Saturday 3 February 2018
"Birth of a Legend" 1985 Westfield Run
by Phil Essam
1985 - Birth of a Legend
The third Sydney to Melbourne Ultra Marathon commenced at Westfield Parramatta on Friday April 12th at 1030am. There was a distinguished field of 29 runners lined up for the start. This included three females, eight overseas runners and the two previous champions Geoff Molloy and Cliff Young.
The runners included:
Sonny Bulleen - 38 yr old Landscape gardener from NSW. He has run in the last two Westfield’s and is yet to finish one! He should be getting more experienced by now!
Siggy Bauer - 43 yr old Gardener from New Zealand. He has an impeccable Ultra breeding. He didn’t run last year because of a dispute with organisers. He is back in the race this year after obtaining last minute sponsorship with the help of Westfield. This figure is somewhere between $5000 and $10 000.
His sponsors are launching a new brand of Tasmanian Mineral Water and had poured $ 75 000 into the Campaign. Jeannie Little, Jon Michael Howson and Joe Bugner joined Bauer at the Media conference. This put off other runners and managers, "Since this promotion was indeed extraordinary and certainly against the conditions laid down for all others"
Siggy Bauer had the services of a couple of soldiers for the duration of the event. Soldiers were supposed to be available for all overseas runners, but Bauer was the only one to get an allocation.
Cliff Young - 63 yr old ex farmer from Colac who won the event in 83 and stopped the nation. Has he had too many diversions in the last year to make him a threat?
Geoff Molloy - 42 yr old Gardener from Victoria. Won the event in 84. He is a genuine runner and is trying to win this year in front of his home town crowd!
Daryl Brown - 24 yr old Hotel Manager from Adelaide. Youngest in the Race and is not expected to threaten the placings.
Eleanor Adams - 37 yr old housewife from England. She is the Champion female Ultra Runner in the world. She holds the women’s six day world record with 806 km in last year’s Colac Race.
Brian Bloomer - 44 yr old Marine Steward from Victoria. Works on the Abel Tasman between Melbourne and Devonport. Has done his training on board the deck of his ship and goes for a run when he steps ashore in Tasmania!
Dallas Earsman - 57 yr old Motor sales Rep from Tamworth and is a complete unknown! Could he be another Cliff Young?
Gerry Hart - 46 yr old Oil industry Storeman from Victoria. Has run 56 marathons, three
100 miler races and three 24 hr races.
Donna Hudson - 37 yr old American Waitress. Holds the women’s 100 mile record and will challenge Eleanor Adams to be first female across the line.
John Hughes - 52 yr old New Zealand Police Officer. He is the ex record holder of the route prior to 83. Slept too much last year which cost him the race!
Yiannis Kouros - 28 yr old Sports stadium Superviser from Greece. He is the favourite and should leave the field in the first day. The battle will be for second place. He won the Colac Six day Race last year. He only has a crew of three for his attempt whilst Molloy and Young have a crew of nine!
Crew Manager, Takis Skoulis said little to the Press before the Race, but what he said was to became very prophetic in years to come " There are no secrets - he doesn’t do yoga or anything. He just prepares by himself. He’s in his room now checking his shoes, his t-Shirt. Yiannis also gives much attention to his mental preparation. When he concentrates , he likes to be on his own. And he is very particular - everything is done according to plan. They run so much over here for training. Yiannis wants quality not quantity."
Wal McCrorie - 54 yr old Insurance Clerk from New South Wales. This is his third Westfieldl.. He finished third last year and should be a force again this year!
Bob McElwaine - 60 yr old Hotel Manager from New South Wales. He is another Westfield Veteran. He is the sentimental favourite due to the extreme courage that he showed last year.
Ken Murray - 48 yr old Cab driver from NSW. He finished third with 185km in a NSW 24 hr time trial.
Ashley Parcell - 29 yr old business Executive from Queensland . Ashley is the brother of Peter Parcell who holds the current Australian 24 hr record.
Ross Parker - 36 yr old Clerk from WA. He ran 532km last year and is sure to improve. Ex- champion footballer and cricket player with a great sporting pedigree.
Frank Pearson - 65 yr old Pensioner from NSW. He is older than Cliff Young and has ran 181km in a NSW 24 hr time trial.
Neil Petersen - 37 yr old Bricklayer from Queensland. He was in the lead for the first night last year.
Peter Pfister - 45 yr old Managing Director from Victoria. He has twenty marathons to his credit and has spent ten days on skiing Army manoeuvrers in Switzerland.
