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PROTRACK » GENERAL » True Colours - The people of Pro Running (Sean Quilty)

True Colours - The people of Pro Running (Sean Quilty)

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True Colours - The people of Pro Running (Sean Quilty)
By David Griffin.

Terang is a small town in country Victoria, about 215 km from Melbourne. Home to 2400 people, Terang’s claim to fame lies in its peat beds, former Collingwood player Ronnie Wearmouth, and trotting champion Gammalite.

It’s a nice town, but unfortunately, like a lot of smaller Victorian towns, it’s now a good coffee stop on the way to bigger towns like Warnambool, just up the road.

There was a professional athletics meeting at Terang not too long ago ,where the mile race  was won by 50 year old Sean Quilty.

Quilty also represented Australia at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Two great memories, 20 years apart, in a running career lasting 38 years and counting.

Quietly spoken, modest and easy going, 50 year old Quilty was a champion runner. Years ago he was world class with a personal best of 2.13.20 for the marathon. He admitted his best is behind him though.

As far as the pro circuit goes, he is most likely the most credentialed athlete going around, and I am willing to bet most don’t even know it.

Young runners, new to professional athletics, probably don’t give him a sideways glance. He doesn’t care, he runs because he loves it.

When you get chatting to him, you realise that he is very measured when he speaks, probably the result of his job as an insurance underwriter. Or is it simply because he is a no fuss type of guy?

Watching him win the mile at Terang, it’s clear he loves running.

On an oval surrounded by trees, amongst the casual atmosphere of a well- organised country race meeting, he reminded me of a man addicted to the sport. Somewhat like Forest Gump, he just keeps running.

He does what a good pro runner does, and turns up each week.

“I get a buzz from it”, he said.

“I really like the sport, the social aspect of it and I love the competition”.

He started running at age 12 and with an Olympic and two Commonwealth Games appearances, three world championships, a world cross country championship and two Australian marathon titles, his record speaks for itself.

He finished 34th in the Atlanta Olympics and won a silver medal in the Alberta Canada Commonwealth games marathon. Like the modest person that he is, he seems more comfortable talking about how his elite career finished.

“My body started failing in about 1999. I put my worst performance in at the Seville world championships where I ran 2.56 for the marathon. I would get to about 35 kilometres into a race and start cramping up. I tried to run after 1999 and get back to the world championships but my body was failing and I called it quits”.

Aside from the Olympic Games, his silver medal at the Commonwealth games is a career highlight.

“I was lucky to get the silver to be honest. I thought I was in the right place at the right time. I remember I came back from the Commonwealth games and I was having a run with a friend and I said that same thing to him. My friend disagreed and said I was the right bloke, in the right place, at the right time. I often think back to that, maybe he was right”.

“It was interesting, in that race I was 10th with 12 km to go. I just seemed to run the perfect race for the last 10kms. I drew everybody in, and ended up running 2 hours 14 minute and 57 seconds, which was a two second PB at the time”.

Quilty doesn’t look fast but he is. He has a distinctive, shuffle type style that comes from running efficiently. His technique doesn’t have a thousand moving parts, perfect for longer distance runner.

Trained by John Hurst for many years and now Marteen Beer, it’s said that Quilty is a great motivator, an inspiration to many. These were comments from his own stable, people who look up to him.

His wife Laura, a typical athletics ‘widow’ has been following what has been a permanent fixture on the professional running circuit for the last 15 years.

Continuing what is now a family tradition, his son Donovan (named after sprinting sensation Donavan Bailey) had his first professional race at Sandringham in 2016.

Quilty thinks he might have won around 15 pro races but he is just guessing.

His highlight on the pro circuit came in 2006 when he won the Frontmarkers mile at Stawell.

“To win was great but I never really went out to try and win a race at Stawell”.

“I am pretty laid back and reserved and if I was to sum up my own career, it was more on the basis that I never thought really big about achieving things but I feel I achieved more than I set out to achieve”, he said.

He is almost bashful when talking about himself. Modesty is a great trait.

There are many on the Pro circuit with a good story to tell, but the story of Sean Quilty is one for the ages.

Without any shadow of a doubt he is one of Australia’s best athletes still pounding the track, and like most pro runners, he is always on the lookout for “a lift”.

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