Coburg 24 Hour Ultra Marathon Championships 12-13 April 1997

Coburg 24 Hour Ultra Marathon Championships 12-13 April 1997

Traralgon Harriers Relay Team Breaks World Record

The Traralgon Harriers open relay team has broken a world record in winning its event at the 24 hour ultra-marathon championships at the Coburg athletics track last weekend.  The Harriers veteran relay team also won the veterans section, in a weekend of highlights at the Harold Stevens track where a number of Australian and world records were broken, despite blistering temperatures on both days.

Ultra-runners and walkers, together with the relay runners endured extremes of heat and cold.  Competitors were drained by Saturday’s 30 degree heat.  In the early hours of Sunday morning when the previous day’s heat had radiated out through the clear night sky, runners shivered as they jogged warm-up laps in jumpers, beanies and gloves.  Ironically, by mid-morning competitors again grabbed water from drink stations to pour over their heads in an attempt to cool down.

With team members coming from throughout the Valley and Gippsland, and an age range across both teams spanning fifty years, the Harriers runners were thrilled with their double victory.  The team set a new Australian and world 24 hour track relay record in winning the open relay, sprinting a total distance of 385.2 kilometres from midday Saturday to noon Sunday, at an average distance run of over 38 km for each runner.  Relay runners take turns to run half hour legs on the 400 metres track, returning to the track at five hourly intervals throughout the 24 hour period, with sleep in between runs the exception rather than the rule.  The team of Ian Cornthwaite, Birgit Schuckmann-Wilson, Darrel Cross.  Bret Franklin. Steve Postlethwaite, Michael Lancaster, Gavin Jarvis, Steve Gilbert, Bruce Salisbury and Neil Griffiths set a blistering pace, which it maintained to the finish.  Team anchor Ian Cornthwaite finished his final relay leg fresh enough to compete in, and win, the 8km fun run on Sunday morning.

The sole woman runner in the team, international marathoner and new Harriers coach, Birgit Schuckmann-Wilson eclipsed her male opponents on the track, with teenagers Bret Franklin and Michael Lancaster pushing the team to an early lead that was never challenged.

With the team approaching a final winning margin of 62 km, last leg runner Gavin Jarvis battled illness and heat in the final half hour of the championships.  Showing great mental strength he ran hard to overtake the world record distance and set a new team mark of 385.2km, less than a kilometre beyond the old record of 384.4km set in 1996 by the Yan Yean Road Runners.

The veteran’s team won the Relay Challenge for the third year in a row, demolishing its target distance of 300 km to finish ahead of a number of the open teams.  The team of Glenn Fisher, Steve Eagle, Lee Graham, Belinda Issell, Chester Goulter, Frank Ward, Peter Grixti, Mick Bridle, David Graham and Barry Higgins maintained its speed throughout the 24 hours slowing slightly only during the first and last stages which were both run in the energy sapping heat.

Barry Higgins

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