The ten “Melbourne Marathon Spartan Legends” photographed for “The Wall” prior to the 2012 marathon.
After the 30th Melbourne Marathon in 2007 there were thirteen “Melbourne Marathon Spartan Legends” who had completed every run.
Back Row: Roger Weinstein, Peter Ryan, Neville Gardner, Peter Battrick, David Foskey, Frank Biviano, Manny Karageorgiou, Wayne Thompson
Front Row: John Dean, Bruce Hargreaves, John Dobson, Shirley Young, Jack Gubbins
Shirley and Jack retired after the 30th running. John Dean suffered a leg injury and was unable to start in 2010. Peter Battrick just missed the cut off time in 2014 but finished in 2015. Peter Ryan was unable to overcome a leg injury in 2015 and failed to finish.
Nev Gardner announced prior to the 2016 marathon that injury and illness meant that he could not train and he would therefore be a non-starter in 2016. However, when he heard the stories of Brenton Ponza and Tate Kemp he decided that he should try. So, much to the astonishment of the other Legends he presented at the start. He valiantly ran through to the finish line but his time of a few minutes over seven hours meant that he could not be classified as an official finisher. We believe that Nev will start in 2018.
The graph, derived from the information stored in our database, shows the average times of the seven runners for each year. The gradual improvement over the first few events is now being over shadowed by the effects of aging. 1982 is of particular interest because of the excellent conditions, resulting in most of the seven running their best Melbourne time. Bill Rodgers’ winning time of 2:11:08 was world class. The 2015 average time was 4h54m04s which extended to 5h12m14s in 2016. Only Wayne Thompson and Roger Weinstein ran more quickly in 2016.
The Legends periodically get together for a run around the Tan. Pictured on the 31st of March 2011 are Roger Weinstein, Nev Gardner, John Dean, Wayne Thompson, John Dobson, Bruce “Digger” Hargreaves, David Foskey, and Frank Biviano. Peter Ryan missed the photo. Peter Battrick and Manny Karageorgiou were unable to attend.
There were new singlets for the 35th running – see photograph at the top of this page and here for a comprehensive overview.
Nev Gardner models his 1978 finisher’s tee shirt. Autographs include Rob de Castella and Steve Moneghetti.
Nev is proof that it is possible to finish a marathon in October after a hip replacement earlier in the same year.
Pete’s time was 3 hours 7 minutes, and he didn’t manage to get past.
A younger Nev Gardner is shown (above) wearing the 1045 number, somewhere early in the 1978 run. He finished in 3 hours 14 minutes. The desperado in the beard is a young Bruce “Digger” Hargreaves who faded (see below and the Stories page) to finish in 4:34.
The wheelchair athlete is Fred Pointer whose time was 3 hours 31 minutes. J MacDonnell wore bib 95 and runner 1921 was K Onley.
September 2013 Legends article in the Herald Sun
Some editions of the Herald Sun on September 22 carried an article written by Chris Muirden. They are provided here as two PDFs. Warning: the files are large, so they might take some time to load, and they will be difficult to read on a telephone. Part 1 and part 2.
The following profiles were published on the official Melbourne Marathon web site prior to the 2011 race and are re-published with permission.
Possibly the best-known legend is Bruce “Digger” Hargreaves, who lives in Brisbane and does a lot of work for the “100 Marathon Club”, for those who have clocked up a ton of marathons. Bruce is also the Comrades Marathon (South Africa) Australasian Ambassador. But his first love is the Melbourne Marathon and he returns each year, often helping lead a ‘Pacing Bus’. Once it was a sub-4hr group, but lately he has been more comfortable with a 4-plus hour marathon pack.
Digger was 25 when a Monash Uni workmate showed him an entry form with five weeks to go to the big day in 1978.
“I was running 5km three times a week back then, but he offered me a carton of beer if I finished. I went through halfway in 89 minutes and I finished in 4:37, so you can figure out what happened,’‘ Hargreaves said.
Bruce has a PB Melbourne Marathon of 2:57 from 1992, but he got down to 2:47.02 in the 1989 Gold Coast race.
He has run 113 marathons and recently completed the Comrades Marathon for the sixth time.
Frank admits he had no idea what a runners “wall’’ was when he started training for the marathon with former Waverley athlete Bob Schicket back in 1978.
