Preface by Dale Jennings
Geelong Cross Country Club was born in the newsroom of the Geelong Advertiser in 1971. Founder John Craven had worked as a sports journalist at the Launceston Examiner where there was a strong core of distance runners who, unable because of their newspaper commitments to play regular organised sport such as Aussie Rules and cricket, compensated by running. Young and fit, they competed strongly in the winter and summer running events staged across Tasmania.
Craven joined them for a season but found, on relocating to his home city’s Geelong Advertiser, that without the running stimulus he began rapidly putting on weight. With support expressed from colleagues Graeme Vincent, Ken Miles, Chris Bransgrove, Stuart Field and myself, Craven penned a news report titled ‘Running for Overweights’ inviting potential members to meet to form a professional cross country club. ‘Our chief aim is to cater for the unfit man interested in losing a stone or two. Slow runners will be given long handicaps and a chance to share in the prize money.’….and so on the article ran. Response from Geelong runners/joggers was immediate. Within weeks, two time trials had been held and a decision made to race on Sunday mornings, a practice the club continues today. By season’s end (June to October) the foundling club had 68 registered members.
The history of Geelong Cross Country Club – from humble beginnings to the present -has been captured and lovingly, painstakingly compiled by Jeff Walker, long standing club secretary and one of its most successful athletes. The Walkers, with brother Ken as President from 2008 till 2015 and Jeff as Secretary, with no shortage of ‘worker bees’ on the Committee, have led the club from success to success. The club today is recognised as a good and useful part of Geelong Regional community, likewise its flagship event, the Geelong Half Marathon.
This is no dry, boring read. Jeff Walker spices the club history with quick takes on memorable moments: of dummy spits, wrong way schemozzles, romance, confrontations and the big picture doings of club legends. It delivers insight into the sometimes lonely world of the cross country runner. I commend it to all who are out there, still ‘looking to lose a stone or two’.
- Why a History
- How It Began
- In the Beginning
- The First Season
- The First Race
- Name change
- VCCL Threat
- Females in the Club
- Start Times
- Classic Races
- Committee Meetings
- Annual General Meetings
- Sealed Series
- Pack Runs
- Split Races
- Co-Races with VCCL
- Country Championships
- Koroit to Warrnambool
- Dawn Buster
- Lead in to a Marathon
- Club Marathons
- The Geelong Half Marathon
- Half Marathon Memories from Geoff Clark
- Half Marathon Memories from Clarke Whitehand
- Team Races
- Time and Tide
- Police Intervention
- Home Alone
- Course Alterations
- Running Shorts
- Modern Communication
- Club Championships
- Presentation Nights
- Race Numbers
- Athletics Victoria Affiliation
- Masters Athletics
- Otway Classic
- 40th Anniversary
- 50th Anniversary
- Lock Out
- Marriage Proposal
- Clubrooms 1
- Clubrooms 2
- Timing Mats and Chips
- Video Camera
- Caravan to Van
- Oops! Wrong Way!
- Spot Prize Box
- Family Dynasties
- Risk Management
- Climate Extremes
- Black Ice
- The Longest Speech
- Patience or Persistence
- Close Enough
- Yellow Tags
- Consistency Award
- Christmas Greetings
- Island Hi Jinx
- Magic Money
- Drysdale Ducks
- Age Graded Scale
- Morning Teas
- Trivia Nights
- Social Functions
- Marathon Effort
- Altogether We Run
- Rory Runs Rivals Ragged
- Club Legends
- 500 Run Club
- Other Life Members not previously featured
- Merit Award Winners not previously featured
- Club Members on the Big Stage
Why a History?
After some past members mentioned that someone should produce a history of the GCCC, I thought that it should be started before the older generation passed on or became forgetful. I worked on Dale Jennings because he was the only founding member still competing, and also because of his journalistic background. Dale has covered the first couple of seasons and also added snippets in other areas. I see this history document as an ongoing project and welcome any additions and corrections.
How It All Began by Graeme Vincent
The genesis for the Geelong Cross Country Club emerged during a conversation over a cold can of VB early one Sunday morning in 1971.
John Craven and I had finished our 10-hour stint on the sub-editors’ desk at the Geelong Advertiser and, as we enjoyed a relaxant, talk turned to our perilous state of fitness.
“Why don’t we form a cross country club,” John said. For two blokes who had “let themselves go“a little, the answer was easy: “Why not.” And so that brief exchange heralded the beginning of the GCCC.
John had a pedigree in school athletics and had a close relationship with the running fraternity through his work as a sports journalist on the Launceston Examiner. My sporting background involved baseball and some football, but athletics was limited to a single cross-country race in my teens.
In the ‘60s and ‘70s, journalism, with its long hours and shift work, took its toll physically. Too little exercise, too much “socialising” and a diet leaning heavily toward fast food were a diabolical combination.
So, over expanding waistlines, we set to using our privileged positions at the newspaper to launch the club, with its primary objective being helping people get fit. The headline on the very first story that appeared in the Addy said it all: RUNNING FOR OVERWEIGHTS!
Of course, we had a ready-made market among our passive work colleagues, a number of whom – Dale Jennings, Ken Miles, Chris Bransgrove and Stuart Field – jumped on board immediately.
Weeks later we were delighted when 13 hopefuls rolled up for the first time trial at Mt Duneed, with pharmacist and former A Grade squash player David O’Brien covering the 4.3-miles in 22.51 minutes. Co-marker Colin Silcock was second and track veteran Ray Milley third.
A second time trial over two miles at Dog Rocks the following Sunday attracted 21 starters, with well-credentialled Melbourne runner John Barmby first home in 9.58 minutes and Waurn Ponds local Bob Clinton recording fastest time of 8.40.
Encouraged by the feedback, we conducted the first official handicap race at Moorabool on June 5, 1971, and, as the Addy reported on the Monday: “Wiry Colin Silcock scored an upset and won easily.”
The then 38-year-old (Colin is still clocking up the kilometres today) crossed the line in 23.20 minutes to win from Gordon Rylance and track specialist Mick Stevens. All three went on to have wonderful careers with the club.
Fastest time of 20 minutes was clocked by Ian Leeder, who became club champion that first year. It was no fluke – he had a stranglehold on the title for the next five years, an incredible achievement until a resurgent John Craven took the championship in 1977.
Twenty-four runners started that day, a portent of greater things to come. So onto the next race, a 3.4- mile slog around the Ceres lookout and a real tester for the fitness challenged, particularly the journalists.
Those initial years were modest in comparison to today. No technology, no electronic communication, no banners, no club vehicles, no clubrooms to call our own.
But the enthusiasm and commitment were palpable. Every Sunday morning runners and their families would cheerfully congregate on some exposed country road in all weather conditions to do their thing.
Like windswept Black Rock, the barren landscape of Steiglitz, Pt Henry, Freshwater Creek, Collendina and Paraparap. But there were populated venues too, such as Queenscliff, Ocean Grove, Landy Field and Grovedale.
It was very much a family affair. John’s father, gentleman Jack Craven, was the official starter, wife Bernadette the main timekeeper and partners and friends persuaded to act as marshalls.
Despite the roadside starts, traffic was not an issue in those days. In fact, it took several years before it became necessary to move them to safer ground.
The thankless but crucial task of handicapping fell to brave souls such as John followed by Keith Bird, Bob Bateman, Ian Leeder, John Gowty and George Thomas.
Handicap sheets, usually run off at someone’s workplace, were distributed race day and became an object of much discussion and sighing. (Has anything changed?)
We were not competing for sheep stations, though. Annual registration of $1 and a 30-cent entry fee did not translate into major prizemoney. Indeed, in those formative years the first placegetter could expect a can of Sustagen, a bowl of fruit or a modest-value voucher.
In 1971 – and the years following – the season extended to 20 or more races, culminating in the 20-kilometre Anglesea Classic. The start line was on the Geelong-Anglesea Road, near Blackgate Road, with runners pounding the bitumen to the finish below the Anglesea Hotel.
The finish was strategically positioned for two reasons – the hotel was owned by one of the main sponsors, Nobby Noblett, well known purveyor of Nobby’s Nuts, and it was a convenient spot for after-race hydration.
Running brought its casualties, with inexperience partly to blame – stretching, warmups and the like were completely foreign to us novices. But the main culprit was the equipment.
Dunlop Volleys were de rigueur while the latest shoes, Tigers, had a 3cm sole and no inner support. Both wreaked havoc on toenails, ankles and knees. Shin soreness also claimed its share of victims, but the old stagers like Mick Stevens and Ray Milley simply recommended running through the agony and ‘’you’ll be right in a few weeks”.
Our priority was to provide a family-friendly environment, so monthly after-race barbecues were an imperative. Runners, their families and friends, unfazed by limited public amenities and fickle weather, often remained until dusk.
In a few instances, vehicles were collected the following day by runners who had over refreshed.
The kids had a ball too, particularly when Jack Craven produced a football for a friendly kick. Naturally, the result was pulled hamstrings and torn calves!
The philosophy of the founding members was to ‘’keep it simple”. This extended to the logistics around both racing and administration. (Occupational health and safety, corporate governance and cultural transformation were yet to rear their bureaucratic heads!)
The election of a committee was delayed for a month to allow runners to consider nominations, albeit an acting treasurer and handicapper were appointed in the interim. The first president was John and I was elected secretary, probably because no-one else wanted the jobs.
Eventually some guidelines were developed but, generally, it was “steady as she goes”. And it worked. To what extent is measured by today’s exceptional runner numbers and the professionalism of the current committee and officials.
There were a few hiccups along the way, like the Pt Addis race where the run onto the beach was made “more interesting’’ after mid-week king tides created a 3-metre drop onto the sand and Mt Duneed where the start/finish resembled a lake after heavy overnight rain.
But such incidents embodied the club’s philosophy of “who cares; just have fun”.
What made it even more enjoyable were the characters. Who can forget Ray Milley, a beautiful runner and deep thinker, who was often moved to quote British philosopher and Nobel laureate Bertrand Russell.
Or Lance Prior, a tough man with a heart of gold to match his teeth, who sent his partner to the doctor to discover why his skin was turning orange. The diagnosis? He was eating bunches of carrots – literally – to boost his Vitamin A levels.
Or Jimmy Pettigrove, a frontmarker who notched up several wins before abruptly retiring after a race in which he was passed by Dirk Stobbe’s wife Carmel. The fact she was pushing a pram was too much!.
Not forgetting builder Norm Rau, who discovered that downing Sustagen on race day – he won a tin the previous week – could only end in the toilet; Lennie Broom, who never made it to the finish of that tough Pt Addis run – he was later found sitting beside the road nursing bloodied feet and his brand new shoes; and the unpredictable Neil Male, who could run like the wind one week then a frontmarker the next.
All those first runners made the cross country club. They made it their own and, in doing so, made history. They also made it something never to forget.
