by Philip Essam
1984 - The Lawnmower Man
A year passed and the second Westfield Sydney Ultra Marathon was scheduled to commence on 27th April 1984 from Doncaster Shopping Centre. This was the only year that the race was run from Melbourne to Sydney, but it certainly helped to build it’s status amongst Ultra races around the world.
The runners included last year’s winner, Cliff Young. Cliff was the sentimental favourite and media attention was focused on him. Could he repeat last year’s epic win and leave the opposition floundering?
Also lining up were experienced Ultra Marathoners Tony Rafferty, Bob Bruner, John Connellan and Joe Record. Would Record attack with the same free spirit of last year, or would he run more conservatively and pounce in the last quarter!
Dick Cameron and John Hughes were coming from New Zealand. The run was also going to include American, Don Choi and Indian, Tirtha Phani. The event had gone international. There were some new local runners in the field as well. Geoff Molloy, ex Sun Tour bike rider had a very big heart and a ton of stamina to boot.
The Race Director, Mike Agostini said "The Westfield Melbourne to Sydney Ultra Marathon could turn into the longest sprint race ever held". He said "The 875km race boasted so many Long Distance runners it was anyone’s event".
One of the dark horses of the race was Tirtha Phani from India, even though his opponents are sceptical about his past performances. He had a place in the Guiness book of Records for running 8816km across India in 58 days, 2 hours and 25 minutes. That was an average of 152km a day! Tirtha Phani has apparently told Race Director, Mike Agostini that he will run for 21 hours a day, averaging 8.5kph.
Tirtha Phani arrived in Australia without sponsorship but now has the backing of the Indian Tourist Bureau, Indian Tea Board and Air India. He has been staying with the Indian Consul-General Mr A.K. Bamerjee since arriving in Australia. Mr Bamerjee has stated that he will follow Phani for the first two days of the race.
Thirty one starters lined up for the 84 Westfield. They included thirty three year old Caroline Vaughan. She ran from Melbourne to Sydney as part of a relay team in 1979 to raise money for Aboriginal Medical services. For the last year, she has been training with Joe Record, which is bound to help her preparation.
The runners include:
Bob Bruner - Forty five year old Ultra Marathon Runner was lining up for his second crack at the event. His claims to fame include being a former Canadian boxing flyweight Champion and Canadian Schoolboy soccer star. This was to be his last major event in Australia!
Sonny Bulleen - Thirty seven year old Landscape Gardener from NSW was lining up for his first event. He has limited experience, but has been running sixty kilometres a day in preparation.
Roy Butlin - from Queensland was entering the Race for the first time. His major achievement was to run from Brisbane to Sydney in a time of five days and three hours in 1982. This was a distance over one thousand kilometres and if he was to repeat this performance during this race, he would create a major upset.
John Carlton - Forty one year old first time Westfield runner from South Australia. He mainly runs Marathons, but celebrated his fortieth birthday by running the Grand Canyon.
John Champness - 42 year old Melbourne Fireman. He was one of twenty firemen that completed a Relay run around Australia last year.
John Connellan - From Melbourne and one of the youngest in the field. He did run in the Westfield last year. Considering his age, he is one of the most experienced in the race. He withdrew from last year’s event, but did put a scare amongst his rivals when he led the Colac 1000 mile race until injury forced him to withdraw at 220 miles. He could be a force to be reckoned with if he gets it together this week.
Peter Drummond - Another quality runner in the field. He claims to have run 128 000km during the last ten years. He has also run 21 marathons and several longer races.
Toby Field - ex South Sydney junior Rugby league player is another youngster in the field. He is unknown but has run from Canberra to Sydney in a reasonable time.
Keith Gillies - Another South Australian runner. He has run in thirteen Marathons in the past year. Are marathons enough preparation for Multi-day Ultras?
Barry Kendall - Thirty three year old former Schoolboy sports athletics Champion. He grabbed his place in the field by sheer persistence, which included phoning Mike Agostini’s office on a regular basis.
Wal McCrorie - One of the older runners in the field. He raced in last year’s race and completed over five hundred kilometres. Wal did have the record for running from Sydney to Melbourne the long way( via the Princess Highway). If he starts off at a regular pace he should be up with the front runners at the closing stages.
