1986 - The Yugoslav’s Pub Crawl
by Phil Essam
The 1986 Westfield Sydney to Melbourne Ultra Marathon saw the forth running of the now, Annual event. It was firmly placed on the International Calender and it had earned the reputation as "The World’s Greatest Race."
There was prizemoney of $60 000 for the event. It was scheduled to start at 1030am from Westfield Parramatta and finish at Westfield Doncaster approximately eight days later when the last runner crosses the line.
Due to the extent of Yiannis Kouros’s win in the 85 Westfield there has been a major change to this year’s race. Runners that do not make Canberra within 52 hours are to be placed in a stage race for the rest of the Race. There are 32 runners lined up for the race. Nine are from overseas and the rest are from Australia. Four women are amongst the runners.
A Form guide to the Race as prepared by Journalist Peter Stone:
Eleanor Adams: 38 year old housewife from the UK who holds 32 world records ranging from 30 miles to the Six Day Races. She finished seventh last year and was first woman across the line. Adams is hot favorite to be first woman across the line again and pick up the $10 000 first prize.
Cynthia Cameron: 43 year old housewife from Victoria who has run 19 marathons since 1980. She stepped up to Ultras last year and finished fifth in a 100km Track Race at Coburg. Could challenge Adams early in the race!
Donna Hudson: 38 yr old waitress from New York. She finished the Westfield 11 hours behind Adams last year and the same fate is likely again this year!
Christine Barrett: 37 year old housewife from the United Kingdom who smashed Adam’s world record at her first six day race in May 84. Has since lost her record to Adams again. This is her first race outside the UK and this could be the telling factor.
Bertil Jarlacker: 50 year old wood artist from Sweden who is regarded as a running pioneer in Northern Europe. He began running in 1970 after a cycling accident and in 1982 he ran 3529 kms in 50 days, one hour and 48 minutes. Several of his feets are listed in the Guiness Book of Records. He has the endurance, but will he have the pace.
Yiannis Kouros: 29 year old Sports Centre Supervisor from Greece. Won last year by the proverbial country mile. Substantially beat the field at Colac in 84. His finest moment came September last year when he ran 178 miles in 24 hours during Hurricane Gloria in New York. Will anyone beat him?
Per Lind: 47 year old School Principal from Norway. He has trained up to 200km a week in temperatures 25 below zero and has a 24 hour distance of 203.6km. If the weather gets lousy, he will come into his element.
Patrick Macke: 30 year old Professional Artist from the UK. He now resides in Austria and is one runner that may challenge Kouros. He won the 245km Greek Spartahlon from Athens to Sparta last year.
Dusan Mravlje: 33 year old engineer from Yugoslavia. He does not mind a drop of the amber liquid, which is in the interest of carbohydrate loading. Expected to finish in the Top five.
Ramon Zabalo: 38 year old Policeman from France. He loves a bottle of red/white wine and is renowned to have one for breakfast. Won the 86 Colac and is expected to finish second or third this year.
Brian Bloomer: 45 year old Seaman from Victoria who finished third in last year’s race. His work makes training difficult and quite often has to get his miles up on the Empress of Tasmania. He should be one of the leading Aussie again this year.
Bill Clingan: 42 year old Sales Controller from NSW who once smoked 40 cigarettes a day. He is now one of Australia’s finest long distance runners. He ran his first marathon in 1979 in a time of 2:35 and his best marathon time is now 2:29. Due to his impressive Marathon form he could be a real dark horse.
Geoff Kirkman: 35 year old Dentist from South Australia. He applied last year whilst the 85 run was still on. Has placed second in the Adelaide Sri Chimnoy 24hr in 84 and 85. He is now running 350km a week.
Geoff Kirkman started running when he was thirty. He was challenged by a fellow Dentist, Wayne Lowe to run the "City to Bay" Fun Run in Adelaide. The "City To Bay" is a 12km Fun run from Adelaide to Glenelg held every year as a mass participation event. The two of them trained for six weeks and staggered to the line in very average times. They were so elated afterwards, that the afternoon was spent playing tennis. The two of them realised the next day how unfit they were!
After that, Wayne kept throwing up new challenges to Geoff and they kept on doing more Fun Runs. Eventually this lead to the progression of "Doing a Marathon". It was at this time that Wayne retired and left his friend Geoff to continue with the challenges. Geoff set himself eighteen months to do the 1983 Gawler to Adelaide Marathon. He joined the local running club, read all the material and thoroughly enjoyed himself. He ran the marathon and did it in a very good time of 2hr and 35 minutes. Not bad for a first up marathon!
After that marathon, Geoff took to training a little too seriously and two things happened. He lost the joy of running and picked up injuries. As a result he stopped training and was back to occasional jogs only.
It was then, that his old friend, Wayne Lowe appeared once again and suggested that Geoff trained for a Ultra! Geoff did not even realise that they existed. He set himself to run in the Sri Chinmoy 24hr in Nov 84. He only had six months to prepare. The race came and he achieved 195km. Geoff
described it as an unpleasent experience and he would have achieved more, with more time to train.
He then trained even harder for the 85 24 hr race and as a result the experience was a lot more enjoyable. That race was used to screen applicants for the 86 Westfield. Consequently Geoff qualified and there was no looking back !
The 86 Westfield was originally scheduled to run from Melbourne to Sydney. This was changed at the last minute. Geoff’s niece had made a T-shirt for him with the message, "Sydney or bust". This was altered to "Melbourne or bust". Geoff wore it as often as possible. His two daughters also made a banner saying "Go Dad go". As Geoff said it helped when the going got tough.
Prior to the race, he was running over 300kms a week. He did a trial multi day two months before as he had only run long distances on the track. He had to go further and on different terrain’s. Kirkman also had to try different diets and different rest/sleep patterns. It was good training for his crew.
The race approached and Geoff sought advise from dietitians, physios and podiatrists. They also had a lot of team meetings to work out how the back up crews would work. Geoff realised that for the runner to go well, the crew had to function as a solid unit as well.
