Running Writing ©
No. 33    February 2002
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gift sprinters (40k)
Professional sprinters run over a distance of 120m at the Botany Bay Gift

SCT sprinters (39k)
SCT athletes prominent in a heat of the 100m during ACT Interclub competition

200m sprinters (34k)
Sprinters running the bend of a 200m event at ACT Interclub

open 200m sprint (40k)
120m to run in the men's open 200m at the AIS track, Bruce

jade sutcliffe (45k)
Wanniassa's Jade Sutcliffe competing in the Long Jump at the 1999 ACT Track & Field Championships

sprinter jade sutcliffe (30k)
Jade Sutcliffe in earlier days competing for Calwell Little Athletics at the ACT Championships

mark shepherd (42k)
SCT's Mark Shepherd won the bronze medal at the 2001 Australian All-Schools T & F Championships

women's steeplechase champ (36k)
Marnie Ponton of West Belconnen club is the ACT's nationally ranked 2000m women's steeplechase record holder

junior men's cross country (52k)
SCT juniors Jonathan Symonds, Michael Hosking and Mark Shepherd in the Under-18 event at the 2001 ACT Cross Country Championships

andrew bishop, noni clarke (45k)
Andrew Bishop and Noni Clarke - the silver medallist in the ACT Under-20 3000m Championships for 2002

women's 1500m race (49k)
Action from the open women's 1500m event at the 2001 ACT T & F Championships

matty hill (38k)
Star SCT runners Matthew Hill and brother Darryl have moved to northern NSW

Professional Foot-Running Older than the Modern Olympic Games

by Ken English

The following article was written by Ken English to coincide with the 2002 Vikings Canberra Gift Carnival. The carnival is advertised as "the return of a tradition" -- an apt description considering the long history of professional running in Canberra and Australia.


Professional foot-racing or pedestrianism as it was often called, has its origins in the mid-eighteenth century when the Industrial Revolution was occurring and English public schools and the wider community were becoming very interested in games and sporting pursuits. One of these sporting pursuits was pedestrianism which was the act of rapidly covering a variety of distances on foot, distances which ranged from shorter sprints to the coverage of hundreds of miles. These activities were often accompanied by substantial wagers with large sums of money being won and lost.

It was against this background that early settlers arrived in the Australian colonies from the United Kingdom in the nineteenth century.

In Australia professional foot-racing is said to have begun in the gold-mining days. The miners raced against each other, often in a one-to-one match-race situation on a handicap basis for the gift of a gold nugget offered by the local publican or mine owner.

It was at this time that the main sprint race came to be run over the Sheffield distance of 130 yards, regarded as a true test for professional sprinters. This sprint distance originated from the Sheffield Handicap event in Yorkshire over 130 yards in which the winner was presented with a purse of gold. The metric equivalent of 120 metres has been used in gift races since the mid seventies.


Professional foot-racing has been conducted throughout Australia using prizemoney provided by sponsors since the eighteen-hundreds. Each state has a circuit of carnivals directed by its State Athletic League operating under the Australian Athletic Confederation.

The 'Mecca' of professional foot-running in Australia is the Stawell Gift Carnival which has been held during Easter for over one hundred years.

However, its status as the richest carnival has been superseded in recent years by the Botany Bay Gift Carnival which boasts total prizemoney of $120,000 and $70,000 for its main race with a $50,000 first prize. The Stawell Carnival has a total prizemoney pool of $90,000 and the famous Gift is worth $54,000 with $32,000 going to the winner.

There are many other carnivals and events conducted under handicap foot-running conditions throughout the nation each year.

Some of the more famous long-running carnivals are the Bay Sheffield Carnival in South Australia, Burnie in Tasmania, Jupiters Carnival on the Gold Coast in Queensland, Temora and Macksville Carnivals in New South Wales. Since the late 1980s athletics and the Olympic Games have been 'open', meaning that the so-called amateurs and professionals can all compete together for prizemoney without being penalised or discriminated against.


In the ACT the Canberra St Patrick's Day Sports Association conducted its First Annual Carnival at Acton Racecourse which is now under the waters of Lake Burley Griffin, on Saturday 6 April 1946 after being postponed because of rain from 16 March. There were two professional foot-running events with a total prizemoney of 150. The first Canberra Gift was worth 103 prizemoney.

The event soon moved to Manuka Oval where it developed each year under the Secretary Clem Donnelly to become one of the big carnivals on the Australian calendar. By 1960 is boasted over 1,000 prizemoney with the Gift worth 750 which compared very favourably with Stawell and Bendigo and attracted very large fields including the best professional sprinters from New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. A big attraction was that the ACT was the only place outside of Victoria where betting on the foot-running with licenced bookmakers was allowed.

