from the book - "Ive finally found my Hero" by Phil Essam
"Humour, Tragedy and courage!"
"The Runners Stories !"
Victorian runner, John Breit was to amuse himself in the 1990 Westfield Run by collecting hubcaps. Or should I say he got his crew collecting the hubcaps. John would be running down the road, spot a hubcap and point. The designated runner would alight from the rear vehicle, grab the hubcap, take it to John for his inspection and then take it to the rear vehicle. At the next pit stop, the new collection piece would be attached to the collection at the rear of one of the vehicles. By Melbourne at least twenty hubcaps had been collected, which was making quite a noise rattling down the road. One of the officials even came and claimed two of the hubcaps at the end of the race.
Our Ronnie is a runner, as slow as slow can be,
He is a Marathoner, all of us can see.
He runs along the highways with cars all wizzing by,
The only regular watchers are birdies from the sky.
His wife and 3 young children are sitting there at home
While Ronnie Ronnie's running his lips covered in foam.
Where oh where is Ronnie? His lovely wife does ask,
Ron is on the highway. Sticking to his task.
His legs they pound the pavement his head raised to the sky,
His sandshoes pounding onwards he wishes he could fly.
His team of nine mixed humans are bending to their tasks,
Their job is getting promptly whatever Ronnie asks.
Mal rants, Mal raves Mal orders them about,
His number one priority is getting Ronnie out.
Simon is a wonder as wait on Ron he does,
Ron just keeps on running won't let the others pass.
Rebecca, Rebecca the masseur so sweet.
We all do believe this is her very first beat.
Reggie & Hitch regular drivers are they,
They drive for young Ronnie but without any pay.
Margret, Mal's fiancee is here to work too,
She'll cook handle money and with Mal she will coo.
Our Sam, Ron's spaghetti will embellish and cook
Boy, when our Ron eats the public will look,
For Ron will run onwards by hook or by crook.
Shakie oh shakie he is burning bright,
Making our motors run all through the night.
Charlie our writer is a fatherly sight,
His number one illness is snoring all night.
When all get together we have a riotous time,
I wish I could think of a word that does rhyme.
Now back to the track all of us must go,
Somewhere our Ronnie is running in snow.
His teeth they do chatter his hair it is stiff,
We know all he needs is a Mars Bar to sniff.
So out go Rebecca and young Simon too,
While Mal our commander is sniffing with flu.
Bravely our crew members all struggle on,
Following so closely behind our young Ron.
As foot weary, arm weary lips so dried out,
He has so much trouble trying to pout.
In spite of all this, finish he does,
His loving young wife's eyes are still filled with stars.
Yes Ann at the finish she knows tha the tried
And waits there so bravely to give him her prize.
His children are there they are cheering like mad,
Their voices are yelling, good on ya Dad!
This poem was written by crew member and lifelong friend to Westfield Runner, Ron Hill, Charlie Pye. Charlie is also a good friend and constant crew member to Colac legend, Drew Kettle when he goes on his treks around Australia.
English runner, Patrick Macke was going through Canberra when he had an urge to go to the toilet. One of his crew spotted a Chinese Restaurant up the road and so he sprinted up with another of the crew to try and arrange for Patrick to use their facilities. The two crew members tried for five to ten minutes to get through to the Waiter behind the counter what they wanted to do. The waiter could not speak a word of English. They were beginning to think that it was a really genuine Restaurant until they realised that they were at the front Entrance to the Chinese embassy. It is not known if Patrick got to use their facilities.
The Westfield Sydney to Melbourne
My 2 experiences. 1986 and 1989
By Kevin Cassidy
The 1986 Westfield run was to be an experience that I will never forget, it was the toughest week of my life but something that I feel honoured to have been part of. At the time I was a newbie to the Ultra scene with a grand total of 2 Ultras under my belt when I received a phone call from Geoff Hook asking if I wished to be in the crew for Yugoslavian runner, Dusan Mravlje ( I had never heard of him). I jumped at the chance to be a part of the race that grabbed all the headlines and captured the imagination of all as it still rode on the back of CLIFFMANIA.
Before I had time to sneeze, I was in Sydney with a hastily thrown together crew of Dusan's wife (I think it is spelt Strouka), his cousin Andrew ( a Melbournite) and local athlete, Kevin Falloon and a few others (none of us had met before and Dusan spoke no English). The race was expected to be won again by Yiannis Kouros, but when he announced his withdrawal because of a stress fracture, the race was thrown wide open. Ramon Zabalo of France was as dominant a world number two as Yiannis was at number one and he was now the favourite.
Most of the crews were not able to be at the start due to traffic congestion so I missed all the pre race build up but we picked up the race as the field came past the army camp where we were staying. It was Dusan and Ramon leading the field through the first 42km in 3.14. Not long afterwards, Ramon attempted to kick a stray hubcap out of the way, in case it interfered with the following runners, and pinched a nerve in his back which effectively ended his race.
Crowds lined the highway as me motored down the road to Melbourne. As a crew we were all inexperienced and the week was to prove a real lesson. Dusan motored through 100 miles in 16 hours then rested while Patrick Macke took the lead, he was an accomplished 24 hour runner doing his first multi day event. We all got into a routine of cooking, driving, feeding Dusan and sleeping when possible. Geoff Kirkman of Adelaide took the lead on day two and Dusan was second, as night fell we were covering the treacherous section of highway near Yass when 3 ambulances went passed at a speed that nearly blew us off the map. Up ahead, a truck had had a headon smash with a motorist trying to overtake Geoff' van, when we arrived at the scene in darkness we saw exactly what had happened. The truck was laying sideways across the road and the motorist was dead. Geoff could not be found and it was feared that he was crushed in the wreckage somewhere but he was eventually found down an embankment with a smashed pelvis (Geoff presented the medals at the Adelaide 24hr later that year but has not been seen since in the running circles since).
As Dusan rested again, the Aussie battler, Brian Bloomer , took the lead and held it until just before Albury. With the race being so popular, there was a never ending supply of motel and caravan park owners allowing you to use their facilities for washing clothes etc. Dusan worked hard all day in the pursuit of Brian and his tiredness caused him to get rather cranky, as the crew was made up of people without ultra experience, they could not cope with it and emotions ran high. I was the only one who remained detached from it all and focused on my job ( maybe I could understand Dusan better with my experience of 2 Ultras). The press were everywhere, they kept featuring Dusan's wife as the crew chief and tactician, the truth was that she was a gibbering wreck who had never been to any of Dusan's previous races. As an Ultra newbie, it was a real buzz to have the non competing Yiannis Kouros pay us several visits and even more surprising was Yiannis's fluent use of English when all his press conferences needed an interpreter because he "didn't speak English". I realised right there and then that it was a charade to keep nosey reporters from bothering him.
With out any doubt, the hardest part of crewing was trying to stay awake whilst driving the van at night at 4 miles per hour. Mary Hanudel was the only runner to receive publicity when her van driver fell asleep and ran her over injuring her foot, but there were many other instances that did not get mentioned. There was also the high number of damaged vans caused by sleepy drivers sideswiping the roadside posts ( Budget refused to allow their vans to be used again). During the early Westfield years they only ever caught one runner cheating but rumours and uncertainties surrounded many others, by 1986 it was impossible to cheat with so many officials roving the course.
Dusan took the lead and was cheered through Albury by a huge crowd. The race now became a cat and mouse affair as Dusan often requested that someone drive back and check the distance of his lead, this was harder than you could imagine because many crews would place their officials marker behind a tree and then drive their runner up a dirt side road for a couple of hours sleep, out of sight of the snooping crews of other runners!!!!!!!
Dusan maintained his lead all the way to Melbourne and the TV cameras were everywhere as we reached the outer suburbs, we even had the Channel Nine chopper make a landing outside the Ford Factory, I fought hard to manoeuvre the van through the throngs of Yugoslavs that had come out to line the streets and as we passed through my home suburb I was surprised to see my parents standing on the corner cheering. The reception at the finish was incredible and it was followed by an appearance on Hey Hey It's Saturday and several other functions.
What I did not see was the running battle for 2nd and 3rd, Patrick Macke had overtaken Brian Bloomer. The organisers made no secret that they were hoping that Brian would win so that they could make use of his Aussie Battler image for their publicity campaign. With Dusan speaking no English it was a PR disaster for Westfield.
The biggest drama was just starting to occur when Patrick arrived in the City Square in a state of near death, the finish was still another 14km away at Doncaster and most of it was uphill. Patrick's crew dropped his marker in the city square and rushed him to a Motel where he received medical treatment. Brian Bloomer overtook Patrick to grab second place and it was a surprise that no one else was to overtake Patrick as he was delivered back to the City Square to do his final 14km. Prime Time television was giving live coverage of Patrick's ordeal as he staggered along with a walking stick trying hard not to trip on the tram tracks, he was progressing at about 1km per hour before he finally made third spot.
A day later, I was back home and back to the normal routine of my life. It was as if the whole episode was a great big dream, here I was, a fresh and enthusiastic ultra newbie suddenly playing a role in a drama packed race amongst the world's best ultrarunners. I will never forget it.
As I returned to my full time job as a self employed lawn mowing contractor, I was often asked about my experience with Dusan by many of the people I worked for, these were elderly non sporting types but they were all captivated by the footrace between Australia's two major cities. They were indeed heady times and I treasure the fact that I was part of it because I don't believe we will ever see anything like it again in ultrarunning
# This story was written by Victorian Ultra running stalwart, Kevin Cassidy reminiscing about his time crewing for Dusan Mravlje back in 1986.
Ballarat runner, Barry Brooks asked his crew member who had run out to join him on the road for some "Nutra Vite" for his bottom. The very confused crew member ran back to the van and told the others, that Barry wanted some NutraGrain for his Bum. We know Kellogs make some claims about their cereals, but to be inserted from the rear!
The last 237km, no 255km, sorry mate
By Patrick Macke
(Sydney to Melbourne 1986)
I had reached a point a few kilometres before Wangaratta and I was going to take a short break. It was starting to get dark and I was informed that only 237km remained. It was then that I decided to take my sleep break earlier than usual. In the back of my mind I had the Spartathlon distance of 245km and finding out that less than this remained I thought that I could run straight through to the end of the race after a final sleep.