In the Beginning
Geelong Cross Country Club was founded in 1971. By season’s end the club had 58 Geelong members plus 10 from outside the region, each contributing a membership fee of $1. After two time trials, the first of 23 handicap races was held, field sizes ranging from 23 to the 59 who contested the season’s last race, titled the Anglesea Classic, for prize money of $259 in cash and trophies worth $60.
The First Season
First and founding season runners, in order of registration: Max Stevens, Ray Milley, Jim Pettigrove, Lawry Morris, John Scott, Malcolm Paull, Ken Miles, Chris Bransgrove, Len Broom, John Craven, Graeme Vincent, David O’Brien, Colin Silcock, Bernard Ryan, Arthur Faulkner, Norm Rau, Tom Trzeciak, Keith Shripton, Don Rasmus, Ray Duffin, Gordon Rylance, Sam Sallien, Bob Clinton, John Barmby, Chris Rhodes, Dale Jennings, David Turner, David Collis, Greg Stafford, Frank Adams, Ian Tuddenham, Ian Leeder, Brian Clissold, Stuart Field, John Nelson, Reg Marriner, Bert Webster, Wallace Wall, Lindsay Fitzclarence, Rob Keddie, Bob Jackson, Neil Male, Denis Craven, Bill Jackman, Kevin Cameron, Bryan Craven, Terry Bourke, David Brunton, Derek Simpson, Mick Abson, Gerard O’Kane, Bill Wren, John Dickson, Peter Milley, Barry Dillon, Paul List, Peter Church and Neil Kane; and, from the Melbourne Club: Kevin Russell, Jim Fitzgerald, George Burrow, Fred Grubb, PJ Miller, Stewart Bradley, Robert Hetherington, ? Bramich, Rod Kemp, Trevor Keilar.
The First Race
At Moorabool railway station over 3.8 miles (6.15km) in finishing order: Colin Silcock, Gordon Rylance, Max Stevens, Norman Rau, Ray Milley, John Scott, Sam Sallein, Len Broom, Malcolm Paull, Graeme Vincent, John Craven, Ian Leeder, Ken Miles, David Collis, Brian Clissold, Frank Adams, Dale Jennings, Bob Clinton, Chris Rhodes, Stuart Field, David Turner, Greg Stafford, Chris Bransgrove, Ian Tuddenham. Fastest time: Ian Leeder.
After being founded as Geelong Professional Cross Country Club, the word ‘professional’ was dropped in 1984 and the club became the Geelong Cross Country Club Inc. This was brought about by the introduction of Open Athletics, which ended the distinction between ‘amateur’ and ‘professional’ runners.
The all male Victorian Cross Country League was the controlling body of professional athletics in this state in the sixties and seventies. In the club’s first year, the secretary received a stern note from the VCCL saying that unless it paid an affiliation of $1 to it as the parent body of professional athletics, the club and any competing athletes could be banned from all ratified events.
Females in the Club
Carmel Stobbe, wife of member Dirk, often joined in our runs unofficially. Carmel asked to join up in 1975 but on advice from the V.C.C.L. was not allowed to become a member. This stance was gradually overcome and by 1983, there were sufficient female members for a championship to be introduced for them. Sandra Huggard who joined in 1980 was the first female member. Currently, females make up around one third of the membership.
For many years, the start time for most races was 10 a.m. Races at which a BBQ was held started at 11 a.m. In 1999, races were moved to a 9 a.m. start. The occasional feature race has been held on a Saturday afternoon. The 1974 Anglesea Classic was held on a Saturday afternoon around the outskirts of the township on one of the hottest October days for years. Later on, the rich Queenscliff race was held on a Saturday for one year only. Occasionally, when Anzac Day has fallen on a Sunday, a race has been held at 2 p.m.
In the early years of the club, there were classic races, namely Anglesea, Ocean Grove and a little later Queenscliff, which carried far greater prize money than the standard races. Runners were attracted from other professional clubs within Victoria and a contingent of Tasmanians flew in for some races, often billeted by club members. The handicaps appeared in the Addy midweek and, with journalists from the paper being club members, extensive previews and feature articles appeared.
The Ocean Grove race was from Connewarre School to the shopping centre at Ocean Grove, a distance of 10 miles.
The Anglesea Classic started in Blackgate Road and went along the main road to Anglesea finishing in the shopping centre, a distance of 20 km. Later on, it started from the Torquay Lifesaving Club where toilet facilities were available.
The Queenscliff 10 km run went to Pt Lonsdale and return.
Traffic control problems saw these races peter out. Greater prize money for the ‘Classics’ found some runners running ‘dead’ in the weeks leading up to classic races. Later on, a decision was made to have equal prize money for all races.
King of the Mountains
The King of the Mountains was held at Ceres every year until 2007 when the construction of the Geelong Ring Road was commenced. It then moved to the You Yangs, except in 2011 when summer flooding uncovered asbestos which necessitated the closure of the park. That year, the King of the Mountains was held from Deakin to Ceres Lookout and return. In 2017, the course was changed after traffic chaos the previous season had made the run uphill on the bitumen road to the turntable too dangerous. The new course devised by then President, Paul Austin, included the ascent of the notorious Saddle which saw a majority of runners reduced to walking part of the torturous climb.
From 1980 till 1985, the club ventured annually to Beaufort to have a combined race with the Stawell-Ararat club.
From 1981 until 1987, an 8 km event was held on the Monday of the June long week end as a curtain raiser to the arrival of the runners in the Great Otway Classic
From 1973 till 1975, a race was held at the Geelong Racecourse. Even though the grass track looks great from the grandstand, it is a different matter when you run on it. The hoofmarks made by the equines and the length of the grass make for a rough and testing surface. Flemington is no better as we discovered when the GCCC ventured to a joint race there in the late seventies.
It is a case of ‘we’ve been everywhere man’ when it comes to venues used for club races, particularly in the early years, when race permits were unheard of. Over the years, most road races have been deleted and replaced by others mainly using off road paths, particularly along the Barwon River.
Venues used include Anglesea, Balyang, Barrabool Hills, Barwon Park [Clubrooms], Barwon Valley, Bell Post Hill, Bonny Vale, Ceres, Chanel College, Charlemont, Clifton Springs, Colac, Collendina, Connewarre-Ocean Grove, Corio Village, Corio Leisuretime Centre, Deakin, Dog Rocks, Drysdale, Drysdale-Indented Head, Eastern Beach, Eastern Park, Freshwater Creek-Anglesea, Fyansford, Geelong Grammar, Geelong Racecourse, Grovedale, Gundry’s Road, Horseshoe Bend Road, Inverleigh, Jan Juc, Landy Field, Lara, Leopold, Lethbridge, Lorne, Marcus Oldham, Moriac, Modewarre, Moorabool, Mount Duneed, Newcomb-Queenscliff, Ocean Grove, Paraparap, Point Addis, Point Henry, Point Lonsdale, Portarlington, Queenscliff, Queens Park, Rippleside, South Barwon, St Augustines, St Leonards, Steiglitz, Thirteenth Beach, Torquay, Torquay-Anglesea, Waurn Ponds, Wallington, Whittington, Wurdiboluc and You Yangs
Handicapping has long been used in sports such as cycling, horse racing and professional athletics to give competitors an even chance of winning and theoretically producing close results. The handicapping is always a bone of contention, no matter what system is used. The GCCC has a rule where a runner who improves more than 5% on recent performances can be disqualified. There have been only a few occasions where this rule has been used. In 2003, to assist the handicappers, a rule was introduced whereby new runners have to complete six handicap races before being eligible for handicap prize money.
In the early days of the club, Committee meetings were held at hotels around town. When the clubrooms at Belmont Park were obtained, meetings were held there. Often there were double bookings, particularly due to theatre groups rehearsing for major productions and the Committee was likely to be assigned one of the cold, dingy rooms downstairs. Consequently, some generous members offered to have the meetings at their homes. When the Sports House opened at Kardinia Park in 2007, the club joined and held its meetings in the Kardinia Room, which was an ideal meeting setting. From 2016, the club began holding its meetings at the Canoe Club.
Annual General Meetings
The club’s annual meetings were held midweek and attendance numbers varied greatly from year to year. When the club’s last club run of the season was moved to Landy Field, a decision was made to hold the AGM after the race. The barbeque was not permitted to start until all Committee positions were filled. The meeting is then adjourned until early November because the club’s financial year runs to 31st October.
In 1985, in an effort to keep the backmarkers interested, a sealed handicap race was introduced for the top 30 runners in the club. A separate race was held for the remainder of members. After two years, it was increased to the top 40. This continued until 1991 when Garry Stratton suggested it was unfair to other members. So from 1992, the Sealed series began for competition among Front, Middle and Back markers. The races over 5, 10 and 15 km were run over consecutive weeks until 1998, when the races in the sealed series were staggered across the season. In 2012, an 8km race was added, as well as a section for new and returning runners. To be eligible for the series prizemoney, runners need to complete 3 of the 4 races.
The Eliminator was introduced as the final race of the season in 1994. Originally, the whole field ran the 4 km race with only the top 40 finishers progressing to the second race over 3 km. The first 20 runners in the 3 km progressed to the final held over 2 km. Recently, all runners compete in both the 4km and 3km with the 20 athletes with the best times compared to their handicap competing over 2km for the prize money and the imposing Eliminator perpetual trophy.
In the first few years of the club’s existence, a pack run was held on the first day of the season. It served as registration day and also a training run. The pace usually started off slow but soon the competitive juices came to the fore and a full scale race developed among the faster runners.
There have been a number of occasions throughout the years when two races have been held on the same day for varying sections of the membership. Divisions included Winners and Novices, Male and Female, Under 40 and Over 40, Frontmarkers and Backmarkers, and a choice between a long and a much shorter race. Recently, a 5km alternative race has been offered whenever the main race exceeds 10 km.
Co-Races with VCCL
The VCCL visited our club to race at Geelong Grammar for a number of years until it was suggested we should reciprocate by attending one of their races. On the first occasion at Westgate Park in 2007, a VCCL marshal directed runners the wrong way and the race was one kilometre short of the proposed distance. The following year, John Caulfield won a by a huge space at Woodlands. In 2009, the combined event was held near the Yarra River with Vin Gasper successful. Lack of numbers saw the combined races abandoned.
The Country Championships were held at venues around Victoria. Geelong won the overall teams trophy on a couple of occasions. Most of the time we had only a few entrants who bothered to travel to venues far and wide. In 1994, the club took a bus load to Bendigo where we made up half the field. The following year, it was held at Eastern Beach and our runners scooped the pool. Interest waned with Geoff Clark, Graeme Watkins and the Walker brothers among the few to persist. Before their demise, the championships were held at Woodlands for a number of years. Unfortunately, when the trophy was awaiting engraving, it perished when a sports store in Ararat burnt to the ground. A couple of years later, the event was abandoned.
