THE HISTORY OF THE COBURG 24 HOUR EVENT
Many people think that ultra track running started in the mid eighties but Coburg Harriers can lay claim to perhaps hosting the first ever such run. In October 1954, they organised a 24 hour non-stop track run at McDonald Reserve in Coburg. The aim was for teams of runners to try to achieve a distance of 260 miles. The winning team covered 255 miles 1424 yards with an average speed of 5:37 per mile. Now that’s quality relay running! The only night lighting was from kerosene lamps and street lights in the surrounding streets.
In 1983 the first ‘Sydney to Melbourne’ run was held. Cliff Young, a 63 year old potato farmer from The Otways, covered the 850+ km in 5 days 15 hours and 4 minutes for a historic win that marked a great surge of interest in ultra running.
In 1984 Dot Browne organized a 24 hour race for Geoff Molloy who wanted to test himself before the next Sydney to Melbourne ultra race. Thrown together in a hurry at the Box Hill track, the event saw Geoff set a new Australian record of 216 km, and then go on to win the Sydney to Melbourne race. Margaret Smith achieved a women’s record of 177 km in the same event. The 24 hour event was so successful that it became an annual event.
In 1985 30 runners lined up and Geoff Molloy broke his record with 232 km. In 1986 the race became an official trial for the Sydney to Melbourne ultra run (200 km to qualify) and 44 runners started. Brian Bloomer set a new Australian Record of 242 km. Cynthia Cameron broke the women’s record with 191 km. The race left the Box Hill track and came to Coburg in 1988. The Sydney to Melbourne race was enjoying huge publicity and popularity. The 24 hour run that year had over 70 entries!
1989 saw the now deceased Mike March break the Australian record with 260 km. The end of the Sydney to Melbourne came in 1991.This precipitated a gradual decline in ultra running but the Coburg 24 Hour event has survived although its future looked shaky for a few years.
In 1993 only 8 runners took part and Dot Brown stepped down as race director. Coburg Harriers took over the event organisation (and are still doing the job).
In 1994 Gordon Burrowes added 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 concept proved a huge success. 13 Ultra runners and 11 relay teams entered that year. Russian Igor Streltstov was the winner of the 24 hour covering 221 km. Yan Yean Road Runners won the relay event.
In 1995 Yiannis Kouros set an Australian record of 282.98 km (707 laps) in a field of 11 ultra runners. The relay competition had 15 teams and was won by Yan Yean covering 380.89 km (952 laps). A little athletics team was amongst the entries, (15 runners aged between 9 to 14) covering a distance of 647 laps.
A field of 9 in 1996 saw Yiannis Kouros break his own world record and achieve a remarkable 294.504 km despite running in strong wind and rain. Ten Relay teams competed with Yan Yean winning with 384.4 km. Carmella Carassi became the first lady in Australia to walk over 100 miles in 24 hours, covering 162.541 km.
The 1997 event went to Yiannis Kouros who, suffering injury, achieved a distance of 266.18 km. A field of 16 Ultra Runners competed, with Carmela Carassi breaking her own walking records and covering a distance of 166.6002 km. 9 relay teams competed and Traralgon Harriers achieved an impressive 386.49 km or 966 laps, which is still the course record.
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. Cliff Young was the inaugural recipient of the “Gordon Burrowes Endurance Award”.
1999 saw 15 starters and Yiannis Kouros won convincingly once again with a distance of 251.229 km. 2000 saw 25 ultra competitors and 6 relay teams. The overall winner was Bryan Smith with 200.7 km but the women were the ones breaking the records with Shirley Young setting new records in the 70+ agegroup all along the way to a final distance of 176.8 km and Carol Baird breaking the Australian womens walking records with a final distance of 171.9 km.
2001 saw 33 ultra competitors with Vlastic Skvaril winning with 193 km while Fred Brooks and Stan Miskin both broke AURA running age records in the 65+ and 75+ age groups even though they were walking.
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.
Since 2009, the 24 Hour has run as a separate standalone championship, such is the increasing popularity of the event. Since 2013, our event has also hosted the AURA Australian 24 Hour Championship.
Our 2016 events are expected to see very strong fields as our participants test themselves against the ultimate ultra standard – 24 Hours.