Alistair McManus: 35 year old Businessman from Vic. He is a Yorkshireman who emigrated in 1974. He started running in 74 after a trip to Hong Kong. Came back to Aust last year and won the first 100 mile event in Perth in a time of 16 hours, 43 minutes and 30 seconds. Could be a top five chance!
Keith Marshall: 60 year old Cleaner from Victoria. He has pushed a wheelbarrow for twenty four hours. He is quite a character and enjoys himself along with his crew.
Ross Parker: 37 year old Clerk from West Australia. This is his third Westfield run. He finished tenth last year in eight days, twenty two hours and five minutes. He is a former Aussie rules player and competent cricketer. Definitely an all round athlete!
Frank Pearson: 66 year old pensioner from NSW and the oldest runner in the field. Has run 15 Marathons and seven ultra’s. He started in last year’s race and completed 660km in six days, before being forced out with injury.
Tony Rafferty: Tony is a 48 year old Motivation Lecturer from Victoria. Irish by origin, which doesn’t matter in this sport. He has finshed in the last three Westfield’s. A top three finish would be great, but probably out of his reach.
Joe Record: 44 year old painter from WA who has competed in the last three Westfield’s and finished last year. On the previous two occasions he has had to withdraw one hundred km’s from the finish. His Westfield form does not reflect his true ability. Has held many records over the years.
Dave Taylor: 34 year old Labourer from NSW. Did well in the Box Hill 24 hr earlier this year. This earned him a start in the Westfield.
Eddie Westburgh: 55 year old Army Driver from Tasmania. He has an active Army career and runs between 300 to 400km a week. He achieves this by a half marathon before breakfast and a full marathon every evening.
Graham Wilkinson: 40 year old Coal Miner from NSW. He finished third in the Sydney to Bathurst this year. Finshes his shift in the mines at 0230 every day and is up at 0900 hrs to start training.
Cliff Young: 64 year old retired potato farmer from Colac. Won the event in 83 and stopped the nation He endeared himself to Australian folklore for life and is back for
Christine Barrett was given a day’s notice to race in the Westfield. She was invited to join after American, Marcy Schwain withdrew for fear of Terrorist attacks. The irony is that when Christine left London there was an IRA bomb blast in the middle of the city!
She has only been running for four years. "I broke my leg and I was told running would help build up strength in it" she said.
Eleanor Adams, who was first woman home last year said that there were so many unknown factors in the race that it was impossible to make predictions. "There’s no way you can confidently say you’ll even finish" said Adams.
She explained how she got into Ultra marathon running when she said "I entered a 12-hour race at my local club one day and broke three records I didn’t even know existed and ever since then have been keen on the Ultra Marathon events. Ultra marathon running is still a fairly new sport, but growing in popularity all the time. But there is no money in it at all. It costs me to compete."
Yiannis Kouros was asked if he would ever consider training in Gumboots like Cliff Young. His answer was "No never. Not even in training." His reply was more humble than emphatic though. The journalist who interviewed him was Penny Crisp. She was quite taken by the inner peace that surrounded Kouros like an aura. She said "There’s very little of the win-at-all-costs competitor. Just a gentle, diminutive sports stadium supervisor from Tripolis" He now holds 48 Ultra-marathon records from 100 miles to six days!
There will be slight changes to the Race this year. The runners will have 52 hours to get to Canberra. Those that don’t make it will compete in a stage race for the rest of the journey. This change has been prompted due to Kouros’s domination last year and the eagerness of officials to keep the runners closer together.
Kouros spoke little English twelve months ago. His crew were fighting whilst he was running and he had no idea that Siggy Bauer was more than a day behind him towards the end of the Race. He was asked why he returned and said "Money is not the criteria. I do it to prove to the world that I can do things. It also helps me to remember how close to the earth I am. Running touches the earth in a practical sense."
He also revealed that he had two goals in life. They were to become an Australian citizen and start a physical education course. The second goal is to show Australia his other talents of singing and writing poetry. Definitely an accomplished all round artist!
The race year will be run over 1005km and there is $60 000 in prizemoney. The race was thrown open when Kouros withdrew with a fractured toe. He was on crutches as Officials explained that the second toe on his right foot fractured during the Anzac Day Marathon in Sydney.
He thinks that the injury was caused when he put a raised sole in his shoe to overcome knee pain. He believed that the higher angle of his foot had put more pressure on his toe, contributing towards the fracture. Yiannis was disappointed when he said "I have been preparing for this event for a year. It was going to be the most significant race of my career."
Fellow Greek runner, Takis Skoulis is Kouros’s replacement. New favourites are Joe Record, Brian Bloomer, Ramon Zabalo, Dusan Mravlje, Per Lind and Patrick Macke.
Patrick Macke is the youngest runner at 30 and Frank Pearson is the oldest at 64. Late inclusions include Dan Brannen from the USA and Gary Retgien from New Zealand.
Cliff Young is back for another crack at the race. He was asked where the pain will begin and he said at about the 200km point. ‘His skin will blister and tear away leaving raw flesh, his neck and lower back will burn, his knees and ankles will be crucified each time his feet hit the ground. And his mind will be screaming at him to stop’
His mind will shriek "Give up Cliffy. Think how easy it will be to stop, to rest your feet, your muscles, your tendons, your bones. Give up and put this madness behind you." Cliffy will tell his mind to shut up and start thinking about something else.
Cliff summed it up when he said "Anyway my heart’s pretty good, I’ve had it tested. I’ve got a good heart, a good heart like Phar Lap." Every runner has tremendous heart but will they have the experience to overcome the pain barrier when it occurs?
Graham Wilkinson is yet to find the pain barrier. The most he has ever ran is 200km. "So Ill be breaking new ground. I believe fatigue will be the main problem. I didn’t sleep much the night before the race, what with the excitement and seeing the race in front of me. But if I finish I’ll be happy. I’ll have achieved something few other people have done."
One of the most qualified runners to describe the pain barrier is Tony Rafferty. He has done the Sydney to Melbourne route eleven times, has run across Australia, Death Valley and the Simpson Desert.