Bob McElwaine - Second oldest runner at fifty nine. He did plan to run around Australia four years ago, but sponsors withdrew. His son, Philip won the middleweight Gold medal at the 78 Edmonton Commonwealth Games. Bob McElwaine’s story was to be one of the sad stories of the 84 race.
Keith Marshall - Fifty eight and third oldest runner in the field. He is a cleaner from Kyabram and has completed many twenty four hour runs raising much needed dollars for charity.
Geoff Molloy - Former top Sun Tour cyclist, who was motivated by the deeds of Cliff Young and the lure of the twenty thousand dollar first prize money.
Geoff Molloy’s cycling career was full of great potential, but ended on October 22, 1965. It was Day Seven of the Sun Tour when he was involved in an accident with a car on the Princes Highway near Moe. At the time he was second to the great Barry Waddell, who
ended up winning his second of five Sun Tours.
Seven riders fell in that accident. Molloy suffered more than any other rider. His left thigh was a mass of abrasions and it was found later that he also had a fractured leg. He absolutely refused to go to hospital and was determined to ride the next day.
Geoff recounts that stage in his life when he said "When I look back, it’s stupid. I couldn’t walk, let alone ride. You just don’t accept that something is fractured or broken. People wonder at the sanity of bike riders, but it was all part of the positive thinking for cyclists."
Geoff also had an accident in the 1964 Sun Tour. Molloy had won the Melbourne to Bendigo Wheelrace. Who knows what he would have achieved in cycling, if these accidents had not of happened.
After the two cycling accidents Molloy became a typical "Norm" for the next fifteen years. He then became intrigued with the prospect of running a Marathon. The Melbourne Big M was the one he aimed for and his goal was three hours. His completed time was four minutes longer.
This motivated him to keep going. Next year he smashed the three hour barrier and ran 2:42:00. In 1982 he reduced that time to 2:29:00. In 1983 he won the Australian Professional Veterans Marathon, 10km, 15km and 10 mile titles.
At this stage Molloy was ready to step into the background. Cliff Young’s performance in the 83 Westfield and the prospect of paying $20 000 of his mortgage prompted him to start training for the Westfield. He based his training on his training for a nine day Sun Tour and planned to sleep for four hours every day.
The proposed sleep pattern changed though after he broke Joe Record’s Aust 24 hr record at Box Hill early in 83. Molloy slept for only 40 min of the race and felt relatively good afterwards. He decided after that to run until the body tells him to sleep. Molloy said "Unless I thought I could win, I would not be running. I’m not interested in running fifth".
Trevor Newton - Thirty four year old had run from Adelaide to Sydney averaging 95km a day. He would need to double that workload to stand any chance in this race.
Peter Parcell - from the Gold Coast. Has interrupted his round the World Run to compete. He ran from Sydney to Melbourne this week just to get to the starting line! It took a week and he considers it a good warmup. In the last year he has run 11 000km in seven countries around the world. It is all part of his aim to run around the world. Parcell believes that he can win the 84 Westfield by running the course in under four days!
Barry Paterson - Thirty five year old and another novice runner. He has run 187km in a twenty four hour race. He is convinced that he will be a force in this event.
Niel Petersen - Thirty six old and has been in Australia for two years. He rises at 2am each morning to go training before starting his job as a bricklayer.
Robin Philips - Is another of the mid thirties age group in the race. He is a Queensland architect who does 160km training runs every fortnight in preparation.
Tony Rafferty - Is a pioneer of Ultra racing in Australia. It was his acceptance of Perdon’s challenge last year that initiated the Westfield race.
Joe Record - Is another ultra Distance Running champion. He was a force in last year’s race until injury struck and will once again shape the results in this year’s event.
Allan Tweedie - Is the youngest competitor at twenty three. He has been averaging 48km a day at the rate of four minutes per kilometre. Could be too fast for a race of this distance though!
Cliff Young - Back for a second crack at the race. A week ago he was in doubt when he injured his left knee and was told by a Specialist not to run. Cliff was determined to run and did not want to let the fans down.
Dick Cameron - Another of the three Kiwis runners. He is forty two. His backgrounds is in Marathons and not Ultras.