Despite a little protesting from the crew - they were surprised by me wanting to sleep then when it wasn't planned - I took that sleep. I was back on the road sometime before midnight. It took until I was going through Wangaratta to get running again. I intended then to go non-stop to the finish, about 230km I thought then. One of the vans had to be left behind, as it would not start. One of my four crew members stayed with it. After a while it was revealed to me that 18km more remained than first thought. Instead of 237km remaining at the point of that last sleep stop 255km remained…more than Spartathlon , but I was mentally committed and couldn't change my aim.
Apart from this distance target I needed to know how far ahead Brian Bloomer was in second place. It had been impossible to get any information the whole day and still was. Was he near enough to catch or not? 20,50, 80km??? We had no idea. So we had to presume he was near enough and push on. Still with one vehicle we decided that Johnno would have to hitch a lift ahead to see where Brian was. He did this and returned with a location and a time for him. When we passed that same location we knew how far behind we were. It was about 5 1/2 hours. It was now daylight and we had the second vehicle again. Johnno set off to get another fix on brian and the next time we passed the same point it was down to less than 2 hours. In the early afternoon we caught and passed him while he was taking a break in a lay-by. I still continued without any break, I was being troubled by one of my calves and it was not a good thing to stop a sit would seize up, we thought.
Evening approached and less than 100km remained and it was shortly after this that we started to make exact calculations as to what kilometre times I had to do in order to get to the finish before the start of the eighth day. Then the crew had to provide me with each kilometre time. Hard work for a crew of four who'd hardly had a chance to sleep and had two vehicles to drive as well as preparing and giving me food and drink all the time. However, I needed this kind of information to keep me going, to keep my mind active, to know where I was and exactly what I was doing. With about 80km to go I needed to average around 9m45s a kilometre and I was doing 81/2 and 9. If I could just keep that up for a while then I would only need to average 10 minutes a kilometre, then if I still continued it would get easier and easier. That's how the mind works and stays alert but without those times every kilometre it can't work.
Then some officials came to do the "accounts", collect and check the receipts for expenses. Whilst this was happening no one could give me my times. I slowed. After the accounts were sorted I could get my times again. I had now been running for 24 hours since the last stop and of course Johnno, Raymond, Ron and Terry were just as tired if not more. It's far harder to stay awake sitting in a van or driving at such a slow pace than it is running. Terry couldn't stay awake any longer, he fell asleep in mid-action where he was. Ron was driving off the road, falling asleep at the wheel.
It was impossible to get my kilometre times anymore. I slowed more. We waited for an official to come by so that we could ask for someone to come and drive. No one came by. Ron couldn't stay awake anymore. Raymond drove one vehicle, Johnno the other. No one could hand me drinks and food anymore let alone give me information about remaining distance….I had to stop each time I wanted food or drink. It was difficult to get moving again each time. I slowed even more. Before it got to late Johnno drove ahead into Melbourne to try and get help.
Thirty kilometres from the end of the race there was supposed to be a motel where everyone could stop for a clean-up and sleep. This now became my target rather than the end. A good shower, a two hour sleep then walk to the finish. How far away this motel??? 10, 20, 30km??? We had no idea, there wa sonly Raymond there now and he had to drive. An official car came by at last and there were two people in the vehicle. We flagged them down and one of them drove our van.
Now Raymond could give me drinks and food again, without me stopping. How far to the motel? No idea! 5,10,15km? An official car now became a pace car ahead of me, it's emergency lights flashing. Johnno was brought back in a car while Terry and Ron were sleeping in the second van ahead so as they'd be ready to join us for the end. But how far the motel? 1,3,5km?? Three I was told. Half an hour later, "the next traffic lights", but we went past them "definitely the next ones", but again we continued through them. At last after another crossroads the pace car pulled to the side, ahead, so at last this must be it.
It was just getting light. Ron and Terry were there waiting in running gear ready to run the rest with me (Just behind). But now I was planning to go to the Motel, get a couple of hours sleep after a good shower and then continue. Due to the circumstances during the previous hours it had been far more of a struggle to get this far than imagined. It had been impossible for a mere four people to provide for all my needs however hard they tried. They'd slept far less than I because they would have to be awake until I was safely tucked in for my sleep breaks and then they would have to be awake before it was time for me to be woken. While I was mobile the minimum of duties meant that they had to be on duty too. Then after five days I ran for thirty hours without any break….
The motel was supposedly the other side of the road adjacent to where we had stopped. Terry crossed the road with me while the Van went up the road to turn around. We were walking on the pavement the other side to the Motel when the van having turned around pulled up alongside as it would be quicker to go in the Van. Terry and I got in the van and then it drove about 2km back up the route………….to the motel………..what was happening??? We got to the motel. I had a shower but I was getting very confused. I wa sput in bed but there were people all over the place, some sleeping, some standing around talking, others coming in and out. I was out in a different way.
Then someone was waking me. It was Terry. Did I want to carry on? Yes of course. Terry went to rouse everyone. The room was still in a commotion as before. I think Terry had been asked by someone to wake me and ask what I wanted to do, or what was I doing there sleeping with only 30km to go…I don't know how long I'd actually been asleep…only a few minutes, perhaps 20… So everyone was woken up and together with several officials I was taken back to the race course.
But the place I was taken back to did not look familiar. It was not the place I'd crossed the road with Terry. The witches hat had supposedly been stolen. Just before stopping we had just passed a crossroads so I walked back to the nearest crossroads but it still didn't look familiar. I was worried, very tired of course and therefore confused and getting more confused. I began walking. I had to urinate very frequently ( against the Westfield car). A kilometre or so down the road we passed the witches hat…Though I'd had that break I hadn't been able to get the sleep I desperately needed. The crew, desperately tired like myself were no more able to take control of the situation than I was.
It wasn't surprising that I now fell asleep on my feet while walking. Not knowing where I was I kept walking as if in a dream. What was I doing in Melbourne when I'd never been to Australia in my life? But I remembered the invitation to the race and worked things out from there even if I couldn't actually remember them happening. Some time later my mind clicked back into place. Ron was telling me about Princess Park…then some little way further on I had to stand still for some traffic lights. While waiting I began to wobble, then I began to fall. I was caught and taken to the side of the road where there was a café. I was seated and some one from the café put a cup of coffee into my hands and before anyone could stop me my automatic reaction was to drink from it. Raymond noticed but it was too late, I'd taken a sip and scolded my tongue.
Everyone was concerned about my condition and I was taken across the town to the Park Royal Hotel where the doctor could have a look at me. People were in and out the room again. Johnno was asleep and couldn't be woken..It must have been sixty hours since he'd slept and then only an hour or so.. The doctor saw me. I remember Dusan and Ramon (Zabalo) coming into the room to see me. I was taken back to the route. I remember being in the van cutting a hole in my left shoe for a painful and swollen little toe. But I cannot remember getting out of the van and restarting.
After the race it was reported that I had used a walking stick. It could have been at this time because eat no time do I actually remember using one. I remember being offered one but I didn't take it. None of my crew remembers me using a walking stick either. The first thing I recall next is just before I turned the corner into the pedestrian street in the centre of Melbourne. Dan Brannen was walking with me and telling me that Bloomer had already gone past while I was away. It was sometime in the afternoon now. I was walking very slowly.
I was told by an official that there was only 10km to go. Two hours later and now dark as another night started I saw a sign saying "Doncaster 9km" the 10km earlier was a lie… I was irritated…. But I was now awake enough to start taking control of myself again. I saw an Indian Restaurant and thought that they would make a nice cup of tea. So I turned left and went in the door. Everyone ( my crew and the several race officials with us) were wondering what was happening again as they all followed me in. The owners were very friendly people and happy to provide for us even if five of us looked a little rough…We had several cups of tea and some wonderful rice pudding. Trying to motivate me into action I was told that Eleanor Adams was not far behind. Oh, good, I'll wait for her I answered. We left the comfort of the Indian Restaurant but I still wanted to have a sleep or a bath.
I was driven off to a friend of one of the organisers present to see if I could use their bath. They weren't at home but we found a bath at a perfect family of stranger's home. My first bath of the whole race. It took 996km to get there. I was able to give the wife a bunch of flowers. I'd been given them by a spectator earlier on in the city.
I came back to the race route looking a little better but my crew, waiting there, still looked a bit on the worn out side…. I walked to the end of the race trying my best to ignore the "Left, right, left, right" marching instructions I was being given all the time when my arms dropped.
I was told that there was only 2km to go but I knew there was more. I could see the building in the distance. Eventually I got to the building, and the END. Johnno, Raymond, Terry, Ron and I all finally got to the END.
After the 1986 race no runner was alllowed to start the race with only four crew members. Pat Macke, his crew and Westfield were extremely lucky that a major catastrophe did not occur during Pat's epic final hours of his race.
Canadian Runner, Trishel Cherns was to be joined for twenty kilometres of his race by a 16 year old boy running in bare feet. It was of a night time going through Gippsland. Trishel marvelled at the boy's natural ability and the fact that he did not have one blister on his feet at the end. The boy is believed to have ran back to his starting point, making a round trip of 40km for the night.
On the Run with "Mountain Man"
1016 kilometres is a long way to drive. To run this distance seems impossible but 23 runners out of a field of Australian and overseas runners totalling 43, finished the gruelling Sydney to Melbourne Run.
I had the dubious honour of finishing 23rd, but finishing the event is every runner's dream and quest.
The Westfield Run this year was over a period of 81/2 days, with cut off points on a time basis being set at Goulburn, Canberra, Cooma, Bombala, Orbost, Bairnsdale, Traralgon, Pakenham and Doncaster. Constant heat was a disturbing factor this year with temperatures fluctuating between 28 and 32 during the cloudless days for the whole run. One had to pity the overseas runners who had come from freezing temperatures and struck an Australian heatwave.
The sendoff at Westfield was spectacular as usual and at 11.00 am on Thursday 17th March, 42 pairs of determined feet struck out for Melbourne. The Greek Streak, Yiannis Kouros was off a 12 hour handicap, and would leave at 11pm that night.
