I lived in Australia for three years and I married an Australian, so I guess it was inevitable that once I became a runner (which was, I regret to say, many years after I lived in Oz and had married someone from said southern continent), I would slowly but surely rise to the challenge of running in each of the Australian states and territories.
After I started running seriously in early 1981, the first time I went to Australia was in December 1983. Heather, Evan, and I caught a direct flight from Christchurch to Hobart (a route that is sadly no longer in use). We landed in Tasmania at 5:30 pm on Saturday, 17 December 1983, and the next morning I went for 41-minute run along some of Hobart’s suburban streets. It was my first-ever run in Australia. Thirty-two-and-a-half years later, I went for my first run in Perth, and – by doing so – I finally completed my quest to run in all six Australian states and the country’s two mainland territories.
Although Australia is physically smaller than the United States (Australia is just under 7.7 million square kilometres in area, compared with the USA’s 9.8 million), it took me four months longer to run in Australia’s six states and two territories than it took me to complete my goal of running in all 50 states of the USA.
This essay comments on just one run – my most memorable run (which was not necessarily my first run) – in each of the six states and two mainland territories. The order of the accounts follows the order in which I first ran in the different states and territories in Australia and, as a result, I start with my most memorable run in Tasmania.
While Heather, Evan, and I were in Tasmania during the 1983-84 Christmas-New Year holiday period, Heather and I had dinner with friends, Gail Scarr and Robert Close, in a Salamanca wharf restaurant on Thursday night, 5 January 1984. After hearing about my interest in running, Gail asked whether I knew that the Cadbury / Fiesta marathon and half-marathon were going to be held in 36 hours’ time? I didn’t. While I wasn’t prepared (or able) to run a full marathon without specifically training for it, I was confident I could do a half-marathon with next to no warning and without any additional preparation, so on Friday, 6 January, I went to the Tasmanian Fiesta’s race headquarters in downtown Hobart and enrolled to do the half-marathon.
A Google map of the island state, Tasmania, which is Australia’s smallest state. It’s only 68,401 square-kilometres in area, less than one per cent of the total land area of Australia. The state’s population is a little over half a million (just over two per cent of the country’s population). Hobart is the state’s capital city.
At 5:45 the following morning – Saturday, 7 January 1984 – my father collected Evan and me from Christ College, the university halls of residence in which we were staying, and drove us 20 kilometres or so out to the Cadbury’s chocolate factory in Claremont – one of Hobart’s northern suburbs – where the half-marathon began at 6:30 am.
Then while I ran the slightly meandering 21.1 kilometre / 13.1 mile course from Claremont to Salamanca wharf, my father and Evan went on ahead of me in the car, stopping every now and then to cheer me on and to take photographs.
This map of the marathon course doesn’t illustrate the half-marathon
especially well, but the route was basically from the Cadbury’s
south to the finish line on Salamanca wharf. Unlike the marathon
route, half-marathon runners didn’t head north after leaving Claremont,
the half-marathon route didn’t twist through Hobart after reaching
the city’s wharves. My father recorded my times at the 5- and
With support and encouragement like that – not to mention the fact that the overall gradient of the point-to-point race was slightly downhill – how could I fail to do well? Nevertheless, I made the mistake I almost always made when running a race: to compensate for the comparative slowness of a somewhat crowded, jostling start, I ran the rest of the first five kilometres slightly too quickly. My overall time for the first five kilometres of the half-marathon was 18 minutes and 45 seconds – in other words, I ran them at a 3 minutes, 45 seconds per kilometre pace. Unfortunately, I couldn’t maintain that speed, and for the remainder of the race I dropped back to a pace that averaged just under four minutes per kilometre.
Running past the Glenorchy RSLA (Returned and Services League of Australia) clubrooms, about 10 kilometres into the race.
Wearing a bright red t-shirt and bright yellow shorts – as well as a red-and-white striped headband – I was visible from a long way off, and my father (who was, without doubt, my number one race fan) took a considerable number of photographs of me. To illustrate this account of the run, I have used two of the photos my father took. The first was taken roughly 10 kilometres into the race while I was running along the main road in Glenorchy. The second photograph – my favourite picture from the race – is the one my father took shortly before I finished. With both my feet off the ground, I was grimacing as I urged myself forward for the final dash to the finish line. I was the 25th finisher in the 21.1 kilometre race, and there were another 109 runners behind me.