Don Choi - Is one of the pioneers of Ultra running. He is a thirty five year old Chinese American who initiated the modern era of Six Day racing.
John Hughes - Is fifty one years old and the third person from New Zealand to be competing. John is a former holder of the Sydney to Melbourne record and is keen to regain this title.
John Radich - 29 from USA and the second American runner. He is coached by former Aust legend, Bill Emerton and must be a better than average runner on that credence alone.
Ross Parker - Is thirty five years old and from WA. He has no background in ultra Distance Running, but convinced Mike Agostini to let him into the field. Parker went on in later years to become a regular Westfield competitor.
Thousands turned up to see the start of the 84 Westfield at the Doncaster Shopping centre. It was Friday 27th April and the race was due to start at 1030am. The Victorian Premier was the official starter. Some of the runners were having second thoughts and starting to doubt their sanity before the start. Queensland Architect, Robin Philips said "I must be mad", as he got changed.
The Race Director, Mike Agostini expressed concern for the safety of the runners. Tony Rafferty and Siggy Bauer told the runners prior to the start of the race the dangers of running along the Highway.
Rafferty is running for the second time, but Bauer has withdrawn in protest. The reason being is that John Toleman, the previous Race Director quit after a row with Westfield Executives. Bauer was quite happy though to inform the runners on the possible dangers that they faced.
"The dangers have been completely drummed into the runners, we’ve told them and the police have told them" Agostini said. "But it is a constant source of worry, the biggest headache I’ve got. I’m greatly concerned about a truck running into a runner. I will not relax until the last runner is off the roads". "The police are concerned, but do you stop people hang gliding or skin diving? This is a professional footrace."
The race got under way and the usual runners started at their reckless pace. The runners had twenty five steps of an escalator to run up first. Queenslander, Peter Parcell led and after five kilometres he had a minute and twenty second break on Dick Cameron.
Last year’s winner, Cliff Young was two minutes and ten seconds behind Parcell. Caroline Vaughan was ten minutes behind Parcell and in second last place. Tirtha Phani was already in last place! They were clocked at doing six minute miles.
The runners ran through City Mall at lunch time and were met by crowds that cheered them on like a winning Grand Final team. Traffic was a nightmare when they ran along Sydney Road through Brunswick, but the Police and Marshalls did an excellent job keeping everyone happy! The runners had to run solo through the city and they could not join with their support vehicles until they reached Royal Parade.
At the 30km mark, Parcell was still in the lead, but had been joined by Niel Petersen. They had a three and a half minute lead over John Connellan.
Young had dropped eleven minutes behind the leaders. He was enjoying himself and waving to the crowd. Thousands of spectators lined the route. It was reminiscent of last year’s race when the crowds welcomed Cliff into Melbourne.
Cliff had trouble finding water at the start of the race. He also wanted a shoe change, but had lost his crew into the bargain. He even got the police looking for them as well. Young was thirty miles out of Melbourne when they turned up. They stayed behind when the race started and had the free feed that Westfield put on. Thoughts of Divorce were going on in Cliff ’s mind during this time. His wife, Mary was the crew Manager and Organiser of the team!
Peter Parcell was the first withdrawals from the race. He was suffering from a suspected hairline fracture of the pelvis. Probably wasn’t helped by running from Sydney to Melbourne the week before!
It was midnight on the first night when Niel Petersen grabbed the lead. He was three miles in front of Joe Record and Geoff Molloy. It was his love of beer that got Petersen into the Westfield. He won a bet of a dozen bottles of beer by running from Indooroopilly to Mount Cootha and back twice in three hours. This gave him the motivation to follow Cliff Young’s dream of twelve months earlier.
Petersen came to Australia from Denmark in November 82. He was excited by the prospect of living in the "Lucky Country". He had been taking English lessons four months ago, but gave them up so he could spend more time training for the race. He had been rising at 0200hrs and training. This would be followed by a day’s work as a BrickLayer. He would then do another run in the evening.
At 10pm on the first night, Petersen was still in the lead. He was 5km ahead of Joe Record. This changed during the night when he had a sleep and Wal McCrorie slipped into the lead. Joe Record and Geoff Molloy passed him during that time. Sponsorship for Petersen had fallen through prior to the event and he was running in a plain white T-shirt. His wife was predicting that Niel would win when she said "I doubt he will be beaten. I don’t think he will need sleep for two days."
