The Traralgon Harriers
The Club was founded in late June 1967 as a distance running club – unusual for the time – inspired by the harriers group in New Zealand’s successful Owairaka Club, and a number of successful Australian distance runners including Ron Clarke. Some guidance was received from experienced marathon runner Geoff Watt of Warragul.
Harriers were soon using quiet country roads and local forests to tackle far greater training distances than other runners. The club organised its first marathon in 1968 with 5 Harriers competing.
Ian Wheeler, who had only recently joined the club, won the 1969 Traralgon Marathon in extraordinarily wet and difficult conditions and this run was to gain him Australian representation in Canada. Wheeler, who had been a top South Australian runner over distances from 800-metres upwards became an inspiration to club members.
In 1970 the Traralgon Marathon was won by Derek Clayton in 2-hours 13. Clayton had run a world best marathon time the previous year (2-hrs 8:33) and the club was delighted to have Clayton compete and set the still-standing event record.
The Harriers soon had its first Victorian Champions with through juniors Garry Henry and Gerald Bloore, with Ian Membrey being successful several years later.
Another club champion was John Bermingham who finished 4th in the Olympic selection trial for the 1972 Olympics. Illness forced him to sit out the 1976 Olympic trials even though he already had a qualifying time in the 5000-metre event. Some years later, in 1993 and living in Canada, Bermingham took up the challenge to be the first masters (over 40) runner to break the 4-minute mile barrier and he also recorded fast times in masters road racing in 1994.
During the 1970s one of the club’s founders and its first club coach, Martin Thompson, left the club to study in England. While overseas he and his wife Linda competed extensively in marathon and ultramarathon races in Europe. He completed over 100 marathons, had ultramarathon wins and world class times, and she also had marathon success. The couple returned to run the Traralgon Marathon in 1979 and achieved a rare combination of success by taking the men’s and women’s titles.
Garry Henry, back under Thompson’s guidance, commenced serious marathon running in late 1979. Failing to win selection for the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Henry nevertheless achieved a series of top international performances in Vancouver, Montreal and Fukuoka. His fastest time of 2:10:09 placed Henry amongst world’s all time top 15 performers.
Continuing to foster distance running, the club spawned a large number of competitive marathon runners throughout the 1980s and into the next decade. Amongst them were 2-hr 20 men David Laws, Ian Cornthwaite and later Morgan Tucker. Other competitive marathon runners at the time, running 2-hr 40 or faster, were Wayne Kelb, Rayphe Collins, Keith Tomholt, Bruce Inglis, Laurie Edmondstone, Peter Shone, Darrel Cross and Nenet Susa.
In 1996 the club began organising a 6-hour track race, and a few years later, a 50km trail race from the historic gold mining town of Walhalla. While ultramarathoners Tim Cochrane and Roger Maximiw were beneficiaries of this environment, the club’s growing appeal in wider fields began supporting female and junior runners of national or international standing: Sandra Timmer-Arends (ultra running), Melissa Jones (junior, steeple) Peta Mullens (junior, mountain running), Derek Evans (junior, disability, track and field), and Kathyrn Preston (nee Ewels) (orienteering and mountain running).
The club’s distance running orientation and the training opportunities available in our area continue to give us great optimism about our club’s future.