Sprinting towards the half-marathon finish line.
My time for the half-marathon – one of the very few races I ever ran outside New Zealand – was 1 hour, 22 minutes, and 32 seconds. It was my best-ever half-marathon, which is one of my three main reasons for ranking the race as one of my most memorable runs. The second reason I’ll never forget the run is the support I had during it from my father and my son.
The certificate signed by Ted Best and showing my best-ever half-marathon time.
A third reason why the run was especially memorable was that the certificate I was given for taking part in the race was signed on behalf of the Cadbury company by E.C. Best – who I knew as Ted Best and who, like Heather and me, had been active in student politics at the University of Tasmania almost 20 years earlier, but I was now a university professor and Ted was in senior management. Oh dear, tempus fugit!
On Thursday, 12 January 1984, I went for my first run in Victoria, the second Australian state in which I ran. The run was along the banks of the Yarra river from Toorak into the centre of Melbourne, and back. However, it was not my most memorable run in Victoria. The run I am going to describe took place ten days later – on Sunday morning, 22 January 1984. Heather, Evan, and I were visiting friends, Brian and Gillian Horwood and their two young daughters, who were then living in Camberwell, a suburb of Melbourne. Brian Horwood was also a runner, and he asked me if I would like to join him on one of his favourite Sunday morning running routes.
Brian Horwood crosses the 1983 Melbourne marathon’s finish line.
Brian was a Conzinc Riotinto executive. He was naturally very thin; he was also very fit. He had run the Melbourne marathon in both of the preceding years: in 1982, he completed his first marathon in 3 hours and 17 minutes; the following year he knocked three minutes off his time. Brian said that he had been hoping to break the magical three-hour mark in the 1983 Melbourne marathon, but – he confessed to me – he “went out too fast early in the run in a temperature of around 26 degrees C” (that is, around 80 degrees F).
On this Google map of Melbourne and its surrounds, I’ve marked Black Rock, which is roughly halfway between Ricketts Point and Sandringham.
Brian and I left his house at 7:45 am and drove to Ricketts Point, Beaumaris, on the eastern shores of Port Philip Bay, south of Melbourne’s CBD, where we met up with John Herbert, a Melbourne lawyer and friend of Brian’s from their days together at university. As Brian explained to me, “John wasn't a natural long distance runner, but he was a good Australian rules footballer and had played for Melbourne University.” In addition, Brian told me, “John did not do any special training for running races” – he was just naturally fit.
Brian, John, and I then ran north along the coast – sometimes on a coastal walkway, occasionally on boardwalks, sometimes along beaches, and frequently along cliff tops – as far as the Sandringham Yacht Club, where we turned round and headed south again to the cars.
The route Brian Horwood, John Herbert, and I ran is shown on this Google map. It was from Ricketts Point in the south to Sandringham in the north, and then back again. Black Rock – a small bay about halfway between our start point and where we turned round – is marked on the map.
My diary records the fact that we ran for 1 hour, 3 minutes, and 25 seconds, and I have since worked out that the total distance we ran was 13.8 kilometres, so we were running at a speed of roughly four-and-a-half minutes per kilometre: an enjoyable and not excessive pace to run, to talk, to joke, and to share stories – or tall tales – about our experiences as runners.
This is a photograph by Melburnian of the sea front at Black Rock.
As it was early on a summer’s Sunday morning, there were few people around and there was little traffic. Furthermore, the temperature was not unbearably hot (as it often is in Melbourne in January). Altogether, then, pleasant conditions, congenial company, and an attractive coastal route combined to make this my most memorable run in Victoria.
On Saturday, 14 January 1984, I went for my first run in South Australia, the third Australian state in which I ran – and there’s no doubt whatsoever that it was the most memorable of all the runs I’ve ever been on in South Australia. Indeed, it ranks as one of my most memorable runs ever.
Heather, Evan, and I visited Adelaide to see Judith Healy and Tony McMichael, and their daughters, Celia (who’s the same age as Evan) and Anna (who’s four years older). Tony had been a friend of ours for very nearly 20 years, since our university days when Tony and I had been the 1965-66 presidents of the students’ unions at the University of Adelaide and the University of Tasmania respectively, while Heather and Tony had constituted a two-person National Union of Australian University Students (NUAUS) delegation to Israel during the second half of 1966.