"The pain is there after the first ten or so hours and stays right through. You get to the stage where your normal stride shortens and you can’t do anything about it. We know how to tolerate the pain but the mind is the problem. It says you must have a rest. And when that happens you’ve got to push that little bit further." said Rafferty, trying to describe what he goes through when running on the open road.
Patrick Macke described it when he said "You can’t climb Everest without some discomfort."
Eleanor Adams described her pain barrier when she said "All the time you say to yourself, why am I doing this? Around four in the morning, just before dawn is the worst time. The body is at its lowest level. And you know the pain is not going away for the rest of the race."
The runners made these comments to a Journalist just before the race. They got there briefings from the race doctor and an official. They then meandered to the starting line and they were off and running.
A team of Medical researchers are going to monitor the runners to produce the first comprehensive stress test in Australia. They are being led by Royal Perth haematologist, Dr Richard Pestell. He wants to "find out what this thing called stress really is"
Dr Pestell’s team will conduct four tests on the runners before and after the event. They will look into how the kidneys cope with stress, heart functions during the run, the adrenal gland and four hormones, believed to affect stress, produced by the pituitary gland. Dr Pestell also said that they will be comparing results between the different age groups in the race.
Dave Taylor set himself a gruelling schedule for this year’s race. He has been running 400km a week which includes training three times a day and running backwards up Mt Ousley. He even lifts 9lb bricks on his legs whilst he is watching TV.
Taylor has been preparing for the past two years and his preparation had taken over his life in the past six months. Distance running is nothing new to Taylor. At 19 he won the Sydney to Newcastle race. Shortly afterwards he gave up running to concentrate on cricket and football. Recently he won the 24 hour race at the Fairfield Games and finished 10th with 183km in the Westfield qualifying run. He wants to become the best long distance runner in the world and said "I’m in this marathon to win - and if I don’t I hope my idol Cliff Young does."
Joe Record has put himself to a gruelling test to be fit for this year’s race. He ran more than 40km 25 times in one month. In 83 and 84 he was forced out of the race within 100km of the finish. He warned "This is the first time since 1983 that I haven’t carried some type of injury."
Last year’s second placegetter, Siggy Bauer cannot settle his differences with race management and is running in the Sri Chinmoy 1000 mile race in New York. Westfield requires each runner to sign a contract in which he promises to grant Westfield first rights to sponsor him for one year, should he win. Each runner is also required to wear official race gear with Westfield’s name featured prominently. Bauer does not like the terms and decides to run in America. Other athletes support him in principle, but they sign and run anyway.
Donna Hudson collected $1500 for being second female in last year’s Westfield. She said "It’s not a sport you can earn a living from. When you consider the pain and effort of running several marathons a day for several days, the baseballers, tenpin bowlers, golfers and tennis players get it easy."
The women’s first prize for 1986 is $10 000 and second place will receive $5000. This is the richest prizemoney for Ultra-distance women in the world.
Hudson talked about the pain involved in running this race when she said "Crisis points in a long race like this come often. I felt so bad last year that I swore that if I ever did it again I hoped someone would shoot me. I’m much more scared this time because I know how difficult it is and how much it hurts."
Donna Hudson was in a bad way by the end of the race that she walked the last one hundred kilometres and cried for the last fifteen of them. She had got that far and she wasn’t going to give it away so close to the finish! Hudson was hoping that she would have a chiropractor in her crew, as she didn’t last year and really suffered for it.
Hudson wants to reduce her sleep to two or three hours per night. This is to try and catch her rival, Eleanor Adams. Hudson has been running for eight years and has not suffered any lasting injuries. She passed comment on the end of the 85 race when she said "By the end of the race I will have lost about 5kg, my legs will be blown up and I’ll spend the following day resting in bed. It takes a couple of weeks to fully recover."
Donna Hudson originally took up running to keep her weight down. At the start she struggled to run 10km, but within a year she ran her first marathon.
Not all of the publicity before the start of the race was good publicity. Sydney
Columnist, Mark Wallace had a column in The Daily Telgraph titled "My Opinion". His comments against Cliff Young and Westfield were unnecessary. Here are some excerpts from that article of high Journalistic ethics!
"a pathetic old character will be plodding along the road in a vain attempt to relive past glories"
"the man who has had more comebacks than Melba, is at it again."
"Not even Westfield thought it could get any promotional value out of such a silly old man."
"he hasn’t been able to sneeze without Westfield’s permission ever since his historic victory."
"The man got married on TV in a Westfield Shopping centre."
"there is nothing more pathetic than a champion who doesn’t know when to leave well enough alone".
Another example of journalistic licence was an unknown writer who wrote an article titled "Race for insomniacs - not ‘the greatest’". It suggested that the winner of the event wasn’t the one who was the fastest, but the one who slept the less. This may be true, but that’s part of being a multi-day Endurance runner.
The ACT TAB ran a Trifecta on the 86 Westfield. It only cost fifty cents a bet and worked like a normal horse trifecta. It is not known what the winning dividend paid!
"The Canberra Times" also ran a competition in conjunction with the Westfield Belconnen Mall. The first prize was a $1,000 open shopping voucher at Westfield. The question was to predict where Cliff would be in the race when he crossed the Canberra checkpoint.
The race got under way with some runners making a terrific pace. At the marathon stage, Dusan Mravlje ran three hours and fourteen minutes, Macke and Kirkman were a minute behind. Race organiser, Charlie Lynn believed that Kirkman, Parker and Skoulis had started the run too fast. He did not expect that they would make it to Melbourne.
At the 70km mark, Patrick Macke was in the lead by 1.2km ahead of Dusan Mravlje and Geoff Kirkman in third. Kirkman’s crew got caught in the traffic chaos and he had to borrow drinks from other runners. His plan for the first day was to run at 11-12 kph, have an hour break at nightfall and then another hours break at dawn. His dawn break was taken at Collector where he had a bath
Cliff Young started well and was eleventh with a marathon time of three hours and thirty five minutes. Charlie Lynn believed that Brian Bloomer will be the one to beat. He also believed that Cliff Young would take advantage, if the top runners faltered.