Meanwhile the Tirtha Phani story was starting to unfold. It was at Euroa on the first day, that Phani wanted to retire. The Indian said he was suffering from tendon strain to the groin and hips. He was heartbroken and burst into tears. After a few words from the Indian Consul-General Mr A.K. Banershee, Phani was soon back on his feet and trotting along the Highway.
A TV Interviewer, spoke to Cliff Young during the first day. This is a transcript:
Q: What has been the worst part of the run?
A: The speed of those blokes ahead, trying to catch them.
Q: Any particular tactics?
A: I just pray now. I pray they get injuries. Slow them down a bit!
After this short interview, Cliff was again on the road and shuffling along in his very economical style.
At dawn on the second day, Wal McCrorie was in the lead. He was four kms ahead of Joe Record and had run 181kms since leaving Doncaster. He made tremendous ground during the night and kept running whilst others had a sleep. Definitely a runner who learnt from Young’s 1983 victory!
A second runner had pulled out. Dick Cameron had withdrawn with a knee injury. He joined Parcell in the Casualty Bay. It makes you realise the foolishness of starting too fast in these events!
Caroline Vaughan had also fallen during the night. She suffered abrasions to her hands and fingers and had a slightly twisted ankle. She ran until daybreak and then went to Seymour for treatment. She was keen to resume at the 116km mark later that morning.
She was worried how the rest of the race was going to develop, when she was interviewed by Peter Stone during a rest stop. She said "I’m frightened of what lies ahead. It does hurt. When I’m running well, there is no way I am going to pull out, but it’s different when you go through what I did back there. You must have immediate goals, to pass a runner just ahead, to reach a house you see in the distance. When there’s no immediate goals, that’s when you despair". Definitely the words of a brave but worried lady!
Cliff Young was battling knee problems, but continued plodding. Wal McCrorie was the real surprise packet in the field. Joe Record was four km’s behind and had eaten breakfast on the run. Geoff Molloy was one hundred metres behind him in third place and Bob Bruner was in forth.
Geoff Molloy introduced a new tactic into the sport. This was to eat on the run. It was a trick he had learnt from his Bike racing days. His crew were tasked with preparing drinks and food for him every three kilometres.
One of the early problems noted by Runners and crew was the absence of race reports. The Race Director was tackled about the problem and said "We never dreamed they’d spread so far apart so soon. It’s causing us all sorts of problems"
As a result of this confusion, Geoff Molloy was in the lead and did not realise it! Thankfully, the race organisation improved over the years. It was ten kilometres out of Wangaratta on Saturday night when Geoff Molloy hit the lead !
Caroline Vaughan was doing well and got up to the middle of the pack. It was at this stage when she had a row with her Manager, Siggy Bauer and pushed him off his bike! Bauer was treated for abrasions! Bauer wasn’t too worried though. He knew that she was going through her low period of the race. It was shortly after this when Siggy Bauer
transferred to Joe Record’s crew!
Caroline’s comment was "You get to a stage where you accuse your crew that they are lying about the distance you’ve gone, the distance still to go."
It was 0930 on a cool, sunny Sunday morning when Molloy passed through Albury. Frank McCafferrty was dragged out of bed by the Race Organiser, Mike Agostini to keep an eye on things. It was at this stage that he wrote "Really began to appreciate the effort of these runners. Watching the escort vehicle approach in the chill of the early pre-dawn gloom and mist, and their man shuffling along guided by the headlights, was something I’ll remember for a long time. How they do it beats me!"
Geoff Molloy now had a fifteen kilometre lead over his rivals. Cliff Young was 15km behind and in 13th place. Young was suffering from a knee stress fracture and shin splints. He was in high spirits and keen to finish the race. Second and third behind was Joe Record and Wal McCrorie.
Molloy’s trainer, Dennis Moore said that Molloy was in great condition, mentally and physically and was not in any pain. The field is now stretched over a 200km range, with most of the runners 100 – 150km away from the leader.