Koroit to Warrnambool
This race conducted by the VCCL was well known on the cross country calendar. In 1973, several Geelong members, on hearing how well the handicapper had treated them, made a dash to Warrnambool to take part. Unfortunately for some, they were held up behind the Melbourne to Warrnambool bike race and missed the start. Geelong runners filled seven of the top ten places that year with then club president John Craven winning from Bob Bateman. The following year many more Geelong runners entered but the bird had flown, with all Geelong runners harshly handicapped.
The idea of a charity run at 7 a.m. on New Year’s Eve morning was born in 1992 after a suggestion from incoming president, Greg Stafford. After a couple of years, the proceeds were directed to United Way. Tom Blood became the face of the Dawn Buster, extracting a multitude of spot prizes from the generous Market Square traders. United Way’s successor, Give Where You Live, recognised Tom’s service to the event with the presentation of certificate for 20 years’ service . For many years, the race started and finished in the mall. Due to traffic pressures, the race now begins near the Carousel on the CBD waterfront.
Lead in to a Marathon
A number of long distance runners were on the Committee in the mid seventies, so in 1976 they introduced a 24 km race at Paraparap. This led on to the club marathon, first run in 1978. From 1981, the 24 km venue was Bell Post Hill. In 1984, the Geelong to Queenscliff 28 km race was introduced. It had been a race conducted by amateur athletic bodies up till the mid-seventies. As the initial surge in marathon running abated, the club reduced its longest race to a half marathon.
In 1978, the GCCC first decided to include a marathon on its program. It was held at Lara, travelling past the You Yangs, through Little River and back to the Lara football oval. Accountant and club member, Pat Rowan, arranged sponsorship from the Hotham Building Society. The marathon event continued at Lara until 1985 when it was moved to Leopold for one year. The following year we joined with the Melbourne Marathoners at Albert Park but declining interest and the opportunity to run in bigger community marathons, where there were no big gaps between runners, saw the demise of the club marathon. For many years after that, the club marathon champion was the first club member in the Melbourne Marathon. This was later changed with the runner who recorded the fastest marathon time of the year in an accredited marathon being crowned club marathon champion at Presentation Night. From 2015, the club marathon champion was awarded on an age graded basis. The fastest time on the club marathon trophy is 2 hr 25 minutes by David Nash in 1994.
The Geelong Half Marathon
In 1989, the club introduced a half marathon open to the public. Sunicrust Bakeries was the sponsor. For four years it began in Eastern Park and travelled out to Drumcondra with loops of the park at the finish. In 1993, the event was moved to Barwon Valley Park on the first Sunday after Easter. It remained there for many years until a very wet morning in 2001 and the logistics of taking a large number of entries persuaded organisers to use the clubrooms as the base and starting point. Online entries are now the norm. The course now involves a lap of the criterion track instead of the football fields before going to the Breakwater, on to Fyansford Common and return. Recently a limit of 1200 competitors has been set. A relay event was held in conjunction with the Half for a number of years until it was replaced by a 7 km race in 2016 until 2021 when the minor race became a 5 km. In 2012, the co-ordinator, Kevin McNulty was approached by two men trying to make it into the Guinness Book of Records by running the Half in a camel suit. It was an unusually warm morning but they successfully broke the record by completing the course in 2 hours 3 minutes to earn a spot in that famous book. The proceeds from the Half have secured the financial position of the club, and the Half has attracted new members to the club. Donations from the proceeds are also now regularly made to a charity, mainly the Andrew Love Centre.
Half Marathon Memories from Geoff Clark
I was lucky to get involved with the Half in the early years when we decided to change it to a river course. The club was not that keen to expand it as they thought it would be too expensive to run but thanks to some wonderful sponsorship it has proved a great success.
I spent many nights at Tom & Marie Blood’s, either posting out entry forms to those who had participated the previous year or posting out the results. I spent many hours on my firm’s photocopier. The Half committee also spent a lot of time at Tom’s putting tee shirts & other stuff into the show bags .John Sawers did an amazing job doing a lot of this on his own in the afternoon before the rest of the committee arrived after work.
To promote the race Neville Crosby and I went to Sunnicrust one afternoon to get them to sponsor the race. We’d asked Steve Moneghetti to bring some Ballarat runners with him but a cash sum was required & Sunnicust provided that inducement. Although Sunnicrust continued to provide bread for many years we also needed a cash sponsor .The committee sought the help of Margaret Burns who was the Geelong Council events & promotion officer. She was a great help in getting Rebel Sport who were opening in Geelong to come on board. In 2003, Rebel suddenly pulled out of their final year of contract to concentrate on the Sydney Marathon. This left us with a $2,000.00 hole in our budget, but fortunately I was able to get my firm Bell Potter to sponsor us for that year.
A former club runner, Tony Stewart, someone I spent many lunchtimes running with around the Tan, then came on board through his “Athletes Foot” shop. Tony was also instrumental in me being able to get Skins to come on board as a sponsor. Over the years I spent many hours sending sponsorship proposals to different companies. This race now supports the club. What a turn around from the early years when I had to submit an itemised account to the club for approval be each year!
Some of the highlights for me of the race included those couple of years when we had the Barwon Queen going up & down the river with a school brass band playing away as the runners ran along the bank. We used to make a small donation to the relevant school.
Having well known identities people like Mona, Ian Cover & Trudy McIntosh assist with the presentations also helped lift the race’s profile. I think the prestige of the race was also lifted when we had the course certified by the same person who was then measuring the Melbourne Marathon course .This enabled one runner to reach his dream of qualifying for and indeed participating in the Olympics.
In my time on the half marathon committee, I worked some great people, not just Phil Vernon, John Sawers, Neville Crosby and Tom Blood but also Ray Wilks and Stuart Pretty who’d spend most of Saturday marking the course. Kevin McNulty has been the backbone of the race for many years recently, including designing tee shirts and entry forms. I knew the race was in safe hands when he took over.
And where would we be without Ken Walker who after that very wet 2001 event at the Barwon Valley Fun Park when I had four very wet scout tents hanging up in the shed for weeks drying, came up with the idea of changing the course to a lap of the baseball/footy oval which enabled us to move the start /finish closer to the clubrooms. This would have had to have been one of the best ideas ever in the time of the half marathon.
One year, vandals disconnected our signs the night prior to the race and they were found on race morning snagged on the Breakwater Bridge.
Whilst it didn’t prove to be highlight, one of the funniest times, was in the early years when the race started & finished at the Barwon Valley fun park. The Half committee decided to hire a spa for runners to use at the end of the race. There was a pole with a power point on it near the finish & that was where the spa was placed. NeviIle Crosby spent a very uncomfortable night sleeping in his car, making sure that not one pinched the spa during the night only to discover on the Sunday morning that the power was not connected to the pole & the spa was cold .You can imagine how impressed Neville was !
Half Marathon Memories from Clarke Whitehand
In 1989, the club introduced a half marathon open to the public. The event was organised by GCCC member Barb McLure. Sunicrust Bakeries was the sponsor. The event began in Eastern Park and travelled out to Drumcondra with loops of the park at the finish. The format of the 1989-1992 runs were fairly plain on today’s standards. It was a typical public fun run of its day, but organised and timed with results produced using GCCC expertise and equipment.
In 1993, as a result of unhappiness with the bayside course and as a response to declining race numbers, the GCCC Committee seriously considered removing the Half Marathon from that year’s race calendar. However, a proposal by the Sponsorship Committee to conduct a major overhaul of the event was eventually accepted. A Sub-Committee of staunch distance runners was formed and set out to make the Geelong Half Marathon a prestige event on the State’s running calendar. The Sub-committee was made up of Clarke Whitehand (Convenor) – Warren Davis, Trevor Cantwell, Peta Hocking, Neville Crosby and Ray Wilks.
Changes to the event included-
A new course, along the relatively sheltered and reasonably flat Barwon River Valley, mostly utilising walking/fitness tracks from Belmont to Fyansford and return.Moving the 21km event from late in the Winter running season, to the start of the running season and to have it scheduled as a stepped up distance after other local events, the Sheepwash Classic (8km) and the Belmont Rotary Club Barwon River Run (10km) both of which had been scheduled during the Easter school holidays that year.
The April timing was also designed to give distance runners an event to complement training for the Melbourne Marathon that had been re-scheduled to June in 1993. There was increased prize money, courtesy of Sunicrust Bakeries, a free post race BBQ for runners, a free Half-Marathon Tee-shirt to all runners which was designed by the sub-committee. GMHBA sponsored and provided the shirts (@ $3.00 per shirt) and “2 colour” (most ambitious at the time). This “freebie” tee-shirt at the time was a first in running circles.
All finishers received a showbag containing a loaf of Sunicrust (Multigrain) Bread and fruit & fruit drink.
Celebrities, Steve Moneghetti and Cliff Young, participated in the 1993 event. Lots of precursor work was required there I can assure you!!!
The Half Marathon Committee was made up of relative newcomers to organising a “public” running event – and a “few” embarrassing mistakes were made, notably a 10 minute delayed start, a decision taken to enable processing of a large number of late entrants on the day, still entering and lined up at the club caravan at the scheduled race start time. Rapid processing resulted in another change (BIG MISTAKE) to a 5 minute delay in start time! This caused a drama for one or two runners who had decided to take a warm up run in the originally announced 10 minute delay time. The race was actually won that year by one of those runners, who started some 3 minutes after the main field.
The generous sponsorship by Sunicrust Bakeries during 1993 warrants further mention here, as in the lead-up to the event, celebrity runner attendance costs blew out considerably. At 3 days’ notice Sunicrust Bakeries (manager, Darryl Pritchard) was asked for, and generously provided $2000.00 cash to assist in meeting this outgoing.
Since the first teams race was held in 1981 to celebrate the club’s 10th birthday there have evolved a few changes in format and location. The inaugural race was held at Corio Village with each team captained by a founding member. Runners headed up the hill to Lovely Banks and return. Colin Silcock took a wrong turn during the last leg and six others followed him on a tour of Moorabool. The second teams race was held at the Corio Leisuretime Centre where runners ran to McDonalds and return. The following year the event shifted to Barwon Valley Park where it took in a circuit over the McIntyre and Princes bridges. It remained there until 1993, apart from 1991 when it was shelved, before returning the following year. In 1994, it shifted to a course bordering the Barwon River, close to the Clubrooms. For some time, the Clubrooms race crossed the Barwon to pass Landy Field. Since 2021, the event has reverted to Barwon Valley Park.
The number of team members has altered over time. The first teams had five members. The second year it jumped to six, back to five, up to eight in 1985 before settling on seven per team. In 1993 it reverted to five per team until 1997 when it was reduced to its current three-in-a-team, which usually obliges a handicap start.
Some of the ‘Wrong Way’ gems of Club history have emanated from team events. The first year at the Clubrooms saw Tommy Blood charge off in the opposite direction to the designated course. Another year, Steve Oldfield was amazed to see two of his team tackling the same leg. Captains such as Geoff Ryan needed to run twice, to cover for runners selected in their team who have not fronted. One year, Steve Davies was horrified to see both his team mates out warming up instead of being in the changeover area as he was about to finish. Noel McCrea somehow found himself on the Harrison Bridge when it was under construction and hurdled the small gap where the two parts of the bridge had not yet been completely joined.