Experienced American Ultra Marathoner, Dan Brannen was a new face in the lineup. He published an article in "UltraRunning" which portrayed the spirit of the race . I have reproduced parts of his article in this book .
The Westfield Run, the annual road race between Sydney and Melbourne in Australia, is one race which can legitimately claim to be unique. The only event in the world which is anything like it is the bicycle Race Across America. The two races have about the same
duration ( approximately one week), and they are both round-the-clock endurance events on the open road. But whereas the cycling event makes its big media splash after the fact on ABC’s "Wide World of Sport," the Westfield run holds it’s hoopla right on the road, in the present tense. In effect, the runners carry the riveted attention of an entire country, via TV and radio news crews, down the highway with them, right along with their vehicles, support crews and pain. The result is a virtually uncontrollable river of outsize emotion flowing between the nation’s two largest cities.
It all started when 61 year old Cliff Young won the first annual event and captured the hearts of his countrymen. It is no exaggeration to say that today Young is a national hero. His nickname, "Cliffie", is a household word and he is one of the hottest promotional properties down under.
When Yiannis Kouros toed the line for last year’s event, few people were aware that the race’s terminal city, Melbourne, boasts the largest Greek population of any city in the world outside Greece. They soon found out. For the last twenty miles of Kouros’ epic run, these passionately nationalistic people literally lost control of themselves. 30,000 of them flooding the streets and, in effect, shutting down the city to focus all its attention on their hero.
If Kouros’ somewhat controversial status as a living legend, as a man of both mystical and mythical athletic prowess, needed any bolstering within the international ultrarunning community, that performance more than provided it. Although precise daily splits were impossible, the following facts about that run have been sorted out and provided by race director Chris Bates:
For the first two days the temperature was over 90, with high humidity. When it finally cooled down, there were thunderstorms and hailshowers. The first 300 miles of the course consists of sizable hills, rolling randomly between sea level and 2500 feet. Much of the roadway is poorly paved, often with a severly sloped shoulder. Then there are the trucks on the Hume Highway, many of whose drivers like to see how close they can come to the support vehicles and runners at over 80mph. Under these conditions Kouros ran non-stop ( eating and drinking on the run) for exactly 24 hours, covering 167 miles. He then rested for 52 minutes, after which he got back on the road and ran nonstop until the 48 hour point, where he had over 287 miles ( 6 more than his own 48 hour world track record).
From that point on, he was off the road a total of about one hour per day, including time for clothing and shoe changes. Though no 3 - day split was taken, his distance was over 400 miles, probably about 405. He ran consistently, eating and drinking on the run, until day 5, when he had a very bad stretch for a few hours, running and walking at less than 4mph. He snapped out of it by taking an unplanned break to soak in a motel bathtub, then ran slowly into Melbourne. The last five miles are mostly uphill, taking the average competitor well over an hour. Kouros ran them at under 7 minutes per mile , finishing fresh and smiling.
So much for putting the legend into perspective.
Thanks to Stu Mittleman, Don Choi, and Trishel Cherns, all of whom turned down an invitation to run the Westfield Run ’86 in favour of the Sri Chinmoy 1000 mile, the chance of a lifetime came to me and I got to go to Australia. No sooner was my invitation confirmed than I broke the big toe on my right foot on an easy afternoon run. Broken toes were to be a major theme of this year’s race, befalling both the of my support crew and
Kouros himself in the week before the start. Fortunately, I had a month to recover, and used it well in a mixture of biking, icing and whirlpooling.
Kouros’ break, a freak training accident, was much worse and he was not so lucky. I was back in shape but out one of five crew personnel. Kouros’ crew, on the other hand, were out a runner. It was incongruous seeing the man on crutches.
Talk circulated that this misfortune had cost him well into five figures worth of projected sponsorship packages. The media attention lavished on the Westfield Run has shown corporate sponsors from down under that ultrarunners are well worth investing in. The opportunities to make a living at the sport are so better there that Kouros is in the process of moving to Melbourne. But this year’s race would only be heartache for him.
The effect this sudden development had on the rest of the field and on the direction of the media interest, was enormous. In talking with members of the best of the rest, such as Patrick Macke (Eng), Ramon Zabalo(Fra) and Dusan Mravlje(Yugoslavia), it became clear to me for the first time that they really held no hope of challenging Kouros. They commit themselves to running for second when he is around. His superiority has, strangely enough, created a brotherhood of mutual identity among athletes for whom it otherwise might be too tempting to assume the roles of prima donnas. Macke commented that, whereas before it was a case of Kouros ahead and a group of friends behind, now the friends would have to break up their friendship because , unexpectectedly, victory was now at stake.
Race Director, Chris Bates noted the bright side of the tragedy when he noted that the race had been thrown wide open. Westfield are very straight with the runners. They will tell them that the race is "primarily a media event", but at the same time they treat the runners like champions and lavish them with every help possible.
The race eventually started with much hype at the Westfield Shoppingtown 5o miles west of Sydney. The hills start right away. Runners are directed to run with the traffic, except for daylight hours when they can run against the traffic on undivided highways. It is sunny and not too warm, with some showers experienced on the first night. In the first 300 kilometres there is much shifting for the lead.
Westfield make a major mistake the day before the race, when they hold the coordination of crews, the pre race briefing for runners and crews, the pre race medical check and the vehicle assignment all on the afternoon before the start. Many of the vehicles never showed up, runners and crew were left stranded an hour from their motel ( unable to do food shopping and prepare their vehicles until late that night). The upstart was that some runners and nearly all the crews would begin the race with a sleep deficit. It is the only weak spot in an otherwise well run race.
The runners left Sydney and the aggravation of the day before is forgotten. The runners are very excited, as far more attention is being focused on them than what they are use to. Australians are heading the front spot including Brian Bloomer and Cliff Young. The marine steward, Bloomer was barely allowed in the race last year, but finished third and is now the current Aust 24 hr Champion.