Cliff Young passed Tirtha Phani on the other side of Wangaratta. Phani was lying on the ground. By then the other runners thought it was funny that Phani would get up and run whenever The Indian Consul was about. When the Indian Consul got on a plane at Albury and headed back to Sydney, Phani decided that he had enough and quit the race. It is not surprising that Tirtha Phani developed the nickname of Tirtha "Phoni". Perhaps the race was too short for him!
Journalist, Frank McCafferrty had the following comment on the run of Tirtha Phani. "Perhaps this completely raw and inexperienced youngster was just not able to handle the conditions of the run, with the pressure of racing and the interviews and TV etc. His claims may still be authentic, but the mileage was accomplished in solo runs with no pressure as far as I can see. The Melbourne-Sydney experience for Tirtha Phani must have been a shattering thing."
Meanwhile Cliff Young was getting stronger as the race progressed. Cliff had enough injuries to put the normal neurotic into hospital, but he was losing some injuries by gaining more injuries!
The weekend was spoilt when one of the runners was threatened by a couple of drunken Yobbos in Glenrowan. Police were informed in Wangaratta and the incident was quickly controlled
It was just over the border when the race became hazardous. There were extensive roadworks being carried out. The Highway was a single lane in each direction. As a result the runners did not exactly endear themselves to drivers. It was just out of Albury when a car and semi-trailer collided trying to avoid Bob Bruner’s support vehicle. One person from the car was taken to hospital and the highway was blocked for thirty minutes. Bob Bruner who is forth , kept running without the lights of his support vehicle to guide him.
It was just before Wangaratta when Cliff thought about retiring. He had a nine hour sleep and did not feel too bad when he got back up. He ran into town and was greeted by a huge reception. He thought to himself "That is like winning the race all over again". One
lady was quoted as saying as he ran through Wangaratta "He is only running for us. He should stop. He’ll kill himself".
Toby Fields withdrew on the early hours of Monday. He said earlier that he would "Run until I drop". When he did withdraw he was 150km from the leaders and his blisters had become too much for him. Fields said "It is not important for me to get to Sydney. I’m just proud that I have started in a race against the best".
Ross Parker from WA is in last place and 230km behind Molloy. He is still on the Victorian side of the border!
The race was described in the media as having every emotions, but it was bringing people together. Onlookers were extending the hand of friendship to runners. Motel owners would open their doors to runners to have a quick shower and sleep. There was no charge involved, they were just glad to have the runners pass.
The race continued up the Hume. By Gundagai, Geoff Molloy was still in the lead. He had a twenty one kilometre break on Joe Record. John Hughes from was in third place.
By Yass there were seventeen runners left in the race. Molloy had a fourteen kilometre break on Joe Record. John Hughes was nine kilometres behind Record. Bringing up forth spot was Wal McCrorie, twenty three kilometres behind Hughes.
It was 5pm Tuesday when Geoff Molloy ran through Yass. They had a half hour rest stop at a Truck stop on the outskirts. He ran through Yass and got a good reception from the locals who had gathered to see the race leader. One journalist described it as "The best show since we headed out of Melbourne through Coburg on Friday and the gallant Molloy deserves every bit of it."
Molloy held an 18km lead just outside Yass. Joe Record was second, but Molloy is racing well within himself and realises that the worst is still yet to come! Comment from Dot Browne who was crewing for Geoff Molloy. Dot assured Frank McCafferty that when Molloy entered for this run "We never dreamed we’d be winning it!"
Back in the field, the other runners were having their own little battles. A runner would pass another runner that was asleep. It would only take a few minutes for the sleeping runner to be woken by his crew and put back on the road. Cliff Young passed Bob McElwaine on the other side of Mittagong. McElwaine was now being coached by Siggy Bauer. Bauer originally started with Caroline Vaughan but changed crews when she withdrew near the border with acute gastroenteritis.
Keith Marshall was using an old bus as his support vehicle. He had a young lady on a motor bike as part of his crew. She had been heading for Melbourne when she saw the race. She turned back to share in the comradeship that was evident.
It was 270km from Sydney and Cliff Young had moved into tenth. He had run non stop for the past twenty four hours. This had helped him to pick up two positions. Cliff was getting better as the race progressed. There were sixteen runners left in the field.
Towards the end of the race, Mike Agostini told reporters that Cliff could not finish in the Top five of the event. Cliff was puzzled on why the leaders were not going faster "They’re running in very good conditions, but aren’t making a scratch on my record. It seems more downhill this way too – a much easier run!"