This first 24 hours in a run of this magnitude is a settling down period. Many runners, including myself, have not gone beyond 24 hours in a race before, and no-man's land on the second day is something we have to face.
The cut-off point at Goulburn is 28 hours, and I am very pleased when I reach the town at 10.07am, just five hours ahead of cut-off time, and 180km down the track. All is going well, and after a freshen-up at Goulburn I head off towards Canberra.
Around Lake George, Yiannis passes me and gives me a personalised T-shirt. The shirt has a picture of Yiannis on it and is monogrammed "Yiannis Kouros - The Ultra Marathon Star". We all know how great Yiannis is, but his greatest glory is yet to come a she passes every runner in the event and finishes the run in relative ease.
A few blisters have now developed on my feet, but after attention by Kieran Fallon, the race doctor, we press on. My aim is to run the Goulburn/Canberra section without sleep, but in the early hours of Saturday morning I call for a one hour rest, some 25 kms, this side of Canberra. The sleep is magic and I am soon back on the road and pass through the Canberra cut-off some 6 hours in the plus.
The run to Cooma saps both my and the other runner's strength as temperatures rise on the Saturday to 32 degrees. Most runners during the heat of the day, back off the pace, snatching a rest in the middle of the day and picking up the pace when the sun goes down. My run to Cooma is without incident. I am surprised that I feel so well. My crew are absolutely fantastic attending to all my needs. John Fletcher, my team manager, has moulded the crew into a workable machine very early. I am personally indebted to John and each member of the team for their valuable time and for putting up with me.
My mate, Ken Ingerlsole who was to be part of the team for the full trip is to leave us at Nimmitabel around 12 noon to return to Sydney owing to work commitments, and as I am coming into Nimmitabel, a runner loams up behind me and says, "I'm on your crew". Taken by surprise, I gruffly retort, "Does Fletch know?". Yes my manager knows and Sydney Strider's Brian Colwell, ex-Graham Firkin ( who has had to pull out of the run with a torn calf-muscle) joins our team. Brian's first job is to wash my clothes - a tough assignment within half an hour of joining the team.
On the way to Bombala, we meet up with Cliff Young and his wife Mary, and later on in the afternoon, Charlie Lynn, Race Director, runs with me for a short distance and I state to Charlie that "I am going to make it to Melbourne". At this stage, I do not know what lies ahead of me. Now looking back, I just made Melbourne with possibly only a breath to spare. I arrived in Bombala around 1.00am on the Monday morning, still ahead of the cut-off time, but in a very exhausted state. The last 5km into Bombala was sheer torture, and I feel the distance is well in excess of 5km. My crew bunk me down with a good feed of carbos in preparation for hitting the trail around 3.00am. John Fletcher during my slumber time, bumped into the local constable at Bombala by the name of Lloyd Williams, a Western District jogger and harrier (a long way from home) and he provides us with the road conditions to the Victorian border. I question Lloyd on that last 5km into Bombala. He assures me the distance is accurate. I am amazed.
From Bombala to the state border (half way into the run) is mostly dirt road very scenic and dusty and we are glad to pass back onto the tarred road again and head towards Cann River. At Cann River, we have now joined the Princess highway and ahead lies possibly the toughest segment of the run - over the snowy Mountains to Orbost. I run continuously through the night. Perhaps this is better I can't see the hills , and finally arrive at Orbost at 11.00am on Tuesday, some 5 hours ahea dof the cut -off.
Not long out of Orbost, the rot starts to set in. My feet by now are badly blistered and my crew had done a marvellous job getting me this far by patching up blister on top of blister. I am extremely fatigued and suffering from shin splint in my left leg and my hamstrings are tightening up. (I always made the joke that I didn't know I had hamstrings, but I sure do now!) Both my legs are swollen, and around 7.00pm, I am reduced to a walk. Some 20klms out of Lakes Entrance, help out of the darkness emerges in the presence of Mark Gladwell's and Kevin Mansell's trainer, Bill Carlson, who advises me to take 4 hours rest at Lakes entrance and then hit the trail again. "I can't afford 4 hours rest", I retort. "Take 4 or the race is over", is Bill's reply. I don't have a plan or any answers to my problems so we pu tour marker down and head into Lakes Entrance. I am a crippled , pitiful wreck and my faithful crew carry my twisted bent-up body into a quadriplegic shower at a Lakes entrance caravan park. I am at my lowest point since starting the run, and my crew sense that this may be the end of the line. A big carbo tea before going down and again upon rising 4 hours alter and my crew take me back to the marker. My body is deposited on the road. It is now up to me. I realise that the moment of truth has arrived, and around 2am on the Wednesday, I slowly start to push my reluctant body towards Bairnsdale, cut off time 11.00am. Within 10 min I am moving freely but painfully. Every hour, my crew are strapping cold packs to my ankles to reduce the swelling and to ease the pain of the shin splints. Since starting off at 2am, I have now become anti-social. I do not want any crew member to talk or be with me. Water comes every 10 minutes, food every 20 minutes, ice pack changes every hour. I am possessed with only one thought. I am going to make Melbourne and I do not want anybody near me. I have to make it myself. I apologise to my crew gruffly. They sense this inner battle going on and leave me alone. That day, I run continuously for 18 hours. I follow the white line on the side of the road. Flats, up and down hills all blend into one. I make the cut off at Bairnsdale with time to spare, and am back in the race again. Thanks Bill for saving me.
Every kilometre is now tough. My crew patch up my feet - they are a mess. Ice packs are changed on my legs every hour. I flog my crew relentlessly and around 8pm on the Wednesday, we pull into Sale and bed down for a couple of hours at a motel graciously supplied by Hawker De Havilland, my major sponsor. It is a most welcomed civilised stop and at 10pm, we are on the track again after my crew have loaded me up to the hilt with carbos. We press on during the night and at 8am, Thursday 24th, we reach Traralgon some 3 hours ahead of cut -off. I am once again exhausted. My feet are numb with pain, but we have now travelled 875km and we are not giving in. Traralgon to Pakenham is our next goal and we almost lose it . We have 19 hours and 105km to run. Under ordinary circumstances, this would present no problem, but I am almost done. During the run to Pakenham , Ron grant meets up with me and gives me great encouragement and support. Thankyou Ron. Late Thursday night, I catch up with Terry Cox, Salvation Army Officer. He is doing it tough. We run together for some time, working off each other - two exhausted runners propping each other up. One of my crew members, Steve Grant runs up to me and says "Ok, let's go!" I am exhausted, and snap back, "For Christ's sake, piss off Steve!" Suddenly I realise, I am running with a religious man and I apologise quickly to Terry. He forgives - he is to exhausted to waste breath arguing. Terry, a short time later, calls for a short break with a sore heel. His manager objects but Terry insists. I pull away. I do not see him again. He pulls out with exhaustion at 943km. , 73km short of his Everest. I am doing it very tough. The cut off looks in doubt, when over the CB radio comes welcome news - the Pakenham cut off has been extended 3 hours to 10.00am Friday. Five runners were battling to make Pakenham during the night. Only two survived. I had been saved a second time.
At Pakenham, my crew lowered my wrecked body down on a bed. It was very hot. I couldn't sleep. I looked out the windows and door. It resembled a carnival atmosphere. Crews were lazing in the sun, totally exhausted. Some of my crew wandered around in the hot sun, talking with other crews and propping each other up. Then it dawned on me. This was the final assault on Melbourne! Our Everest was within striking distance. We could not give up now. I would crawl to Melbourne if I had to. It didn't quite get to that.
We had some 56kms to get to Doncaster. John Fletcher worked out our time with half an hour to spare. I had to average 5.1kms per hour. It was very hot. By now, my arms, hands and legs were very swollen and my feet…well that's better left unsaid. Wet towels were draped over me. I drank every 10 minutes; ice cubes were placed in my hat. But around 3pm along Dandenong Road, heat exhaustion and fatigue forced me to my knees. My manager quickly grasped the situation, packed me in ice, and summoned a local doctor, through my good friend John Shepperd. The local doctor wanted to hospitalise me. "No way", I said, "Wait until Doncaster" Race Doctor, Kieran Fallon, physios, Chris Perry, Margaret Stewart and Eleanor Adams ( who had already finished the run and was still able to help me), packed me in more ice when they arrived on the scene and then set about on the monumental task of repairing my feet, They worked for 2 and a half hours on my feet and at around 6.30pm I eased my remade swollen feet into my biggest pair of shoes and set off in the cool of the night on the last 39kms, assault to Doncaster. I had been saved third time. Thanks Chris, Margaret, Eleanor and Kieran!
The mental game was now on in earnest. Friday night shoppers yelled encouragement, horns of cars tooted as we passed on into the night. My manager keeps me fed on luxuries - donuts, apple pies, cakes etc were used as bait to keep me moving.
Sydney Striders and Western District runners emerge from the night to urge me on. One lady, Wanda Foley from Western District Joggers and Harriers has waited to accompany me through the busy streets of Melbourne. Wanda Foley, along with Frank Pearson, my physio, became my guardians to Doncaster. They are true blue Westies and stick with me along with the rest of my faithful crew to the end. Other Westies, Keith O Connell and Mark Foley join us and chant "Mountain Man in Melbourne". My adrenelin pumps again and the chant continues till the finish line.
After crossing through the Finish Line, a magic feeling of unsurpassed elation overcomes me. I have made it! No. WE have made it. I am assisted to a chair and allowed to sit down. There is no pressure on me to get up. What a marvellous relief! Charlie Lynn, Race Director, places a beer in my hand and a pizza on my lap.
Many thanks to the 50 odd loyal supporters and Westfield personnel, who wait for me and my crew to come in. Thanks again to Bill Carlson. To Kieran Fallon and his faithful physio, thanks for help on the run and post care. Thanks to all my sponsors and especially Hawker De Havilland, my major sponsor. My crew still continue to talk to me and befriend me. This is most important to me. I have conquered Melbourne, but my crew are the champions.
Thanks Westfield for a great event. I said before and during the run "One shot only at this Run, win or lose". Only days after the run, as I licked my wound a feeling came over me. It wasn't that bad, in fact enjoyable. I know I could do better next time - quicker and with less pain ( This part I like).