1986 was the first year that a Newsletter was released during the race. This was available to all runners, crew members and officials. They contained serious messages from officials, messages from home and reports of funny happenings on the road. It also saw the start of John Forbe’s career as a cartoonist. Many of John’s cartoons are contained in this
The first newsletter contained a serious note on safety precautions. This included a note that support /escort vehicles must travel as far to the left of the road as reasonable possible, including driving on the gravel shoulder. There was a special reminder that the runner must travel in front of the support/escort vehicle.
There was also an item about runners running on the right hand side of the road. If they do, the support vehicle must be at least one hundred metres in front. Crews were also reminded that runners must wear reflective material of a nighttime. Runners were also told that if runners stop on double lines, they are to be moved forward until their is sufficient room for the van to pull off the road.
Huon Valley joined the race as a sponsor and each crew received four logo stickers to attach to their Van.
The race director, Chris Bates added a thankyou note in the newsletter. He was pleased with the way that road sense was being used on the open road.
The race manager added a strong note on pacing in the newsletter, threatening people with disqualification if they were paced. How do you pace someone in a race of 1000 kms? Team managers were reminded to put out markers and flashing lights when taking their runners of the road.
At the end of the first day, Pat Macke was in the lead followed by Dusan Mravlje and Geoff Kirkman. Everyone was asking "Geoff who?" One race official said "Tell him to slow down. He won’t last!" Bloomer was behind Kirkman in forth. Mravlje was in the lead for most of the day, but as dusk settled, Macke came from the middle of the pack and grabbed the lead.
Yiannis Kouros took on the role of morale officer for fellow Greek runner, Takis Skoulis, during the race. He followed him on pushbike and had Greek music blasting through portable headphones. Kouros was appreciating that he was riding a bike instead of running.
Pat Macke and Cliff Young were quite happy when the sunny weather left and was replaced with rain. Cliff Young was also vowing that this year’s run would be his last.
The second day dawned. Geoff Kirkman now has a 44km lead over Brian Bloomer. Five Aussies are in the top eight.
The Kirkman crew noticed that the attention of the increased on him as soon as he hit the lead. This was a positive thing, as it broke the monotony and everyone would have a laugh at the media trying to keep up with Geoff whilst he kept running!
Heavyweight Champion, Joe Bugner joined Geoff Kirkman for a run on the second day of the race. It must have been quite a sight. The big and the small running along the road.
Eleanor Adams is leading the women’s section and is in tenth place overall. She has covered 238km and has a reasonable lead over Christina Barrett, who is feeling the effects of the hot Australian sun.
It was fourteen hours and 121km into the race when Cliff Young retired. His
chiropractor had tried a dozen times to realign his hips, but it was not too be. It was on the crest of a hill outside Mittagong when he called it a day. He rested up in his team vehicle and continued into Canberra to await the arrival of the other runners. "I could see the light last night; I could look back on last year and all the trouble I had with pneumonia. And I’d been having trouble since I started with the hips; I can see that if I keep running I could finish up in a wheelchair. I’ve had that much pain. I’ve lost the urge now." Said Cliff from the comfort of his caravan.
Cliff also plans to write his memoirs and train his wife as an Ultra Marathon Runner. Mary has attempted a couple of smaller Ultras with good success.
These are Dan Brannen’s thoughts and memories on this stage of the race:
Cliff Young and Ramon Zabalo are out of the race on day one. Cliff is out of the race with a persistent hip problem and Zabalo is out with a recurrence of sciatica. Pat Macke has the lead at the 100 miles mark, but goes down for a 5 hour sleep. No one else in the race sleeps for more than two and a half hours at a time!
Geoff Kirkman is in the lead at the 24 hour mark with 140 miles up. He is expected to falter, but holds the lead with about 230 miles after 48 hours. Bloomer, Mravlje and Joe Record are bringing up the minor placings. Pat Macke is still running better than anyone, but insists on having five hour sleep breaks.
The women are having a great race. Eleanor Adams and Cynthia Cameron have 190 miles( 310 kilometers) up at the 48 hour mark with Donna Hudson slowly catching them up. Donna Hudson has been beset with problems as soon as she arrived in the country. She has claimed the need for a chiropractor on her crew. This is to help offset the hip and leg imbalance contracted from the sloped shoulder.
Westfield got one for her just before the race, but her crew proves to be hopelessly incompetent( except for her team captain). She is not being fed, bad vibes have engulfed the whole crew and on the first night she is led five kilometres off track. By the second day, Westfield have replaced some of her crew and she gradually zeroes in on the two females in front of her. Christine Barett is only a few miles behind Hudson and is running very easily.
Joe Record celebrated his 45th birthday during the race. He was in third place when masseur, Graham Chapman donned a waiter’s coat and black tie. He served up a special mixture on toast for breakfast and sang "Happy birthday" as he ran beside Joe. Record said "It’s not true, I’m not celebrating my birthday because I’m too short of breath to blow out the candles."
Geoff Kirkman crossed the first major checkpoint at Belconnen Mall on 10.00pm on the Saturday. There were two hundred people there to give him a rousing reception.
The weather slowly improved during the race. More and more media are following the race than ever. Channel Nine and Seven are following it all the way to Melbourne.
Quote of the day at the end of Day 2 went to a crewmember who was instructed to drive the van ahead 5km and wait. He looked concerned and replied "But I haven’t got a watch!"
Norwegian runner, Per Lind received 20 minutes coverage on ABC. This included his training program at the AIS.
The Police during the 86 run were being more careful than usual. A Race official saw a very hopeful highway patrolman hiding in his police car, clocking runners with a radar gun. The economy of NSW is suffering, but that is taking things a bit too far. As a precaution, the race manager is going to ring the NSW Police commissioner and find out what the legal speed limit is for Ultra Marathon runners in NSW. Race Management is considering issuing radar detectors to all runners!