“At that stage I was living in East Burwood and doing the odd run here and there to try and keep fit and saw the advertising for the Big M Marathon and thought I’d give it a go,’’ he said. “I hit the wall around Middle Brighton (30km), so I found out all about the wall.’’
Undeterred by his first effort in around five hours, Frank became a regular on the running scene, often taking part in ultra marathons including the Melbourne to Colac (100mile race) and beating the legendary Cliff Young on a couple of occasions.
His best time for 42km was 3:16, but the only time he looked like losing his sequence of Melbourne Marathons was in 1987 when he was diagnosed with bowel cancer and had to have surgery 12 weeks before the race.
“My wife made me sign the entry form before I went under the knife and thankfully it was benign. I only just made it that year.’’
Frank, who worked for McEwens as a store manager, now lives in Cowes and has a lawn mowing business.
As to how many more Melbourne’s he will do, he sees the 2014 race as his likely finale.
“If I listen to my doctor he tells me to stop at 70. We’ll see what happens after that but so long as I’m not a nuisance and holding up traffic I think I’ll keep going.’’
You would think that as you get older your desire to run marathons would drop. For John Dobson that logic is in reverse. The Melbourne Marathon was the only one John had done until he entered the Sydney Olympic Trial Marathon in 2000. Now at the age of 60, John is addicted and he ran seven marathons in 2009.
“I joined the Yan Yean Runners (he lives in Mill Park) not long ago and that’s really helped keep my fitness up,’’ John said.
“Melbourne’s still the main focus but the country marathons are nice with their scones and cakes and Hobart brought out the chocolates with its finish at the Cadbury Factory.’’
John’s first Melbourne race was his hardest.
“I heard it advertised on EON FM and I’d done a couple of 14km fun runs, so I thought I could do it but it nearly killed me. The pain I’ll never forget.’’
His fastest time (3.02) came in 1987, and the only time he almost missed a race was in the early 90s.
“I’m a bricklayer and one time I did my back lifting and I could hardly bend over but I wasn’t going to miss it,’’ he recalls.
As to how many more he’ll do, his recent form (last year he ran 3:57) indicates he has quite a few more Melbourne’s in him.
“Who knows, I’d hope I’ve got at least 10 more years in me. People still get around pretty well until into their 70s.’’
At 55, Manny Karageorgiou is the youngest of the 10 Spartan Legends who have run all 33 Melbourne races. He was just 22 when he took part in the inaugural race in 1978.
“I have always been up for a challenge and the thought of running a marathon excited me, especially as my parents and lots of my family are from Greece, the home of the original marathon,’’ Manny said.
“Back in those days there wasn’t much information on how to train and I hadn’t researched it thoroughly. The original course started off uphill in Frankston and I sprinted off keeping the leaders in my sight. I hit Seaford (about 6km) and I was gone.’’
While his best time is 3:26 in 2001, there is little sign of him slowing down and he tries to get a run in most days when his work as a company director allows him.
“In the past few years I’ve completed the Kokoda Track with my son, Pana and, trekked to the base camp at Mount Everest, so I reckon I’ll keep running them while I can still stand on my own two feet,’’ he said.
“I would like to do the Athens Marathon one day, but it’s always the week after Melbourne and being the youngest of the Legends, it makes it very hard because I can’t pull out.’’
Tennis great John Newcombe deserves some of the credit for Roger Weinstein being one of the 10 legends to have run every Melbourne Marathon since 1978.
Roger was in his mid twenties when he attended the Australian Open at Kooyong in 1975.
“Newk was playing Jimmy Connors in the final and I was so inspired that I went out and ran around the parkland nearby for half an hour,’’ he recalls.
“It was my New Year’s resolution and I found I enjoyed running and I made it a part of my daily routine to run for a minimum of half an hour. Even now I try and get on sequences of running 900 days in a row.’’
Roger became a regular devotee of doing a lap of Albert Park (he calculates that he has run more than 18,000 laps of the popular circuit) and was encouraged to run Melbourne in 1978 and finished in 3:36.
Soon after he joined South Melbourne Harriers and came under the influence of prolific marathoners Jim Crawford and Peter Logan.
“I never really excelled at any sport, but I got to know the guys at South Melbourne and they encouraged me. I set myself a target of doing six marathons a year and I actually reached my 100th marathon in 1996 and since then I’ve just done the Melbourne race,’’ he said.