In 1993 the Three Musketeer format teams event was added to the running calendar. It involved three team members running at least twice and culminated in all three runners running together in the last leg. It was held at Corio Leisuretime Centre for three years until shifted to Eastern Park in 1996 where it has stayed, except in 2003, when it was not held due to a shortened season. Another shortened season in 2009 saw it omitted from the calendar and it has never returned. One controversial aspect was whether teams should physically push/drag their slowest runner up the hill during the final leg.
The recipe for success in teams races seems to abide in having a first year runner who, honouring team pressure, improves greatly over the short distance involved, especially when teamed with a couple of in-form runners with leg speed.
Time and Tide
In 1977 the Collendina race involved a long trek along the surf beach. Unfortunately, the tide was in and the narrow stretch of extremely soft sand available saw most runners sink up to their ankles, producing the slowest kilometre rate of their careers. Ivan Siljac, built like a tank, powered his way to victory. In 2009, former president Graeme Watkins miscalculated the tide times which resulted in very slow times as the incoming tide forced runners further and further up the beach on to soft sand during the second lap of the Ocean Grove race. Colin Hatton enhanced his reputation for tough courses by triumphing that day. In the early years of the club, a race was held at 13th Beach. After Wayne Hill’s success in1973 running barefoot, others tried his idea the following year, suffering blistered feet from the exposure to the abrasive sand.
One foggy morning in Queenscliff an over zealous policeman refused to allow the race to proceed until the fog lifted and there were marshals on every corner. In 2013, police investigating an alleged rape near the breakwater requested the South Barwon race not traverse the gravel path for fear of disturbing vital evidence. The race was well underway and it took quick thinking by Stuart Crossfield and Cate Shay to devise a detour up a goat track to avoid the protected area.
Invitation runners have always been welcomed but they sometimes cause a problem by not giving accurate information about their ability. One such case was in the eighties. The Committee proudly boasted that it had arranged a police escort to lead the field in the Geelong to Queenscliff race. Brickley Hepburn, a Hamlyn Heights butcher who had completed many endurance races around Perth, entered. Unfortunately, he understated his ability substantially and had hit the lead by the time we hit the Leopold hill and consequently enjoyed his own “private” police escort whilst the club runners trailed by twenty minutes in the race to the finish.
Flooding of the Barwon River has been the main cause of alterations to courses. In 1993, the then president, Norm Gates, devised an alternative course at Grovedale when the river spewed across the paths. Unfortunately the new course was one kilometre longer and club stalwart Bryan Cole who had been knocking on the door of a win was run down in the final 500 metres. Bryan’s running career didn’t extend beyond his next race.
In 2016, runners venturing to the Queenscliff race were amazed to see the roadway under 30 centimetres of water after the principal water main into the town had ruptured. It also left the adjacent bike path under water. Stuart Crossfield and his fellow course directors came up with an alternative two lap course to ensure a 10 km race could be held. The Eliminator that same year had to be moved to Waurn Ponds from Landy Field because of extensive flooding. In 2022, flooding necessitated a change to the Four Bridges race at Fyansford.
The club received great newspaper coverage in its early years with many of the club founders being Geelong Advertiser staff: John and Denis Craven, Graeme Vincent, Ken Miles, Chris Bransgrove, Garry Cotton, Ian Cover, Suart Field and Dale Jennings. As mentioned elsewhere, handicaps were published for some of our major races. Race reviews could be found each Monday. The Geelong News featured lengthy reviews and previews in both its Tuesday and Friday editions for a number of years. Vin Gasper was the writer of these eagerly awaited reports until the task was taken over by Phil Girdler. When this petered out, we were left with the small print race summaries, usually in Tuesday’s Advertiser.
In 1998, a monthly 16 page publication began. It was packed with contributions from members. When Roma Burhop took over as editor, she distributed a questionnaire to race winners that could be used as content in the newsletter. Later on, results from the previous month’s races were published. The first edition of the season usually included Graeme Watkins’ summary of the achievements of those club members who had competed in the recently concluded professional track season. A lack of contributions and the race results appearing on the club website saw the gradual demise of the Running Shorts in 2007, something bemoaned by Geoff Clark who has an extensive collection in his shed.
Since 2013, a weekly email has been sent to members outlining important information about the following Sunday’s race including the course directors, parking instructions and general reminders. The club’s website is a fountain of information and the club’s Facebook site is also a carriage for dissemination of information.
From the beginning of the club in 1971, the club championship was decided by a single race held at the You Yangs until 1977. From then on, points were awarded for fastest time for races throughout the season. Over the years various age categories have been added as numbers in those categories have justified their inclusion. In 2013, a unisex Supervets section for over 70s was introduced. For many years, a runner’s best 14 results counted towards the championship. This was raised to 18 for a while and currently sits at the best 16 races.
The venues for Presentation Nights have been many and varied. For many years the Clifton Springs Country Club was the venue. First year there, members ate and almost drank the larder bare and dry. Caterer Jeff Ingles reported he had not seen such appetite. He was better prepared the following year. Reclusive Colac member Cliff Young sent a long, witty poem to Clifton Springs in place of his good self.
One year we ventured to the Dinosaur Hotel where Bob Fowler declared we were all peasants but among us was a ‘king’. Many wondered, as Bob’s preamble continued, to whom he was referring? Much to his embarrassment, Vin Gasper was the one ‘anointed’ by Bob.
Another year, at the Clubrooms, a group of the ladies led by Marianne Smith decided to serve up the fare which was delivered by a caterer. The necessary crockery and cutlery was rounded up from all parts and the girls were run off their feet, serving the food, clearing the tables and washing up. That bright idea rightfully never resurfaced and we returned to fully catered nights from that day on.
Among other venues for end of season functions have been the Belmont Hotel, Geelong West Town Hall, Queen’s Park Golf Club, the Silver Horseshoe, Belmont Civic Centre, Two Bays at Torquay, Shell Club, the Capri, the Wool Exchange, St Marys Hall and the Ukrainian Hall.
The club used numbers between 1 and 100 until the VCCL decided each country club would be allocated its own set of a hundred numbers. Geelong had the six hundreds so Ian Leeder, the club champion, went from number 1 to 601. Geelong soon outgrew the six hundreds and moved on towards 1000. Travel agent and frequent flier Ian Holliday snaffled 777. When runners ceased running for a period of five years, their numbers were then reallocated to new members. Today’s computer program does not allow the re-use of numbers so currently numbers range from 100 to beyond 1340. Geoff Clark has compiled a list of all known members of the club since inception and at last count the total had passed 2120.
Athletics Victoria Affiliation
Securing the necessary public liability insurance to satisfy councils was becoming expensive. In 2004, then club secretary, Geoff McDonald heard that the Colac Leisure Runners had comparatively cheap insurance by affiliating with Athletics Victoria. Investigation led to the GCCC becoming an Athletics Victoria affiliate, thus saving a great sum of money over the years. The only drawback is that the insurance runs out at the end of August each year and it is always an anxious wait for the new insurance certificate to arrive prior to September events.
In the mid-seventies, the Victorian Veterans Athletics Club was formed. In 1981, Keith Bird, later to become GCCC president, set up a Geelong Veterans Club which ran at Landy Field on Wednesday nights during our off season and around Johnston’s Park in the winter months.. The name was changed to Masters in the nineties and now operates all year round due to the high class lighting at Landy Field. Many club runners in their winners’ speeches have attributed their improvement to their racing at Masters. All four Veteran/ Masters co-ordinators to date have been club members- Bird, Bryan Cole, Mike McAvoy and Alan Jenkins.
Founding President John Craven came up with the idea of a teams race in 1980. He called it the Great Otway Classic. The event started with one lap of the steep Ceres Lookout course, headed off through the Otways and finished on Monday afternoon in the main street of Lorne. It involved teams of seven runners racing in relay form over the three days of the Queen’s Birthday weekend. The selection process was quite complicated, involving lots of research and the occasional ‘smokey’. Each morning began with a time trial involving four runners from each team, with time bonuses for the first 10 placegetters. Then six of each team’s seven runners (one runner ‘resting’) took part in a relay to another town for the lunch stop. After lunch, six runners (again, one resting) repeated the relay to another centre for the overnight stop. Many Geelong runners took part, particularly in the first few years of the event. To gain exposure for the sponsors, Craven began importing runners from Japan and Africa and experimented with starting the race on a Friday afternoon in Melbourne. Traffic control and the cost of police coverage became a problem and the race fizzled out. Craven offered the concept to Dale Jennings who saw a possibility of a version around the Bellarine Peninsula, but support from the GCCC was not forthcoming.
A luncheon was held to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the club’s first race. After the normal club race was held, past and current members adjourned to the clubrooms for a catered lunch. Several ‘originals’ were there: John Craven, Graeme Vincent, Gordon Rylance, Ken Miles, Max (Mick) Stevens, Dale Jennings, Ian Leeder, first ever race winner Colin Silcock, John Nelson and Ian Tuddenham. Ian Cover of the Coodabeen Champions attended as a past member and master of ceremonies. His quick wit ensured everyone was entertained. Those present expressed a wish to attend a similar event for the 50th anniversary.
The Committee decided the 50th Celebration was worthy of a more upmarket venue. It was held on a June Friday night at Capri Receptions with eighty-one in attendance, made up of past and current members, many with their partners. 1971 originals, Dale Jennings, Gordon Rylance and Colin Silcock-Delaney who all ran in the first race were prominent. Those in attendance had run 17, 971 club races and won 316 races. Among the gathering were fourteen life members, seven club presidents, seven club champions and ten members of the 500 club. The evening was highly acclaimed by everyone in attendance. Recollections of races past were commonplace. Newspaper cuttings, trophies and other club memorabilia were very popular with those present. Will there be a 60th?
The January 2006 Committee Meeting was scheduled for President Graeme Watkins’ residence in East Geelong. A knock at the door and a wander around the backyard failed to locate the normally steadfast Watkins. After a considerable wait, the meeting commenced with the secretary recording the minutes while sitting on the doormat and the remainder of the Committee draped on garden furniture or against veranda posts. Around 8:30 p.m. steady rain began to fall and the meeting concluded suddenly. By the time the oblivious Watkins returned from dining out, the Committee was well gone. But he was often reminded of the meeting he forgot.
On the occasion of his 700th club run at Portarlington, life member, Vin Gasper proposed to his girlfriend and club timekeeper Jane to the wild applause of the membership who didn’t wait to hear her answer. Obviously the answer was in the affirmative, because a few months later they were wed at Cobbin Farm. Vin was once on the end of an unpleasant but uplifting experience when negotiating a fence in a race across the Marcus Oldham paddocks. A sensitive part of his anatomy made contact with a live wire of an electric fence causing him great pain, but no permanent damage, according to his spouse, Jane.