Yes Westfield I am ready to do battle again. Ultra Marathoners just won't lie down and can't be trusted when they say "Never Again".
# This story was written by Graham Kerruish ( alias Mountain Man) who ran and completed the 1988 Westfield. Since the demise of the Westfield Run, Graham has gone back in distance and has now completed over 100 marathons. His story should serve as inspiration for all of us.
In 1987 when running in his first Westfield, Mark was absolutely stuffed. He was sitting down next to the Van and turned to his wife and said "A Man knows when he's had enough". Lucille's reply is unprintable but needless to say, Mark was soon heading for Melbourne and not looking behind him
It was in the middle of the night when Mark set his heart on catching the runner that only looked to be a few miles up the road. A couple of hours later Mark did catch that runner, but it turned out to be Roadworks with all the necessary Flashing lights.
It was just outside Pakenham one year when Mark Gladwell was relieving himself against the side of his vehicle. He turned around and heard a round of applause from across the Highway. He looked across the road and saw a group of female factory workers having a Smoko Break and finding Mark's situation most amusing.
1989 Sydney to Melbourne Ultra Marathon
A Record of an Epic by Alf Field
The Race From Sydney to Melbourne commencing on Thursday, 18th May 1989
The Distance 1, 011 Kilometres
The Runner Graham Firkin, one of 35 starters
The Crew Brian Colwell, Alf Field, Barbara Firkin, Toots Gray, Ken Gray, Barry Jones, Jack Nordish, Steve Nordish
The Result Completed the distance in 8 days, 16 hours and 25 minutes, finishing in 20th place. Fifteen competitors did not complete the course
Condition of the
Runner at the Finish Excellent. No blisters on his feet; no muscular or other injuries; sore legs; claimed to be "very tired" but paried on until sunrise on arrival in Melbourne.
Condition of the Totally knackered
Crew at the Finish:
"Give a big welcome to competitor number 8, Graham Firkin". The announcer's voice boomed around the Westfield Shopping Centre at Liverpool on Sydney's south western outskirts where the 1989 Sydney to Melbourne Run was due to start in 30 minutes.
"Graham is aged 51, is a Blacksmith and competed in the 1988 event, covering 292 kilometeres before a leg injury forced him to withdraw," the announcer continued. The polite clapping was drowned by raucous cheers from the group of Sydney Striders gathered to farewell Firko on his epic odyssey.
It suddenly struck me that we would soon be on our way, that the long year of planning and preparation was nearly over. Not that I had done anything much in the way of preparation . Barbara Firkin was the person who did the hard work. She was the one who wrote all the letters begging for sponsorship; she was the one who listed the multitude of items that would be needed and saw that they were purchased, planned the menus, bought the food, rented the vehicles, got the money in. It is certain that without her herculean efforts Graham would not have got to the start line.
It is also fair to say that without the financial and other help from all the sponsors, the project would not have got to first Base. A big vote of thanks is owed to all sponsors.
I felt a bit of a heel. I had spent the past week trying to get my desk clear to enable me to get away for the trip. I hadn't been able to help the rest of the crew with the myriad of final preparations and packing of the vans. I need not have worried. Firko had a little surprise in store for me.
We hadn't really discussed what my particular function was to be on the team. As far as I was concerned I was going to help in whatever capacity I could. An hour before the start Firko sprung his little surprise: "Alf, I want you to take charge. You do all the calculations, make the decisions and get us to Melbourne. What you say the crew and I will do."
Firko had obviously noticed that on the trip last year that I like to throw my weight around and so I became saddled with this awesome responsibility. It was, however, typical of Firko's own planning for the trip. This time it was completely professional, a complete contrast to last year. He had thought about every last detail and planned with great care. He had realised that it was important to have one person with absolute authority to make the tough and difficult decisions which abound on such a trip and which often need to be made in a hurry. He had decided that I was to be that person. Thanks Firko!
His crew selection had likewise been mulled over. His final selection worked brilliantly well in the long tiring and testing hours on the road. The crew was always a most harmonious bunch united in their desire to see Firko safely into Melbourne.
The professionalism extended right down to his shoe selection. He had bought the top of the range, Nike Stab-Airs, and eventually wore, only one pair all the way to Melbourne, arriving there without a single blister. Quite incredible. When I think of often he changed his shoes last year to no avail…
The gunshot reverberated around the enclosed shopping centre and the red and white garbed runners burst forward like a tidal wave, smiling and waving to friends, oblivious to the trials, tribulations and pain which lay in store for them over the next week.
For a few minutes it was bedlam. Husbands saying farewell to their wives. Crew members dashing to their vehicles and onlookers cheering the intrepid runners.
We were on our way and I think each of us was wandering what dramas the next week had in store for us. Was Firko really capable of getting all the way to Melbourne? Did I have the knowledge and ability to keep him together both physically and mentally for such a long time? All the problems we experienced last year were suddenly very fresh in my mind.
The first day was used to establish routines which were to become ingrained over the next week. Firko was to eat regularly in small quantities, about every hour. His diet consisted of mashed vegetables for his main course and canned fruit in jelly for dessert.
We had discovered last year that Firko was able to absorb mashed vegetables without any ill effect and they provided quick energy as well as all the minerals and trace elements that his body required. The only problem was the monotony of the diet, which I tried to counter by allowing him to choose whatever he wanted to eat at his major rest stops. This gave him something to look forward to every 12 or 14 hours. I also allowed him a low alcohol beer on these occasions.
Initially Firko was quite rebellious about continually eating vegetables and on one occasion grabbed an Esky belonging to some roadside workers a she ran past. He was heard to mutter something about their lunch being better than the crap Alf was feeding him a she was forcibly dispossessed of the Esky!
Later on in the race, after he had lost weight and was running on negligible reserves, he began to actually ask for his vegies as he was then better able to appreciate the benefits that flowed from them.
The other vital part of his diet was his drinks, which were needed to maintain both his fluid and blood sucrose levels. I had spent the best part of the past year accumulating supplies of a carbohydrate polymer powder called Endurolade. It is a South African product which for political reasons is not available in Australia. Every time I heard of someone going to South Africa or had visitors from that part of the world, they were instructed to bring me a few canisters of the vital powder.
When mixed with water, Endurolade is a drink which provides the body with a quick glycogen boost, which is used first by the body, thus allowing the body's natural reserves of glycogen to remain intact. This drink played a big part in keeping Firko going and prevented him from suffering many of the nasties which afflicted other runners.
Another product which I obtained from South Africa in limited quantities was something called a "Squeezy", which was simply Endurolade in a viscous liquid form, rather like condensed milk and packed in plastic sachets. It provides an even quicker burst of energy and I felt they would be useful during the nights when Firko would not require quite so much liquid.
The race consists of a number of segments which must be completed within a stipulated time or the runner is disqualified. The first cutoff point was in Goulburn, 164km from Sydney and the time allowed was 25 hours. As Firko had covered more than 200kms in a 24 hour race, it was considered that he should cover 164kms in 25 hours without any difficulty. Consequently it was decided to give him a couple of hours rest at Mittagong some 77kms from Sydney.
He was following a sequence of 10 minutes running, 5 minutes walking, with stops about every hour for a stretch. The latter was something which he had not done last year and which I felt had been detrimental to his performance then. This routine plus the correct food and drink seemed to be working well and Mittagong was reached without major difficulty at about 8.40pm.
I had allowed for a 2 hour stop in Mittagong but it was nearly two and a half hours before we were on the road again. I was not particularly worried as we had plenty of time in hand to make Goulburn.
The only incident of note that night took place at a point which Firko subsequently named Shit Hill. Included in the equipment on this trip was a toilet seat mounted on foldup legs, the idea being that if Firko needed to go while we were out in the sticks he could take his sea tout behind the nearest bush and do his business.
It was at Shit Hill that Firko received his first urge to use his foldup toilet seat. The seat was duly set up a discreet distance from the road and Firko went about his business. He was just about finished when he felt a little uncomfortable and tried to adjust the seat which promptly collapsed, depositing Firko in his recent deposit.
The language was something to behold. Even the cows in the nearby field hurriedly moved away and Barbara was muttering that she had thought she had finished with cleaning baby's dirty bottoms.
Our first dawn found us less than 30kms from Goulburn and we were all in good spirits because Firko was going so well. A few hours later we crested the hill about Goulburn, and soon passed the cutoff point with almost 2 hours to spare. 164kms covered in a little over 23 hours. Not bad at all.
I ruled a two hour rest period and at exactly 1.00pm we were on the road again. The next cutoff point was 92kms away in Canberra at 4.00am next morning. This gave us 15 hours to cover the distance and I calculated that we would make it with 2 hours to spare.
I felt that the leg from Goulburn to Canberra was going to be crucial in assessing Firko's chances of getting to Melbourne. It was midway through this section last year that he collapsed, totally exhausted. Also by the time we reached Canberra he would have been on the road for around 39 hours with only 4 hours rest. He had to cover this leg in some style if he was going to have any chance of getting to Melbourne.
I needn't have worried. He wasn't even aware of passing the point of last year's trauma, but I must confess to a sigh of relief once we were past it.
Barbara had told me that Firko only wanted Barbara, Steve Nordish and myself to join him out on the road. This meant that the three of us had to share the duties of shuttling his food and drinks out to him while Steve and I had to do most of the motivating, cajoling and assisting through the inevitable low spots. This was not a reflection on the rest of the crew, but merely Firko's view that the three of us understood him best.
The result was that Steve and I spent long periods out on the road with Firko, especially in the hours after midnight and during the latter stages of a leg as we were approaching a cutoff point.
Thus it was that both Steve and I were out on the road with him as we made our way down the mist shredded Northbourne Avenue towards the cutoff point in central Canberra. Firko was a model patient, following every instruction I gave him to the letter and never failing to respond when I asked for an effort. So much so that we arrived at the Canberra cutoff at 2.00am exactly, precisely to the minute 2 hours ahead of the cutoff, as I had calculated 13 hours exactly in Goulburn.
At the motel, where I calculated we could have a 3 hour rest, we examined Firko's feet. I was amazed because they looked as if he had hardly walked around the block let alone run 255kms. There were no blisters, no weals, no red blotches or bruises, just his normal clear white flesh. It was the first time on the trip that I had the feeling that God must be with this man.
