Running Writing ©
No. 24    July 1999
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       A Few Words

Chris Cook
Chris Cook (left) ran 70:08 to place 10th in the 1989 Canberra Half Marathon

The Start
Chris (second from left) at the start of the 1991 ACT Cross Country Championships. The 12k race was won by Pat Carroll. Chris placed 8th, running 38:12

John Harding's photo of Chris Cook winning the Australian Mountain Running Championships on Mt. Wellington, Tasmania

Sunset over the Brindabella ranges from Mt. Tuggeranong - July 1999

Chris Cook was one of the legends on the Canberra running scene. My most recent memories of Chris before the tragedy on Camp Mountain were as the father who was always at Daniel’s side at local races. He was a true Aussie battler - a man who loved his sport and played hard, but always put his family and friends first. His close mates told of his devotion to wife Amelie and step-daughter Heidi - his best friend.

My mates Gordon, Geoff and Stuart lined up with Chris for his last race. On Saturday June 26, Chris was competing for the ACT in the Australian Mountain Running Championships at Camp Mountain, Brisbane. Just 2.5 kilometres into the race and running in third place, Chris suffered a heart attack and fell to the ground. Two joggers who witnessed what happened rushed to his aid. Stuart arrived and was told to go on to the next official to summon an ambulance. Geoff stopped to assist and soon after Gordon. A quick decision was made to send Gordon back the 700m to the previous official who had a radio to make sure the alarm had been raised. Meanwhile, one of the female runners who was a trained nurse and an official had taken over the CPR. Ambulances arrived within 40 minutes but despite the best efforts of all concerned, Chris was unable to be revived. The autopsy later revealed that Chris had advanced coronary heart disease with two partially blocked arteries and one fully blocked.

The tributes that were written by the media and words spoken at the funeral were particularly poignant given Chris’ untimely death at the age of 40. His mates Bill, Mark, Roger, Danny and Rod spoke eloquently and with affection about his achievements and life. There was also a moving letter read to mourners from David which included a description of Chris’ adaptation to his new sport of mountain biking.

Chris was an outstanding runner at school and in his early twenties became one of the top few 3k steeplechasers in Australia - running around 8:50. His first coach was Australian champion Tony Manning. Chris took to the ‘new’ sport of mountain running in 1992 and represented Australia at the World Championships in France in 1993. In 1997 he achieved what AMRA president John Harding describes as ‘his greatest triumph - a runaway win in the Australian Championships’ on Mt. Wellington in Tasmania. During the last 12 months, Chris mixed mountain biking with running and appeared in great shape with a win in the 1 June Mt. Ainslie Run Up series.

My last memory of Chris in full flight was particularly vivid. The occasion was the 10th annual Canberra Terry Fox Fun Run on 20 June. Chris was competing in the 5k race which starts with the 10k and turns back on the same course. Slower runners have an opportunity to see the leaders in the 5k on their return journey. I was running in the ‘10’ and keeping an eye out for the 5k runners. The leader was Chris Cook... charging along way out in front, leaving adrift a bedraggled line of runners, most 20 years his junior. Chris won the race (the last he finished) in 16:29.

Ewen Thompson



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