The race positions in the early hours of May 4th were:
Geoff Kirkman 342km
Brian Bloomer 313km
Joe Record 308km
Per Lind 304km
Pat Macke 300km
Dusan Mravlje 297km
Eddie Westburgh 282km
Ross Parker 280km
Dan Brannen 278km
Eleanor Adams 267km
Cynthia Cameron 263km
Alistair McManus 262km
Donna Hudson 262km
Bertil Jarlacker 259km
Christine Barett 257km
Tony Rafferty 251km
Frank Pearson 239km
Graham Wilkinson 217km
Dave Taylor 210km
Dan Brannen is running steadily at the start of Day 3. He is averaging five miles per hour and is surprised to find himself in fifth. He even thinks that he might finish in the money, but a distinct pain is starting to creep into his left knee and he is worried that his race might be over. He lengthens his breaks and changes his walk/run ratio. He focuses on the journalists during the day and takes in the beautiful sky at night. This is all in an attempt to distract his mind from the pain that is engulfing his knee.
After three days of the race, Eleanor Adams was emerging as a threat for overall supremacy. She was in sixth place and leading the women's division. Geoff Kirkman was still in the lead with 403km. He was 23km ahead of Brian Bloomer with Joe Record in
third over Dusan Mravlje. Per Lind from was running well and had moved into fifth. At this stage of the race four more runners had joined Cliff Young as scratchings. They are Takis Skoulis, Gary Regten, Keith Marshall and Ramon Zabalo .
Geoff Kirkman was struggling going through the hills near Yass, whilst Brian Bloomer was having lots of sensible breaks and looked like pushing Kirkman for many kilometres to come.
It was late in the third night of the race when tragedy dealt it’s evil hand. A 46 year old Albury man was killed when he attempted to overtake an escort vehicle for a runner. Police believe that the mans car collided head on with a steel laden semi trailer 20kms north of Jugiong on the section of the Hume Highway known as the "steps and stairs". The driver of the semi was uninjured.
Geoff Kirkman was injured in the accident and taken to Wagga Base Hospital for treatment. The highway was closed to traffic as police worked to clear the wreckage.
Kirkman was hit by a car, thrown out of his running shoes and thrown 12 metres into a ditch by the side of the road. The driver of the car was killed instantly and his car ricocheted off Kirkman’s crew van hitting the runner. Kirkman suffered severe lacerations to the head and body. He also received a broken pelvis and was in shock due to the loss of blood. His condition was later reported as stable.
After the semi crashed with the car, the trailer crashed onto it’s side, which blocked the Highway and caused another collision. Traffic was banked up for 3km in both directions as police tried to clear the road and free the dead driver from the wreckage of his car.
Geoff Kirkman’s father , Laurie Kirkman was crew manager and said he could not see his son anywhere "I had a premonition earlier today that this would happen and I told my wife". Laurie’s wife, Wendy and Geoff’ wife Jeannie were part of the crew, but were down the road and did not witness the accident. Kirkman was 3km ahead of Bloomer when the accident occurred.
Ultra running stalwart, Kevin Cassidy was crewing for Dusan Mravlje in 1986. At the time of the accident, Dusan was near the lead and Cassidy remembers that night very well "…..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's van, when we arrived at the scene in darkness we saw exactly what 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"
One of the unfortunate asides was the unknown person who phoned the Canberra Westfield Media centre and yelled down the phone "You bastards. I hope you are happy. You have just killed one of your runners.". The two officials manning the Media centre knew nothing about the accident and were completely horrified.
One of Kirkman’s crew members said at the scene of the accident "We heard tyres screeching and a horrific crashing sound and then saw Geoff tangled in the wreckage. Blood was pouring out of him - we’re still unsure exactly what happened. Everything was going so well. Geoff had been on the road virtually non stop. He was giving it everything.
How could this happen?"
Brian Bloomer took over the lead at the scene of the accident. Bloomer was within several kilometres of the accident and had to run past the wreckage. No comment was made by Westfield management on the night that the accident occurred.
"Where’s my son? Oh my god, where’s my bloody son?" That was the frantic shout of Laurie Kirkman when he stepped out of the van, peered into the horrific crash and could not see his son.
Mr Kirkman said "I was driving along and had Geoff in my beam light when I felt an almighty bang on our right and we were thrown to the side. I got out and couldn’t see Geoff anywhere". Laurie Kirkman kept calling for his son and found him in a ditch 12 metres from the side of the road. "All he could say was ‘Poor Bloody formplex’ who were his sponsors"
Dark clouds rolled into the Wagga area and this signified the new mood of the race. This was a perfect foil for Dusan Mravlje, who had trained in sub zero European temperatures and had moved past Joe Record into second. Per Lind was trotting along comfortably in forth. Eleanor Adams has a five kilometre lead on Cynthia Cameron. Cameron was set to pounce when the Englishwomen had her next break.
"It hurts like hell". That is how Geoff Kirkman referred to his efforts to walk yesterday, from his bed in Wagga hospital. He admits that he was lucky to be alive and claimed that an inch closer and he might not be with us today. He knows that he still would have been with the leaders if it wasn’t for the accident. He also now believes that the race is dangerous and the format should be revised. He is very disappointed at having been knocked out of the race and finds it hard watching the news. His first words whilst lying in the ditch were "Quick I’ve got to get up and start running".
Kirkman recovers well and is sitting by the side of the road two days later to wish Brian Bloomer well. Bloomer is now in the lead. The police have exonerated the event, but from now on, both support vehicles must follow behind the runner. This means that the crews will not be able to take it in turns to drive on ahead and get a few hours sleep. This will be felt by the crews that only have four instead of five. This will have an effect on some runners by the end of the race.
Kirkman is thankful for the support given by the staff of Wagga Base hospital, Westfield Management, media, friends and relatives. As Geoff said, they were all great. Geoff Kirkman never got back to the same skill level as a runner, but he wants to enjoy running at some level. As Geoff put it perhaps a marathon without too much difficulty. I must also thank Geoff Kirkman and his wife Jeannie for the wonderful help they have been. Information, press cuttings, photos, and being a celebrity starter for an Ultra I organised, nothing was too much trouble!
Meanwhile, Dusan Mravlje was now in the lead and had a 40km break on Brain Bloomer. Mravlje had revealed his secret formula to the media. It involves downing six to eight stubbies of beer every day. Purely for medicinal purposes. I guess the carbo content would be high!
