It was on the 19th September 98 when I got home and found my entry form for the Sri Chinmoy 24hr Race returned in the mail. No explanations or anything!
My wife and I had a quick discussion that night and we agreed that we had to put a 12 hour race on the same day for the runners. I made a couple of phone calls to Dot Browne, potential sponsors and runners. By the end of the night I had the confidence and the new race was born. At that stage I had visions of 12 runner sin the field.
The next few weeks was a blur as I brought the race together. SARRC helped with equipment, sponsors were more than generous with prizes and AURA helped with insurance. It was all starting to fall into place.
Entries from the runners were starting to trickle in. Yes a percentage of runners do leave their entries to the last minute.
I must mention two runners in particular at this stage. The first is Mark Fairhead. Mark introduced himself to me at the RAAF Base a couple of months ago. He had a mountaineering and rogaining background and wanted to do a 24 hour race as mental preparation for an Expedition to Nepal at the end of 98. Mark's aim for the 24 hour was survival and run 120km. Mark was more than happy to switch his attention to the 12 hour.
The other runner I must mention at this stage is a lady by the name of Christine Thiele. She came up to me at the Airport Fun run inquiring about the 12 hour race. Her previous experience was the Airport Fun Run! I wasn't sure of her age and I was doubtful if I should let her in the race.
Both runners were to play a very large part in the fortunes of the race.
It was a week before and we were up to sixteen, seventeen runners which I was more than happy with. In the last week that list grew to 21 with one runner appearing at the track the day before looking for the "Sri Chinmoy" group. He was soon entered.
Everything fell into place the day before and the race was set to go. Only problem - the weather forecast of 26 was amended to 32. Add five degrees for the surface temp - it was going to be hell on the cinders track.
The day of the race came around and my small but dedicated list of helpers had the race ready to go.
Ex-Westfield runner, Geoff Kirkman agreed to be the starter and at five to eight there were fifteen runners ready to go. It was already about 28 degrees and it was getting hot. The three favorites for the race were Peter Twartz, Alan Devine and John Twartz. This was Ultra Running though and anything can happen.
The gun went off and the runners were on their way. They all soon settled into a good rhythm and by the end of the first hour, Alan Devine had a one lap advantage over Kip Melham, Jerry Zukowski, Peter Twartz and John Twartz. It was going to be a close race.
For me at this stage the hard work was done. I was now bored and wanted to join the runners out in the middle of the track! It was going to be a long day.
By 11 o clock , Kip Melham from Sydney had hit the lead and had one lap break over Alan Devine and Peter Twartz from South Australia.
Most of the runners were starting to feel the effects of the heat. They were being closely monitored by Stephen Walsey who is a qualified Sports Trainer. Stephen knew that the runners were experienced, but he cajoled and pushed them when necessary into eating and drinking more. Stephen was a Godsend!
Merrilyn Cassidy was winning the Ladies Race with 21.6km. She had a four lap advantage over Susan Bardy who was enjoying the Classical music on her Walkman.
At the five hour mark, Kip Melham held a 2km lead over Peter Twartz with 54.4km under his belt. Alan Devine and John Twartz were sharing third spot. First timer, Mark Fairhead was running a sensible race in sixth spot and had just under 50km to his name.
2 O'clock came around and six runners were off in the Six-hour race. These included father and son combination of Stan and Pat McCartney, Ultra Journeyman - Peter Gray, ex SA 50km Walking Champ - David Bryson, Whyalla walker Ellen Zukowski and Ultra Newbie - Christine Thiele. It was going to be an interesting race.
At the seven hour mark, Kip Melham with 68.8km was grimly hanging onto his lead, but John Twartz was only a lap behind him. Peter Twartz and Mark Fairhead were only just behind them with 67.6km. Mark's crew were prepared for every contingency but it was a shock for them to see him closing in on the lead.
After the first hour of the Six hour race, Peter Gray had 10km up and a one lap lead on Christine Thiele who appeared to be having the time of her life.
By four o clock, John Twartz was in the lead with 76.4km, but Mark Fairhead was only a lap behind. Kip Melham and Max Carson were starting to struggle with the heat and injury and were starting to drop of the pace.
All of the other runners were playing the survival game and desperately hanging on for the bell. Andrew McComb was being consistent and looked like establishing some Over 65 Mens records. Kevin Mansell kept circling the track and was providing a great insight into the battle that was developing. Merrilyn Cassidy was keeping a slender lead in the women's race and Dean Brown was digging deep within himself to survive.
