Trevor Nolan

Trevor Nolan, (Spartan 0061) passed away 22/8/2017 following a fall that resulted in massive head trauma and a short coma which he never recovered from. He was 65 and ran the Melbourne Marathon 16 times between 1978 – 1994 including a PB of 2:45 in 1982.

Trevor was a hugely influential person in my life for lots of reasons, including the influence he had on me as a runner. This year Trevor would’ve seen me run my 10th MM and become a Spartan like he was, so I thought what better time to celebrate his life and tell Trevor’s story now.

Trevor had well and truly finished with marathons by the time I arrived on the scene from Sydney in late 1999. My knowledge of Trevor’s marathon running was limited to a few scant details I’d heard from my dad – one of Trevor’s six brothers. I now know that of his 16 Melbourne Marathons, Trevor ran 13 consecutively, and some outrageously fast times along the way. There were other feats too – the 21km training runs at lunchtime when he worked at ‘Telecom’, Carnegie to Dandenong “out’n’backs”, hilarious various wardrobe malfunctions, pacing with Mona’ (Steve Monaghetti) over the Westgate Bridge, competing in (and winning his age group) a ‘naturist’ fun run that Spencer Tunick would be proud of.

I’m sure most of us can recount the time we were called ‘mad’ or ‘crazy’ or even urged by friends and family not to run a marathon – “it’s too far”, “you won’t be able to walk when you’re 60”, “your toenails will fall off!” – Trevor was no different.The story goes how one Saturday in nineteen eighty something, Trevor lay staring at the lounge room ceiling with serious flu symptoms being hen-pecked by his voice of reason (mum) – ‘preparing’ to run one of his 16 Melbourne Marathon’s the following morning, which of course he did.

Fast forward nearly 20 years, to 2003, and it was my turn to feel the nurturing wrath from Uncle Trevor, imploring me (probably correctly) to dial it back and run only the half, due to my serious lack of training and preparation. But as sure as we’ve all been called mad or crazy, I sure wasn’t going to heed sound advice and pull out either. I ran my first marathon, and it hurt. Despite a reasonable case for the “I told you so” lecture that day, Trevor was there at the end, wrapped in his yellow Spartan singlet, to run the final few KM’s with me (another memory I’ll treasure). “I’m proud of you son” he awkwardly gruffed before sharply disappearing into the crowd at the finish. After getting me to the car and home to the comfortable surroundings, Trevor waited on me with cold drinks, massage and a towel in the same lounge room he’d occupied all those years ago. Generous and thoughtful as ever. That was Trevor.

I never found out exactly how Trevor fell into running, though I do suspect it might’ve been the by-product of being an ordinary footballer – there’s something unsettling about being dubbed “the best trainer at the club”. But Trevor had the build of a long distance runner, not a footballer – and run he could.

What is for certain, is why I became a runner – Uncle Trevor. Seeking a brighter future, I relocated from Sydney to Melbourne and landed on Trevor’s doorstep as a wayward and troubled 19yo really only looking for a place to ‘crash’ for a few weeks. I quickly noticed Trevor’s generosity went far beyond taking me in, and was astonished to learn that Trevor would send EVERY family member (well in excess of 50 relatives) a birthday card EVERY year, without fail. Such sense of other was the ultimate corrective experience for me.

I gotta say though, more than a few times Trevor’s generosity was surely severely tested by clueless me, like the time I managed to break his washing machine….. then his dryer….. both in the one night. Despite such seemingly constant, and somewhat comical episodes, a companionship formed between Trevor and I that grew over the 3 years he made his home mine, culminating in Trevor being the best man at my wedding. A proud day for both uncle and nephew.

Trevor had always been known as ‘that runner’ in the family, who wore ‘those’ skimpy little shorts. To be honest his passion for running was lost on me, and I didn’t see the point. However, witnessing Trevor’s infectious positivity and all the good that running and being fit seemed to bring into his life, how could I not be intrigued? So I took up ‘jogging’. It took several attempts, and I’m sure I threw in the towel many times. Typically though, each unsuccessful attempt was met with Trevor’s perfect contrast of challenge and encouragement, and always a smile. Ultimately running won out, and I grew to love it.

Eventually Trevor and I would regularly run together. Running can be a lonely sport, and Trevor had found someone to experience his love of it with – so had I. Over the years Trevor could no longer run like he used to (the back, hip and knee), but he didn’t treat it as the end of an era, instead the start of a new one. He took up yoga religiously, learnt to sing and paint and donated his time and happiness to the disabled and disadvantaged.

The way Trevor saw it, if he couldn’t run marathons anymore (his body told him so) he’d found another avenue to stay involved in the sport by supporting me. He never said so, but I could see marathon morning still had enormous meaning to Trevor and his excitement was obvious and a joy to see.

The passing of time and a young family of my own meant less regular, but more meaningful contact with Trevor. His reassuring phone call on the Thursday night before my next Marathon remained a constant tradition – and the final soothing piece of my pre-race tapering I counted on each October.

I’m pretty sure Trevor never ran for the status, medals or fast times, and Spartan-hood was probably an accidental bonus to him. When i spoke of my own desire to reach the mighty status of Spartan, Trevor, ever the protective uncle, raised his eyebrows – concerned his far less capable nephew might be asking too much of a worn body not built for distance running like he was.

Surrounded by family, eating and drinking good food and wine (the things he loved most in life), it was fitting that Trevor was in the best of spirits when he left us suddenly one Saturday night in August last year. Naturally my 9th Melbourne marathon became firmly “for Trev”, with more tears flowing at the start of the race than the end – an odd sensation and a first, on a hard day done well.

And so here we are, 9 down and 1 to go. I’m sure every aspiring Spartan has their own reason as to what it means to them, even beyond the hard slog. Even if Trevor didn’t have a reason of his own for getting there – he’s gifted me with mine.

Tim Nolan


Tim completed his tenth Melbourne in 2018 and became a Spartan.