In the post entitled Origin, I mentioned a 1959 book called the ‘Encyclopedia of Sport‘* by Charles Harvey. One of the things I became fascinated by were the list of athletic records. As a budding athlete myself I would tick off the records as I equalled them hoping that one day my name would appear in such a book.
The person who inspired me to run was the Australian runner Ron Clarke who during the 1960s broke no less than 17 world records from 5000 meters to 10 miles. He had been a promising teenager and carried the Olympic torch in the Olympic Stadium at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. However it would take him until 1963 to make his mark on the world stage.
On the 18th December 1963 he broke both the 6 mile record by over 26 secs and the 10000 meter record by 3.2 seconds. His time for the 10000m could have been better but he slowed down after completing 6 miles not realising that he had another lap to run.
His last world record was in 1968 at London’s Crystal Palace stadium over the 2 mile distance. This race confirmed that he had a good chance of bringing home Gold for Australia at the 1968 Mexico Olympics, he won the bronze at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
It was his efforts that led me to try to pursue a career in middle distance running. I would spend my break times running round the school boundary to improve my stamina.
Ron Clarke was probably the world’s greatest long distance runner not to win an Olympic Gold. Although the legendary Czech runner, the “Czech Locomotive”, Emil Zátopek gave Clarke one of his gold medals in 1966.
I wasn’t the only person to be inspired by Ron Clarke, the 1972 Olympic marathon gold medallist, Frank Shorter said: “Ron Clarke was my idol. I grew up seeing Ron Clarke in the dark blue singlet with the V on it – to me that was the symbol of running.”
Ron Clarke: 21 Feb 1937 – 17 Jun 2015
- Fixing the Olympics* – Ron Clarke. Melbourne : Information Australia, 1999.
- Total Living : for everyone who wants to be fitter, trimmer and smarter* – Ron Hill, John Briffa. London : Pavilion, 1995.
- Ron Clarke’s Running Book* – Ron Hill. Collingwood, Vic. : Outback Press, 1979.
- Ron Clarke Talks Track* edited by Jon Hendershott. Los Altos, California : Tafnews, 1972.
- Athletics the Australian Way*. Melbourne : Lansdowne, 1971.
- The Lonely Breed, with Norman Harris. London : Pelham, 1967.
- The Unforgiving Minute*, as told to Alan Trengrove. London : Pelham, 1966.
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