This photograph was originally taken by an Israeli newspaper photographer and republished in Hobart’s daily paper, The Mercury, in September 1966 with the caption, “Miss Meredith is pictured with Mr T. McMichael of Adelaide, the other representative to the Jerusalem conference”.
When we first met in mid-1964, neither Tony nor I were runners. Like me, Tony was a born-again runner, and – again like me – he’d also taken up marathon running. For instance, he ran the 1983 Adelaide marathon in 3 hours, 14 minutes, and 22 seconds (and three years later he did so again and knocked more than seven minutes off that time).
Tony McMichael finishing the 1986 Adelaide marathon in (topless) style.
After Heather, Evan, and I arrived in Adelaide, Tony asked me whether I’d like to join him the next morning for a pre-breakfast beach run with a group of his running friends. Although I am not (and have never been) a natural morning runner, South Australia – like Victoria – can be very hot in January, so I said I’d gladly join Tony on his run.
Tony and I left Tony and Judith’s Millswood house (in a road with an odd name – Avenue Street) early on Saturday morning, 14 January 1984, and drove south-west, out of Adelaide, for about 40 minutes until we reached Moana Beach, a small resort on the eastern shores of St Vincent Gulf, where we stopped at a seaside cottage that belonged to Robin Millhouse and his family.
On this Google map of Adelaide and its surrounds, I’ve marked Moana Beach.
As a political scientist, I was very interested to meet Robin Millhouse. When he was a 25-year-old lawyer, he’d been elected in the 1955 state elections to the lower house of the South Australian Parliament as a member of the governing party, the Liberal and Country League (LCL). He served as South Australia’s Attorney-General from 1968 to 1970, and he gained “a reputation as a crusader for progressive social change”. For three years after that, he was Deputy-Leader of the Opposition. Millhouse split from the LCL in 1973, but continued as a member of the South Australian Parliament for another nine years until his appointment to the South Australian Supreme Court.
For exercise, Robin Millhouse didn’t simply rock political boats. He was also a keen cyclist and an avid long-distance runner. As a result, Tony McMichael and I set off together with Robin Millhouse and about half-a-dozen other runners for a pre-breakfast run along the paths around Moana beach and then south towards Maslin beach.
The route of my most memorable run in South Australia is shown on this Google map. It was from Moana in the north to the far end of Maslin Beach in the south, and then back again.
In addition to being a senior judge, Robin Millhouse was also a keen naturist (i.e., nudist), and in 1975 South Australia’s premier, Don Dunstan, had designated the southern portion of Maslin beach as Australia’s first official nudist beach. As a result, when we reached the start of the southern end of Maslin beach, Justice Millhouse took off his shoes – as well as all his clothes – and left them in a neat pile in the dunes above the beach. The rest of us followed suit (or should I say “followed birthday suit”?), and we all – seven or eight male runners and one female runner – then ran bare-footed and bare-arsed down to the far end of the beach, where we stopped running (and stopped our stop-watches) and went skinny-dipping instead.
After our nude swim, we stood around in the sun for a while to dry, then continued our nude run, heading north back up the beach to the spot where we’d left our shoes and running gear. When we reached our clothes, all of us put on our running shoes and all-but-one of us put on our clothes again. The fact that we were running past houses near the northern half of Maslin beach and in the Moana beach area did not deter Robin Millhouse from remaining naked and he happily ran nude as far as the outskirts of the Moana village, where he at last reluctantly bowed to convention.
Justice Robin Millhouse posing clad for an Adelaide Advertiser photograph near Maslin Beach’s “reserve for clad & unclad bathing”.
However, Robin Millhouse didn’t keep his clothes on for long. When we reached Moana and were within sight of his holiday house, Robin Millhouse suggested that we should have another swim, so at Moana beach – a non-nudist beach – we all stripped off again and raced rapidly across the sand to the cover of the water and the waves for a quick cooling swim. In order to reach the comparative respectability of my running shorts, I don’t think I have ever come out of the sea and run back up a beach as rapidly as I did that morning after our second nude swim.
After our run and swims, we were all invited to breakfast at the Millhouses’ holiday house. What a breakfast it was: I can still recall the smell of the bacon, fruit, and coffee. I can also recall Robin Millhouse’s daughter, who was about 18 years old, coming into the lounge, looking at her father, and saying exasperatedly, “Oh Dad, do put on your clothes!”, because while the rest of us had showered and dressed prior to eating breakfast, Robin Millhouse clearly couldn’t see any reason for wearing clothes in the privacy of his own home.