The leader, Geoff Molloy, was ninety kilometres away from the finish and was settling down for two hours sleep. An official car came along and informed his crew that John Hughes was only seven kilometres behind Geoff and closing the very fast. Molloy was soon back on the road and was pointed towards Sydney.
Molloy did well for the next fifty kilometres, but with forty to go the horrors set in. His energy had gone and was replaced with sheer agony! His crew kept him going by offering drinks, food and encouragement. With twenty five kilometres to go Molloy shed a few tears, such was the pain. His crew also cried, but were pulled together by Fred Hellyer their crew chief.
Molloy survived the next fifteen kilometres. With ten to go, he started to feel good, because he knew that the Finish was in sight. Race Organiser, Charlie Lynn had some soldiers lined up to run a Guard of Honour over the last few kilometres. It kept the spectators away from Molloy
Dot Browne described the last stage as "They didn’t realise how weak he was at that stage. It would have taken nothing to knock him over. The relief on reaching the tape was enormous. Thousands of people lined the streets of Parramatta to welcome him in".
After finishing, Molloy was taken to the Westfield Mall where he received the winners sash and a cheque for $ 20 000. It was also his birthday, which made for an excellent day all round! There were over 5 000 people at the finish. The winners cheque was presented by the NSW Premier, Mr. Neville Wran.
Molloy was asked how he felt after seventeen minutes sleep in the past twenty four hours. His reply was "Fantastic, but so bloody sore. What a crazy way to celebrate your birthday". He was also asked if he would compete next year. His reply was "I doubt it very much".
John Hughes finished in second place, two hours behind Molloy. He said "The hot conditions and his kamikaze tactics had taken their toll" Hughes received $ 5 000 for his second place.
Towards the end of the race, allegations of cheating were made against Bob Bruner. Race Director, Mike Agostini said "Competitor, Bob Bruner was still running knowing that there were several reports about him contravening the rules". He said "Bruner also knew that disqualification was imminent if they proved true". Bruner was going to be presented with the allegations once he finished the race.
It was very hard for the author to substantiate the allegations of cheating that were made against Bob Bruner. I have been told many stories and rumours about the incident, but I can’t verify them, so they are not going into print.
A runner reported his claims to Charlie Lynn. Lynn and his officials conducted a two day operation on Bruner before fronting him with the allegations on the outskirts of Sydney. Bruner emphatically denied them and kept running. He withdrew from the race seventeen kilometres from the finish. Here is a transcript of the radio interview that he had with a Melbourne radio Announcer shortly after the allegations were made to Bruner.
Bruner: I’m spaced out…I’ve been trying to cry for the last couple of years, I don’t know how to cry. Oh, what’s the use of talking. I don’t know what to say, I’m in a daze."
Makin: What about these allegations?"
Bruner: Unequivocally, I’m not going to give you the bit about a stack of bible’s, unequivocally I give you everything I have…Charlie had the guts to say to me, ‘Bob, If you don’t get out your case is going to be ruined, you know’. I could not believe this tactics were going on.
Twice I rode by Rafferty like he couldn’t stand still. I said to myself as he tried to race me, on the second or third day, ‘This is a DeCastella – Ikanga match, I’m going to kill the guy and off I went boom.
The second time I had to get a shower and dunny. I don’t want to run through the heat, so we stopped, and I happen to see ‘Six miles to Gunning.’ Dave says ‘Six miles by car is a mile a minute’. So I say, look we’re going to stop here’. We have a green bucket with Bruner no 20. I say ‘Put it over here, wer’e going back to there’. That’s my honour, not anybody else’s.
We drove down, I got the women’s name, gave me a free shower in the back, came back, I even slept, we measured at 10.10. Tony came up and he wanted to rest, but I was here so I obviously had to take off…"
Makin: "But Bob, can you capsule it. There are alleg…"
Bruner: "But he said to officials as they came through ‘Check Bruner he looks to fresh"
Makin: "Hang on, there are allegations. You’re going to be running to Sydney under a cloud. You may be disqualified. I just want your comment to that".
Bruner: "But how can I run with my goddam head in this situation now? How’m I gonna run?"
