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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Rick Dunbar Article

Rick Dunbar Article

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1 Rick Dunbar Article on Tue May 30, 2017 8:20 pm

Todd Ireland


Great article about Rick Dunbar in the Age Newspaper. Sorry I'm not savvy enough to display it so I've put in the link above.

2 Re: Rick Dunbar Article on Wed May 31, 2017 8:29 am



Ricky Dunbar - 77 and still running

By Martin Flanagan
The Age
26 May 2017

Ricky Dunbar, as painted by Patrick Ford for the Archibald prize.

It's 1967. I'm 12. Someone, probably my older brother, has taken me to the New Year's day sports at Burnie in Tasmania. It's a big day with a crowd of 10,000 or more. There will be cycling, wood-chopping, athletics.

That year the feature event in the athletics is the Australian championship, to be fought out between local runner Basil Burley and Ricky "The Flying Scotsman" Dunbar. I'm still young enough to be taken by the hype and my eye, having located Dunbar, remains on him. There is something about the man's athletic style that I find arresting. He is handsome in the Nordic manner, blond hair and brown skin. He wears a sky blue tracksuit with a big white thistle on the back. He runs in red, he ripples with athleticism. I remember his bounding starts, always from the back mark.

I met Ricky Dunbar again this week after an Age reader, Patrick Ford, sent in a portrait of Dunbar – at the age of 77 and in his red running gear – for the Archibald prize. It's titled simply, Still Running. Because he is.

Ricky Dunbar is difficult to interview because every race leads to another story and every story leads to another race. He's still exceptionally fit looking. As a kid in Edinburgh, he played every sport available to him. He was working as an apprentice mechanic when a man with a tyre business, Jim Bradley, invited him to compete at a professional running event. He turned up, but left because there were too many people about.

Professional running, Dunbar tells me, originated in Scotland and north England. It has, for example, an event run over the "Sheffield distance" of 130 yards, that being the distance between the two pubs where the event was first run in the northern English city of Sheffield. Professional running came to Victoria during the gold rush and has been famous, over the years, for the chicanery that accompanied it.  "It's all part of the game!" cries Dunbar.

He started on the professional Scottish circuit, running on grass and cinder tracks, running in winter wearing gloves with the fingertips cut out so they didn't get wet and freeze when he put his hands to the ground to take his mark. He ran at Highland Games like the one at the start of the film, Chariots of Fire. One of the two heroes of that film, Eric Liddell, was Scottish. Liddell had no style, I say. No, replies Dunbar fiercely, he must have had "that much will to win".  

I am told that in 1964 Dunbar ran a time on grass that equalled a British Olympian's. Does he wish he'd run as an amateur? "Yes and no." Running as an amateur meant the chance to run for your country. Dunbar says Chariots of Fire, which tells the story behind Liddell winning the 400 metres at the 1924 Paris Olympics, makes him "so emotional"; he makes a gesture with his hands like a man flinging wood onto a fire.

As Ricky Dunbar saw it, the problem with amateur running, away from the glamour meets, is that the same person wins all the time. Professional running has handicapping. "It gives you a challenge every time you run." In Scotland, he once gave a runner 17 yards' start over 120 yards; in Australia, the biggest margin he gave away was 14 yards over 130 yards.

In 1963, he won the biggest event on the British professional running circuit, the Powderhall Gift. I ask him if he remembers the race. "I remember every race." He thought he came up too quickly, always a mistake, but knew he had them by the 90-yard mark. The average working man's annual wage in Scotland was then £700. He won £250.  He had £50 on himself at 10 to 1. His stable won £10,000 in total. The bookies had to hand out notes saying they'd pay later. Betting on yourself was also part of the game. "Oh, yes!" he says.

He gives me a copy of his coach Jim Bradley's book, Athletics – My Way. In it is a photograph of a man holding his hand out in front of him captioned "Professional". Beside it is a photograph of the same man, hand behind him receiving backhanders titled "Amateur".

It was after he won the Powderhall Gift that Bradley advised him to go to Australia. It was a better climate, he'd last longer, run faster. He won his first four gifts – in Castlemaine, Daylesford, Echuca and Maryborough. By the time, he got to Stawell he was on scratch and chasing runners 12 yards ahead of him. In all his years, he never made the final of the Gift at Stawell. But he won Australian championships and, in 1968, at Moorabbin, finished third in the Professional Championship of the World.

But he says his two biggest wins in Australia were in the 100 metres Masters' event at Stawell which he won in 1980, off a handicap of 1 ½ metres, and again in 2011, at the age of 70, off 22 and ¾ metres. I ask his wife Sue to describe her husband. Pig-headed is the first word she offers. She modifies it to "single-minded".

When are you going to stop running, I ask. "When I drop," he says.

3 Re: Rick Dunbar Article on Wed May 31, 2017 10:52 am

Baltimore Jack

great article.
Painting gives Cam an idea what he will look like in 2057, if he keeps running.

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