For many years, the club searched for somewhere to call home. In 1994, the club became a co-tenant of the former Belmont Bowling Club clubrooms, now known as Belmont Park Pavilion. Thirteen other organisations shared the building, but importantly it is available for our Geelong Half Marathon week end and the first club race morning. All races starting from the clubrooms conclude with morning tea, presentation of results and a popular spot prize draw. The club stores a large amount of its bigger and less frequently used items underneath the building. Tom Blood has been our representative on the management committee of the clubrooms since our involvement began. From 2011 onwards he has been supported at meetings by the club president. The CCMA’s reluctance to issue permits for races finishing along road beside the river necessitated most Belmont Park races to relocate.
In 2015, the Geelong Canoe Club had the opportunity to access a grant to upgrade their clubrooms if they involved other like-minded sporting groups. Stephen Parker , Canoe Club president, and Phil Shay started the ball rolling and as a result a storage shed for the club van was built. The GCCC is now able to use the facilities at the Canoe Club for its meetings and any social functions.
Timing Mats and Chips
In the early days of the club, there was a timekeeper as well as a recorder writing down the numbers in the finishing order as the runners crossed the line. This continued for 37 seasons. As technology improved, the club graduated to using a timing mat in 2008. The runners now wear a chip on their ankle and times are recorded as they cross the mat. This results in times being immediately available, via the computer.
As a back up to the timing system, a small camera is set up at the finish. By viewing the tape, the handicappers, in the event of the timing system failing or someone’s timing chip malfunctioning, have a way of determining the correct order of placings. The camera has saved the day on more than one occasion where the mat has been affected by the metal in the concrete on which the mat has been placed or where the battery to the system has suddenly died.
In the eighties, the club together with the Geelong Veterans Athletics [now Geelong Masters] purchased a distinctive yellow timing clock. This meant runners could see how long before they had to line up to start. It was used by the GCCC on Sundays and the Veterans on Wednesday nights. Marie Blood made an impressive cover to keep the clock in good condition. Bendigo Bank became involved as a sponsor with their name on the clock stand. The clock was lent to various organisations for their events such as Rip to River, Barracouta’s and Moorpanyal swims, and Relay For Life events at Werribee, Warrnambool and Geelong. Wear and tear over many years saw the GCCC purchase a new clock in 2008. The Committee resolved that the new clock was not available for loan. The yellow clock was then handed over to Geelong Masters Athletics where it is still used and also lent for many community events.
Caravan to Van
After years of timekeepers standing in the rain, a tandem trailer with a caravan top was purchased by the club. As it aged and deteriorated, it was replaced by a traditional caravan. When that caravan began to become difficult to tow as well as leak, a search was made for a replacement. Due to successful runnings of the Geelong Half Marathon, the club was able to purchase a Renault van in 2009. The then president, Ken Walker, saved the club a large amount of money, by personally fitting out the van, ensuring that the storage and work space for the treasurer and the handicappers were adequate.
Oops! Wrong Way!
There have been occasions when runners have mistaken corners on the course but only occasionally have the majority of runners gone the wrong way. One such case was at Moorabool in 1975 when all the field in the under 40 went the wrong way adding a great deal of distance to the race. In 1995, much of the field in the under 40 race at Marcus Oldham went the wrong way at a gateway, resulting in chaos. In 1981, Colin Darbyshire ran his only race with the club at Grovedale. He was short sighted and missed the turn into a farm driveway and continued on along the Colac Road almost to Belmont. Eventually, Colin was accounted for, safely ensconced at home.
The club has been assisted by many great sponsors over the years. De Grandi Cycle and Sport is the longest standing sponsor, having started with us in 1981. Former club member, Les Duck of Belmont Stereo, sponsored the club for 32 years from 1985 with his company’s advertising adorning the first two club caravans Other long standing sponsors with over twenty years’ involvement include Julie’s Hairstylists , Geoff Case of staircase fame , Rob Claridge , Pakington Bakery , Roderick Insurance , Bendigo Bank , Bob Jane and Tuckers Funerals [ both 1995]. For many years, one time member Clive Paisley donated a haircut each race and Tony Kelly from the Bush Inn provided a monthly meal voucher. Without sponsorship, the GCCC would not have flourished as it did during the early years.
Spot Prize Box
Since the nineties, some of our sponsors have provided spot prizes. Post race, runners and marshals write their names on a piece of paper and place them in the spot prize box. As part of the post race presentation, runners’ names are drawn out to receive a voucher from sponsors including bakeries, food outlets, golf courses and physios. There are also hair products, chocolate biscuits and socks for those lucky enough to have their names plucked from Patsy Salathiel’s time honoured shoebox. In 2021, due to COVID restrictions, the spot prize winners were chosen by computer with the recipients receiving the vouchers by email.
There have been many instances where more than one member of the family has raced with the club. In the early days, the Craven brothers John, Dennis and Brian, the Pettigrove brothers John and Jim along with their cousin Trevor and the Stevens brothers, Mick and Brian, were prominent. The Walker* brothers Jeff, Ken and Terry have tallied up over 1650 runs whilst the Blood* family, Tom, Marie and their sons Justin and Sean have competed over 1400 times. Other families to exceed 600 runs are Sue and Gary Stratton 733, Penny, Dave* and Brett Elward 700, Geoff, Luke*, Shannon and Rachel* Ryan 700, Wendy and Rex Sizeland 684 and Pauline and Rory Wilson 601 races. [* denotes still active]
The club has a very comprehensive Risk Management document which was principally the work of Paul Austin who was troubled by the disastrous 2006 Rip to River where numerous ambulances transported dehydrated runners to hospital. The document impresses (and perhaps even overwhelms) council officers when presented alongside applications for race permits. One useful result is a mandatory pre race briefing held five minutes prior to the race start, outlining possible hazards as well as course details.
The wettest race is probably shared between the 2001 Geelong Half Marathon and the 1984 Geelong to Queenscliff 28km. Torrential rain fell both days but the latter was worse because of the freezing wind that plagued runners from the start to finish. Lightly framed Darren Riviere suffered hypothermia and Vin Gasper could not untie his shoelaces.
The hottest race was undoubtedly the 1973 Anglesea Classic which was run at 2 p.m. on one of the hottest October Saturday afternoons on record. Tom Blood recalls co-markers sourcing water from a farmer’s dam during the Grovedale to Torquay 20 km on a hot morning in 1987. The long distance of all these races added to the torture. The 1979 King of the Mountains at Ceres was also very hot. It coincided with the second running of the Big M Melbourne Marathon where many of the slower runners ran on the footpaths to shelter under verandas rather than on the open road. The following year, the Big M organisers started their race an hour earlier.
Geelong experienced its third coldest morning on record on July 2nd 2017 when the mercury dropped to -2.2 degrees. The Grammar School oval was covered with a thick layer of frost and the temperature at race start time was around zero. Fortunately there was no wind chill factor that morning.
Runners in the 2013 Balyang 8km sealed series race faced a hazard not encountered in the club history when they had to negotiate black ice on the path either side of the footbridge across the drain near the canoe club. The pre race briefing warned of the hazard and everyone survived without mishap.
At the same course in 2016, runners set off with the temperature at three degrees and the cold air in the shadow of the Geelong College hill froze arms right up to the shoulders. Care was needed to negotiate the thick frost on the wire netting of the Queen’s Park Bridge.
The Longest Speech
In 2014, when Ralph Wright was announced as the winner of the middlemarkers’ sealed handicap at Waurn Ponds, he was close to speechless. It was his first club win in 27 seasons. When advised his 100th run milestone would be at the Anglesea race where he would be asked to respond to a speaker, Ralph obviously didn’t want to be caught unprepared. Once the short summary of his career concluded, Ralph began the longest speech in club history, detailing each of his 27 years. As the bitterly cold southerly began to freeze everyone’s bones, one wag was heard to say the speech took longer than the 8 km race.
Patience or Persistence
Kim Henderson joined the club in 1990 and it took him 22 seasons to reach the 100 run milestone. It is a record length of continuous membership to make it to 100 runs. Kim often ran a couple of early season races before succumbing to injury. He has shown great persistence to battle through numerous severe injuries. Kim was the club solicitor from 1998 till 2021. For a number of years, he led the organising sub-committee for the Dawn Buster.
The longest droughts for handicap successes fall to Ken Walker who ran 280 races between wins in 2007 and 2022, Jeff Walker who had 234 starts between wins in 2003 and 2014 and Rory Wilson who competed in 225 races between wins in 1983 and 1996
It took 46 seasons for the club’s first dead heat in a handicap race. In the Wurdiboluc 12.6 km race, John Morton caught Jo Foran around the halfway mark and they raced together to the finish. A couple of strides before the line, Morton seemed to have the ascendancy but Foran lunged as they reached the mat. Starter Jane Gasper could not split them. The camera shot is head on and after several slowing downs of the tape, the judging panel could not separate them.
In 2003, it was decided that until novice runners have completed six handicap races with the club, they are required to wear a yellow tag, front and back, to indicate they are competing on a discretionary mark. This is to allow the handicappers to get a gauge on their ability before settling on a fair and reasonable handicap and also as a guide to runners fighting out the race finish. The wearing of the tags assists established runners to gauge their position in the field in a tight finish.
In the mid-seventies, the club introduced a Consistency Award. Runners accumulated points according to their finishing position. In 1978, the name changed to Aggregate Award and later in 1988 to Best Handicap Runner. After the 1996 season, this award was discontinued, perhaps because runners who won a race early in the season were disadvantaged due to being rehandicapped for their success.
In 2006, the Committee decided to send out Christmas cards to members. Kevin McNulty has designed a colourful, attractive card each year. The following year’s race calendar is usually printed on the back of the cards.
Island Hi Jinx
Each year for ages, the annual King Island race has been conducted early in March. The main race is a handicap across the island on the Sunday but on the Saturday evening after a few drinks, the annual nudie run takes place. Our club was well represented one year when the wives of a club president, a club handicapper and a life member participated. This, of course, is unsubstantiated because what happens on the island stays on the island.
During their time on the Committee, both Paul Ogilvie and Graeme Watkins suggested the GCCC try out a concept called Bonus Bucks. Following a letter from Graeme outlining Bonus Bucks in 2014, the club introduced the concept as Magic Money. Six runners who finish close together but well out of the placings are chosen to race in the next handicap race for a cash prize.
For many years, the Drysdale run was a two lap course. An environmental officer from the City of Greater Geelong realised in 2015 that we were running beside a lake where some threatened and endangered species of ducks lived. So he declared our presence, and probably our heavy breathing, would mean banishment unless an alternative course was devised. So now we run a challenging three lap course devised by Stuart Crossfield and Geoff Clark.
Age Graded Scale
In 2014, at the suggestion of Jeff Walker, the club applied the age graded scale to the results of the 10 km sealed race at the clubrooms. That year, 20% of the finishers attained an Australian standard of 80% which confirmed the quality of our older members in particular. Walker donated a perpetual shield known as the Rory Wilson Age Graded 10 km for the winner.