Roger, who works as a fashion accessory importer, has a best time of 2:54 dating back to 1981, but admits his hunger for racing is long gone.
“It’s got to the stage where it would take more courage not to run the marathon than actually doing it. None of us want to do it, the hunger has gone out of it, but we’ve gone so far you can’t pull out. It’s a bit of madness really,’’ he said.
“But all of us are really proud of the record and it gives us an added goal in life.’
At 68, Pete Battrick is the oldest of the 10 remaining Spartan Legends who have completed all 33 Melbourne Marathons and his time of 6:18.50 last year placed him only slightly ahead of the pack-up vehicles.
“I’m the oldest and the slowest which is not a good sign. But if I get a transplant I’ll be right,’’ he said.
In the early years he was usually around the 3:30 mark with his best 3:02 in the infamous Bill Rodgers’ tailwind year of 1982.
“I was pretty fit back then, not a broken down old hack like I am now,’’ he said. ‘‘I used to train with Pam Turney’s group and I did the old Vic Marathon when it was at Point Cook. I can still remember the first Melbourne race. It started in the streets of Frankston and went straight up the Nepean Highway to the Town Hall. After about the first mile we turned on to Nepean Highway and one wit called out: ‘You beauty, we are in the home straight now’.’’
His most enjoyable race was four years ago when he paced veteran Spartan Shirley Young to her 30th successive finish.
“Shirley already had the onset of Alzheimer’s and we’d only gone about 3km and she was asking me at what stage we were at,’’ Pete recalled. “Getting her to the line in 6hrs20minutes was probably my best effort.’’
There is some doubt Pete will run this year with regular physio work from Anne Lord required to get him over thigh, back and foot injuries and his work as a Stop/Start man for Newco Traffic Control making it hard to find time to train. (Pete completed the 2011 run.)
But given he has not missed an Athletics Victoria road race for his club Oakleigh in the past 39 years, it would be brave person to bet against him lining up come October 9.
Some people spend their life searching for a soul mate. For Wayne Thompson it came in 1978.
“I lived in Seaford and I’d just done a marathon at Princes Park. I was listening to my local station 3MP and heard they planned to hold a race from Frankston to Melbourne. It was like a dream. The race almost ran post my door,’’ he said.
“It became my absolute passion. I’m just so grateful that they put it on. It’s been my focus. It’s like a party along the road and it’s my way of celebrating life. It’s a very profound experience and it defines my life.’’
Needless to say Wayne is one of 10 remaining Spartan Legends to have run in every race and last year he completed the course in 3:42.12.
His best time was 2:40, although he did run 2:36 in the 1984 Canberra Olympic Trial Marathon to finish just behind Lisa Martin.
Twice he has had to run the race in agony – in 1983 he had bad blisters from the King of the Mountains race and in 1986 he fell and badly hurt his knee.
And in 2000, when work commitments stopped him from training, he had to carefully eke out a five-hour plus effort.
“I hadn’t done any training so I ran at the back of the field with a gentlemen who looked like Danny De Vito. He was a politics lecturer so we just talked virtually the whole way.’’
These days he works as a manager of a Cranbourne Retail Bottle Shop and every second Tuesday night he plays guitar at the Khe Sanh Restaurant in Springvale.
He has no idea yet how many more marathons he has in him.
“I still enjoy my running at 58. I’m so grateful for the life I’ve had, with a beautiful wife and three sons and a daughter-in-law who started bringing the grandson to the finish at the MCG when he was nine months, so in a way I couldn’t care less how many more I do.’’
But don’t be too fooled by that relaxed attitude.
“A few years ago when the race nearly folded, a few of us had already decided we’d meet at the One-Mile Bridge in Frankston at 6am on the second Sunday in October and just run the course regardless. We were that committed.’’
There have been plenty of VFL/AFL footballers to have run the Melbourne Marathon with inaugural race chairman and Melbourne premiership player Brian Dixon among the most decorated.
Peter Ryan is not quite so well known as a footballer having only played one VFL game for Hawthorn back in 1967, but he is a life member of the Hawks after many years as a recruiter and he is well known in running circles having been a past Spartan president.
“I was still playing footy in the Essendon district and was getting to the end of my career when I first heard about the marathon. I got through the first one OK but I have more vivid memories of the second year. I’d done a fair bit of training but it was later in the year and it was a really hot day and I thought I wouldn’t finish. I had a can of Coke, which is not normally the best thing, but it sparked me up,’’ Ryan said.