Disaster very nearly struck us in Canberra, and from a most unexpected source. I set my alarm for 5.00am and went to sleep instantly and deeply as I had had about the same amount of rest as Firko had. I became conscious of someone beating a drum next to my bed. "Go away" I mumbled and rolled over. The noise from the drum wouldn't go away. Annoyed I sat up in bed. Someone was knocking on the door.
I staggered around in the darkness trying to find the door in the unfamiliar dark room. It was Barbara. "Wazzamatter" I muttered, cross that she had disturbed my sleep.
"It's quarter to six. Firko is ready to go and is shouting for his crew" she replied. That woke me up with a jolt. Incredibly I had slept right through the alarm, as had the other four crew members sleeping in the same room.
Although everyone was galvanised into action, It was 6.20am before we got back on the road, nearly an hour later than I had planned. I felt sick because I knew that the next leg to Cooma was going to be a tough one with lots of severe climbs, particularly during the latter stages as we passed through the foothills of the Snowy Mountains.
The distance to Cooma is 115kms from Canberra and we needed to get there by 1.00am next morning, only a bit more than 18 hours away. It was going to be tight, but I kept my concerns to myself. Stick to the routine and see how we go.
Around 9.00am we had cause for a small celebration as we passed the spot where Firko was forced to withdraw in agony last year. This year a quick photograph and a celebratory beer. What a contrast!
Our delayed start from Canberra had left us last in the field, at least of those who were still in the run. Firko was progressing so well that we soon began to see the flashing amber lights atop other competitors vehicles. Gradually we pulled up to them. First we passed the irrepressible Cliff Young. Later in the afternoon Firko sailed past the Japanese competitor, Norio Wada.
Dusk was beginning to settle and I sent the second van into Cooma to arrange some accommodation for us. This was something we seemed to be doing at each stop as we invariably arrived in the wee hours. When they returned the first van went for a run to charge its batteries, a daily necessity caused by the long hours of ultra-slow travel.
Cooma was still 45kms away and 7 hours to the cutoff. I calculated that we had half an hour to spare if Firko kept going without any breaks. This was a pretty tough assignment a she had already been on the road for nearly 12 hours since Canberra without any rests other than his brief stretching breaks. And I knew that about 75% of the remaining 45kms were going to be pretty severe uphill climbs.
It was going to be dreadfully close and I rued the hour we lost in Canberra due to my sleeping through the alarm. I wondered if I would ever be able to forgive myself if Firko got eliminated for not making the Cooma cutoff. We just had to get there.
At his next stretching break we had a gentle chat. "Are we going to make it?" Firko asked. "Sure" I said, "Provided you have no rests and reduce your stretches to every two hours."
"How much will we make it by?"
"By five minutes" I lied.
He responded as I knew he would: "Shit we had better get moving then", and he immediately turned and started running.
I had brought enough Squeezies to be able to give Firko about five per night, but this was an emergency. There was no point in missing the cutoff and having squeezies in stock I resolved to cut into our stock to whatever extent was necessary to get to Cooma on time. I warned Steve that we were both going to need to be out on the road for the next six hours.
Firko responded splendidly both to the Squeezies and to the demands of the occasion. Steve and I set him a tough pace and he never wavered. Naturally he complained about some of the hills, but then so did I, and I hadn't covered 340kms as he had.
We continued to pass other runners and I pitied them for I knew that if we were barely going to make the cutoff, then they could have no chance of doing so. Their race was over.
I will never forget the last 20kms into Cooma. It was bitterly cold, crystal clear night and we were all wearing our warm gear, including gloves and beanies. Every 5kms I recalculated our position relative to the cutoff and found that we still had a steady 30 minutes in hand for emergencies.
Firko had been on the road 16 hours since Canberra without a break and I monitored his condition continuously. A couple of serious cramps could easily cost us our precious 30 minute buffer, but I was more concerned about Firko reaching a state of total exhaustion. Every time I perceived him to be flagging and not maintaining the correct pace, I ordered another Squeezy for him.
The last 10kms were covered on grit, determination and Squeezies every half an hour. It was amazing how he responded to the Squeezies. They were a real find.
Another thing which helped considerably was the speaker mounted on the front of the first van through which tapes could be played. It was on this section that I first became aware of the lift that Firko got from listening to a tape of hymns and spiritual songs by Burl Ives. This was the second time on the trip that I felt that God was looking after Firko.
At 11.00pm I sent the second van ahead to allow at least some of the crew members to have a shower and clean up before we arrived. I told them that I anticipated being at the cutoff point, which was on the outskirts of Cooma, at 12.30 and that we would get to the motel in the centre of Cooma at 1.00am.
Our log book shows that we passed the cutoff point with 29 minutes to spare. I must confess to a bit of deception. I did not tell Firko the good news as I wanted him to make his way to the motel and not have to backtrack when we restarted. We kept looking for a non-existent "Welcome to Cooma" sign which I told him was the cutoff. Just before 1.00am we reached the motel and gratefully got into bed. I only removed my shoes before diving between the sheets.
The next leg to Bombala is about 90kms and we were allowed 22 hours to get there. This seemed fairly comfortable seeing Firko had just completed 115kms in 18 hours, so I felt justified in allowing him a slightly longer rest - 4 hours. That would leave 18 hours to cover 90kms, or 5kms per hour, virtually walking pace. Should be a doddle I thought as I wafted into dreamland.
It was tough getting going again just after 5.00am. It was still bitterly cold and fog had settled down to ground level. Visibility was reduced to about 50 metres. Firko was wearing his black balaclava and looked for all the world like Ned Kelly reincarnated.
Suddenly we picked up conversations on the CB radio. It was Terry Cox's crew. From what they were saying it was quite clear that Terry was very much in the race. Yet he was one of the seven runners behind us going into Cooma. We knew tha the could not possibly have made the cutoff time. He had been running with his son, Terry Cox Junior, and the youngster had been in a lot of trouble when he passed him.
We called them up on the CB to ask what had happened. It transpired that the Race Director had belatedly changed the cutoff time by an hour which enabled the laggards to get into Cooma without disqualification. The Race Director had stated that he had set too tough a cutoff time for Cooma.
I was stunned. We had needlessly put Firko through the wringer to get him to Cooma in time and, almost as bad, we had needlessly used up half our meagre stock of Squeezies. I knew that Firko would take the news badly and yet I had to tell him.
We discussed the issue for some time. We were naturally pleased for the other runners that they could continue. They had all spent many thousands of dollars renting their vans and equipment. Their crews had all taken leave and volunteered their services. It would have been a great shame if they had been eliminated.
It was simply bad luck for us that the cutoff time had been changed after we got to Cooma. It would have been a major bonus if we had known about it 10 or 15kms out. I put it to Firko that the race organisers now owed us a favour and that we might just need a favour before we got to Melbourne. This seemed to calm him down and, indeed, was to prove prophetic.
That day on the road to Bombala turned out to be anything but the doddle I had anticipated. Firko was visibly dragging his heels. The effort to get to Cooma had taken a great deal out of him while the change in the cutoff time was bad psychologically.
It became a long hard slog over extremely undulating terrain. We were still traversing the fringe of the Snowy Mountains. Steve and I were destined to spend long periods out on the road trying to motivate Firko and keep his mind on the job. We had to resort to periodic 15 minute rests with occasional breaks.
Fortunately, after nightfall Firko picked up noticeably and we reached Bombala around 9.30pm, about an hour and a half before the cutoff time. All the cutoff times had in fact been extended by an hour following the change to the Cooma cutoff time but Firko, in a fit of pique, said that he wanted to stick to the old cutoff times.
Firko and the crew were in desperate need of rest so I decided on a gamble. If I gave him a long rest he might recover his energy levels much better from a short break and be able to make up the ground by moving faster the next day. I rostered 6 hours sleep for everyone, which meant that the full break was about 7 hours. It was blissful and did the trick.
The next day, Monday, was by far the easiest and nicest day we experienced. The dawn was perhaps the most magnificent I have ever seen. The colours and cloud formations were stunning and seemed to cover the entire firmament. It set the tone for the day.
After a couple of hours we moved off the edge of the escarpment and started down the scenic Cann River valley, through dense forests and occasionally along the banks of the Cann River itself.
Firko was happy and running comfortably. The crew were relaxed and Brian and Jack took the opportunity to go for runs up ahead through the forest. Even a brief rain shower could not dampen our spirits.
Several notable events occurred on this section. In quick order we passed the 500km mark, the half way mark and the Victorian State border. The latter seemed to give Firko a special lift.
We also received the first of the newsletters which contained many messages of encouragement for Firko, all of which were greatly appreciated.
The only sour note during the day was when Jack Nordish took over the driving of the lead vehicle. He sniffed the air and asked Barbara whether she was cooking fish only to be told that it was running shoes that he was smelling.
At about 7.00pm we pulled into a motel in Cann River, having covered 90kms during the day. The next cutoff point was still some 77kms away at a town called Orbost. Firko's strong performance during the day enabled me to allow him a 3 hour sleep in Cann River.
When we got underway again, it was back to the serious business. For starters, there is a long 40km climb out of Cann River. It seemed to take forever. The wind was howling but unfortunately we were sheltered by the dense forests that we were travelling through.
I insisted that Firko walk up the hills to conserve his energy, which meant long periods of walking when Steve and I took turns at keeping him company. Burl Ives and Rocky were the main musical fare. Steve said that he counted 25 separate renditions of the Burl Ives tape on that leg! While he came to detest this tape, it actually grew on me. I am listening to it as I type this and it is astonishing how vividly it brings back the memories.
The trip into Orbost was relatively uneventful. Once we cleared the mountains Firko got back into his easy rhythm, alternating 5 minutes running with 5 minutes walking. He was running comfortably and showing no signs of stiffness or pain anywhere.
Once incident about 10kms outside of Orbost is worth recording. We had gradually caught up with Terry Cox. From the slow pace at which he was travelling we deduced that he must be in some sort of trouble.