For many years, up to six barbeques were held after races throughout the season. As previously mentioned, these races began later at 11 a.m. In those days there was little sport on television to rush home to watch. Consequently, runners and their families sometimes stayed on for hours. As life became more hectic and booze buses were introduced as well as all races starting at 9 a.m., most people left after a sausage or two as soon as the presentations were over. Recently, the only barbeque is at the Eliminator where the AGM is held along with some races and lollies for the kids.
In the nineties, the club started having morning tea for the races at the clubrooms with buns purchased from Pakington Bakery. From around 2005, these morning teas were also held at other venues where power was available for an urn. From 2011 onwards, morning teas were held at Wurdiboluc and the You Yangs with members asked to bring a thermos of boiling water to complement the slices or scones.. In 2015, the Committee endorsed Loretta McGrath’s suggestion that fresh fruit be also available so consequently the bun order was halved.
Trivia nights were introduced in 2000. They were held in the clubrooms. Graeme Watkins was expert in making these interesting and great fun. However the numbers gradually dropped off and in 2005 they were shelved. There were numerous enquiries from members resulting in their reinstatement in 2007. Julie Elkin took over as quizmaster in 2014 and 2015 when Graeme was unavailable and again took the reins with Paul Austin when Watto retired from Trivia in 2022.
For many years, night outs to patronise sponsors’ venues were organised. This lasted for about twenty years until the numbers attending began to decrease markedly. Consequently, these nights were gradually phased out. Recently, the evening at the Palace of the Orient has been revived with our karaoke efforts again a highlight. In the past few years, the club had made a concerted effort to patronise the race sponsor’s business, particularly food and coffee establishments, straight after the race presentation.
Vin Gasper made a resolution at the end of 1996 to run every day. His stint only ended after he required a skin graft following the removal of a melanoma in October, 2018. In total, Vin ran consecutively on seven thousand, nine hundred and forty-seven days.
Too Late Dale
In 2017, Dale Jennings suggested a special effort be made for the club’s upcoming 1000th race. Unfortunately for Dale, the 1000th had already been run two years earlier when Luke Ryan won the fourth race at Deakin. Incidentally, David Mawson won the club’s 500th race when he scored in the Lara 10 mile event.
The Virtual Season of 2020
Once the government’s COVID 19 restrictions ended any hope of the 2020 season starting on time, the Committee decided to run a virtual season using the set calendar until restrictions were lifted. Unfortunately, the restrictions didn’t ease enough to have any real races so the virtual season ran all the way through to the Eliminator. Treasurer Jeanette Morton did a magnificent job in ensuring the virtual season was a huge success. As well as handicapping the runners and applying the usual mandatory lifts, Jeanette encouraged runners to rate the wind conditions and the terrain with deductions off their times when competing under difficult conditions. A consistency award was held as well as a spot prize draw for those who did at least ten of the virtual races. At the end of the season, Jeanette was fittingly awarded best clubperson.
More Covid Interruptions
Season 2021 was plagued by lockdowns, resulting in nine races being abandoned. The Eliminator was not held until November after a seven week hiatus and was combined with the presentation of the season’s awards. Fortunately, the Sealed Series was not impacted.
Alone Together We Run… By No. 697
Each one of us as one but together we run
A place a race each week we gather on Sunday mornings from April to September
Each race the feelings of excitement, eagerness and anticipation always seem to stir inside no matter how long you have been participating
The process begins…. warm up, fidget, chat, fidget, stretch, is that possible muscle tension, is there time for one last toilet stop destination
Too late the clock shows my time to go is now
Five hundred metres in, looking good, only 95000 metres to go
Then suddenly you can’t breathe someone has stolen your air, not satisfied with just their own, you just can’t trust your fellow club members
Eventually your feet and breathing find some sort of rhythm unfortunately with me it is a bit like my ballroom dancing rhythm which my teacher always said was sadly lacking [the other left foot was often mentioned]
On, on, on, on
Red markers flash by, well flash in my case does not apply and at times I swear they even seem to disappear as occasionally I have been known to make my own special way to finishing
Suddenly club members whose start times was a quarter of a century after mine gather in herds behind me and then with ponding steps pass me by
Then…ever so faintly wafting across the distance a scent which is worth far more than Coco as in Chanel, the scent of “finish line”
Just keep on moving forward is all I have to do if only the horizon would just stop reversing
Then you can actually see it, the finish line and the twinkling of the decimal points from our timing clocks are real
And you know with all your heart that yes you will finish
You hear the beep as you cross the line, you are done, spent and it is with pride you see your time recorded
It is with pleasure and knowing that the race in every detail is discussed with each moment throughout becoming grander and grander than the likes of a world renowned canyon
The sharing of running is what makes it special
Don’t you just love it, the passion and joy of the runs you share with your beautiful GCCC members.
Rory Runs His Rivals Ragged by Mike McAvoy
On an overcast morning with rain in the air,
And a road that was wet, runners had to take care.
Twelve months had elapsed since our Tony was King
And these pages his moment of glory did sing;
“Can he do it again?” we heard the dogs bark,
27.10 is one hell of a mark.
McCartney was confident as all true champs are,
He set off like a greyhound; steam rose from the tar.
But another was equally sure of himself,
And wanted to see the King’s Cup on his shelf.
Thirteen years had gone by since he last had a win;
We could see why his patience was growing a bit thin.
20 minutes 40 was his mark on the day.
A pretty tough task for a Vet, did you say?
But Rory undaunted by doubt or by dread
Just gave his best to the job up ahead.
He flew by frontmarkers oblivious to pain,
And those from behind tried to catch him in vain.
Many were his rivals who aspired to win this race;
Determined Collen Stephens set a pretty torrid pace.
Master Maurice Marshall had been knocking on the door,
And when the course gets really tough, Geoff Ryan you can’t ignore.
Geoff Temple had a handicap that gave him half a chance,
And Dr. Karen Dorris led the field a merry dance.
Janet Michael hit the front before the final test;
Walker, Clark and Morrison did their level best.
Neil Macdonald gave his all as he pulled frontmarkers in;
He told himself along the way, “This race I want to win.”
There was a fleeting moment when he thought, “Today’s the day,”
But Wandana Wonder Wilson soon blew his dreams away.
Rory ran his rivals ragged as he made his final dash
To become the proud new owner of the club’s most wanted sash.
Tom Larkins was eight times club champion. He trained hard and played hard. Tom often talked about a comeback but he would have found it hard to accept a decline in performance from his stellar days. Tom was not averse to hanging it on other members but in his younger days he could always run the run as well as talk the talk. He was part of a training group known as the Animals which included Graeme Watkins, George Thomas, Andy Smith and Ken Harris. Tom’s career ended on 200 runs.
Colin Silcock later known as Colin Silcock-Delaney was the first member to clock up 200 runs. A taxi driver, Colin worked late Saturday nights, so was often late to races in the early days of the club. He won the club’s very first race, also the first club marathon when his crew fed him honey. Colin lived in an orphanage as a child and was in his sixties when he discovered his family roots. His dad had been an accomplished athlete and cyclist. In 1973, Colin arranged the prizes for a charity club race which donated the race proceeds to the St Augustine’s Orphanage, where Colin was raised. Colin has competed at numerous World Masters Athletics Championships over the past forty years. At Colin’s 80th birthday celebration at the Batesford Hotel, true to form, Colin arrived nearly two hours late. Colin’s run tally was 303 runs.
Banker Ian Leeder was club champion for the club’s first six years. He later served as club handicapper for 17 years and became a life member. He became a club sponsor when he started a stamp/coin business. Ian had run a 2:26 marathon on gravel tracks, unlike the cushy courses used today. Ian completed 292 club runs.
Colleen Stephens has travelled from Colac for 473 runs. She won the Melbourne Marathon in 1989 as a forty year old and was also second on three occasions. For 12 consecutive years, she broke 3 hours in that race. Colleen was Open Club Champion for 11 years as well as Masters Champion for six years. Colleen represented Geelong in marathons in Japan and sponsored the Best Clubperson award for many years. Colleen won the award herself in 1996 not long before she began her sponsorship.
Ron Dunstan was only jockey size but he could run for hours. His club performances improved as the distance increased and he won the 1980 club marathon. He was often seen training on the streets to the north of Geelong. Ron completed 204 club races.
Lance Prior had a short stint of 32 races with the club. He had previously been disqualified from football for life for mistreating an opponent. Lance claimed his worldly wealth was in his sparkling gold teeth. He worked as a bouncer and when he inadvertently took a short cut in an Eastern Park race, the committee at the time, after thoughtful deliberation, dismissed the protest of the runner up and upheld Lance’s win. Lance also worked as a cleaner. One of his clients was Stan Wootton, who ran a trophy and engraving business and, by happenstance, wound up with a tall, but rejected, handsome soccer style trophy which he discounted to Lance, who presented it to the club as a perpetual trophy.
Enter Peter Dickson, noted more for speed over short courses than long distances, who proudly carried the southern European style trophy, nearly a metre tall, home to wife Ann and installed it in pride of place in the entrance hall. Ann, a dedicated home decorator, gradually moved it along, finally to a quiet corner of the garage. Ann was quick to remind Peter, when the next Landy Field race came around, that the Club needed it back. Peter carried it back to Landy Field and then, never daunted, pulled off a stunning double, loaded the trophy back into the back of the family Volvo. Fortunately, Ann’s comments are not recorded. The trophy is now awarded to the Eliminator winner.
Gordon Rylance often ran to the race venue from his home in Corio. At Steiglitz in 1972, he gave starter/judge Jack Craven (father of John, Denis and Brian) a scare when he continued past the turn in to the finish. Gordon yelled to Jack that he had not gone to the out-and-back turn around point so, to compensate, he was doing an extra kilometre at the end. His tally was 189 club races.
Heather McIntosh ran only eleven races after joining in 1996 but spent the next 16 seasons serving the club in numerous ways. She assisted husband Graham with the important task of applying for race permits. She was recorder of the finishers for many years even after the timing chips were introduced. Heather was on the handicapping panel for two years. She also acted as the tail end rider for two seasons. Her services were recognised by being best Clubperson in 2006 and receiving a Merit Award in 2008.
500 Run Club
To date, fifteen runners have passed the 500 run milestone. In order of reaching the milestone, they are listed below.
Kel Thompson was always a frontmarker. He was part of many winning teams in the teams race. He seemed to grow a leg over the shorter distances. In his latter years with the club, Kel often ran without a warm up. Some wags suggested if Kel wanted a good warm up he turned the van heater up a notch or two. Hip replacements ended his career.
Jeff Walker has been club secretary since 2003. He was Veteran, Masters, Legends and SuoerVets champion in his early years in each of those categories. For many years, Jeff was a highly regarded Aussie Rules boundary umpire. Often leg weary on Sunday morning after a close Saturday match, Jeff ‘grew an extra leg’ when he could manage a Saturday off. Jeff has won more than fifteen races and was three times voted the club’s Most Impressive runner. He is a Life Member and was Best Clubperson in 2009 and 2021.
