Sri Chinmoy "24 Hours on Track", Campbelltown Sports Stadium Athletics Track, Saturday 15 & Sunday 16 June 2019
Why and how does the sight of a bunch of runners circling around a track bring such a surge of joy? The venue is unremarkable – a suburban athletics track; the runners mostly “ordinary” people – no Olympic champions, Oscar winners or rock stars here. Countless times we’ve seen folks running around tracks and not felt this inexplicable thrill, so it’s source can’t be just the outer activity; it has to be the inner reality, the combined aspiration, daring, sacrifice, willpower and quest for transcendence radiating from the hearts, infusing the minds and powering the limbs of each runner-dreamer-warrior-hero before our eyes. We recognise our own better selves, our own yearning for something higher and vaster, the battle against our own self-doubts and fears, the drama of our own lives’ journeys; we feel the quiver of our own souls.
An ultra track race presents a unique concentration, a distillation of single-minded focus, resolution and shared purpose, a revelation, affirmation and celebration of just a glimpse of the infinitude of spiritual power within us all.
It is rare indeed that every single entrant in a 24 hour race toes the start line – customarily there are a few “no-shows” on the day for one reason or another. So for all 41 entrants to assemble trackside for the 9am start was in itself an auspicious augury for a memorable edventure.
A 24 Hour race invariably unfolds in ways no one could have anticipated. The faces assembled at the start line mask a myriad mysteries about to unravel – some surprising, some disappointing, some perplexing, some exhilarating. The faces assembled at the awards ceremony reveal the unravelled threads of searching, struggling, crying, smiling and flying which together comprise the complex tapestry of this rich and rewarding epic.
Donna Urquhart (212.4km) and Daragh O’Loughlin (221.2 km) were both humble and popular winners of the women’s and men’s race respectively. Each remained steadfast, sturdy and strong throughout the long day and night to triumph and surpass their personal goals. Donna also took 3rd outright across the entire field, after an impressive 1st time Campbelltown runner Hoong Wei Wong from Singapore, with 216.8km. The steady and solid Stuart Hughes came in next with 210.4km, followed by 2nd female Simone Hayes with a fantastic sustained performance netting her 198.4km.
Sabina Hamaty took our the Female 50-59 category with her calm and controlled 162 km; Soonchul Shin was outstanding to take out the Male 50-59 with a wonderful 186.8km; while the Elder Statesman of this event, Anyce “Kip” Melham completed his 32nd Sri Chinmoy 24 Hour Race (variously held in Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney and Campbelltown) to win the Male 60-69 category with a hard-fought and glorious 166km. Rod Rainey was best among the Male 70 and Over with 101.6km.
Much of the attention in the front half of the event was on the remarkable Bernadette Benson who ran a stellar race, closing her account after 100 miles in 14:22:30, claiming numerous Open and F50 Canadian and Australian records up to and including 100 miles (full details to be verified and published).
The 12 Hour race boasted perhaps the fastest (though the smallest) field, with “gun” runner Phil Balnave setting the early pace from the 9pm starting bell. It was defending 24-Hour 2-time champion Stephen Redfern who outlasted the best however, maintaining his trademark bouncy lope through a testing night to record a PB of 131.875 km, from John Pearson’s 125.24km and Wayne Calvert with 110.311km. Aaron Francey ran the furthest of the Male 50-59 with 104.09km, and Jonh Nuttall took the Male 60-69 with 61.376km. The only entrant in the Female Under 50, Margie Raymond, completed her marathon in 5 and a half hours.
The 6 Hour race field was next to join the 24 Hour runners on Saturday morning, one hour into proceedings, and added energy and enthusiasm to the track in lane 3 and 4. By 4pm, it was James Chen who had covered the furthest with an impressive 65.954km to take out the Male Under 50, with next home Masanori Chiba in fine form to also take out the Male 50-59 with 64.754km. Kerrie Bremner ran perhaps the standout performance of the event with her wonderful 63.109 winning her the Female 50-59 category (and females outright) as well as taking 4th overall. Bob Marden won the Male 60-69 with 50.65km; Jiyoung Lee took out the Female Under 50 category with 37.233km; while the amazing Margrit Smith, who will turn 85 in 2 days time, gave masterclass to all in focus, calm and determination.
One hour later, at 11am the Marathon brought 24 additional friendly faces to the party in lane 3. With no cut-off time and a relatively straightforward course to follow, a diverse group of marathon newbies, veterans, stalwarts, hares and tortoises variously jogged, galloped and shuffled through the better part of the afternoon. Oliver Carey was the fastest to finish in 3:17:11, from Male 50-59 winner and 2nd outright Eunsu Park in 3:25:48. Jenny Brownlie took out the women’s main award with 3:58:40; Paul Andersson the Male 60-69s with 5:55:37; Jo Andersson the Female 70 and Over trophy in 6:05:41; and the famous David Attrill outlasted them all to take the Male 70 and Over award with a remarkable 8:38:16.
Immense gratitude to Penny Redfern whose cheerful, heartfelt service kept our volunteers in good spirits all day and night; to Billy Pearce, our indefatigable medic who served tirelessly throughout the 24 hours; to the kind staff of Campbelltown Council who take such good care of this wonderful venue; and to volunteers of the Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team from Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane.