours under full sun before any relief could be expected. Although most started conservatively, the effect was soon obvious and by 4PM, the scene was reminiscent of the final few hours on a Sunday morning rather than the 6 Hour mark. When the day finally gave way to night, most were able to respond but for many the damage was done and the night saw a number of key withdrawals or extended rest periods. Most were back on the track on the Sunday morning for the final few hours and a good crowd was on hand to witness the final gun sound at 10AM.
Race favourite Martin Fryer was soon in control and passed the 6 Hour mark with an excellent 69.200km, some 7km ahead of Justin Scholz with 62.000km and Barry Loveday with 61.200km. Yet 4 laps later Martin was out of the race, his legs seizing up with almost continuous cramping that necessitated an ambulance call.
With Martin now out of the race, attention switched to Justin and Barry as they battled for the lead. Perhaps surprisingly, after several more hours it was Barry who took control, able to maintain a steady 10km/hr gait as Justin slowed. By halfway, Barry was well in front with 120.400km as he defied the odds in only his second ultra and his first 24 hour event. Although left on his own overnight with no support staff, he continued his 10km/hr pace right through the night and did not drop his first lap until 6AM on the Sunday morning – 199.600km in 20 hours! Well, he did slow but not by all that much, still managing to get around at a consistent 8km/hr with no breaks of any significance. His final distance of 232.602km saw him become the first Coburg Harriers athlete to win this prestigious event and the cheering was long and hard. David Kennedy improved his 24 Hour run PB by over 40km to take second with 223.636km while Rudi Kinsofer, a former dual winner of this event, showed his class in holding on for third place with 180.690km. In the women’s 24H run, 6 Hour winner Michelle Thompson ran to a 6km PB of 172.906km to take the double. In the walks, Centurion Peter Bennett was the outstanding athlete with 171.968km.
The 2011 Coburg 24 Hour Carnival was our biggest yet with 45 entrants in the 6 Hour and 47 entrants 5 weeks later in the 24 Hour and it stretches our timekeeping skills to the limit. Luckily, conditions in the 24 Hour were better than in 2010, with intermittent cloud cover and a cool breeze during the first day allowing all the runners and walkers to get off to a good start and by 6PM, there were the makings of some fantastic performances. A very cold night meant a testing time but come Sunday morning most were still on the track and a good crowd was on hand to witness the final gun sound at 10AM.
The 24H run was the biggest field with 20 starters. Race favourite Mick Francis was soon in command and, by the 5 hour mark, was over 3km in front of his nearest rivals with a distance of 56km. But disaster then struck as an old ankle injury flared and he was soon forced to withdraw. Little separated Malcolm Gamble, Justin Scholz, Trevor Allen, Rick Cooke and Keith Sullivan at that stage and we looked set for an interesting tussle. In a race of many twists and turns, Rick Cook eventually took the lead with a scant 2 hours to go and went on to win with 216.428km. Behind him, Mal Gamble and Trevor Allen passed a tiring Justin Scholz to take the minor medals. The women’s 24H run saw a similar scenario with Bernadette Benson in record mode as she passed the 6 Hour mark with 70.4km, well ahead of everyone else. She continued to power through to the 100km mark, passing it in a new Canadian W40 record time of 8:50:38, and then retired. That left Kerrie Bremner to power through the 12 Hour mark with a fantastic 119.6km, in second place overall and less than 1km behind race leader Mal Gamble. Kerrie showed great determination in the second half, hanging in for a final distance of 203.020 km, the fifth runner on the day to better 200km. The 24H walks saw centurion efforts in Mark Wall (23:20:41), Michelle Thompson (22:03:37) and Karyn O’Neill (23:44:26). Michelle’s winning walk distance was just short of her 172.906km which she recorded in winning the 2010 Coburg 24 Hour Run. Now that’s an interesting statistic!
2012 saw another couple of bumper fields with 43 entrants in the 6H and 47 entrants in the 24H five weeks later. Unfortunately the weather is the one element over which we have no control and sunny and hot conditions meant a long and tough day in the office fro the 24H competitors. As a consequence, the overall attrition rate over the duration of the event was tremendous – nearly half the field had to have time off the track at one stage or another and many slowed much more than is normally the case. Eventually the torrid day gave way to a mild night and the remainder of the race saw better conditions.
In the men’s 24H, Ewan Horsburgh took the lead at the 9 hour mark and from then on he was unchallenged. Passing the 12 Hour mark with 122.4km, he continued on with relentlessly consistent laps, eventually winning with an inaugural 24 Hour distance of 234.870km. This win comes just 4 months after his victory in the Coast to Cosci and 2 months after his second place in the Injinji 12 Hour in Canberra and confirms his current great form. Kevin Muller, very much a beginner in the ultra world, took second place with 221.454m. His only other ultra of significance was our 6 Hour run the month before when he finished 3rd with 74.196km. So an impressive debut for him. John Pearson rounded out the podium with 218.053km, a distance which is not far from his PB.
All five starters in the women’s 24 Hour run were looking for an inaugural 24 hour distance so it promised to be a very interesting race and it was eventually Sabina Hamity who came through the field to win with an excellen first up 184.908km. The presence of 5 accomplished overseas centurion walkers (four Belgian and one Irish) added an international flavour to the 24 Hour walk field and ensured a centurion 100 mile walk results for Rudy Schoors, Caroline Metdagh, Eddy Goeman and Peter Bennett. add to that the great walk by Michelle Thompson who led the race overall, ahead of the entire walking field, men as well as women. As she powered through the hours, she set Australian records for 50 Miles, 12 Hours and 100 km and looked set to challenge the Australian 24 Hour record until, just before the 20 hour mark, she was forced to stop.
With Melbourne under the influence of ongoing sweltering conditions, the decision was made to bring the start time for the 2013 6 Hour Championships forward from 8AM to 6AM. The decision was well received by competitors and it proved a correct one as the temperature was around 35oC by the time the event finished at midday. We have kept the start time of the 6H at 6AM since then. At one stage we looked set for a hot weekend for the 24 Hour championships as well but cloud cover throughout the Saturday kept conditions mild and overall the weather was the best we have seen at this event for some years. Of the 48 entries, 44 competitors (34 runners and 10 walkers) toed the start line at 10AM on the Saturday morning and most were still on the track 24 hours later when the final gun sounded.
The men’s 24H run turned out to be a one man show as local Coburg runner Barry Loveday shot to the lead from the gun, heading out with a 1:31 first lap and then settling down to a punishing pace that saw him cover 12.8km in the first hour. By the time the final gun sounded at 10AM on the Sunday morning, Barry had amassed an impressive 243.777km in what was only his second 24 Hour run. Kevin Muller held onto his second place spot with a final tally of 228.504km (a 7km PB) but Darren McClellan relinquished third place to Justin Scholz whose distance of 214.185 was a big PB. The women’s 24 Hour Run championship was a high quality event KerrieWilliamson finished on well to win in a PB 192.411km ahead, of Sabina Hamaty who also PB’d with 187.577km. The 24H walk saw Michelle Thompson provide one of the highlights of the weekend with a performance that saw her set a new Australian Residential record for 100 miles (20:22:36) and a new Australian Open record for 24 Hours (184.724km), bettering the standards set by Carol Baird in 2002.
The Coburg Carnival hosted the AURA 24 Hour Track Championship this year and we were pleased that AURA President Robert Boyce was able to make the presentations to the Australian Championship placegetters.
The 2014 Coburg 24 Hour Carnival saw what was undoubtedly the highest quality 24 Hour Track race ever staged in Australia. The carnival hosted the annual AURA 24 Hour Track Championships and the two new National Champions did themselves proud, producing huge results. In the men’s run, Victorian runner Barry Loveday started conservatively but took the lead after several hours and, from then on, was never headed, passing the half way mark in around 132km and then actually negative splitting to produce a huge PB distance of 165.000km. This is the second longest ever by an Australian behind that of the great Yiannis Kouros and was a 22km PB for Barry. In the women’s run, WA runner Bernadette Benson ran similarly, starting conservatively in the warm and sunny Saturday conditions but eventually outdistancing the opposition with her new Australian record of 238.261km, more than 9km further than Helen Stanger’s previous record of 229.080km. Congratulations to our AURA medallists Barry Loveday, Ewan Horsborough, Matthew Eckford, Bernadette Benson, Jodie Oborne and Nikki Wynd.
Since most places were reserved for the runners, only small walk fields contested this year’s carnival but the third major highlight of the meet went to one of the walkers with Victorian Michelle Thompson setting a whole swathe of new Australian intermediate records and a final record breaking total of 190.984km.
Overall, the meet produced some 32 new records, run and walk, Australian and Canadian, Open and Age, and set a new high for Australia. Of the 48 starters, 6 achieved distances greater than 230km, 15 were in excess of 200km and 27 were in excess of 100 miles. Such depth and quality have never been seen so abundantly before.