John Radich - 30 yr old Painter from America. He ran last year, but is no threat to the outcome of the race.
Tony Rafferty - 46 yr old Motivational Lecturer from Victoria. One of the great pioneers of the sport and will finish the Race comfortably.
Joe Record - 43 yr old painter from WA. Has had to quit within sight of the finish line on the last two occasions. Always a force to be reckoned with and has won the Classic Six Day event in France.
Margaret Smith - 49 yr old housewife from Melbourne. She holds four Aust Womens Ultra Records. Smith has only been running for the past ten years and has competed in twelve marathons. She could surprise Adams and Hudson for female honours.
When asked her motivation for entering the Westfield her reply was "I’m running in it because it’s a challenge - I believe Australian women are among the most courageous in the world. My real aim is just to finish. I’m competing against myself, to find my extension. You’re only as old as you feel you are. Man’s greatest limitation is himself."
Keith Swift - 43 yr old Printer from NSW. He has won four shorter ultras !
Dick Tout - 36 yr old Sports Store owner from NZ. He holds the Australasian 24 hr Record with 237km.
Eddie Westburgh - 54 yr old driver from Tasmania. He ran 54 miles on his 54th birthday.
Ramon Zabalo - 36 yr old policeman from France. He ran second to Kouros in last year’s Colac race and is currently second to Kouros in World Ranking’s. He will push Kouros to the limit. He doesn’t speak English and the night before the race found the organisers busy looking for a Translator and a crew from the pool of volunteers behind the scenes. Not a nice way for a Champion Sportsman to be treated!
The makeup of the field was varied and came from around Australia and the Globe. The race had become international since its inception in 1983.
This year the journey is going via Canberra. This will add another 85km to the Course, which will take the distance up to a 960km. "As always the crowds will flock to the finish line with ghoulish glee to watch waking nightmares become the stuff dreams are made of", is how Journalist, Penny Crisp described it in an article.
The crowds will only be on the road to see the little Aussie battler, Cliff Young. He won the event in 83 and battled for seventh in 84. Cliff’s record is safe due to the increase in distance.
One of the unfortunate sidelines of the Westfield was that some Journalists would do what they could to denigrate the race. One such journalist was Terry Vines who wrote an article entitled "Ultra Marathon an exercise in ultra nonsense".
Here are some quotes from his trivial piece of journalistic nonsense " and gave this event prestige it doesn’t deserve...in fact it’s an ultra nonsense...". Vines did finish the article in a positive fashion by saying "It is still an example of human endeavour"
Another of the journalists following the event was Michael Pirrie. He spoke to Cliff Young on the morning of the race. Cliff was mindful of the job in front of him and was preparing himself in a manner similar to a solider about to go in to battle. Cliff left Michael with this quote "For me the race is about personal pride and courage. It’s a last ditch stand to show them that I’ve still got what it takes. I feel I let the people down in the run last year and I just want to show the critics what I can do if I’m fit"
The Race started at Parramatta Shopping centre . It was pure showbiz hype. Radio DJ, Grant Goldman called out the countdown and Premier, Neville Wran fired the starters pistol. The runners were soon into the streets of Parramatta and heading towards Melbourne!
"All the runners were special people who made the Race what it was, but marathon performances are not limited to the runners in an event of such magnitude. Team managers support crews have to work beyond the call of duty to monitor their runners performance plus satisfy their every demand."
One such runner and team was Victorian, Brian Bloomer and his crew. There were some people in the Race that had large entourages and several show biz people in their crew(Siggy Bauer and Joe Bugner) but Bloomer had to treat the Race, as Europe on $10 a day.
Bloomer was determined to get to Sydney with a crew and this determination was only met with the same determination once the Race started.
"A mate of mine from work was an ex-interstate truck driver and he could drive for a week at a time. At a pinch him and I were going to do it on our own. He could go six days without a sleep and I reckoned I could run for six days. So I said ‘We’ll go in one car on our own mate’. We’d have done it. We said if we have to we’ll do it on our own."
Looking after Bloomer was Andy Salter. Salter was a friend of Bloomer’s from when he started with the Veteran’s five years ago. Salter was a former Professional Runner, trainer and masseur. He had 30yrs experience and cunning behind him.
One could portray Brian Bloomer as being the tough, tattooed Ex-Boxer , nicknamed "Punchy" as the hard nut of the race. He was more than that! He had little experience, but a lot of faith to compete with men and women who made running their livelihood. Before this Run he had done 13 Marathons and three Ultra Marathons. He wasn’t concerned about his inexperience and saw it as a plus because his legs had not been abused as much as other runners.
