‘Twas the year 1961. I wasn’t born yet. But this story isn’t about me…
It’s about Ron Clarke and his fellow running enthusiasts.
You see, Ron Clarke was a runner. And not just any runner, a long distance runner. They’re a different breed from the sprinting folk. When your body is throwing out all different types of alarm bells, long distance runners have to find a way to block out the pain and continue on. And it’s the really good long distance runners find a way to continue on at a cracking pace. A concept which is so foreign to me and many alike. But for Ron, he embraced the pain and went on to succeed with it ingrained deep inside of him. The first three years of Zatopek:10 were won by Ron. It’s what we in the biz call a ‘three-peat’ (or a ‘hat-trick’ if you’re a cricket fan). It wasn’t until four years after his last win (1963) that Ron decided he’d go back-to-back and claim victory in 1968 and ’69, officially classing himself as a ‘legend’ of Zatopek.
The path was now set.
Zatopek had quickly become an event where the best runners in Australia (and the world) came to prove themselves. If you won Zatopek, you were regarded as the best. To this day, nothing has changed. Post Clarke’s emphatic reign, there were individual achievements from many including Rob de Castella in 1979. Andrew Lloyd put himself in the record books in 1987 when he won his third title.
A gentleman by the name of Steve Moneghetti came on the scene. Even if you’re not into athletics, you’ve heard of Steve. His complete dominance over Zatopek began in 1989 where he won his first title. Over the next few years he would go onto making it four in a row. An accomplishment which is yet to be broken. Although, there have been those who have come very close!
The years 1996, 1997 and 1998 belonged to two people. Luke Kipkosgei (Kenya) and Natalie Harvey. Both were able to achieve what Ron Clarke had done almost thirty years earlier. The ‘three-peat’. It wasn’t until Abraham Chebii (Kenya) came along and spoiled Kipkosgei’s chance of a ‘Moneghetti 4’. However, the Kenyan managed to win the year after (2000) to claim his fourth Zatopek title.
Enter Craig Mottram, Susie Power and Haley McGregor. They were all regulars on the track between 2001 and 2004. Mottram secured victory in ’01 and ’03, whilst Power went back-to-back in ’01 and ’02, with McGregor following suit in ’03 and ’04.
Since 2008 there has been amazing performances. Eloise Wellings won her third title last year (2015), and attempt to make it number four in a few weeks time. David McNeill made it two titles last year, and like Wellings, is hoping to add another one to his name this year.
Zatopek is a race drenched in historic moments which have inspired athletes to go on to far greater things…like the Olympics.
Will you be there to witness it this year?