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1982 Montreal International Marathon

Finishing the 1982 Montreal International
Marathon (46th, 2:29).

Just an easy 10km on some trails and the beach for training today.  After the comfortable 15km yesterday, I would have expected to feel better this morning, and was a little worried by how hard the early kilometres were.  In fact, I wondered whether there had been a recurrence of the heart problem, although I wasn't aware of any palpitations.  I did manage to run up one of my benchmark hills, and actually felt better after that, although my overall time for the regular Little Beach course was slow.  I'll be interested to see how I feel tomorrow morning.

Another occasion when my running didn't match my expectations was the 1982 Montreal International Marathon, although every other aspect of the event was exciting and memorable.  I wrote an article about it for the Kew Camberwell running club newsletter.

As a consequence of my 2:19 in last year's Big M Marathon, I was fortunate enough to be selected in the Australian team for the Montreal International Marathon to be held on 30 May 1982.  As this was my first Australian singlet, I was, of course, very pleased and determined to do well.  However, my chronic achilles tendon injury caused me to avoid racing for the six weeks before the race and this lack of speed-work, in combination with some medication I was taking for the injury resulted in one of my poorest performances ever - 46th place in 2:29.  It was particularly disappointing because, despite the injury, my training form was very good and I knew I was in better shape than when I ran 2:22 in the Boston Marathon some six weeks earlier.

Looking over Montreal from Mount Royal.

My performance clouded what was otherwise an enjoyable and unique experience.  The Australian team, consisting of John Stanley, Graeme Kennedy, Garry Hand and myself, arrived in Montreal six days before the event and were met by representatives of the organisers.  Of the total budget of $1.5 million for the event, $300,000 was spent on airfares to bring some one hundred athletes to the event and all were to be accorded the same star, or 'elite' status which we enjoyed.  Our hotel, the Sheraton, had only been open for six weeks and our $130 a day rooms on the 20th floor left nothing to be desired.  The race administration had taken over the whole 7th floor and provided, for the 'elite', a 'hospitality' room which contained a bottomless fridge (always full of beer, coke, yoghurt and other goodies), magazines, coffee and so on.  Another 'entertainment' room was stocked with video and other games for our amusement and a third 'dining' room had breakfast and dinner available for us all at no cost.  In addition the Province of Quebec provided six or seven hostesses and hosts to look after us.  Amongst other things, they organised sightseeing tours by bus and boat, trips to the baseball and soccer (both in the 1976 Olympic Stadium), to the races, to a rock concert and so on.  Since only two teams (the Australian men and French women's) plus a few other individuals were in Montreal for the first few days, we received almost individual attention from the organisers.  In addition, we had VIP seats and everything laid on at all these events since they were sponsored by Molson's Brewery which was also sponsoring the Marathon.

Jacques Cartier Bridge, Montreal.

Early during our stay, Serge Arsenault, the race director, called our team to a private meeting and after explaining the race details, informed us of our $30 a day living allowance and went on to list the prizes available for the race.  First place would earn $10,000 down to tenth place $500 with performance bonuses of $750 for each minute under 2:15 as well as $5,000 for the first team, $3,000 for second and $1,000 for third.  He then asked how we wanted prize money paid should we be lucky enough -in cash, by cheque, or to our national association.  In the event, the Australian team came second behind Italy in the teams race and John Stanley, our nominated manager, collected three crisp $1,000 notes (which were later deliveved to the AAU).

There is practically no dividing line between professional and amateur athletes in North America now and Benji Durden (USA), who won the race in 2:13, openly admitted that he won $35,000 in cash last year in the U.S.

Montreal Olympic Stadium.

Montreal is a predominantly French-speaking city of some 3 million people on an island in the St Lawrence River.  The dominant feature of the city is the tree-covered Mount Royal (MontReal in French) which provided good training territory only a kilometre from our hotel.  For our entire stay the weather was warm and humid which made training a sweaty affair but was otherwise very pleasant for looking around.  The day of the race was no exception and a 6:30 am news bulletin informed us that it was 20°C and rising.  During the race it was sunny and very humid with temperatures recorded at 30°C along the course.  However, it was not the temperature which affected me.  I started badly, running 16:30 for the first 5km, 17:30 for the second and 18:00 almost exactly for each 5km thereafter.  Of course by 10km I was already almost three minutes down on the leaders and spent the rest of the race wishing I was home in bed but not daring to pull out.

Because of my slow start, I don't think anyone passed me after about 10km and as the heat took its toll, my place improved rapidly - 90th at half-way, 46th at the finish - however this was no consolation at all.  My team-mates performed well with the exception of Gary Henry (who joined the team from the U.S. where he had been studying) and the results were as follows:
     16.  Graeme Kennedy - 2:19
     20.  Gary Hand - 2:20
     24.  John Stanley – 2:21
     41.  Gary Henry – 2:28
     46.  Dave Byrnes – 2:29.

The main reason we came second in the teams race was the casualty rate in the other national teams, many of whom had insufficient finishers to count.

The race, similar to our Big M Marathon, was a mass participation event. However, to make the organisation manageable only the first 12,000 entries were accepted!  The race started on the giant Jacques Cartier Bridge across the St Lawrence Seaway and ran through the suburbs out around the 1976 Olympic Village and Stadium before returning to pass through the central city area.  It then proceeded out on to two islands in the Seaway, circling the Canadian Grand Prix circuit, and passing through the World Expo site to the finish.  Unfortunately there was little crowd support over the last 10 kilometres (where it was most needed) in contrast to the first 30 where the route was lined with people.  Although, it must be said, that unless you were recognised as a 'Quebecois' (from the province of Quebec), runner the support was somewhat muted.

The evening of the race there was a dinner and disco for the elite athletes and organisers which was enjoyed by all and then after a day to rest up, we returned to Australia - a 48 hour trip.