His first Ultra was the Victorian Marathon Club 50 mile Track Run in 1984. "At 38 miles I fell in a hole because I’d had nothing to eat for about ten hours. I knew nothing about it whatsoever. The funny thing with the long distance runs is that it is very hard to find information. I couldn’t find anything up to that stage because I didn’t know anybody really. It took me nearly two hours to run the last twelve miles. Lucky I had such a big lead that I hung on for second."
Brian Bloomer wanted to run the Westfield in the past two years, but put it off for a couple of reasons. "This year I definitely planned on doing it, and all my training through the year had been geared towards it. With that in mind I went down to help at the Colac 1000 and to observe the other runners." It did not put him off and he was able to see exactly what was required to compete with the other runners!
Even so, Bloomer’s preparation was not ideal. He lost several months of training towards the end of 84 and the three weeks before the race was completely lost. He had to concentrate on putting a crew together and finding money for the day to day expenses. "At the end of January I started training for it again."
Apart from the crew and money problems there was still no certainty of Bloomer getting a start in the 85 Race. It wasn’t till his victory in the VMC 150km track run in March and the insistence of 84 winner Geoff Molloy that Bloomer got accepted. That is when the training went out of the window. He had to run around and organise crew and
sponsors. He was lucky enough that the Veterans at Springvale helped him with $450, the people at East Devonport raised $2000, the Publican at "The Laurel" hotel in Flemington kicked in $200 and Laser Shoes helped him out.
Kouros led the field in the first few metres. He was never challenged for the rest of the race. The distance between himself and the other competitors widened by every step. "There was an initial feeling of doubt that this great Greek runner could And would maintain the fast early pace with which he began. I could remember only too well the fiasco of the supposedly great Indian Tirtha Kumar Phani who came to Australia last year with an unbelievable string of long distance achievements accredited to by the Indian Government. Phani fell by the wayside within less than 48 hours, and has ever since been irreverently if humorously referred to as "Phoney" by many of the ultramarathoning fraternity".
At the 70km mark on the first day, Yiannis Kouros had a 7km lead over second place, Siggy Bauer. Geoff Molloy was third and Ashley Parcell forth. The crowds had only come to see one person though and it was Cliff Young, who was in fifth place.
Leading the women’ race was Margaret Smith. She was 1km ahead of Eleanor Adams.
The only casualty by the end of the first day was Niel Petersen. The 37 year old had to withdraw at 4pm with suspected internal bleeding in his legs. He neglected to say that he had fallen from a 12 metre building a couple of days before the start of the race.
The next casualty looked like being Keith Swift from NSW. He has a sciatica problem which was improving after treatment.
Two people failed to start the race. They were George Perdon and Dick Tout. Tout was refused permission from the New Zealand Amateur Athletic Association and Perdon had a stress fracture.
From the start of the race, communication was a real problem. Mike Agostini described the problem in an article written after the event as "With communication essentially non-existent and recording of times, places and progress thus all but impossible with any degree of veracity, there was a measure of chaos as Kouros moved further and further ahead."
At the start of the second day, Yiannis Kouros had a 45km lead over his nearest rival. At the same time though his back up crew were fighting and arguing. Relatives from Sydney and Melbourne are on the crew and the traditional inter city rivalries are surfacing. Kouros was averaging 13kph which was five kph more an hour than last year’s winner, Geoff Molloy.
The overall places at 8am:
Yiannis Kouros (Greece) 215km.
Siggy Bauer (New Zealand) 170.2km.
Brian Bloomer (Victoria) 165.3km
Geoff Molloy (Victoria) 159.4km.
Joe Record (WA) 158.5km.
Eddie Westburgh (Tas) 157.6km.
Ramon Zabalo (France) 156.7km.
Ross Parker (WA) 153.8km.
Margaret Smith (Victoria) 152.5km.
Cliff Young (Victoria) 151.1km.
Peter Pfister (Victoria) 150.0km
Tony Rafferty (Vic) 137km
John Radich (USA) 137km
Eleanor Adams (Eng) 135km
Wal McCrorie (NSW) 134.15km
Ken Murray (NSW) 132km
Daryl Brown (SA) 127km
Donna Hudson (USA) 121km
Howard Ross (Vic) 120km
Keith Swift (vic) 115.2km
Sonny Bulleen (NSW) 109.21km
Kouros kept going for the first twenty four hours without any sleep and covered 260km. This was incredible when you consider that his own 24-hr track record was 284km covered in New York five months previously. "It was obvious that unless something went drastically wrong, and suddenly, this would be two races in one; the first , Kouros versus himself, seeing just what he could do on these roads which were something quite novel for him, most of his best running having been done on tracks away from traffic and other hazards; the second between the rest of the runners, who would soon discover that no matter what they may have felt about their own talents and capabilities, there is only really one outstanding ultramarathoner in the world at present".