When Robin Millhouse died in April 2017, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) described him as “one of the most colourful characters in South Australian legal and political circles”. The ABC added that Justice Millhouse “was also a devout Christian, a fitness fanatic, cycling enthusiast and ardent nudist.” He was certainly a highly memorable character, and the 1 hour and 6 minute run that I had with him, with Tony McMichael, and with about half-a-dozen other brazen souls on 14 January 1984 was also utterly memorable. I’d never been on a run like it before, and I haven’t been on one like it since.
Sadly, I have to conclude this account of running in South Australia by noting the fact that Tony McMichael has also died. Whereas Robin Millhouse’s death was not shocking (he was, after all, 87 years old), Tony’s death in September 2014 was. He was comparatively young (he was not yet 72 years old) when he died, and he was an outstanding scholar: a giant in the field of epidemiology. He was a wise and thoughtful person, greatly loved and admired by family, friends, and colleagues. It’s comforting to know that in Tony’s case, it’s literally true that his legacy lives on after him: his last book, for example, Climate Change and the Health of Nations, was published two-and-a-half years after his death. Tony’s ideas and influence are still running.
Australian Capital Territory
In mid-November 1984 I flew to Australia to conduct research into aspects of the Australian federal elections that Prime Minister Bob Hawke had unexpectedly called for Saturday, 1 December 1984. The trip was subsidised by a grant from The Dominion, Wellington’s morning newspaper and, in return, I wrote several articles for the paper while I was away. After lightning visits to Tasmania, Victoria, and South Australia, I flew to Canberra in order to spend the final three days of the election campaign in Australia’s federal capital.
This Google map shows the location of Canberra and the Australian Capital Territory. The city is 286 kilometres south-west of Sydney.
Friday, 30 November 1984 – the day before the election – was a very full day. It began with a visit to the mammoth construction site where the new federal parliament was being built.
I took these two photographs on 30 November 1984 from the construction site for the new Australian Parliament. The picture on the left looks north towards the Commonwealth Avenue bridge, Lake Burley Griffin, and the Captain Cook fountain; the right-hand picture looks north-east, down at the old Parliament (which is barely visible in the photo), across Lake Burley Griffin and up Anzac Parade towards the Australian War Memorial (beneath Mount Ainslie).
I then had a meeting with Australia’s Electoral Commissioner, which was followed by meetings with representatives of Australia’s three largest political parties: the Liberal Party, the Nationals, and the Australian Labor Party (ALP). In the late afternoon, however, I found I had a spare hour and was able to go for my first run in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). This meant that in the space of less than a year I had run in three of the six Australian states and in one of Australia’s two mainland territories. My quest (though I didn’t really recognise it as such at that stage of the game) was half over; little did I realise that it would take me more than 31 years to complete the other half.
This photograph, which I took in late 1984 from the top of Black Mountain in the Australian Capital Territory, looks down on Canberra and Lake Burley Griffin, and gives a rough indication of my running route.
I ran from Jim and Kate Nockels’ house in Stuart Street, Griffith, down (which was really north along) Lockyer and Dawes Streets to Lake Burley Griffin, where I turned left and ran west along its shores until I reached the Commonwealth Avenue bridge, at which point I turned round and retraced my steps. What made the run memorable was its setting (I concede that as a political scientist, I am biased in this regard): Canberra – like Washington, DC and Brasilia – is a planned federal capital city. Its design resonates with civic order and power.
The Australian Capital Territory officially came into being on 1 January 1911 (ten years to the day after Australia became a federation). An international competition to design Australia’s new capital city was held and was won by Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin – an American husband-and-wife architectural team (who had, among other things, worked with Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago). The large lake in the centre of the city is named after them, and some of Australia’s most important buildings stand on its southern shores.
I took this photograph of the Australian High Court building in September 2011.
My run took me past the striking new High Court building (which had been opened by Queen Elizabeth II four years earlier), as well as past the then federal parliament buildings, which served as the Commonwealth of Australia’s parliament from 1927 until it was replaced in 1988 by the new parliament which, that very morning, I had seen being built.
The old Australian Parliament buildings (and the new Parliament’s massive flag post behind it) as seen from near the shores of Lake Burley Griffin in September 2011.
On my right during my outward run was Lake Burley Griffin with its impressive fountain – the Captain Cook Memorial Jet – pushing water nearly 150 metres into the sky.
