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PROTRACK » GENERAL » Jim Bradley and the Stawell Gift

Jim Bradley and the Stawell Gift

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1 Jim Bradley and the Stawell Gift on Tue Apr 05, 2011 10:47 am


During the coverage of the 2010 Stawell Gift, two articles were published - one in the Age & the other in the Herald Sun about Jim Bradley. On the eve of the 2011 Stawell gift and given that Jim will be 90 in May, I thought it would be timely to revisit the articles here on Pro Track.

An old man's gift
By Dan Silkstone
The Age
April 5, 2010

He moves slowly these days - for a man who has made a life out of just the opposite. From a comfortable spot high in the grandstand at Stawell's Central Park, Jim Bradley watches his last remaining acolyte and hopes for one final win.

If this event is a glorious anachronism, loaded with quaint history, nobody represents it better than Bradley. A legend in two hemispheres, about to turn 89 and still dreaming of turning not-so-young men into champions. He is the Bart Cummings of humans.

Jim Bradley has fired a few but the last shot in the legendary sprint coaches' locker is Adam Burbridge. The 28-year-old first trained with Jim a decade ago. As a schoolboy, he had played footy at Essendon Grammar. His coach, Bomber champion Ken Fletcher, told him: ''You can run a bit, go and do some training with this fella.''

The teenager did not think about it too much. Just show up to training and do what Jim says. He sprinted to second place in the 2001 Stawell Gift.

That year, everything felt effortless and the future stretched out invitingly. After that, Burbridge lost his way. By 2008, he had put on 14 kilograms: ''I wasn't as committed and dedicated,'' he says. ''In your mid-20s, you party a little bit, you misbehave. Then I thought: 'I still enjoy my running. I want to give it another crack'.'' And he knew just the man to get him there.

Ask Jim Bradley a question and you get a story, not an answer. Asked how many Stawell Gifts he has attended, he instead launches into a recounting of his time as head fitness coach at the North Melbourne Football Club under Ron Barassi.

After coming to Australia from Scotland in 1971, he had landed a similar job under Des Tuddenham at Essendon before he quit and went to North.

At the peak of the Bradley cult, he had elite teams of runners, first in Scotland and then in Australia. His own track, his own club, his own rooms. Virtually, his own religion. Now he has only Adam Burbridge.

''I train on my own with him,'' Burbridge says. ''I think it's amazing that people don't tap into his knowledge. He watches me, studies me, he's very old school.''

Bradley calls it the Method. It is fair to say it defies modern sport science. Train hard, two hours every day. Seven days a week. No resting, no recuperating, 52 weeks a year.

Then there's the diet. By Bradley dictum, Burbridge must forever live on steak and chips. Every night, seven days a week. Porterhouse. Medium. Chips.

''I go to the market every Sunday and buy four steaks, I go again on Thursday and buy three more steaks so it's all fresh,'' he says.

It is, Burbridge admits, crazy. ''But it works for my body.''

The thing with the Method is you have to stick to it. Not long ago, Burbridge got some big ideas in his head. He got creative. ''I started boiling my potatoes,'' he says. ''I said: 'Jim I'm doing a bit of mash, I'm sick of chips'. He said: 'Mash? No good. Can't do that. It has to be chips'.''

On Saturday, Burbridge made it out of his heat and into today's semi-finals, but Bradley was unimpressed. ''He didn't show his running today,'' he said. ''I think I filled him with diesel instead of petrol.''

The remedy? Possibly a joke, though it's hard to say. ''He had an off day, so I'll give him a half a bottle of whiskey before he runs again.''

If you've got a spare year, Jim Bradley will more than happily tell you his story. He started running in Scotland after getting out of the army. In his 30s he began coaching a fellow runner - Ricky Dunbar - a slow and ungainly nobody. The Method turned him into a decorated pro-running champion. Others noticed and soon he had a stable.

He is the only man to coach the first two placegetters in a gift - Steve Brimacombe and Paul Young in 1991. He made Brimacombe a national champion. Alan Wells used the method to claim Olympic gold in the 100 metres at Moscow in 1980. Glenn Crawford used it and won the Stawell Gift in the fastest time yet run at Central Park.

His sprinters do little or no weight training. ''There's no point getting built up strong upstairs if it slows you down. It's a waste of time.'' Instead he loves the speedball.

You do it Jim's way or you find someone else. Not many young men would settle for such a relationship with a senior citizen who is barely ambulatory. Bradley and Burbridge see each other every day. Other runners sometimes think it strange. For them it works.

''He has obviously been around, he's got wisdom, he's been in these situations before,'' Burbridge says. ''I know he's got the best out of me. That's all I care about … He's the best coach for getting me peaking.''

Burbridge has read Bradley's infamous book - Athletics My Way - and notes the Method remains unchanged from the 1960s.