Makin: "Bob can I just get it on record, you response to the allegations is what?"
Bruner: "I’m spaced out and confused, I…"
Makin: "Well are they correct or not?"
Bruner: "Absolutely incorrect Incorrect, absolutely"
There were three complaints against Bruner all up. The three complaints were investigated thoroughly by the Race Committee. Bruner and the other runners were watched very carefully as a result of the allegations. The race committee would not have put the allegations to him if there wasn’t some substance.
Unfortunately the author could only gather rumour, suggestion and hearsay about the incident. If there are any friends of Bruner or crew members from this race, or Bruner himself reads this book I will gladly print a second edition at a later date and tell all sides of the story! It was an unfortunate blackmark on the history of Ultra running.. He never tried to compete in another Westfield. He did compete in a couple of smaller Ultra races around Australia for the next couple of years, but with no success. Bruner is now believed to be living in Israel. The Canadian soccer Player and boxer had moved on once again.
The surprise packets of the 84 Westfield was New South Wales runner, Bob Telfer. He finished forth in the race with an excellent time of six days and thirteen hours.
Telfer had a sporting pedigree all his life. He won various club, state and national surfing championships when he was a boy at the Cronulla Surf club. He then moved into
Rugby Union. He played 170 games with the Port Hacking Rugby Union Club Too many injuries caused him to give up Union and he progressed into running. This eventually led to Ultras.
His main success in Ultras was a placing in the annual Sydney to Wollongong between 1980 and 1984. Quite a remarkable achievement in itself. Since the 84 Westfield he has turned his attention to Triathlons and has excelled remarkably in that sport as well. His achievements have included numerous Australian and World Triathlon wins for his Age group. He won the World championships for his age group in Mexico last year and looks like repeating his success again this year in Perth.
Bob Telfer admits now that his crew and himself went into the Race blind. They did not know what was in store. He believes that he overtrained and had a sore foot going into the race. As a result he was not sure if he would last past the first day. His drinks during the race consisted of coke and coke and water. Diet has definitely improved during the years.
Telfer was happy with his crew selection. Barry Bulmer did most of the organising and fundraising, Barry Coates was driver, Bernie Key was cook, Neil Robinson looked after psychology, Dennis Milan was Masseur, Terry Watson was driver/medical advice and Bruce Connely was a driver.
He was lucky in being able to secure excellent sponsorship for the race. He had the help of Toyota, Advance Bank, Robertson Potatoes and Talay’s running Shop.
Telfer says that in eleven weeks training prior to the event he ran a total of 1386 miles. This included a weekly high of 255 miles and a low of 58 miles. He admits that he could not run for three weeks after the Westfield.
One funny story that Telfer remembers was having foot trouble late one night. Neil Robinson suggested to try different innersoles and shoes. Telfer tried this idea and immediately decided that it felt "shithouse" and told him so. Robinson replied to this "Just perserve for a while". Telfer did for an hour and then decided that he needed different shoes. Surprise, surprise - he had put the innersoles in the wrong side of the foot!
Another funny story was on the forth day of the race when he ended up running with Bob Bruner for quite a while. This is how Bob Telfer tells the story "He was driving me mad, (yak yak), whilst running through a small town at about 9 in the morning. In the end I said I was going to stop for breakfast - When I stopped so did he. After breakfast we started to run again I asked him what he had. - carrot juice - Rhubarb, sultanas, all healthy things. He then enquired what I had eaten - I told him a handful of jelly beans and a mars bar, which nearly made him choke. He dropped off the pace and I never saw him again the whole race."
Telfer was pleased with the race organisation. He stated that Lynn and Agostini both did a good job. One of the highlights of the race for Telfer was running to the top of Razorback mountain and being greeted by friends and family with big signs and messages. One sign said "Get a haircut you bum". Telfer has never been a fellow with much in the hair department!
Neil Robinson recorded after the run that they should have carried more medicine and first aid supplies. He stated that Telfer was lucky that he did not suffer from more blisters. The medicine he had on board included Kao Magna, Yeast, Vitamin C, multi B anti Inflammatory - bufferin and digesics.