Shortly after the Kirkman accident, organisers of the race backed the call of the police to improve race safety. The New South Wales Police Acting Assistant commissioner for Traffic, Ken Chapman said that he is not interested in banning the race, but he might
have a look at night time running.
Race Director, Chris Bates said "If they can suggest any way of improving the security in this sort of racing we’d be happy to hear from them". Mr Bates also said that the decision to continue the race was made with the consent of every runner. Police also confirmed that the Kirkman crew was in no way responsible for the tragedy.
It is believed that a sack of potatoes caused the Kirkman accident. According to an eyewitness, a driver of one of the semis stopped to pick up an abandoned sack of potatos. As a result, the other truck swerved into the overtaking lane and collided with a car attempting to overtake Kirkman’s escort vehicle. "What I saw was the two semis and then this great explosion of glass, and then the blue datsun went screaming across the road knocking Kirkman into a gully" was how the eye witness described the accident. It was 46 year old Albury man, Raymond Ward who died instantly in the accident.
The Member for Hume, Mr Wal Fife strongly criticised the use of the Hume Highway for events such as the Westfield. Mr Fife said "I travelled from Wagga to Canberra on Sunday night and was at the scene of the accident soon after it occurred. During the evening I observed a number of runners and their escort vehicles and in many instances these constituted a traffic hazard. I have no criticism of the behaviour of the teams, all appeared to be acting in a responsible manner to minimise danger.".
The family of the victim were upset at how the whole accident was treated by the media. Mr Ward’s son, Stephen said that no one had mentioned that his father had been killed while he was trying to avoid the runner. "The runners are willing to take the chance of being on the road, but are we willing to take the risk of them being on the road? I would like to see them off the road at night, and organisers enforcing where the support vehicles are." Said Stephen Ward.
Stephen Ward also said that he had seen support vehicles in the middle of the road in a television report since the accident. He said newspaper reports devoted three quarters of the articles to the runner who was injured and a couple of paragraphs to his father.
In a strange coincidence, Geoff Kirkman’s brother, Ian was involved in a car smash twenty four hours earlier. He ended up with 26 stiches and an injured leg that kept him on crutches for a long time. Geoff believed that it was a strange coincidence and proved that it was hard to kill a Kirkman".
There were seventeen runners left in the field after the accident. They all put emotion aside and kept going with the task in hand. The top three in the men’s was being fought between Bloomer, Mravlje and Lind. The top three in the women’s was being fought between Adams, Cameron and Hudson.
Brian Bloomer is still in the lead with Dusan Mravlje and Joe Record hot on his heels. Pat Macke was improving at a great rate of knots and had moved into forth place. The women were still having a right royal battle with Cynthia Cameron celebrating her 44th birthday on the road.
A big feature of the race, was the fact that support crews would move onto other runners if their own runner retired or was taken sick. Certainly shows the spirit of the race.
Christine Barrett was fortunate enough to meet her first kangaroo yesterday. Unfortunately it was the flat variety. Hopefully she meets a real one by the end of the trip!
Eddie Westburgh pulled out after suffering a double hernia. He had been running for 500km with the condition!
It was half way into Day four when Brannen’s left knee was extremely swollen and enlarged. His crew closed ranks and promised to help him get to Melbourne. He kept going for another three hours and the agony got worse. The knee locked and he could not move. Brannen looked up in the night sky and saw his whole world tumble. His crew were soon around him. It wasn’t long before they were all in a Motel Room, exchanging stories, reminiscing and laughing. Cynthia Cameron was to retire shortly after with a similar problem.
Half of Brannen’s crew went back and helped Ross Parker, whilst the rest of them hooked up with Donna Hudson’s crew.
The third newsletter contained a reminder on the finish. There was a reminder to the crews to keep themselves fresh and give themselves allocated sleep times. Westfield was also volunteering temporary relief drivers if the situation got bad.
It was 48km north of Albury when Dusan Mravlje made his move on race leader, Brian Bloomer. Mravlje sent Bloomer a message earlier in the day, telling Bloomer to expect him for Tea. That was the confidence of the man. It was at Gerogery where Mravlje caught Bloomer. He was elated on taking the lead. Bloomer was resting at the time and was suffering from stomach and leg cramps. By the afternoon, Mravlje held a 10km lead over Bloomer who was still recovering. Joe Record and Pat Macke were battling it out for third and fourth respectively. Macke was starting to look the stronger of the two runners and was only ten kilometres behind Bloomer.
Eleanor Adams was fifth and had a 20km lead over Donna Hudson. Adams had run well during the day and had moved up four places. She is being accompanied on this trip by her twelve year old son, Stephen. He is being a model crew man and has learnt to cook some tasty delights for his mum in the past few days!
Controversy arose when the Kirkman family revealed that crews were not aware of the police rules governing the race. This was in particular reference to Rule no 6 which stated that a second vehicle displaying a warning sign must be 500 metres behind the first one trailing the runner.
The Kirkman accident was also discussed in the Senate when the Minister representing the Minister of Transport, Senator Gletzelt said that Ultra Marathons should be banned off the highways.
One strange story from the 86 Westfield was that one runner ran away and hid from his crew for three hours on the second day. When he was found, he peeked through his bush hideaway and refused to come out.
Brian Bloomer had a strange encounter when running through Wagga. A cow that had fallen from a nearby truck joined him. The cow joined Bloomer on his run through the city. This caused much amusement to spectators lined up on the side of the road.
Dave Taylor retired after stage two of the staged race whilst Frank Pearson is continuing. The three top placings are taken by Mravlje, Bloomer and Macke. Eleanor Adams has moved into forth whilst Joe Record is now in fifth.
The fifth newsletter brought a reminder about the placement of markers. Runners
and crews were told that failure to comply would lead to disqualification. There was also a note about the correct procedures for running on expressways in Victoria and information required on runner’s projected rest periods.
A funny story comes from Patrick Macke’s crew. He almost did his business on top of a beehive, until he was alerted by an ever vigilant crew member. I wonder how fast he would have run with some bees chasing him!