By the second hour of the Six hour race Christine Thiele and Peter Gray were on the same lap with 18.8km. People were finding it hard to believe that Christine's previous Race experience was the 10.6km Airport Fun run, thirteen days previously.
At the nine hour mark of the 12 hour, a new race leader had emerged. Mark Fairhead with 84.8km had a one lap lead over John Twartz. Mark's crew were now changing their focus to keeping him in front.
At the half way mark of the six hour race, Christine Thiele had run 28.4km and had a seven lap lead over Peter Gray. Racewalking Champ, David Bryson was a lap further back in third place.
By six o clock, Mark Fairhead had 94km to his name and was in the "Zone". He held a 2km lead over John Twartz, but by this stage he was climbing up Mt Everest. Alan Devine was keeping third place secure with 90km under his belt. Meanwhile in the six hour race, Christine Thiele had 38.4km up and a 5.2km lead over Peter Gray and David Bryson. People were still disbelieving about her previous race experience, but her talent and happiness was a pleasure to watch.
With an hour to go in the 12 hour it was heading for a thrilling finish. Mark Fairhead now had 102.4km up, but John Twartz was only three laps behind him. Stephen Spielberg could not write a better finish. Everyone that was crewing, lapscoring and watching were engrossed in the Battle!
Most of the other runners were still gamely hanging on for the bell with remarkably only three withdrawals during the whole race.
Christine Thiele had 48km to her name in the Six hour race and a 6.4km lead over Peter Gray. She would have to drop where she was on the track to lose at this stage of the race.
It was at this late part of the race, when a strange apparition appeared on the track. Glen Watson had changed into a full length fluorescent green running outfit. My daughter, Laura thought that Kermit the frog was having a go!
The last hour of the race was Ultra running at it's finest. John Twartz pegged the difference to a lap and with ten minutes to go, Mark and John were running together. Lesser men would have folded, but Mark Fairhead hung onto John Twartz and actually got in front again. The gun went off and Mark Fairhead had recorded a magnificent 111.108km to win an Ultra at his first attempt.
John Twartz finished with 110.639km and was glorious in coming second. Alan Devine broke the 100km barrier in the last hour and finished third.
Sixty eight year old, Andrew McComb finished with 90.883km and once they are ratified should have two or three AURA age records to his credit.
Merrilyn Cassidy ended up winning the women's race with 66.239km. She beat Susan Bardy who finished with 63.978km. Both did well considering the conditions.
Christine Thiele ended up blitzing the Six hour race with 57.469km. She ran further in the second half of the race than the first half. Peter Gray finished second with a consistent 50 plus kilometres and David Bryson was unlucky to finish just short of the magic 50 total.
Every runner and walker in both events have my utmost gratitude for their great efforts. Their determination and guts in the face of the heat made it a very special day. It was an honor to witness. Thankyou.
I must thank everyone else that was involved. This includes the sponsors who were: Statues Oz, Invogue Signs, Centra Motor Lodge, Renaissance Fitness Club, Joggers World, South Australian Road Runners Club and AURA. I must also thank my wife, Belinda, the lapscorers, crew members, Stephen Walsey, Dennis Larhos, Peter Slagter, Neil Coley and John Twartz. You all helped to make it a great day.
The presentations probably could have been done better, but I learn from experience. A suggestion to the Sri Chinmoy people when they put the 24 hour race back on next year. Please put the race on in the first weekend of October, by the third weekend it is too hot and unsafe. Secondly, the SA 12 hour track championship deserves to become an Annual event. Please can you give your 12 hour race on the day that title? Thanks to everyone that was involved.
12 HOUR RESULTS
- M.Fairhead 111.108km
- J. Twartz 110.639km
- A. Devine 101.627km
- G. Watson 92.85km
- A.McComb 90.883km
- S. Pascoe 87.2km
- P. Twartz 84.4km
- J. Zukowski 83.814km
- K. Mansell 79.043km
- K. Melham 76.4km
- D. Brown 71.727km
- M. Carson 66.8km
- M. Cassidy 66.259km
- S. Bardy 63.978km
- T. Naylor 60.4km
6 HOUR RESULTS
- C. Thiele 57.469km
- P. Gray 50.242km
- D. Bryson 48.839km
- E. Zukowski 34.614km
- P. McCartney 34.00km
- S McCartney 32,195km
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