When Clem Donnelly passed away in the early sixties, the Canberra Lions Club tried to continue the event but had bad luck with poor weather and the Annual St Patrick's Day Carnival ceased after the controversial 1964 event.

At this Carnival, many spectators thought N.C. Austin had won the Gift but the judges awarded first place to the champion Victorian runner Terry Clarke who ran 12.0 secs off a 1-yard handicap for the 130 yards on the fast Manuka Oval track, a sensational run.

However, in a semi-final of that Gift, champion Australian and South Sydney rugby league winger Ian Moir was disqualified after winning, on the grounds of 'inconsistent running'. As betting was legal the NSW Referee announced that all bets placed would stand. Moir, who was heavily backed, proved a bonanza for the bookmakers.

Some of the better-known Canberra Gift winners included Carlton footballer Frank 'Bluey' Adams in 1958, Gunnedah's Brian Stone in 1960 and outstanding former amateur runner Dudley Towers who won in 1963.

Top class sprinters who ran in the event and failed to win have included Michael Cleary, Ken Irvine and Johnny King who all played rugby league for Australia as well as champion pro sprinters Bill Sutton, David Irvine, Frank and Tim Banner and John Stoney whose daughter Clementine is now one of Australia's top backstroke swimmers at the AIS.

Since the last Manuka Oval Canberra Gift in 1964, numerous attempts have been made to revive the event with handicapped races in the early 1980s at the Canberra Racecourse in conjunction with the popular Black Opal Hose-race Meeting. Also, three carnivals were held with good success at West Belconnen in 1994, 1996 and 1997 where entries were strong.

However, the proposed February 2002 carnival at Tuggeranong worth $11,000 prizemoney with the strong backing of not only the Tuggeranong Valley Rugby Union and Amateur Sports Club, but also the South Canberra Tuggeranong Athletics Club and the three Little Athletics Centres (Tuggeranong, Calwell and Lanyon), looks likely to provide the strongest thrust yet towards a long-term revival of this fascinating and highly entertaining form of athletics.

Jade's Life in the Fast Lane

by Ben Caddaye

The following article by Ben Caddaye first appeared in 'The Valley View' on 25 September 2001 and later in Canberra Runner #148 of December 2001.

On the surface, sprinting and quilt-making appear to have little in common, but both pastimes played an important role in Wanniassa girl Jade Sutcliffe's quest for an elite sports award. Jade, a Year 10 student at Wanniassa School's Senior Campus, was last week one of a handful of teenagers awarded the prestigious Pierre de Coubertin Award for demonstrating attributes consistent with the aims of the Olympic movement through sport.

To be nominated for the award, students must have represented their respective schools at interschool level in either swimming, athletics or cross-country, plus at least two other competitive sports. Jade, a talented sprinter and all-round athlete, has represented her school and the ACT in track and filed on numerous occasions. In April she went to Melbourne to compete in the Little Athletics Under-15 Multi-Championships. There she participated in the pentathlon, comprising 800m, discus, 90m hurdles, 100m sprint and long jump. "I went really well up until the discus", the 15-year-old recalled.

This year she's also represented the Wanniassa Senior Campus in soccer and Aussie Rules. So, what about the quilt-making? To qualify for the Pierre de Coubertin Award, students were also required to submit a literary or artistic piece of work that demonstrated the spirit of 'Olympism'. Jade, clearly as adept with a needle and thread as she is with a pair of running spikes, produced a quilted piece featuring a dove and the Olympic motto: 'Faster, Higher, Stronger'.

From Jade's perspective, it's appropriate that the word 'Faster' appears first, as it aptly describes her form on the track and her attitude towards athletics. She began athletics at the tender age of seven, and was a long-time member of Calwell Little Athletics Club. She now runs for South Canberra Tuggeranong, and trains at the AIS once a week under the watchful eye of noted coach Rob Hathaway.

The 200m sprint is her favourite event and, not surprisingly, Melinda Gainsford-Taylor and Cathy Freeman are among her role models. With a best time of 25.60 secs, Jade would have to be among the quickest girls in her age group in the Territory and she admits she often beats the boys home in school athletic carnivals. She once ran the amazing time of 24.0 secs in a Wanniassa School carnival, but discovered soon after that the track was not quite 200m in length.

Wanniassa School principal Hugh Davies said it was fitting that such an elite award had gone to an elite athlete. "We're very proud indeed of Jade's performance. We're not surprised by it - we've had a lot of confidence in her for a long time", he said. "I wouldn't want to run against her."


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