I was out on the road with Firko at the time and as we started to get close to Terry, he fell forward flat on his face and didn't move. His crew rushed to his assistance and by the time we drew level with him they had him on his feet on the side of the road. He was bent over retching and looked all in.
I turned to Firko and told him that no matter how badly he wanted to get to Melbourne, I was not going to let him do it if it was necessary to drive him to the same condition that Terry was in at that moment. Firko had clearly been shocked at Terry's condition and he agreed with me.
"I don't want my wife, kids or family to ever see me in that condition" he said quietly. Fortunately we understood each other.
I thought that Terry Cox would have to pull out of the race, but ultra-Marathoners have their own form of insanity. Terry got going again, didn't stop for a rest as we did in Orbost, and he remained ahead of us all the way to Melbourne!
When we got to Orbost, Firko had been on the road for exactly five days and had covered 629kms, an average of 126kms per day. It was hard to believe that the leaders were some 350kms ahead of us and were approaching the finish at that time. Once certainly gets a greater respect for the enormity of these performances when one is out there day after day, living the whole experience and maybe covering 50 or more kilometres per day oneself.
From Orbost the course loops down to the coast at Lakes Entrance and then curves back inland to Bairnsdale, which was the next cutoff point. It is about 60kms to Lakes Entrance and a further 37kms from there to Bairnsdale. After allowing Firko 4 hours sleep we were left with 19 hours to cover the 97kms to the Bairnsdale cutoff. It should be a doddle, I thought, but once again events were going to probe me wrong.
Up to Orbost I had controlled everything that Firko did. I told him when to run, when to walk, when to eat, when to sleep, what to eat, what to drink. About the only thing I did not control were his bodily functions and believe me, he functioned often. If anybody is looking for a donor with a good quality kidney I can recommend Firko's. They are in perfect condition! I can vouch for it as I carefully observed more than 50% of his piddles to check the colour of the urine and to be sure that it contained no blood. If Firko could have found a sponsor who would donate 50 cents for each of his piddles on the road to Melbourne, there would have been no need for any other sponsors!
Thus it was at Orbost that Firko rebelled. In the nicest way, of course.
"Alf, do you mind if I walk and run as I feel up to it? he asked plaintively.
After 630kms I figured that he was probably getting the hang of it, so I agreed. In any event I was feeling pretty bushed and a few extra hours shuteye was very appealing. Once I was sure that everything was going well I climbed into the bunk above the driver's cab in the second vehicle and slept for nearly 4 hours.
I was awakened by this terrible earthquake. Indeed it was several earthquakes. I was in a very tall building and when it eventually collapsed I woke up to find that it was the shuddering of the van as it started and stopped that was causing the earthquakes.
Firko was still going well and had covered more than I had expected him to while I was asleep. We were about 3 hours out of Lakes Entrance and, as had become customary, I joined him for the last pull into town.
I had promised Firko half an hour's break in Lakes Entrance where he could have a change of clothes, let Steve massage his feet and have a proper meal. Firko had asked for steak and kidney pie and to my amazement, tha tis exactly what Barbara produced for him.
Firko still had 8 and half hours left to cover the 37kms to Bairnsdale, working on the old cutoff time and an extra hour if we used the revised cutoff time. It looked pretty comfortable and my idea was to get to Bairnsdale with two or more hours in hand so that Firko could have a rest there.
There is a long climb out of Lakes Entrance. Not nearly as bad as the climb out of Cann River, but still quite a tough slog. We took it fairly slowly, taking nearly an hour and a quarter to complete the 6km hill.
Once on the level Firko started his walk-run-walk routine. He had been doing this for about 15 minutes when suddenly he veered across the road, staggering into me. I could see that something was seriously wrong and sat him down on his haunches.
"What's the matter, mate?"
"Dizzy. Just dizzy" he mumbled, "Can't stand."
"Right, you are going straight to bed," I ordered. He just nodded his assent.
He had clearly been overcame by exhaustion. What concerned me was that I was right next to him and I had not been able to pick up any signs of imminent collapse.
There was a dark, deserted filling station 50 metres up the road. We pulled the vans in there and laid Firko out on the bunk. He was snoring before we had removed his shoes and covered him up.
Some of the crew stretched out for a sleep, others mulled around outside. I sa tin the cab to do a bit of figuring and thinking. It was exactly the situation I had dreaded. I kept thinking of the column in the daily newsletter which gave the reasons for those runners who had withdrawn. Half of them had simply withdrawn from "exhaustion".
We still had 29kms to go to Bairnsdale. If I let Firko sleep for an hour, we would have either 6 or 7 hours to get him to the cutoff, depending on which cutoff time was used. It was going to be a resurrection job, similar to that which we had to do on him last year on the road to Canberra. Lots and lots of vegies, no running, slow walking and a few Squeezies. Maximum speed would be 5kms per hour, so a full 6 hours would be needed. An hour's sleep was all we could afford, but we would still be left with the hour from the revised cutoff as an emergency buffer.
I went to look for Barbara to tell her the news. I found her on her own, down a side road quietly sobbing.
"It means so much to him," she said, wiping the tears away. "He is desperate to make it to Melbourne".
"If there is any way of getting him there without half killing him, we'll find it," I promised her.
What had looked like a doddle had become a desperate race to make the cutoff. I blamed myself for allowing him to do his own thing. He had obviously overdone the running. I blamed myself for having a 4 hour sleep. If I had been awake I would have seen the huge effort he put in to make Lakes Entrance so quickly.
Nothing for it now but to institute Operation Resurrection. Lots of vegies and lots of slow walking. And once again it worked. After some two hours, Firko was looking as bright and chipper a she had been at any stage in the run. Better still, he had suffered no further bouts of dizziness.
In fact, he was looking so good that when we came to a gradual decline, I suggested that we trot down the easy half kilometre or so. When we got to the bottom of the hill I was shocked at the change in his condition. He had lost all his chirpiness, his face was drawn and grey and he looked as if he was going to be ill.
Running was immediately banned and within 30 minutes he had recovered to the point where he was smiling and cracking jokes again. After another 30 minutes I decided to try another trot down a gentle decline, but the result was identical to what had happened an hour earlier. The smile faded to be replaced by the drawn, grey look.
My heart sank as I diagnosed what was happening was that when he started running, the pain was causing his body to go into shock. We were going to have to walk all the way into Bairnsdale. Worse still, we were probably going to have to walk the remaining 300kms to Melbourne.
I tired to explain to Firko what was happening to him but I'm not sure that he understood fully. "Walk to Bairnsdale and we'll worry about it from there.," I said.
Firko looked dejected. "I'm sorry to be holding you up," he mumbled.
I put an arm around his shoulder. "Mate, if there is anything which is going to make me very cross, it is you apoligising and feeling sorry for yourself."
Some weeks after the event, Firko confided what I had said had been like a slap across the face, that it felt as if he was back at school. He didn't apoligise again on the trip. Nor did I ever have the impression that he was feeling sorry for himself.
The long walk into Bairnsdale was highlighted by the arrival of Firko's son Shane, who was stationed at the Air Force Base at Sale. It was a welcome moment for Firko and helped to break the monotony.
When it became apparent that Firko was going to be able to walk to Bairnsdale and arrive within the original cutoff time, I allowed myself to think about the next leg, which was 120kms to Traralgon. From cutoff time in Bairnsdale to cutoff time in Traralgon was 24 hours, with an extra hour if we used the revised time.
The problem was that I had a runner who couldn't run and was walking at about 5.5km per hour. He was going to need 22 hours to cover the distance at that rate, but he also needed a rest. I decided that we had no alternative but to start using the extra hour available from the revised cutoff times. If he walked 40kms, slept for an hour, walked another 40kms, slept another hour and then hightailed it to Traralgon, it would take exactly 24 hours.
If we followed this schedule, then I could only give Firko a 90 minute break in Bairnsdale. As I could see no other alternative in the circumstances, that is what we did. There was barely time for Firko to shower, shave, have his feet massaged by Steve and get an hour's sleep before we were on the road again.
I walked with Firko for the first 3 hours out of Bairnsdale in order to try to get him up to 6kms per hour pace, thereby building up a small buffer for emergencies. We did cover 18kms during those 3 hours, but it was quite a humiliating experience for me. At the end of the 3 hours my feet were sore, I had a couple of blisters and I was exhausted. My respect for Firko's stamina and guts went up another notch a she continued to stride out towards the setting sun.
It took 7 hours for Firko to walk those first 40kms, an average of 5.7km per hour. This was slightly better than the 5.5km per hour that I had budgeted on, so we had a small buffer. After an hour's sleep, a change of clothes and another foot massage, Firko was walking again. We were into our seventh night on the road.
Firko had lost a considerable amount of weight and his buttocks had almost disappeared. His face was haggard and drawn, and his pace was gradually slowing. As midnight approached, I started to get alarmed. We had only covered about 16 of the next 40kms that I had scheduled before his next hour's rest. At the pace he was going at, we were not going to make the Traralgon cutoff. Firko was approaching total exhaustion and there was nothing I could do about it.
Three kilometres further on, while he was having a stretch, he asked: "How much further is it to my next rest?"
"About 12kms," I replied. His shoulders sagged.
"Alf do you think I could have half an hour now and reduce the next rest by half an hour?"
My heart went out to him. It was the first time since we had left Sydney that he had actually asked for a rest. I knew how much it had cost him just to ask. I also knew that he was finished, both physically and as far as the race was concerned. He had to have a decent rest and after that there was no way that he could make the cutoff in time. It was crunch time.
"No mate, you can't have half an hour. You are going to have a full hour, maybe more."
I think that the crew also sensed that it was over. It was a brave attempt, but the body, particularly a 51 year old body, can only take so much. Most of the crew found a spot to stretch out and sleep. I sat in the cab with Ken Gray and we discussed the situation.
We were then 784kms into the race and my thinking was to try and nurse Firko through another 16kms so that he could at least have covered 800kms, which would still have been an enormous achievement. He had never been further than 292kms, so 800 was a huge advance.
Although I knew that he was finished, I felt that I owed Firko at least enough time to make it to Traralgon if he had it in him. Once again I hauled out the logbook and a pencil and did some calculating.
About 75 minutes after he had gone down to sleep, I was shaking him awake and turning the lights on to get enough bodies up to get the show on the road.