Brian Bloomer was convinced prior to the run that he could give Kouros a run for his money if he got the required time to train on the mountains and the road. Bloomer also lost a lot of time due to shoe problems during the race. His Laser Shoes were good during the day, but during the night he was getting gravel in them and it was causing him to stop. As he said though "I had to stick with the sponsor"
Bloomer’s crew chief, Andy Salter put down a lot of the problems on the road to inexperience "An inexperienced crew also cost us plenty. What we learnt on this trip will stand Brian in good stead for the next one. No way known will I stand back and see the same mistakes made again."
The plans that Bloomer had made for the race, only took Kouros into account. "I
believed I could run 30 hours non stop but I didn’t know how it would effect me at the start of the race, whether I would fall in a hole or not. So I said to Andy that it would be better if we could run for five or six hours at a pretty fair pace then take an hours break. The first two days were insurance running. I expected Yiannis to run about 260km or so and we could run around 210 to 220km."
The first night saw things start to go wrong. One of the vehicles broke down. Bloomer and the crew were all cramped in the car trying to rest. Bloomer picked up a wog and by the next day it was the flu. He was running a temperature and it took a while for him to pick things up again.
Andy Salter also learnt a lot about psychology during the run. He found out that Bloomer responded to abuse. So for the whole journey, Salter and Bloomer abused hell out of each other. It worked though and Bloomer ran on guts and determination. Brian Bloomer was to be on the ultra scene for the next couple of years and definitely left his mark by the end of it.
It was two days into the race and Yiannis Kouros beat his existing 48 hr world record. He had covered 463 km. His lead was 90km over Siggy Bauer and Ramon Zabalo was 60km behind Bauer. The field was spread out over three hundred kilometres. The amount of Kouro’s lead means that he could sleep for eight hours and still have a comfortable lead. He only had three hours sleep since the race begun and did not look any worse for wear.
Yiannis Kouros had a two hour break at Albury and was 70km ahead of Siggy Bauer. This meant that Kouros only had five hours break in the last seventy eight. His manager, Takis Skoulis said "I thank God for the rest. He is running much better now."
Brian Bloomer was now in third place, whilst Joe Record and Ramon Zabalo were fighting out forth place. If Kouros keeps up the same horrendous pace of 13kph he is expected to reach Melbourne on the 17th April .
Margaret Smith held a slender lead over Eleanor Adams in the women’s race. This was expected to change when Smith had her next sleep.
One of the unfortunate sidelines of the 85 Westfield was the drama that was unfolding behind the scenes between Officials having their own personal battles. Mike Agostini resigned before the race, but continued on until the end. It was obvious that he had a personality conflict with other Officials and this effected the race.
A member of Donna Hudson’s crew, who did not want to be named said it was an insult that international runners had to organise their own crews. "It’s like bringing out a thoroughbred racehorse and not giving them any feed".
The list of complaints grew during the day. The crew looking after Kouros complained about the lack of computer printouts that were promised before the start of the race.
It was a day of drama in Canberra, when Siggy Bauer got lost for a couple of hours and took the wrong turn. Once the officials found him he had to go back to the right point. It didn’t cost him the race, but it would not have been good for his morale.
Ramon Zabalo was without his interpreter for the day. She had gone missing which did not help communication between himself and crew. The list of problems grew. Eleanor
Adams had to wait 10 hours for a physio! Ken Murray who dropped out at Yass did not have a CB Radio in his Van.
Race Manager, Charlie Lynn was quick to defend the communications problem saying Soldiers were checking every runner on the hour.
The previous promoter, John Toleman summed it up when he said "The concept is right and it is a great race - if it’s handled properly."
The 84 winner, Geoff Molloy withdrew from the race at Canberra after covering 240km. He was distraught at having to withdraw, but two hours later he decided that he wanted to help one of the other runners. The runner was Ramon Zabalo who was having language and crew problems.