The veteran coach is pushing 90 but he never misses a training session. Just over a fortnight ago, he was on his way to train with Burbridge when his car was T-boned. ''I was nearly killed,'' he says. ''My seatbelt strangled me, I couldn't move.'' He managed to open the door but the engine was still running and the car still moving. Two strangers found a way to pull him out but by the time he regained consciousness in the ambulance they were gone.

''If those blokes hadn't got you out you would have been dead,'' the paramedic told him.

Bradley would like now to know who those blokes were but, at that moment, he had more pressing concerns. He was late for training. He insisted the ambulance stop and let him out. He made it to the track. The next day he woke up and could hardly move.

''That's his dedication,'' Burbridge marvels. ''I try to dedicate myself because he does so much for me. I don't want to let him down.''

Things have not been easy of late. Not just because of the accident. Burbridge had trained regularly at Williamstown but four weeks ago that track closed. The unlikely pair then found themselves homeless, training wherever they could find a place to run. Sometimes they used even the Arden Street oval of the Kangaroos. Other times they simply picked a public park.

Bradley moves slowly these days and is labouring hard after the car accident left him with severe bruising to his chest and lungs and needing to see a cardiologist, ASAP. To him that meant after Stawell.

The thought that drives him on is one more big win. ''I get personal satisfaction from this,'' he says. ''None of my runners pay me. Just personal satisfaction. If the lad wins on Monday, he'll keep that $40,000. That's his, he trains for it. I merely coached him.''

It would be some story and Burbridge does not rule it out. ''I'm still running, I got through,'' he says. ''Anything can happen.''

2 Re: Jim Bradley and the Stawell Gift on Tue Apr 05, 2011 10:50 am



Adam Burbridge from Westmeadows, right, with his coach Jim Bradley.

Not even a car crash can stall Jim Bradley's drive
By Scott Gullan
Herald Sun
April 05, 2010

HE'S the Bart Cummings of pro running, the doyen of the coaching ranks who has trained some of the sport's greats, but Jim Bradley almost didn't make it to Stawell this year.

The 89-year-old was in a serious car accident four weeks ago, on his way to training.

A driver ran a red light on Ascot Vale Rd and hit Bradley's car, knocking him unconscious. Two pedestrians jumped into the car to stop it rolling into on-coming traffic.

When Bradley came to in the ambulance. he refused to go to hospital, insisting he had to be at training.

"It nearly killed me," he said yesterday. "Two fellas saved my live and I don't know who they were.

"This other driver came through the red light and caught me right in the corner and the car twisted.

"My seatbelt strangled me and I couldn't move. I was desperate to get the door open as the car was still running and it was in gear.

"I can remember roaring like hell and the next thing I knew I was in the ambulance.

"I don't know how long I was in the ambulance but I heard this voice and it turned out to be a paramedic.

"He said: 'This bloke should get himself some Tatts tickets because if those blokes hadn't got him out he would have been dead'.

"They then said I had to go to hospital but I said, 'I'm not going to hospital, I've got a runner at training and I'm going there'."

So he went to training where his only athlete, Adam Burbridge, was waiting.

"I couldn't walk, I couldn't move my legs, I couldn't stand up," Bradley said.

Bradley went to a doctor the following day and was told he had severe bruising in the chest and lungs and there was nothing you can do to fix it.

"It's painful but it will go away," said Bradley, who has an appointment with a specialist later this week for another check-up.

"I've just been coming good today actually. I can walk without really staggering. Before that people were saying, 'He's on the drink'."

Burbridge, who is in his second stint with Bradley, is full of admiration for his veteran mentor.

"What happened with the accident and then he still came to training, that is dedication," he said.

"So I try to dedicate myself because he does so much of those sorts of things for me. I don't want to let him down."

Bradley, who is renowned for creating the Speedball and other fitness equipment, trained two outstanding Gift winners, Steve Brimacombe in 1991 and Glenn Crawford in 1995.

His training methods haven't varied over the years. He trains Burbridge seven days a week on a diet of steak and chips.

"I have been eating steak and chips all year," Burbridge said.

"I go to the market every Sunday and buy four steaks and then go again on Thursday and buy three more steaks so it is all fresh.

"My housemates cannot believe that I eat the same thing over and over again but I'm not sick of it.

"I actually started boiling my potatoes and I said to Jim I was doing a bit of mash instead of steak and chips. He said to me, 'mash, you can't do that, it has to be chips'."

Burbridge ran second in the Gift final as a 19-year-old behind Andrew Pym in 2001 under the guidance of Bradley but then lost his way before reconnecting with the legendary coach two years ago.

"I train on my own with Jim. I think is amazing that people don't tap into his knowledge," he said.

"It's better for me to have one-on-one training, he looks at me and studies me and knows what's best for me."

After a flat run in Saturday's heats - Burbridge ran 13.02sec to finish second behind Brendan Matthews - Bradley knows he will have to pull out some magic from his bag of tricks to get his man firing in today's semi-final.

"He's a much better runner than he showed in the heat," Bradley said.

"He just had an off day, that's all.

That can happen to anyone, so I think I'll give him half a bottle of whisky."

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