I gave Firko one of our latest remaining Squeezies while I explained the position to him. There was something over 10 hours to go to the revised cutoff time and 59kms to be covered. With no further rests and by doing a little bit of running from time to time, it was possible to just make it.
Barbara walked the first few hundred metres with him. Suddenly I saw him hug and kiss her, then he was running. Barbara jumped into the van, tears streaming down her face.
"He says that he is going to do it", she sobbed.
I still believe that we witnessed a miracle that night. From being in a state of total exhaustion where he could scarcely put one foot in front of the other, to a mere 90 minutes later being right back into a 5 minute run/5 minute walk routine, is beyond rational explanation.
Not only did it happen, but he kept it up to such a degree that we reached Traralgon with 30 minutes to spare. I now felt certain that God was with Firko on this run and that nothing could stop us now.
To fully appreciate the enormity of this performance, it needs to be seen in perspective. It had taken 5 days to get to Orbost. In the 48 hours since Orbost, Firko had had the following sleeps: 90 minutes outside Lakes Entrance; an hour in Bairnsdale and two one hour sleeps on the road to Traralgon. A total of four and a half hours sleep in 2 days, and that after he had already covered 625kms during the first 5 days. A truly miraculous effort.
Firko's troubles were far from over. We were still 168kms from Melbourne and of more immediate concern, still 65kms from the final cutoff point at Warragul. Firko needed sleep badly, but I had to balance this necessity against the time required to get to Warragul.
In the end I allowed Firko 3 hours sleep, which I felt was the absolute minimum that he needed. This was going to make the next leg very tight indeed as it left only 11 hours to cover the 65kms to Warragul. We would have no emergency buffer and there would be nothing spare for a rest on the way. It was going to be a nailbiting finish.
For the first few hours Firko managed to maintain the required pace but then he started to fade. I knew that he was in trouble when we came to a long, but not particularly steep hill. It seemed to take forever to reach the crest. When we reached it, Firko said that he needed a 5 minute rest. This was only the second time that he had asked for a rest on the whole trip and confirmed to me that he had no reserves left.
The walk down the other side gave him some respite but when he got back to level ground, it was obvious that he was keeping going on willpower only. The vegies and Endurolade drink did not seem to be helping. By this stage all the Squeezies had been used up , so there was nothing available to give him a boost.
We were still 35kms from Warragul, when he asked for another 5 minute rest. What he needed was about 12 hours sleep. I called a halt and put him to bed. Even if we kept going, we were not going to make the cutoff. In fact, I was doubtful that he would even get to Warragul if we kept going without giving him a rest.
It was time to call in the debt that I believe the race Organisers owed us for the cockup at Cooma, which now seemed years ago. The official dealing with our section of the field was Firko's friend "Mountain Man". I knew that he would be along shortly as he always arrived at dinner time.
Sure enough, ten minutes later Mountain Man pitched up. I explained the situation to him and asked if I could use the car telephone to talk to Charlie Lynn, the Race Director and the man with the final authority.
I explained to Charlie how we had been prejudiced by the events at Cooma and why I felt that the Race Organisation owed Firko a favour. I told him of Firko's condition and said that I was not prepared to drive him into the ground in order to make the cutoff point at Warragul. I asked for official permission for a late arrival at the cutoff point for Firko.
Fortunately Charlie was very friendly and accepted what I said about Cooma. He agreed to allow Firko to reach Warragul after the official cutoff time and to continue on to Melbourne as an official runner. He said that he would issue instructions accordingly.
Later I checked with Mountain Man and also with the driver of the night safety van which followed the last runner in the field after sunset and found that Charlie was as good as his word. He had told them that we were to continue to Melbourne even if Firko missed his Warragul cutoff time.
After an hour I got Firko up again and we set out for Warragul. It was tough going as Firko still did not seem to have anything in reserve and the Endurolade was not perking him up. The Race Doctor had given us a can on "Maximum" to try. This is an Australian made product similar to Endurolade, but I had refrained from using it because I didn't want to change a winning formula. I decided that it was time to give Maximum a go and it produced an immediate positive effect. Perhaps Firko was saturated with Endurolade.
"Were you there when they crucified my Lord."
"Sometimes it causes me to tremble, trrremmmbbbllleee."
The gravelly tones of Burl Ive's voice filled the night sky for the umpteenth time. I was out on the road again with Firko, but this time there was no respite. I had discovered that Steve Nordish had a serious ankle injury which he had successfully concealed from me for two days until he could no longer walk. He wa snow resigned to a driving and foot massaging role for the remainder of the journey.
"He walks with me and He talks with me, and tells me I am his own."
More Burl Ives. Seemed appropriate.
Ever so slowly the hours and kilometres ticked by as Firko and I strode up the long straight, dark road. I was too concerned about his weakened state to leave his side.
Midnight came and went. Finally at 2am, the cutoff times at Warragul, we were still some 7kms from the town. I felt exceedingly grateful that we had a debt to call up and that it had been honoured.
"Come home, come home, Ye who are weary come home."
"Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling."
Burl Ives droned on in the background. Eventually the lights of Warragul appeared ahead of us.
It was 3am and I was exhausted. Heaven knows how Firko was feeling. To me it seemed like a miracle that he was still on his feet. Another 2kms into Warragul and then bed.
I noticed an official Westfield Run car pull up and the Race Marshall got out. He trotted up, smiling and waving to the bleary-eyed crew. I though that it was jolly nice of him to come out at 3am in the morning to give Firko a helping hand into Warragul.
Firko was walking at the time. I was on his right hand side carrying the drinks bottle. The race Marshall joined us on Firko's left hand side.
"Graham , this is something which is very hard for me to do," said the Race Marshall, "but rules are rules and the Warragul cutoff time has already passed."
I suddenly realised that he was not there to help Firko and that he was on the verge of withdrawing him from the race. I am a very easy-going person and used to be able to count the number of times that I have blown my cool on the fingers of one hand. I was about to start on my other hand.
I simply exploded, fumes were literally coming out of my ears. No doubt the lack of sleep, the physical exhaustion and the emotional pressure of keeping Firko on the road all took their toll.
Suddenly I was poking my forefinger in the Race Marshall's face and yelling at him.
"Who the effing hell do you think you are coming to withdraw this man?" I think that the words were probably somewhat stronger. "You better get on your effing phone and check your effing facts with your effing Race Director before you do anything that you might regret. We have official permission to be late at this cutoff?"
"When did you speak to Charlie?" the Race Marshall wanted to know, quite taken aback by my outburst. I told him and he scurried off with his tail between his legs to check what I had said. A few minutes alter he returned to say that everything was as I had said and that we were to continue. He left muttering under his breath about not having been informed and that Charlie should not shoot from the hip like that.
It gave us something to talk about over the last little hike into Warragul.
Firko still had 103kms to cover the finish line in Melbourne. To get there at some sort of respectable time, we had to be on the road again at 6am. That gave us about two hours for a much needed sleep.
"Wake up, Alf, I heard your alarm go off." It was Toots shaking my shoulder. Once again I had slept right through the alarm.
Steve Nordish was propped up on one arm on the adjacent bed. "Last day," he said cheerfully.
"What do you think the odds are of making it?" I asked him.
"I never had any doubts that he would make it", he said. "The only time I was concerned was before Traralgon. He'll make it now." I wasn't so sure. I knew how close Firko had been to collapse the previous day. It was a question of crossing fingers and keeping going. I was determined that we would get him there, even if we had to carry him the last 50kms.
We had been ordered to have someone on Firko's right all the way from Warragul to Melbourne, in case he lurched to the right into the traffic, which was expected to become increasingly heavy. This was the opportunity to give the rest of the crew a chance to be out on the road with Firko and I believe that it was also the time that he was ready for a change of company. A roster was prepared so that everyone could have a turn out on the road. I decided that I would save myself for the last 30kms when I might be most needed.
I had phoned my wife, Rosanne when I began to get confident that Firko was going to make it to Melbourne. I suggested that she might like to fly down on the Friday morning and be with us on the final day. It would also enable her to bring us a packet of Squeezies which I felt would be sorely needed before we got to the Finish line.
From about 10.00 am I was scanning the oncoming traffic, looking for Rosanne. Eventually there was a toot as she flashed past on the other side of the double highway. Then she was parking up ahead of us and running towards us with a broad grin on her face.
"I've never seen Rosanne without a smile on her face," remarked Firko as she rushed up and gave him a peck on the cheek.
As we walked back towards the van to greet the crew, Rosanne said: "I hear that Firko has been withdrawn from the race. What has happened?"
I stopped in midstride. "What are you talking about?"
"I was listening to the news on the car radio and heard that Firko has been withdrawn from the race but is being allowed to complete the course as an unofficial runner."
Once again I was flabbergasted. This was completely contrary to my arrangements with Charlie Lynn, the Race Director. I suddenly realised that we had not seen a race official all morning. Was Firko really out of the race? Did this mean that he was not going to be recognised as a finisher? After the incredibly courageous effort that he had made, was he going to be denied a Finisher's Medal and recognition in the Race Records as a finisher?
We discussed the situation with the rest of the crew and decided that we would not mention anything to Firko until we had further information from a race official. The hours ticked by, but no race official appeared.
Eventually Firko had covered 25kms. I had decided to break the journey into 4 sections of about 25kms each, allowing Firko an hour of sleep at the end of each section.
About halfway through the second 25km leg I noticed a television crew up ahead. I knew instinctively that they were going to question Firko about the circumstances of his withdrawal, something which he still knew nothing about. I dashed forward in the hope that I could fend them off.
Sure enough, the interviewer immediately launched into questioning Firko about why he was continuing after he had been officially withdrawn. I countered by asking from where they had got their information that Firko had been withdrawn. The interviewer replied that it came from an AAP-Reuters wire report. My heart sank. Such a report had to be official. All I could do was to say that we had not had any such notification from the race authorities and as far as we were concerned, Firko was still an official runner.
As a result of this confrontation I had to tell Firko about the radio report. We still had not seen a race official and I was starting to feel a bit desperate. Firko's brother, Ron and his son Shane had arrived to cheer him home. As they needed to go into Melbourne to make some Motel Bookings and Rosanne needed to pick up our Motel key, I suggested that they drive to Melbourne, track down Charlie Lynn and find out exactly what was going on.