Dale Jennings, a founding member of the club, was known for being able to set himself for specific races. He is a bowel cancer survivor and together with Ian Holliday is involved in fund raising for the Relay For Life. Dale was the inaugural Supervets champion in 2013 and again in 2015 . He has been awarded Most Impressive Runner twice. Dale has won twenty-three club races and is a Life Member. In 2017, he became the second octogenarian to run with the club. A week after turning eighty, he won his 22nd club event.
Vin Gasper, a Committee member for seven years and Race Committee member for 5 seasons, has always done well in longer club races. He was a publicity officer for many years, contributing reviews to the Tuesday edition and previews for the Friday edition of the now discontinued Geelong News. In addition, he had two stints as handicapper. His services to the club were rewarded with Life Membership in 2001. At the end of 1986, Vin made a resolution to run every day. Vin’s wife, Jane, has been starter in recent years and was named Best Clubperson in 2018. Vin now has won the most club races with 24 victories.
Tom Blood was club secretary for five years. He also served a further 11 years on the Committee. He has been part of the Half Marathon committee since 1995. Tom has also represented the GCCC on the Hall Committee for the past twenty years. As mentioned elsewhere, Tom was the driver behind the growth of the Dawn Buster. Tom is a Life Member who has been plagued by injuries in the past ten years resulting in many DNFs and forcing him into retirement.
Ian Holliday has principally been a frontmarker. He was club Treasurer for two years as well as Vice President for two years in the eighties. Ian organises Holliday’s Heroes which runs informal free triathlons over summer as well as putting a team in Geelong Relay For Life each March. For several years Holliday’s Heroes have contributed $5000-plus, as runners remember club members who have succumbed to cancer (Gary Stratton, Annette Pollock, Wendy Sizeland, Patsy Salathiel, Neville Crosby, Ron Evans, Lloyd Cotton) and those who have suffered and survived.
Ken Walker joined the club in 1981 He was club president from 2008 till 2015, the longest stint in that job. He has been part of the Half Marathon Committee since 1998. He won the club’s Open championship twice and the Veterans and Masters championships eight times each. Ken has won the Legends championship five times. He has been one of the club’s most consistent runners, winning the Most Impressive runner three times. A life member, Ken saved the club a small fortune by fitting out the van. He also spent numerous days assisting the builder of the van shed at the Canoe Club.
Dave Elward joined the club with his wife, Penny.in 1984. He has won one Veterans, five Masters, three Legends and two Supervets championships. His dedicated attitude has seen him blossom as he has grown older. He has won the Rory Wilson age graded shield twice and has been named Most Impressive three times.
Mike McAvoy was an outstanding runner for his age. He joined the club in his fifties in 1986 and some of his times in various age groupings have never been bettered, even by Ken Walker and Dave Elward. Mike was on the Committee for 9 years, the Sponsorship Committee for 7 years and the Race Committee for 6 years. He towed the caravan to race venues for many years. In 1998, he was named Best Clubperson. His commitment was recognised with life membership in 2006. In 2014, he became the first octogenarian to compete in club events.
Horacio Pereira joined the club in 1985. He contracted pancreatic cancer and leukaemia in 2011 and there seemed little chance of him reaching such a prestigious milestone. He sponsored the club for two years whilst he had a cafe in Drysdale.
Pattie Galvin joined the club in 1984. She was Club Champion in 2001 and won the Veterans Championship five times, the Masters Championship six times and the Legends championships twice. In latter years, she became famous for her knee bandages, worn for support. Pattie had a liking for the longer distances winning both the Lara 10 miler and the sealed 15 km twice. She had one year on the Committee in the nineties. She won her 500th race.
Marie Blood joined the club in 1983. She spent one year on the Committee and was a great backstop to husband Tom when he was organising the Dawn Buster. For much of her career, Marie went off Go and had to try to hold the remainder of the field at bay. At age 74, Marie ventured to Masters at Landy Field and set over 20 age records. In 2022, she became the club’s first female octogenarian competitor.
Geoff Clark was on the Committee for 8 years with 3 years as President, 2 as Vice President and one as Treasurer. He was also the co-ordinator of the Half Marathon Committee for fifteen years. The kilometre markings along the river paths are painted annually by Geoff. He also orders the sashes for all our club events. Geoff was a backmarker for much of his career. He has assembled a list of every known club member and has a stack of the ill-fated publication, Running Shorts, in his garage. Geoff was twice Best Clubperson. His wife, Chris, was a timekeeper and recorder for a number of years.
John Caulfied joined the club in 1991.He spent several years on both the Committee and the sponsorship sub-committee. A middlemarker in his early years, John defied his doctor’s orders to cease tennis and running and continued for many years as a frontmarker with a number of surprise victories.
Graeme Watkins had 8 years on the Committee, including three as President and two as Assistant Secretary. He has been on the Race Committee since 2002. He was MC extraordinaire at the club Trivia Nights for a number of years. He ran in a number of Otway Classics and has been a backmarker throughout his career. Graeme has coached many prominent athletes, both senior and junior over the past twenty years. He was made a GCCC life member in 2008. Serious injuries from 2010 onwards saw Graeme’s progress to 500 runs become an endless struggle.
Other Life Members- Not previously featured
Graeme Vincent was the inaugural club Secretary, a position he occupied for three of the first four years of the club’s existence until he was elected President in 1975. His reign as President also took in 1976. Graeme was mainly a middlemarker who ran 207 races. He was Best Clubperson in 1974
Mick Stevens was one of the original members of the club. He was President for fours years in two separate stints during his 14 years on the Committee. Mick was a tireless worker for the club and was a very consistent performer from back marks in his 267 races. He was best clubperson three consecutive years. His wife, Heather, was a timekeeper for a number of seasons.
Max Fry was one of only two runners to win three handicap races in the one year, a feat he achieved in 1978. He was a club sponsor. During his seven years on the Committee, Max was Senior Vice-President on three occasions. He was also part of the handicapping panel for three seasons. Max graduated to being a backmarker after his 1978 season. He ran 105 club races.
Peter Doyle was club President in his second year on the Committee. He was mainly a frontmarker and when injury curtailed his running after 302 races, he was a race steward for the next 8 seasons where he worked closely with Peter Bliss and Alan Mitchell.
John Sawers- As well as serving for 15 years on the Committee between 1979 and 2005, John had a continuous stint of 15 years on the Half Marathon Committee. His work van was often used for transporting larger equipment on the Half Marathon day. John’s running career was unfortunately cut short by a medical condition as he was in sight of 500 club runs. His wife, Karen, was a timekeeper until the children came along.
Gary Stratton spent 8 years on the Committee, six of which he was a Vice President. Gary began as a frontmarker but through some intense training graduated to being a middlemarker. Cancer claimed Gary before he could add to his 319 runs. His wife, Sue, was the female run tally pacesetter for many years with 414 runs until her hips gave out.
Rory Wilson was the club handicapper for 17 years from 1983 till 1999. He was also a Committee member for four years. His 360 race career was cut short by hip replacements. He competed in a number of Otway Classics where he ran himself to a standstill on many occasions. On one occasion captured on a TV camera, an opposition team management assisted Rory to his feet at the end of a stage only to be abused by Rory’s team manager. Rory’s wife, Pauline, ran 241 races. Unfortunately in 2014, Rory was left a paraplegic after colliding with a parked van whilst cycling with a group through Portarlington.
Geoff Ryan was on the Committee for seven years which included four years as Vice President and three years as Treasurer. He has been a backmarker since joining the club. Geoff captained Great Otway Classic teams, twice obtaining the ultimate spoils. He was Best Clubperson in 1991. Beset by injury since 2012, Geoff has continued as a course director.
Peter Bliss ran 75 races After one year on the Committee, Peter succumbed to injury. He began marshalling in 1988, a task he undertook for 21 seasons. He was also a member of the Disputes Panel for ten years. Along with Peter Doyle and Alan Mitchell, he formed a formidable team.
Ray Wilks had three years on the Committee including stints as Vice President and Assistant Secretary and 11 years on the Half Marathon Committee. For all of those, Ray marked the Half course, beginning well before the sun had surfaced. He was known for making the course centimetre perfect and using every possible flag and witch’s hat. He ran 243 races, mainly as a backmarker.
Patsy Salathiel was on the Committee for seven years, five of them as Assistant Secretary. She was a frontmarker, running off Go in a number of her 193 races. Patsy was heavily involved in the organisation of Presentation Nights. When injury curtailed her running, Patsy became timekeeper until her passing.
Graham McIntosh spent 17 years on the Committee, four of which were as Vice President. He was also on the Race Committee for 10 years. As part of the Race Committee, Graham assisted by wife Heather had the onerous task of obtaining the race permits from the council and other statuary bodies. He was principally a backmaker for most of his career. Graham towed the club caravan for numerous years and along with Heather, was usually first to arrive and last to leave. He was course director for many of the courses for umpteen years and was named best clubperson twice. Graham has run 338 club races.
Fred Barnett was a frontmarker for many years and got lost on a number of occasions. For her nine years on the Sponsorship Committee which included four years in the co-ordinator position and eleven years on the Committee, Fred was awarded life membership in 2009. She also spent ten years on the race book sub-committee. Fred was Best Clubperson in 2008.
Stuart Crossfield spent 9 years on the Committee, seven of which saw him Vice President. He was also a member of the Race Committee for 8 years. He was part of the Half Marathon Committee for 5 years. Stuart was very innovative, introducing and maintaining the timing mats and chips which made the club more efficient at a time when volunteers to manually record the results became scarce. Stuart was Best Clubperson in 2005.
Kevin McNulty has been on the Half Marathon Committee since 2002 and has been the race co-ordinator since 2009. In his time as co-ordinator, the race’s profile and participation rate have soared. He has been on the Committee since 2010 rising to vice president in 2013. He joined the Race Committee in 2014. Kevin has designed the graphics for the handbook, the van and the annual Christmas cards. He was awarded Best Clubperson for 2006. In 2021, Kevin became club President.
Paul Austin has been on the Committee since 2008. After one year, he became vice-president and was then President from 2016 till 2020. . He joined the Sponsorship committee in 2009 and took over the role of co-ordinator in 2012. Paul joined the Race committee in 2010. Arguably Paul’s biggest contribution has been the comprehensive Risk Management Manual that is so important when seeking race permits. He has chaired the Risk Management sub-committee since its inception. Paul has successfully applied for a number of grants. In 2015, he took over from Kim Henderson as race director of the Dawn Buster. Paul was also heavily involved with overseeing the building of the Canoe Club shed. Paul was Best Clubperson in 2012 and earned a Merit Award in 2014.
Phil Shay was one of the club’s handicappers for ten seasons from 2008. He was on the Committee from 2009 till 2014. He has been part of the Risk Management Committee since 2010. He was also on the Race Committee for eight years including four as co-ordinator. He devised the interesting courses at Deakin, Inverleigh and Torquay. His business has been a club sponsor since 2004. Together with wife Cate, he sent the weekly email updates to members in 2013 and 2014. They were awarded joint Best Clubpersons in 2010.