Molloy was confident that he was going to do well in 85. Due to Kouros being in the field, the pressure was off him. He had tried hard for the previous nine months. His energy was gone by Canberra though. He was ordered to hospital, discharged himself and tried for another seven hours before saying enough was enough and having his first sleep in three days. The personal problems and the problems with Westfield before the race had finally taken their toll. Maybe Balmain boys don’t cry, but real men with real hearts do.
The race was at the half way mark and the three placegetters from last year had withdrawn - Geoff Molloy, John Hughes and Wal McCrorie. Kouros still faces very tough competition though. Cliff Young was hanging onto sixth place, but looking tired. He still may find the form which got him first in 83. He was complaining of sore feet, but as his wife, Mary put it. "He’s a big sook".
Meanwhile, Kouros seemed as fresh as when he left Parramatta. He had a two hour break yesterday to bring his total to nine hours sleep in five days. "He is on a high" said Takis Skolis.
Yiannis Kouros has vegemite and retsina as part of his diet. Kouros’s diet also includes baklava, fruit flans, cheesecake and chicken.
When Kouros was at the 610km mark of the race, officials believed that there were 17 runners still in the field. It was difficult to monitor though as the field was spread out. The placing’s at this stage were:
As you can see there was 260km difference between first and sixth position.
Yiannis Kouros was on schedule to finish the race in under five days. He was at
Benalla when he had a brief rest before continuing. Siggy Bauer was second and almost one hundred kilometres behind Kouros. Brian Bloomer was third, whilst Joe Record had a slight lead over Ramon Zabalo for forth. Cliff Young was doing well in sixth.
The only person not to concede defeat to Kouros was Bauer. Bauer was quoted as saying "The race is not over until someone crosses the finish line. Until that happens, there is hope. I still think he is human. He is flesh and blood, not a machine, not a God". Runner over confidence maybe, but Kouros was very quickly marking himself as the Don Bradman of the Ultra world.
It was half way through the 85 race, when Margaret Smith was given the nickname "Granny Smith". She was on the road near Benalla where the local Constabulary informed her that she and her husband, Neville had just become Grandparents for the first time.
Their daughter, Andrea had just given birth to Kelli-Ann Marie in Bowen, Queensland a couple of hours earlier. Margaret and Neville were both rapt and Margaret could not wait to see her. Margaret had suffered a two day attack of dysentery but her husband was confident that she would finish. He said "She’ll make it no question. It’s her personal goal and she’s confident of finishing."
Margaret had already established herself as the top Female Ultra Runner in Australia. She holds the women’s record for 24hrs when she ran 177.6km and then a month later she came second in the Victorian Marathon Club’s 150km event. Her husband, Neville summed up her reason for doing the race when he said ""Margaret’s not after a hero’s welcome, all she desires is personal satisfaction. Our ambition is to finish and finish with dignity."
Yiannis Kouros had a 120km lead when he got to Euroa. He was asked what his thoughts were when he was running and replied "I look at my life and what has passed since I was a young boy. Any problems in my life I work out when I’m on the road. And I write songs, I sing".
Yiannis listens to tapes of his favourite singers whilst he is running. He has made a few tapes of his own, which he listens to. Yiannis was feeling very good at this stage of the run and could hardly bring himself to sleep. "Now I’ve just got used to the running and I’m not tired. The weather’s good and the road’s straight. All the other days the hills were up and down and the weather was very hot or very cold."
Kouros admitted on the first couple of days of the run that he was running very seriously and did not enjoy anyone cheering or clapping him. He was aiming to get a good lead. He said that he was now enjoying the clapping and cheering from the spectators. He also admitted that when he was running he has a big appetite and eats in six days what he would usually eat in six months.
Joe Record had a very lucky escape on Monday night when his support vehicle ran off the road into a ditch. No one was injured in the accident, but Record could have done without the distraction or wasted time. Eleanor Adams was in front of Margaret Smith but appeared to be very distressed.
When Kouros got to the 810km stage of the 960km Race, he had a 100km lead over Siggy Bauer. He was looking a certainty to beat Cliff Young’s record over a shorter course in 83. Brian Bloomer was third , but 65km behind Bauer. Bauer’s said "We would be silly to say we’re going to win, but we haven’t given up hope."
The Bauer Camp had a scare earlier in the day when one of his crew suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning. An exhaust leak in Bauer’s support vehicle caused the problem. After an extensive medical, Bauer was cleared to keep running.
The race progressed and Yiannis Kouros was only 80km from Melbourne. He had a commendable lead and he and his crew were starting to enjoy themselves. A roadside feast was planned for the last morning of spaghetti bolognaise, fried rice and champagne. It is not known if Kouros indulged in the champagne part of the celebrations.
