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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Pro running right on track

Pro running right on track

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1 Pro running right on track on Wed Dec 13, 2017 10:36 pm



Pro running right on track

Ringwood’s Proclamation Park is becoming a training Mecca as professional running ranks swell

By David Griffin
Maroondah Leader
13th December 2017

(From left) Sophie Griffin, Chloe Blennerhasset, Kate Blennerhasset, Jake Ireland, Darcy Ireland and Tom Griffin prepare for the busy summer season Picture: STUART MILLIGAN

ONE of Australia’s oldest sports is going through a revival, and Melbourne’s eastern suburbs is at the forefront of that rebirth.

Professional athletics, best known for its most famous event, the Stawell Gift, has been part of the Australian sporting landscape since the 1800s.

Most nights of the week, upwards of 60 professional athletes from all over the eastern suburbs can be found sweating it out at Proclamation Park in Ringwood.

Stawell Gift hall of famer and professional athletics coach Todd Ireland felt the sport was on the crest of a wave.

“Professional athletics is becoming more popular. We are seeing a lot of new young pro athletes at Ringwood now and they come here from all over Melbourne to train,” Ireland said.

“Over the past few years, we have seen a huge increase in juniors racing in the professional ranks.

“We have introduced junior races at most meetings and now anyone over the age of 13 can run. The Stawell Gift has also included Little Athletics races as well.”

The 47-year-old said a rise in female participation in the sport was another reason for the surge in popularity.

“Female participation in a lot of sports is on the increase and pro running is no different,” he said. “It wasn’t that long ago that females had to race the males – they didn’t have a choice.

“These days, females have their own races and meetings like Stawell offer equal prizemoney in events like the 120m gift.”

The Stawell Gift has seen a 40 per cent increase in female participation over the past five years, which falls into line with the growth of sports like women’s AFL, cricket and soccer.

Ireland, who made three Stawell Gift finals himself, combines competing with coaching these days, and said the sport was open to everyone.
“It’s inclusive and everybody is welcome,” he said.

“If you feel like a run, you can – it doesn’t matter who you are. You certainly have to work hard but it’s always great to see new runners, and frankly, the more the merrier.”

"We are seeing a lot of new young pro athletes at Ringwood now and they come here from all over Melbourne to train."

2 Re: Pro running right on track on Thu Dec 14, 2017 9:26 am


It looks like the Ringwood area has taken over where the Essendon precinct was 40 years ago.

When I first contacted the VAL in September 1980 for a list of pro running stables or coaches in the area there were several squads or trainers to choose from. At a rough estimate I reckon there were probably 80 plus pro runners living or training around Essendon, Moonee Ponds & Ascot Vale.

Essendon Professional Running Club (Ferg Speakman & John Hawke), Butch Roberts, Barry Foley and Sandy Hurst were the better known stables that all had several athletes training at parks within the inner north west. There were other trainers listed by the VAL who also had one or more athletes.

Growing up in the area, the local Essendon Gazette often had articles about the achievements of the pro runners and the coaches. Ferg Speakman and Butch Roberts were pretty well known around the sporting community, sometimes featuring in the local paper, especially around Easter.

Barry McLeod had a strong squad in the nineties and I know I'm a long way from there now days, but the Essendon area isn't the pro running stronghold it once was.

Unfortunately it seems the Essendon based athletes who ran with those main stables around that time haven't taken up the coaching mantle.  

It is fantastic to see how strong the sport is around Ringwood.  

"Let's Go While We're Young"

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