Tony McRae was one of the club’s handicappers for ten seasons from 2008. His computer skills have been invaluable. He has been the website manager since 2010 and a facebook facilitator since 2013. On race days, he allocated timing chips to those who have misplaced theirs. With the aid of the computer, he keeps the club statistics updated as well as calculating results for the championship, the sealed series and the age graded shield. He was named Best Clubperson in 2013.
Crichton Collins was club treasurer for a record nine years which is the longest stint by anyone serving in that demanding position. He also served on the Half Marathon committee for seven years. Crichton drove the van to races for four years and also sourced the De Grandi tent for the Half Marathon for years. As the owner of Pakington Bakery, he was a club sponsor for 15 years.
Merit Award Winners not previously featured
Neville Crosby had a very dry sense of humour. He was on the Committee for three seasons. He served on the Half Marathon Committee from its introduction till his death in 2005. Neville negotiated much of the Half sponsorship in the early years of the event.
Geoff McDonald was on the Committee for six years including four as Secretary. He played a big part in changing the constitution to comply with the Incorporations Act. Geoff was a handicapper for six years. He and his wife, Mary, have been actively involved with the Athletics Geelong for numerous years and have organised the Twilight Trot held in the Eastern Gardens on Monday evenings throughout daylight saving. They still help out on the barbeque at the Geelong Half. Geoff was awarded Best Clubperson in 2001.
Brian Woods was starter/timekeeper for six years. As well, he was always involved in the packing up of equipment post race. Brian was made Best Clubperson in 2003. He ran 307 races. He has also filled in on occasions when the current starter has been unavailable.
Tony Alsop has represented the club on the Barwon River Users’ Group since 1996, reporting the outcomes of that body’s meetings to the Committee. Since retiring from racing, he has been a reliable race marshal, rarely missing a race. Tony has also been on the Half Marathon committee since 2012. He was named Best Clubperson in 2014.
Sofie Van Gunsteren was an integral part of the Half Marathon committee from 2009 till 2017. She designed flyers and used other associated art work to enhance the event’s appearance. On a number of occasions she co-ordinated the stationing of marshals around the course. Sofie also prepared the Running Book from 2009 till 2017, using her expertise in graphics to provide a document which was the envy of many other sporting clubs. The 2016 edition was produced whilst she was overseas.
Jeanette Austin spent eight years on the Committee from 2009. She has been on the Half Marathon Committee for 9 years where she has liaised with the council for placement of race signs as well as organising the equipment for drink stations. She has sent eight years as the uniform co-ordinator as well as seven years as the morning tea organiser. She was the first marathon club champion when it changed to an age graded award.
John Morton spent four years on the Committee and six years on the Half Marathon Committee where he emailed entrants as well as marking part of the course. He liaised with Tomato Timing and Register Now. Each year he provided a detailed analysis of entrants’ locations and their feedback. He has remeasured a number of our courses. In addition, he has brought the club van to race venues for the past three seasons, setting up well before anyone else arrives.
Xavier Shay-When handicappers, Tony McRae and Phil Shay were looking for a computerised handicapping system in 2014 to simplify their workload, Xavier together with his brother Jared devised a handicapping system for the club. Since then, Xavier has modified parts of the system and written additional programs. Despite living in the United States, Xavier has been able to solve glitches and queries when contacted by stressed handicappers on race mornings.
Dan Wright has been the chief handicapper since 2018. He has been open to program modifications. On the odd occasion that a malfunction has meant no results were readily available, Dan worked feverishly contacting competitors to come up with a full set of times and placings. Dan’s assistance when concreting the Canoe Club shed floor was invaluable. He has also attended to its spouts.
Rob Dorris together with one of his children, either Cameron or Alex, has been the tail end rider since 2014. In addition, he is one of the main workers putting the equipment back in the van after the race finishes.
Jeanette Morton was club treasurer for four seasons. She has also spent a number of years on the Sponsorship, Half Marathon and Dawnbuster sub-committees. Jeanette is the Presentation Night ticket co-ordinator and was the organiser of the 2020 virtual season as mentioned elsewhere.
Club Members on the Big Stage
Craig Mottram ran in four Olympics after a season with the GCCC as a youngster. In 2016, he failed to qualify for a fifth Olympics in the marathon. He won bronze at the World Championships in the 5 000 metres in 2005.
Lee Troop ran in three Olympics after having a season with the GCCC in his early years. It was Lee’s ambition for Geelong to have an iconic fun run. After years of struggling with bureaucracy, the first Run Geelong took place in 2009. Lee was very disappointed to be pushed aside the following year by Cotton On.
Cliff Young surprised everyone by winning the 1983 Sydney to Melbourne race. He had run with our club well before that, travelling to Geelong on Sunday mornings with a small Colac group who were partial to a cooling ale or two after a punishing race. Cliff, not generally a drinker, would take his leave and trot off down the highway. If the Colac lads lingered, it was not uncommon for them to pick up Cliff, shuffling happily along, around Winchelsea. Cliff became a national hero overnight during the famous 1983 race but Channel 10 never mentioned his GCCC connection because it would have detracted the mystique of a farmer emerging from the bush to race seasoned long distance champions. Cliff became a celebrity, easily recognised by his shuffle style of running and married Mary whom he met at the club. Cliff was immortalised by the making of a film about his win.
John Craven was the founding force and inaugural club president. He was an average performer until he made a dedicated effort to improve leading into 1977-78, when John won 12 races, including seven in succession, mostly on the pro race summer circuit. On retirement from running, Craven became a race promoter, particularly of cycling events, including the Melbourne to Warrnambool and the Sun Tour. He introduced athletes to the Great Otway Classic and organised the first five Great Ocean Road Marathons.
Mark Tucker represented his country admirably in distance events after having a couple of GCCC seasons in his teens.
Louis Rowan represented Australia in the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006 but his preparation was hampered by injury. He has been a club sponsor since 2011.
Rowan Walker was club champion in 1997 before employment meant he left the area. He came into prominence when he won the Melbourne Marathon in 2007. When he ran third in the same race in 2010, he was the first Aussie and became Australian Marathon Champion. In 2011, he won the Canberra Marathon.
Loretta McGrath won the 2003 Melbourne Marathon in only her second year of serious running. She has been on the Committee since 2014.
Greg Stewart covered himself in glory internationally in Triathlon events, placing in the Hawaiin Ironman.
Joanne King became a junior world champion at 20, claiming the 1996 ITU Triathlon World Championship in Cleveland. Despite a knee injury which eventually cut short her career, Joanne won the senior ITU Triathlon World Championship in Switzerland in 1988. Her efforts led to her being inducted into Triathlon Australia’s Hall of Fame in 2019.
The McCartney Brothers, Brendan, Tony and Adrian McCartney joined in the eighties. Tony ran fastest times on a number of occasions. Brendan later rose to fame as an assistant coach in Geelong Football Club’s golden years up until 2011 and later as coach of the Western Bulldogs.
Chris Unthank was a steeplechaser who ran in two Olympics before joining the club in 2005 when he was awarded Best First Year Runner.
The Case Family- Geoff Case won a number of staircase races including the Empire State Building event. Later on his brother, Brian and Brian’s wife Sue also had considerable success. Not surprisingly, all three won the club’s King Of the Mountains title at Ceres.
Brenda Riley held Masters World Records for race walking over multiple distances. She also won the club’s unisex Legends championship twice beating her male counterparts.
Loney v Watkins
Professor Peter Loney, club president and later MLA, was involved as a manager in the 1988 Otway Classic. That season, very few Geelong athletes were selected and Loney was quoted in the Addy saying that Geelong lacked the role models of other areas such as Ballarat. Graeme Watkins placed a note on the club noticeboard disputing that theory. On seeing Watkins’ note, an upset Loney drove off before the race with the winner’s sash still in the boot of his car. Loney resigned as club president and Ian Muir stood in for the rest of the season. Members pondered how Prof. Loney dealt with the cut and thrust and mudslinging of politics.
Wilson v Coppock
At a rare race at Chanel College in 1989 or 1990, then club president Marcus Coppock accused handicapper Rory Wilson of cheating by cutting the corners on the rugged paddock course. Other runners had to intervene when the dispute threatened to escalate into violence.
Valenta v 626
Dennis Valenta was a very efficient treasurer who was physically threatened by a runner who turned up at his front door objecting to an artist’s impression of an athlete wearing his number – 626 – being on the front of the 1996 Running Book. Contrary to common belief, illness rather than this confrontation curtailed Dennis’s career.
Crosby v Peart
Almost weekly, Neville Crosby would criticise severely Kevin Sheedy’s coaching of the Essendon Football Club. One Sunday, Max Peart happened to be in earshot of Neville’s disparaging remarks. Unknown to us, Max was a passionate Don supporter and took great offence at Neville’s rant. Things were tense for a few seconds before cooler heads intervened.
Warrnambool v GCCC
Three weeks after a Warrnambool athlete, David Beaton, won the Anglesea Classic in 1974 defeating Olympian, Tony Benson, the Warrnambool runners entered the Steiglitz race. The handicaps were published in the Addy on the Thursday prior and to everyone’s surprise, Beaton had not received a penalty for his rich win.
Arriving on the morning of the race, the Warrnambool runners were incensed when they were told a mistake had been made and Beaton would be rehandicapped. John Craven and the Warrnambool boys engaged in a colourful verbal stoush. The rugged slopes of Steiglitz could well have been renamed Blue Hills. After 10 minutes of trading insults and threats of a walk off, the Warrnambool crew took their places in the field from the amended handicaps.
Paul Thompson v GCCC
Paul Thompson was looking to win a big race. In 1978, he kept asking people following the race in their vehicles if he was in the leading ten. At that time, top ten finishers were penalised. Thompson began finishing between eleventh and fifteenth regularly. At a sealed handicap at Horseshoe Bend Road, Thomson got involved in a battle with a son of one of the runners and forgot his plan. When he was announced the winner, his face turned grey and he cut a very forlorn figure. Thompson was entrusted to pick up the grog for the final race of the season that year. He didn’t turn up and was never seen at the club again. A mad and urgent rush ensued to see if the Bannockburn hotelier would provide some emergency supplies. Subsequently, the last race of the season was moved into Geelong where alcohol supplies were easier to source in an emergency.
Mike McAvoy v GCCC
Throughout 1998 and 1999, Mike McAvoy conducted an extensive letter writing campaign to both the handicappers and the Committee, expressing his belief of the unfairness of the handicapping system. He used a large amount of historical and statistical data to back up his argument. Mike claimed to win a club race he would have to set a world record for his age group but the Committee backed the handicappers’ judgement. In an unwise action at the Geelong Grammar race when we had the VCCL as visitors, Mike grabbed the microphone before presentation and began criticising the winners’ handicap. He was quickly relieved of the microphone whilst a number of our bewildered visitors looked on.