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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Stawell Gift runs in the family for father-son competitors

Stawell Gift runs in the family for father-son competitors

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I hadn't seen this article until today. Nice article about Mark Hipworth and his devotion to the sport. Despite it being 4 weeks old, I thought it was worth posting on Protrack.

Stawell Gift runs in the family for father-son competitors

By Neelima Choahan
The Age
15 April 2017

To improve his speed in football, Mark Hipworth decided to take part in the Stawell Gift in 1981.

On Saturday, the 57-year-old pulled on his racing spikes to run in his 150th foot race at the event.

He was joined by his 16-year-old son, Morgan, who has also taken up the pursuit in the past two years.

Mark Hipworth who has been taking part in the Stawell Gift since 1981 now wants to pass the baton to his teenage son, Morgan.

Mr Hipworth says running feels like no other sport and the Gift is its pinnacle.

"I like just running around the track and feeling the wind rush past you," he says.

"I like the feeling of the competitiveness and pushing yourself as hard as fast you can and to keep going when you want to stop."

He says the event, which is celebrating its 136th anniversary this year, is where every athlete wants to be.

"Most people just aspire to even compete there, never mind win a heat; to win a final is considered to be the best you can do," Mr Hipworth says.

"So I am honoured to have been able to have the opportunity to participate."

And with the race being Australia's richest footrace, there is plenty of money to attract the elite.

Back in 1966 the total prize pool was a mere $2400, but today it is $60,000 and the first person past the line sprints away with $40,000.

While other sports are still talking about giving women a better deal, the prize for the Women's Gift increased from $6000 to $60,000 in 2015.

Women can compete either alongside men in the open race or in women's only events.

Marketing manager Ricky Marcy says of the 720 [aged over 15] participants, 251 are women running across multiple races.

A new 70 metres women-only category has seen 112 athletes sign up.

Apart from the business on the tracks, there is also Fashions on the Fields and an Easter hunt to entertain the crowds.

This year there is also an Off the Track street party with food stalls, live music and fireworks.

The Northern Grampians Shire Council chief executive Michael Bailey says the three-day race contributes $4.5 million to the local economy.

During the event, the town's population of 7000 nearly triples to about 20,000 people.

"It creates about 23 jobs which is around a $1 million in wages," Mr Bailey says.

"It brings about around 12,000 people to the town."

Mr Hipworth, who was placed third in the Stawell Gift in 1986 and was inducted into its Hall of Fame, says the buzz in the town lifts all the athletes' performances.  

He will compete again this long weekend in three races, including the 3200 metres, as well as have 40 of his trained athletes on the tracks.

The former engineer says he is now looking to hang up his runners and focus on just coaching.

Though still competitive, he now takes pleasure in being nearly overtaken by his son, Morgan.

"At Stawell they have an under-20, 800m race ...he qualified for the final in 2015 and I couldn't have been prouder to see him run," Mr Hipworth says.

"I think he is at that point where he is about to beat me, fair and square.

"The baton is being passed. I hope that I will stop sometime soon and he'll take up the running."

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