The ease and magnitude of his performance has stunned everyone. Takis Skoulis said "This man is a God. Carl Lewis, Herb Elliott, they too are gods. When Yiannis reaches Melbourne, then finally the world will know that this man too is a king, a superstar."
Kouros has only gone through one rough patch in the race, which was near Yass. He had gone through two days of hot weather and was confronted with rain and showers. Officials are expecting thousands of Greeks to be lining the streets when Kouros hits Melbourne. Special Police and Guards have been put in place to help escort him through the city. The traditional Greek welcome is expected when he reaches Doncaster.
Kouros was a God-send for the 85 event. Because of the incredible race by Kouros, the event was front page and prime time news when he reached the outskirts of Melbourne.
Meanwhile, Kouros had ran through the night and when dawn broke he was 35km out of Melbourne. He was in a red tracksuit , but when the weather warmed he changed into a red and white t-shirt with red shorts. He ran through the northern suburbs holding a red carnation in one hand and a big bunch of flowers in the other hand. He said that he was very proud to be Greek and Australian.
When Kouros got to Melbourne he was a day and 150 kilometres in front of Siggy Bauer. He actually began to walk for a while. His reasoning was that he wanted to be sure of finishing. Mike Agostini was cynical about this and said "I later realised that he was also walking because while he wanted to break Young’s record and possibly win the Outstanding Achievement award of a Mitsubishi car, he was also money minded enough to know that if he finished before 1030am, as it seemed he might easily do, he probably wouldn’t earn the leader’s prize for Day five of $ 2 500. Little did I realise that it would eventually mean actually slowing someone down - but then how could anyone be expected to anticipate such a performance?"
Kouros finally stopped for a rest on the outskirts of Melbourne. He had a shower, shave and a meal before heading into Coburg. Melbourne has the largest Greek population of anywhere outside Greece and it seems that they had congregated to Coburg on the day that Kouros ran through.
It was complete bedlam when he reached Sydney Road. The road was three deep with school kids, shop workers and anyone else who wanted to see the Greek marvel. He was also escorted by a bodyguard to make sure that no one got over excited.
At the intersection of Moreland Road the crowd was at its thickest. Greek flags formed an arch of honour and the crowd showered him with flowers. Kouros admitted later that this is what he had been waiting for.
Whilst Kouros was running through the streets of Melbourne towards the finishing line, Cliff Young was lying in Hospital in Holbrook, NSW. He had been withdrawn after
being diagnosed with pleurisy and pneumonia.
Cliff announced that he was retiring and going to pay more attention to his wife, Mary. Mary had other ideas and said that she would train and run in the Westfield herself. Cliff also said that he would like to move from Colac to a warmer climate. He was happy to be handing his crown to Kouros and said that he was incredible.
Cliff was in hospital for a week. When he was discharged from hospital a taxi rolled up and gave Cliff a ride back to Colac. This was curtesy of Westfield.
It was ironical that on the last day, Kouros was wearing a T-shirt with the SriChinmoy motto "You can easily challenge the pride of frightening distance". He was doing exactly that!
Takis Skoulis once again summed it up when he said "This is his strong point, he’s mentally fit." It is believed that Kouros will stay in Melbourne for a week before heading back to Tripolis where his wife Theresa is expecting their first baby in two months.
There were fears that a member of the Turkish population would try and harm Kouros towards the end of his run. The rational was that Turkey and Greece were involved in hostilities over Cyprus and killing a new God in Greek folklore would have a devastating effect on the Greek nation. Fortunately, these fears were unfounded and no harm came to Yiannis Kouros!
At the Westfield Doncaster Shopping centre, even more Greeks had gathered to welcome their new hero.
Kouros crossed the Finish line five days, five hours, seven minutes and six seconds. It was ten hours better than Cliff Young’s record in 83, but Kouros had run a further 80km than his predecessors in the previous two races. In distance terms, Kouros was 185km better than Cliff Young. It was at 3.34pm that Yiannis Kouros finally learned the true meaning of a hero’s welcome.
When Yiannis Kouros crossed the finish line sixty five year old Frank Pearson was bringing up the rear. He was at the half way mark and was yet to reach the border. This did not worry Pearson though.
He was interviewed on the road and said "I don’t suppose there will be to many people around to welcome me by the time I finish. I’ve come this far and I’m going to finish even if I have to walk the rest of the way. There’s an eight day limit on the race and I can’t see myself finishing in eight days. I’m sore in the feet and got blisters on them. If it wasn’t for the damm blisters I’d still be running now. But I’m going to keep going and I’m going to make it. I’m a pensioner you know".