2014 saw the Coburg Harriers team drop its manual lapscoring system in favour of a fully automated chip system, compliments of Brett and Robyn Saxon of Trails+. And it worked like a treat!
The 2015 24H events (we also hosted the AURA Australian 24H Track Championships once again) were subscribed to capacity with entries closing at the designated maximum of 60. As it turned out, we had a number of late withdrawals and a final field of 49 competitors (36 runners and 13 walkers) toed the line for the 10AM start on the Saturday morning. We were able to increase our overall field limit due to the use of chip technology.
After a pleasant first few hours of racing, the weather turned ugly, raining for some 5 hours in the early evening, and from then on, conditions remained cold with further showers. The attrition rate was high with a number of entrants having to take time off the track or, in some cases, stopping completely. But with all that said, the standard was very high with 7 runners over 200km and 12 in excess of 100 miles (and that is with all our top runners at the World 24 Hour Championships in Italy).
The 6 Hour mark saw WA runner Paul Hopwood already in the lead with 66.4km and he ran on strongly for a huge PB final winning distance of 229.873km. Daragh O’Loughlin 225.871km and Rob Mason 216.887km filled the minor places, also with big PBs. The WA runners filled 1st, 4th and 6th spots, a great effort. The women’s 24H run played out similarly with Nikki Wynd leading all the way with a PB 213.573km. The 24H walk was a race of 2 halves. The first 12 hours was dominated by Michelle Thompson as she powered through, well ahead of anyone else and setting new Australain records for 100km and 12H. She then stopped to have her feet checked and decided on advice to retire as the rain had wreaked havoc with her toes and it was a case of stop now or do more damage. From then on, it was the John Kilmartin show as he powered through to his 100 miles (21:11:56).
The 2016 Coburg 24 Hour Carnival was held as usual in mid April in Coburg. Like the last few years, we once again hosted the AURA Australian 24 Hour Track Run championships as well as the Australian Centurions Qualifier. Conditions were better than 2015 when entrants had to endure long hours of heavy overnight rain. This time around, cool daytime conditions (temperatures around 20C) and brisk overnight conditions (temperatures around 11C), combined with what could only be described as light winds and the occasional misty drizzle, provided just nearly ideal conditions for the 31 runners and 17 walkers who made the start line. The 24H run saw wins to Sharon Scholz (192.217km) and Kevin Muller (242.240km) and the 24H walks saw wins to Michelle Thompson (173.200) and Rob Robertson (163.462km). With 3 in excess of 200km and 17 in excess of 100 miles, the event maintained its high standard.
In the Coburg 6 Hour Championship, held 6 weeks before, the 6AM start time proved its worth once again as the early cloud made for ideal running conditions until the sun broke through around 10AM. The last 2 hours saw the temperature quickly climb but everyone was able to knuckle down in the sunny conditions and see it out. The Men’s 6 Hour Run saw Francesco Ciancio giving a running lesson to all present. Last year, he came 2nd with 83.695km, beating the current Australian record but having to play second fiddle to Dion Finocchiro who won with 85.037km. This time he was out to make amends and that he did, powering through to a new Australian Open and M35 6 Hour record of 85.265km. The Women’s 6 Hour Run saw an inaugural win to Amelia Griffith in her first track ultra. Although a new runner on the ultra scene, Amelia is a real talent and confirmed her credentials with an excellent 70.945km. The 6 Hour Walk Championships saw record breaking wins to Clarrie Jack and Michelle Thompson. Clarrie, having turned 70 recently, made short work of the current M70 6 Hour walk record of 50.741km, powering through to 51.227km. Michelle, a perennial winner here at Coburg, was the fastest walker overall and her winning distance of 55.782km bettered her W45 record distance of 55.731km and was only 83m short of her Australian Open record.
2016 Coburg 6H – Results
2016 Coburg 6H – LapSplits
2016 Coburg 6H – Race ReportTim Erickson’s Photos
Bernie Goggin’s Photos
Brett Saxon’s Photos
Race Video by Rob Sutton
Race Certificates for downloading
2016 Coburg 24H – Results.pdf
2016 Coburg 24H – Race Report
2016 Coburg 24H – 6 Hour Splits
2016 Coburg 24H – 12 Hour Splits
2016 Coburg 24H – 18 Hour Splits
2016 Coburg 24H – LapSplits
Race Certificates for downloading
Photos – Brett Saxon
Photos – Tim and Bernie
2016 Coburg 24H – Individual Race Splits
First 10 minutes of race – video compliments of Wayne Botha