Progress results as of 1500 hrs May 7th;
Dusan Mravlje 723km
Brian Bloomer 697km
Patrick Macke 657km
Eleanor Adams 643km
Joe Record 631km
Donna Hudson 626km
Per Lind 614km
Cynthia Cameron 601km
Christine Barrett 583km
Ross Parker 582km
Tony Rafferty 578km
Bertil Jarlacker 571km
Dusan Mravlje was the clear leader in the race when he only had 160km to go. Brian Bloomer was 23km behind him and Patrick Macke had cemented himself in third. Eleanor Adams was in forth whilst Joe Record had moved back to sixth. Per Lind was the latest casualty and pulled out north of Albury. He was complaining of ankle and knee soreness.
Dusan Mravlje passed through the City Mall at 9pm last night and looked like finishing the race at 1030pm. He was sixty kilometres ahead of second place Patrick Macke who earlier in the day taken second from Brian Bloomer who was battling a leg injury. Bloomer had a 45km lead on 4th place Eleanor Adams. Adams had a 15km lead over Record and Hudson. On the final day, there were only eleven of the original 28 competitors still in the field.
Yiannis Kouros said this about Dusan Mravlje’s performance "He has run his own race and run it very well. He doesn’t speak enough English to know what the expression ‘Always the bridesmaid and never the bride’ means but he knows how it feels. I have seen him come second to me in two Athens to Sparta Races. He also came second to Pat Macke in another of those races and finished second in the Colac six day Race. So it is his time to win." Dusan Mravlje is also the European 100km record holder which accounts for his great ability to pick up the speed when necessary.
Eleanor Adams is still running well. She is forth overall with plenty of distance between herself and second place female, Donna Hudson.
The most common question from Journo’s becomes "How do you pronounce the Yugoslav’s name?". His crew now contains the crew of Kouros and Zabalo which makes for a real convoy stretching along the Hume. Mravlje is tall, dark and well muscled and exudes brute strength. Pat Macke is the opposite and seems to be suffering considerably. His proud crew remains at four, but there are several volunteers to bolster the ranks. Beethoven blares through the speakers to keep Macke instep towards Melbourne.
Dusan Mravlje celebrated the last 10km by having a pub crawl through the streets of Melbourne. His nearest rival was 60km behind, so as Dusan put it "I had nothing else to drink so I had beer". An escort even breath tested him during the final leg, but was discreet enough not to reveal the results to the press. The policeman did say that he would be worried if he was driving a car! Dusan also said that eight cans of beer a day was a normal habit even when he wasn’t running!
The strength of Mravlje prevails and he ends up winning. He spends most of the last day drinking beer and gesturing wildly to everyone in sight. The media loves it and the UltraRunning Bridesmaid is in the right place at the right time. He finished second in his last three races, but nothing is going to stop him winning today. It was the turn of the Greeks last year and this year it is the turn of the sizable Slavic population to line the streets and pay homage to their God and hero! One of Dusan's crew member's, Kevin Cassidy even had his parents turn up by the side of the road in Melbourne to wish them Good Luck! This day belongs to Mravlje and no victory for him will ever taste so sweet.
Dusan Mravlje finished the race in six days twelve hours thirty eight minutes and thirty seconds and picked up $20 000 for his efforts. There were thousands of Yugoslavs there to meet him and his comment was "I very happy"
Brian Bloomer surprised everyone when he finished second. He passed Patrick Macke who is still making his way through the city. At one stage it looked as though Bloomer’s race was going to be over, when he tore his calf muscle near Albury. He got it strapped and kept persevering. He now reckons that the rest of his body is stuffed and his calf muscle is ok! Patrick Macke is still ten kilometres from the finishing line!
Towards the end of the race, Pat Macke needed an urgent call of nature. There was nowhere to go, so Chris Stephenson (Race Official) procured a cooking pot for Macke to use. After Macke did his business, Stephenson ran down the road with a covered cooking pot looking for the nearest Bin wondering what he would have to do next for ultra running!
Patrick Macke eventually finished third place after a dramatic 14 hours to complete the last seventeen kilometres of the run. During the last stage, Macke suffered from bouts of delirious behaviour, became disoriented and lost his memory. He did not know that he was in Australia at one stage. He was taken in by a lady in Kew and given a cup of tea and a bath. He returns only to find a bagpiper waiting for him. He gets a tiny spring in his step.( Only because he hates Bagpipes)
His crew of four were struggling to fully comprehend what was happening due to their tiredness. Perhaps the Westfield management will force the size of the crews to be increased in future. He eventually made it. Race Manager, Charlie Lynn said "If we had a courage award he would have been the clear winner".
Pat Macke was later to compile an article entitled "The Last 237km, no 255km, sorry mate". If the story weren’t so tragic it would be a comedy of errors. I have reprinted it in full in the last chapter.
Eleanor Adams finished five hours behind Macke and Joe Record battled injury to finish fifth. Another four runners were to finish. Probably the most impressive statistic was that 75% of the females finished the race. This is compared to 30% of the males finishing.
Dusan stays around Melbourne for a few days. He is soaking up the accolades and negotiating a contract with Westfield. Kouros accompanies him on his travels and seems content that it Dusan won. Debate commences wether the race should be switched to a staged format. Bloomer believes that he will go one better next year and finish first. Westfield want to get Bauer and Mittleman in the race next year. The women’s race could be wide open next year but Adams and Hudson are declaring "Never Again!". Most of all Macke deserves another try at the last thirty miles!
The 1986 Race definitely had it all. Tragedy, high drama, laughter and success. The absence of the Greek legend did not have an adverse effect and probably helped to make the race a success.
1986 Race results:
Dusan Mravlje 6:12:38
Brian Bloomer 7:04:53
Patrick Macke 7:13:02
Eleanor Adams 7:17:58
Joe Record 8:01:14
Donna Hudson 8:06:15
Bertil Jarlacker 8:15:13
Ross Parker 8:17:45
Christine Barrett 8:22:30