Shortly after Firko's second sleep we had our first good news . We had a visit from a couple of policeman who told us that they were there to estimate Firko's speed so that they could estimate his final arrival time. They told us that Charlie Lynn had requested a police escort into Melbourne for Firko, something reserved usually for the leading runner only.
I was quite amused when they figured that he would arrive at 8.30pm. I told them that it would be closer to 3.00am and that I had a week's practise at this sort of thing. We eventually arrived at 3.25am.
It was dusk when Rosanne, Ron and Shane returned from Melbourne. The news was good. Charlie had said to ignore media reports. Firko would be an official finisher. He would get his medal and Finisher's Certificate. They would keep the Finish facilities open until Firko arrived, no matter what time that was. There would be hot food and cold beer waiting for us. The TV cameras would be waiting and the Police escort would see him right to the finish.
Clearly Charlie was bending over backwards to undo the damage of the erroneous media report of Firko' withdrawal and was honouring the arrangements that I have made with him.
It was a great relief to me and I could now concentrate on getting Firko through the final kilometres to the finish.
We had become quite a cavalcade as we wound our way through the outskirts of Melbourne. Two police cars with flashing blue lights up ahead, then Firko followed by the first van with it's flashing amber lights, then Ron's car, the second van and finally the night security ute with it's flashing amber light and huge sign "Runner Ahead" on its rear.
I was still very concerned about Firko's condition as I knew that he had already exceeded his limits of endurance, but he kept putting one foot in front of the other. My greatest fear was to have him collapse with only a few kilometres to go. I seemed to be the only one so concerned. The rest of the crew, other than the drivers, had donned their shirts with "Firko's crew emblazoned on the front and were walking in a group around Firko. I remained steadfastly at his right shoulder.
Suddenly Firko veered off to the left and ran off the road. "What the hell is going on?" I wondered as I chased after him. I caught up with him in front of a flower seller's stand that he had spied.
"Alf, can you lend me $5 to buy Barbara some flowers?"
I can't think of another runner who might have done anything similar, but then Firko is one of Nature's gentlemen. He might even repay the $5 sometime.
With ten kilometres to go we were joined by Charlie Lynn who walked to the Finish with Firko. I thought that this was a very touching gesture as Charlie had had virtually no sleep during the past 48 hours and this was beyond the call of duty. But then Charlie is also a Sydney Strider.
The final few kilometres seemed an eternity, as they always do, no matter how long the race. After eight days and sixteen hours they seemed to stretch on forever.
Finally there was the Westfield Doncaster shopping centre. The final 50 metre straight to the tape. The bright arclights to enable the TV cameras to capture the moment. Firko kissing Barbara. Firko hugging his mother, who had made a special journey to Melbourne to witness the finish. Handshakes. Backslaps. Pandemonium.
Charlie hanging the most enormous gold medal around Firko's neck. Ken dashing hither and thither with his video camera.
Suddenly we were inside a warm tent. Charlie had honoured his promise. There was a warm pizza and cold beer.
I was all choked up. It was a combination of tiredness, release from the emotional pressure of continually monitoring Firko's condition and the sheer ecstasy of the moment. I could feel the tears welling up. All I could do was to pat Firko on the back as I pulled the tag on a can of beer.
The joy was that Firko had conquered his own personal Everest and I was proud to be a part of his team, a team which had supported him to the hilt, to the extreme limits of their own endurance. I am sure that they will all join me in saying: "It was a magnificent effort, Firk, and it was a privilege for us to witness it. We are really proud of you."
As I sat there sipping my beer the words from the Burl Ives tape kept ringing through my head.
"And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known;
"Come home, come home, its suppertime;
The shadows deepen fast,
We are going home at last."
This great story was written by Alf Field who was crew manager on Graham Firkin's magnificent run in 1989. As Race Director, charlie Lynn said about this story "It proves that man can do anything he sets his heart on.
A True Story
It was late one Saturday night when a Cooma Farmer staggered out of the Pub and got into his car to drive home. He was a couple of kilometres out of town, when he saw a lot of flashing lights up the road and thought that the cops were having a busy night. He pulled into a laneway and watched over the next few hours whilst the Police continued with their blitz. A mate found him asleep in his car the next morning and asked him what he was doing. The farmer was most embarrassed when he found out that the flashing lights belonged to Westfield vehicles and not the local constabulary.
A DAY IN THE LIFE OF FRED PUBLIC DURING THE Westfield RUN
How can we expect the public to maintain interest in a race where the margin between the first and second placed runners is 27 hours - as it was in 1987?
Let's look at what the average family man in Australia would do between the time Yiannis Kouros crosses the Finish Line and the time his nearest competitor Patrick Macke finished in 1987. Remember, this is after he won his previous run by 24 hours.
Let's say Yiannis Kouros crossed the finish line at 6.00am on Monday morning. His nearest rival is approximately 27 hours or 180km behind him.
Fred (representing our target audience) wakes at 6.00am to the news that the great Greek runner, Yiannis Kouros has blitzed the field. It doesn't register. He dozes off again and then suddenly realises he has overslept by 20 minutes. He jumps out of bed, stretches his body, and makes for the bathroom. A quick shave and then puts on his running gear - got to try and keep fit somehow!
Off he goes into the new dawn - his joints are stiff and the fresh breeze sends a chill through his body. After a few minutes he warms up a bit and gets into a more regular cadence. His muscles start to stretch out a bit. He feels pleased with himself but sorry for all of his neighbours who are denying themselves the opportunity to experience the joy of an early morning run. He sees another jogger - a total stranger - they wave and exchange friendly greetings - "G'day mate, owyergoing?", "Good mate, and yourself?". Then it's back to dreamworld.
"Jeez, this feels good. I reckon I could do this forever. I reckon I could do the Westfield if I could get the time to put some training in. Don't think I could catch the Greek though - he must be bloody good……!"
After a gentle 40 minutes he turns the corner and slows to a walk as he approaches his driveway. A few gentle stretches and it's inside for a shower and the days work.
It's 8.15 am and Fred's wife has prepared breakfast for him - some orange juice, muesli and wholemeal toast. He watches 'Good Morning Australia' and sees Yiannis Kouros talking to the press - looks remarkably fresh for somebody who has just run from Sydney to Melbourne!
Fred then has a chat with the kids and after kissing them all goodbye, he heads off to work. He tunes into the radio and hears an interview with Kouros. Kouros remarks that he could probably do better but nobody has ever been a serious threat to him in an UltraMarathon.
Fred thinks; "Struth he's been finished for three hours already with his nearest competitor is still over 150km from the Finish Line"!
At work Fred's mind is quickly occupied with a number of projects he is working on; a 9.30am meeting, a visit to a construction site at 11.00am and a business lunch at 1.00pm.
During lunch one of his contemporaries says " You jog don't you Fred - what did you think of that Greek that got in this morning?". "Great effort" says Fred, "Just think he has finished the event, celebrated with his crew and has now been asleep for about four hours - and the nearest competitor is still about 130km from the finish"!
They finish lunch and Fred gets back to business at the office. The afternoon passes quickly and 6.00pm sees Fred back in the car heading for home. "Don’t forget to pick up the groceries and then call around to football training to give young Billy a ride home"; he remembers his wife’s instructions clearly.
At home he read the afternoon newspapers and then tunes into the evening news. The Kouros victory is now old hat and it just rates a passing mention. But it's enough to trigger Fred's recall - "Struth" he thinks, "Kouros would be out of bed after a deep 10 hour sleep and his nearest competitor is still about 80km from the finish!"
His wife reminds him that they have a P and C meeting to go to at 8.00pm. Fred goes along and listens as concerned parents and teachers debate the issues of education and the running of the local school. He gets back home at 10.30pm and sits down to supper with his wife and they have a quiet yarn about the day's activities.
"Are you going for a run in the morning?" she asks.
"Yep" he replies. "Then there are some clean jocks in the bathroom - and please don't put those shoes on until you get outside - and when you get back take them off before you get inside - and take your socks off too cause they're starting to make the carpet smelly, and shut the door properly on the way out this time…….!" Fred listens, acknowledges, agrees and then goes for his shower.
A good sound sleep and then Fred rouses to his alarm at 6.00am. He takes 15 minutes to get out of bed - wanders down to the lounge - "Where are my bloody jocks" he wanders, - "never where I want them". He bumps around in the dark, finds them in the bathroom - "Why did she put them here?" He goes back to the lounge, puts on his joggers and leaves by the front door, but forgets to shut it.
Today’s jog is not as easy but he doesn't quit and plods on for another 8km. Then it's breakfast, kids, wife and off to work again.
Halfway through a meeting at 10.00am one of his contemporaries says, "You jog don't you Fred?" I see that pommy runner Macke just finished the Sydney to Melbourne in second place". "Yeah" said Fred, "Wasn't exactly a photo finish was it!"
Sydney runner, Maurice Taylor was struggling to raise money one year for himself to compete in the Westfield one year that he sold his most beloved possession. It was his Stradivarius violin! That's dedication!
It was to be towards the end of 1991 when Westfield pulled the plug on sponsorship of this great Run. No other companies came forth and suddenly the Sydney to Melbourne Run was no more. One could debate the pros and cons of Westfield's sponsorship of the Run, but that isn’t the purpose of this Book. My purpose has been to talk about the ordinary men and women striving for their goals on the road between Sydney and Melbourne. Their efforts are now recorded in history. Anyone can do anything that they set their minds to in life. The men and women in this book prove that.
It was in August 98 when I competed in a 24 hour race in inner Melbourne. There were five ex-Westfield runners in the field. It had been seven years since the last Westfield, but one could sense and feel the warm regard and common bond they had with each other as a result of the great adventures that they had been through together! It was like Returned Soldiers attending Anzaac Day Celebrations. Nothing had to be said. They knew themselves what they had been through together!
Former Westfield runner, Helen Stangar blitzed the field that day and won with 228km. This was a new female Australian record. In her own words, she had definitely won, ran a Personal best and ran her best on the day!