Food for the race included the typical race foods and a very high amount of carbohydrate. This included potato, rice and honey. His main passion was icecream. His food intake dropped during the race, but that is only natural for someone that is getting so exhausted. His main drink during the race was coke, but this was switched with water, tea and coffee.
Telfer’s mood cycles changed during the race. He went through a couple of ups and downs, but generally was easy to handle. For a run of such a long distance he kept his injuries to a minimum. Bob Telfer did his family and friends proud. When he returned to his home after the race, the whole street turned out to greet him and there was a big banner in his garden to welcome him home.
Over the next two days, seven more runners were to finish the Race. They were Wal McCrorie, Bob Telfer, Keith Marshall, Tony Rafferty, Cliff Young, Bob MacElwaine and Don Choi.
Cliff Young had suffered from a stress fracture, but it was a good performance to finish in seventh place. Tony Rafferty put in another solid performance to finish two Runs in a row.
One of the sad stories to come out of the 84 Westfield was the story about 59 year old Bob McElwaine. He had been bankrupt twice. The most recent was in 83 when his hotel in Piermont suffered due to the introduction of the Random breath Test. He said "It’s not nice to finish up at 59 and have nothing is it. I’m running for the money not the pleasure."
It was shortly after the start of the race, when it became obvious that McElwaine was not going to win. He only had two and a half months training prior to the race. He was accompanied on the race by two of his sons, Philip and Mark. Their sister, Joanne and Philip’s wife Wendy were also on the crew. Philip had won a boxing gold medal at the Edmonton Commonwealth Games and had represented Australia in the 76 Olympics.
They ended up telling McElwaine lies about the amount of sleep he was having and would try and get him to eat. Consequently, he lost 9.5kg and had folds of skin hanging off his body.
His son, Philip almost died a year earlier. He had brought a Harley Davidson and joined the Bandidos bike group. He had crashed his bike and lay in a coma for three weeks. As a result, he was hospitalised for six months. The head of the Bandidos made sure that Philip got the best attention and care from Hospital staff.
Bob McElwaine did finish the Race. On the outskirts of Sydney he was given a full escort from the Bandidos. A few tears were certainly shed from people watching at the Finish. Cliff Young had been awarded a new car for the "Best Achievement Award", but gave it to Bob as soon as he finished.
After the race, Bob was admitted to hospital to recover. A few days later he was released and went for a drive in his new car. At the first intersection he had an accident and the car was a written off
Quotes from Different Runners:
"The event really makes you appreciate life’s simple things, like taking a shower. Right now I’d give the world just to clean my teeth."
"It’s three days since I’ve shaved. Normally I never go that long. I suppose I could shave, but I just don’t have the energy."
"What will I do when this is finished? I’m going to play with my kids, touch them , pick them up. Just seeing them will nearly make me weep with joy."
"The highs and lows are hard to believe. Like running through Yass at twilight with everybody clapping and cheering - and then realising that there’s still three days to go!"
"When I finish this, I promise I’m never ever going to complain about anything again. I’ll just be real pleasant to everybody about everything. Nothing in life can be as hard as this."
"I’m getting cravings. Yesterday I yearned for rice pudding; the day before I craved peaches and icecream. And I never eat either of them!"
"When this is all over I’m going to sit in a bath up to my neck .... and lie down on my bed."
"In running, in life I’ve done everything that calls for endurance. But nothing has been as tough as this. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done."
"I loved it - but no, I’ll never do it again."
1984 Westfield Results
PLACE NAME STATE/ COUNTRY
1 Geoff Molloy Vic 6:04:02 148 5.91
2 John Hughes NZ 6:06:00 150 5.83
3 Wal McCrorie NSW 6:16:21 160 5.47
4 Bob Telfer NSW 6:16:59 161 5.43
5 Keith Marshall Vic 7:02:36 170 5.15
6 Tony Rafferty Vic 7:07:09 175 5.00
7 Cliff Young Vic 7:11:02 179 4.89
8 Bob MacElwaine NSW 7:19:21 187 4.63
9 Don Choi USA 8:05:28 193 4.53
The 1984 Westfield had been run and won by Geoff Molloy. The race was now a permanent fixture on the Australian and International Calendar. The Australian public were fascinated by the Ultra Runners who pounded the pavement between Melbourne and Sydney and pushed their minds and bodies to the Ultimate.