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1978 Melbourne Marathon

Leading the 1978 Melbourne Marathon
at about 16km from Kevin Rock, Bill Scott
and Jim Langford (partially obscured)
It was a lot cooler for this morning's easy 5km jog along some Melbourne suburban streets, and I felt better running, though a little disturbed my right Achilles tendon was stiff and sore, and restricting my movement.  I felt that if my Achilles had been more flexible I would have been capable of stretching out and running quite well.  Maybe I'll cut back to just a 5km walk tomorrow and/or Saturday, before the Melbourne Marathon on Sunday to give the Achilles more rest.  With luck, I'll run between 3:10 and 3:20 on Sunday, not the sub-3:00 I had been looking for, but OK if I can do it.

When I started this blog, the idea of book-ending my marathon career with a sub-3:00 hour marathon in Sunday's Melbourne Marathon had an appealing sense of symmetry.  Although the Melbourne Marathon was not my first marathon, it looms large in my marathon life for many reasons.  Most importantly because, although I had run faster and was known to the Victorian running cognoscenti, my second place in the first ever Melbourne Marathon, known as the "Big M", meant much more for my running profile and recognition as a serious marathon runner more broadly.  It was a good performance in an event that generated a lot of public interest in Melbourne.

Running in second place around the 30km
mark in the 1978 Melbourne Marathon
My memory of the actual race is somewhat patchy.  I do recall always being a bit suspicious that the course was long, maybe by nearly half a mile.  I don't know how Fred Lester, the Race Technical Director and a good friend and club-mate, measured it, but I had a sense that the start, which I recall as being south of Frankston, seemed somewhat convenient, organisationally.  I noted, that in subsequent years, the start moved to the north side of Frankston.  This could have been explained by a change of the course to follow the coast all the way on the point-to-point course, but only partially in my view.  The times of the leading runners in 1978 did seem slow to me.

For the early kilometres, there was quite a large leading pack, most of whom were known to me, and I remember moving along comfortably and feeling good.  The race was being televised live, and I remember getting a buzz from having the camera truck in front of us, complete with commentators, including Ron Clarke, one of my heroes.

I wasn't considered a contender for the race, but things went well for me and by about 15km I was one of a breakaway bunch of four runners comprising Jim Langford, the 1978 Australian Marathon Champion (2:19), Bill Scott, the 1978 Victorian Marathon Champion (2:16), Kevin Rock, a Kew-Camberwell club-mate and training partner and 4th in the 1978 Australian Marathon Championship, and me.  Apparently, Ron Clarke, commentating from the back of the truck, told the live television audience that my style was too bouncy for a good marathon runner and that I would not be there at the business end of the race.

Finishing the 1978 Melbourne Marathon (2nd, 2:23)
Soon after the half-way mark, Bill applied some pressure and Jim and Kevin dropped off the pace.  I followed soon afterwards, but maintained a margin over Jim and Kevin, which I held to the finish.  I don't remember much else about the race, except that it followed the main road between Frankston and Melbourne, the Nepean Highway, and there was only limited traffic control.  With about 10km to go, approaching St Kilda where the road was many lanes wide, my sister was riding shot-gun behind me on a bike to protect me from the traffic.

Bill's time was 2:21:04, and I followed in 2:23:06 for second place, two minutes ahead of Jim.  My then wife, Barb, was third in the female race in 3:07.  I don't think I won anything of significance for my efforts, but really savoured the minor celebrity status I enjoyed for a short while.  Bill, who was also a world class 10000m and cross-country runner, won a trip to North America where he later won the Vancouver Marathon in 2:15.  Sadly, he suffered from some serious injuries throughout his running career and I don't think we ever saw how good he might have been.