"He runs like a man possessed. Trancelike, yet very relaxed, his body exudes strength while his features suggest calmness and confidence". That is how Mike Agostini described Yiannis Kouros after he had blitzed the field.
Kouros had run his first marathon in a little over three hours, he just missed bettering his own 24hr track record, he beat his 48 hr record and he just kept getting further and further in front of the field. At the start of the he was averaging 14kph, sometimes dropped to 8kph and ended up averaging 10kph for the race.
He suffered from one blister and had seven hours sleep. Some runners got more
sleep each night. Probably why they were still out there running! He got upset during the race, when his manager tried to take him back to the Van. A cardinal sin in Ultra running. An Ultra runner never goes further than what he has to.
The Chiropractor in Kouros’s team was amazed with his condition at the end and said "I find it incredible. He’s in excellent condition. He hasn’t lost much weight and it’s only body fat. There’s no wastage in his muscles."
One photographer was heard say towards the end of Kouros’s epic run that "It’s worse than the Queen". Another comment heard at the side of the road was "How do you say good luck in Greek?" said one Aussie to his neighbour. The Sikh shook his head sadly.
The media were there in there hundreds as well. Report’s were even being video taped to be sent to Japan. The Greek Consul-General was trying to rearrange his schedule to get to the Finish Line, which was ironic when they did not even recognise the fact that he was racing. The Greek Airline did not even help him with Airfare for the race.
Mike Agostini remembers the finish when he said "As Kouros ran into the Shopping centre, pandemonium reigned. The media fought to get photos of him, while the people all tried to touch the great Greek hero. The sponsors had organised a vintage automobile in which Kouros was to drive in style accompanied by the Joint Managing Director, the General Manager and myself as Race Director".
"But no one could have anticipated the powerful pushing enthusiasm of a mob of hero worshiping Greeks. Indeed , the few moments trying to drive no more than 50 or 60 metres to the Shopping centre were quite frightening at times....It seemed almost a biblical homecoming, part carnival, part pseudo-religious, gaiety and applause all around - yet a constant awareness of the potentially dangerous power of people in mob movement".
The finishing ceremonies seemed to take forever. Kouros led the crowd in a rendition of the Greek National Anthem. He was then led from the stage and indulged in a warm bath. He then had orange juice and beer, which helped him to perform the obligatory Urine test. This was passed with flying colours.
When Bauer ran through Coburg, his Manager, Shane Johnson had these thoughts on the 85 race.
"We knew we’d have to go out hard to catch Yiannis. But Siggy is experienced in every aspect of professional running. He knows the game inside out. There are two ways to look at it. He beat us by 120km, but the next runner is seventy km back. He’s second for the time being, but Yiannis can be beaten. He’s only human and there is a way to beat him. It’s just a matter of finding it!
Siggy Bauer ended up second in the 85 Run. He was more than a day slower than Kouros but had still beaten Cliff’s run of 83. It was a slight anti climax when he finished and people wandered what would have happened if there had not of been a Kouros in the Race. He was met by a crowd of 2500 and received $ 5 000 for his efforts. He was one of the pioneers of the sport and helped set up the International Association of Ultra Runners.
Siggy Bauer was interviewed afterwards and said. "I’m used to Kouros being ahead of me. But I’m careful not to copy Yiannis. I have to run it my way. Kouros at present is the world’s best runner - on paper. But even the best runner can be beaten. I’ll learn from my mistakes on this run. I’ve come to terms with things I can’t change, but there are still things I can change."
Brian Bloomer was third and first Australian home. He was a steward on the Empress of Australia which regularly commutes between Melbourne and Devonport. He was the only Runner that would regularly train in two states every second day of the week. He did the race on such a shoestring budget that he had to acknowledge his sponsors, The Seaman’s Union in red texta on his T-shirt. He won the Outstanding Achievement Award which was a new $12 000 Mitsubishi car.
Towards the end, it was Bloomer’s Manager, Andy Salter’s experience that made the difference between third and forth. He was suppose to report Bloomer’s position to officials, but this could be heard by the other runners. By not doing so, Zabalo did not know the exact location of Bloomer.
Another trick of Salter’s was to trick Bloomer into thinking he had three hours sleep instead of two. For the record, Bloomer beat Zabalo by one hour and twenty six minutes.
Ramon Zabalo finished forth , ended up having a French Baroness to act as his interpreter. She was holidaying in Australia and heard his last minute plea for assistance over the radio.