The only other time Ryan looked like recording a DNF was two years ago when he tore cartilage in his knee a couple of weeks before the race.
“I just struggled home that day by running and walking and then went and had arthroscopic surgery soon after,’’ he said.
His favourite memory is back in the early 80s when he ran alongside Cliff Young for much of the race. “That was before he’d won the Sydney to Melbourne so I recall being shocked by this old bloke shuffling along next to me in long trousers with holes cut out in them. It was when I used to run sub 3hours so it was quite a surprise that this guy was keeping up with me.’’
Ryan, 63, was in doubt for the 2010 race spending three weeks in hospital with a mystery illness that doctors couldn’t diagnose, but battled through in 5:32.
“The knee’s OK now, so I’ll be trying to scrounge out another six marathons. That would take me to 40 Melbourne’s in a row which would be fantastic.’’
Ryan has retired from teaching but keeps himself busy organising football for people with intellectual disabilities.
Running marathons is not the only passion that has kept 67-year-old Neville Gardner motivated in the past three decades.
Sure he’s one of the 10 Legends to have completed every Melbourne Marathon since 1978, but he’s also proud of another streak.
“At the end last season I had played or umpired 1251 games of footy,’’ Neville said.
Neville took up umpiring after playing 161 games, including four premierships for Box Hill Pioneers FC.
It was his involvement with the men in white that led him to run the 1978 race.
“At our end-of-season umpires presentation night, one of the umps came up and said, ‘does anyone want to make an umpires team for the marathon’. In the first year the race was held in November so I had about six weeks to train.’’
Fortunately Neville was already a seasoned summer athlete having joined Box Hill Athletic Club as a junior for the 1960-61 season and gradually progressed from sprints to middle distance.
“I was so excited when I completed my first 20-mile training run in a time of 2hrs 25min before the marathon and I ended up running 3:14,’’ he recalls. ‘‘The next year it was a really hot day and I ran conservatively and when I crossed the line my watch indicated 2:59.48. A few weeks later my official result was posted out and I was 96th but my time was downgraded to 3hrs and one second. That kept me motivated for the next one.’’
Neville eventually got his marathon PB down to 2:44.40 but they haven’t all been easy.
“Back in 1992 I had an achilles operation and the doctor said: ‘I don’t think you’ll be running this year.’ I ended up putting three wedges in the heel of my left shoe and I walked and jogged my way home in 4:33. I’ve never really had any setbacks since but I’m on medication for Polymyalgia Rheumatica, because my muscles used to tighten up and I could hardly move in the morning.’’
Ironically Neville had a major setback in last year’s race with massive pain in his hip.
“I had to grit my teeth and force the pain out of the back of my mind,’’ he said. “I remember seeing Peter Ryan sitting on the grass in Alexandra Avenue and I asked him if he would join me as I shuffled past.’’
A trip to a specialist revealed his left hip cartilage had worn out and required a full hip replacement in early May.
“I am taking it one day at a time and if all goes well I might be able to walk and shuffle through the 34th Melbourne Marathon.’’ (He did.)
Neville still works as an administrator for the Victorian Teachers Credit Union and last summer was his 50th anniversary of competing for Box Hill Athletic Club.
In 2009 he won gold in the 800m at the Vic Masters titles at Glenhuntly.
David was an occasional fun runner when he heard about the inaugural Melbourne Marathon in 1978. “I was in a pub with a few mates and one had done the Sydney to Hobart yacht race and another had done some serious white water rafting, so I was feeling like I needed to do something to match them,’ he said.
“My first marathon was 4hrs 15 minutes but I eventually broke three hours (his best was 2:58 in 1986).’
Foskey, who works as a computer systems developer with Beacon Business Systems, says that the group of 11 remaining legends who have run each race, helped spur each other on and that the annual marathon is a great way to ensure health is maintained.
“I know at my age now that keeping fit is good for me and I’ve been lucky enough to only have minor injuries so I’ve been able to keep the streak going.’
As to which Legend is likely to keep going longest, Foskey says there are two main candidates.
“Wayne Thompson is young and still running strongly, while Bruce Hargreaves is mad enough to be running at 100, so one of those two I’d guess.”