It wasn’t long after the race when Kouros was to learn about his new life as a Superstar. He had a spa and a sauna a few hours after the race and was expecting to settle down for a relaxing night at his Uncle’s place when he was dragged out by celebrating Greeks to a restaurant in Lonsdale St. Kouros is an obliging person and has not learnt how to say no.
The Australian Taxation Office were quick to get their hands onto Kouros as well. He had not crossed the Finish when a letter was delivered to the Race Director stating how much tax had to be deducted from his winners cheque. Mike Agostini refused to say how much had to be deducted, but Mina Apost( cousin of Kouros) believes that it was close to 47 percent. "The cheque was taken away from him after he was given it at the presentation ceremony. I think the taxation department is having a field day."
According to Takis Skoulis, nothing will change much for Kouros in Greece. He is earning $300 a month in his present job as a Sports Stadium Supervisor. "Nothing will change for him, every day he will work. He may ask the Greek Athletics ministry for a better job . I don’t know whether he will get one. What he does is not an Olympic event" said Skoulis.
Kouros was also contemplating whether to immigrate once his first child was born. On the short list is California or Australia. He is apparently impressed with the lifestyle and friendliness of both areas!
American runner, Donna Hudson was the big improver. She started off very slowly, but had moved up from eleventh to ninth. Her main two rivals, Eleanor Adams and Margaret Smith were up ahead of her, but Hudson was only 40km behind them. Adams had a 9km lead over Margaret Smith.
Mike Agostini had resigned as Race Director before the Race began and returned to Sydney before all the finishers had ambled across the finishing Line. It appears as though he had a personality conflict with one of the other organisers and a conflict with Westfield as well.
Agostini should have realised that Races of this nature do take time to evolve, or Westfield should have realised that the race needed a long term plan to have any hope of
survival. Agostini in the conclusion of his article was quite scathing in the long term viability of the Race and the sponsoring by Westfield but he did end up the article quite well "Thank you, Yiannis Kouros, for showing us ordinary people what one extraordinary person can do. It leaves us no excuses for not trying."
Eleanor Adams put the women’s race beyond doubt. She had a 40km lead over Margaret Smith. Tony Rafferty was wedged between the two women, but Donna Hudson was catching up and was only 14km behind Smith. At the rear of the field were Ross Parker, Daryl Brown and Frank Pearson who only have eight days to finish.
Eleanor Adams copped a winging pom tag at the start of the race for complaining about different aspects. This was unfair, especially after she did have to wait ten hours for a physio. Her only complaint now was the traffic.
Eleanor Adams had a great duel with Margaret Smith. Adams looks like snaring the $5000 first prize for the first woman across the line and a extra $500 for coming in at seventh place.
Fifth place went to Joe Record. Tony Rafferty was expected to finish ahead of the women and Ross Parker was bringing up the WA flag behind the women. Daryl Brown was bringing up the rear, after Frank Pearson withdrew at Wodonga.
Eleanor Adams was the first woman home, when she crossed the line at 10.58am. She had been on the move for eight days and twenty seven minutes. Eleanor said "This has been the longest and toughest event I’ve been in yet." She has not got long to rest though as she is running in a marathon in Strasborg in two weeks time followed by a 3200km race around Britain.
WESTFIELD RUN 85
Date: 12 -27 April 1985
Official Distance: 960km
Number of starters: 27
Number of finishers: 11
Percentage of finishers: 40.7%
Place Name State/ Country
1 Yiannis Kouros Greece 5:05:07 125 7.68km
2 Siggy Bauer New Zealand 6:05:46 149 6.44km
3 Brian Bloomer vic 6:17:20 161 5.96km
4 Ramon Zabalo France 6:19:39 163 5.89km
5 Joe Record WA 6:23:58 168 5.71km
6 Tony Rafferty Vic 7:16:02 184 5.22km
7 Eleanor Adams UK 8:00:30 192 5.0km
8 Donna Hudson USA 8:11:57 203 4.73km
9 Margaret Smith
Vic 8:16:28 208 4.62km
10 Ross Parker WA 8:22:04 214 4.49km
11 Daryl Brown SA 9:09:39 225 4.27km
The Greek Legend was definitely born before the 85 Westfield , but the flame was definitely ignited during the five and a bit days that he was on the road. He was a God send and it was only a small slice of what was to come. Some people call him a freak, some people compare him to Bradman, he is definitely blessed with a talent that none of us will ever come close to matching.