A photograph that I took in February 2017 from the southern shores of Lake Burley Griffin of the Commonwealth Avenue bridge and the Captain Cook Memorial Jet.
When I got back to the Nockels’ house, I’d run for 41 minutes and 13 seconds, and had covered about 10 kilometres. The route had been so impressive and the run so enjoyable that I repeated it twice before I left Canberra on Tuesday morning, 4 December 1984.
New South Wales
Shortly after I arrived in Sydney on Tuesday morning, 4 December 1984, and had checked into my Kings Cross hotel, I went for my first run in New South Wales. It was the fourth Australian state I’d run in, but my most memorable run in New South Wales didn’t occur until another 16 years had gone by.
During the second half of September 2000, what were known formally as the Games of the XXVII Olympiad were held in Sydney, the capital of New South Wales. It was only the second time that the Olympic Games had been held in the southern hemisphere – the first time was in 1952, when they were also held Australia, but in Melbourne on that occasion.
This Google map of the mainland of Australia shows the location of Sydney, the host city for the 2000 summer Olympic Games.
As a keen sports fan, I was determined to go to the Sydney Olympics, and found I had an added reason for doing so: the Australasian Political Studies Association (APSA) wisely decided to hold its annual conference in Canberra the week after the Olympics Games. I decided to take three days’ annual leave on the final Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of the 27th Olympiad and, by doing so, treat myself to five days in Sydney before I travelled to Canberra on Monday, 2 October, for my political science conference.
As a running enthusiast, I initially tried to get a seat in the Olympic stadium on Thursday evening, 28 September, so that I could see the final of the men’s 1,500-metre race, but all the seats in the stadium for that night had been sold, so I opted instead for a seat in the Olympic stadium on Saturday evening, 30 September 2000 – the final night of the athletics. The stunning relay races on the last night of competition in the stadium were going to be my “consolation prize” for not seeing the 1,500-metre race.
Prior to leaving New Zealand I watched a lot of the Games on television. The opening ceremony of the 27th summer Olympics was on Friday night, 15 September 2000. Starting at 10:00 am Sydney time (noon in New Zealand) on the following two days were the women’s and men’s triathlons respectively.
Above: On Saturday, 16 September 2000, Switzerland’s Brigitte McMahon won the inaugural women’s triathlon, and Michellie Jones from Australia won the silver medal. Below: The next day Simon Whitfield from Canada won the gold medal in the inaugural men’s race at the Olympic Games.
It was the first time triathlons had been part of the Olympic Games, and in brilliant sunny weather Sydney was displayed to best advantage. The harbour was sparkling; the Opera House was stunning. Competitors swam 1,500 metres, then cycled 40 kilometres, and finished the race with a 10-kilometre run. I watched every minute of the two races, and decided that when I was in Sydney during the last few days of the Games, I would literally follow in the footsteps of the triathlon competitors: I would run the 10 kilometre course.
The Sydney Games were extremely well organised. Spectators were entitled to ride free on public transport on any day for which they had a ticket to an Olympic event.
Ticket to ride: my Olympic Games ticket for Saturday
evening, 30 September 2000, also enabled me to ride free
on Sydney’s public transport system for the whole day.
As a result, I got up early on Saturday morning, 30 September 2000, left Kevin and Mary Osborn’s house (where I was staying), and – displaying my ticket for the evening’s athletics competition at the Olympic Stadium in a clear-plastic pouch round my neck – caught a train for nothing (or, as they say in Australia, for free) from Ashfield to Circular Quay. I walked a short distance along the harbour front to the Sydney Opera House, went inside to one of the men’s toilets, changed out of my track-suit, and left it and a small towel in one of the Opera House’s cloakrooms. I then stepped back outside and walked over to the spot on the southern side of the Opera House that had been the transition zone two weeks earlier at the end of the Olympic triathletes’ bike ride and the start of their 10 kilometre run.
The dark blue dotted line and arrows show the five-kilometre course
that Sydney 2000 Olympic Games triathletes had to run twice.
It was a lovely cool, clear morning as I ran round Farm Cove on the northern edge of Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens before making my way past the sandstone rocks known as Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and then – heading south – running up to the Domain. After running past the New South Wales’ Art Gallery and St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral, I did a 180-degree turn and ran down Macquarie Street back to the start line outside the Opera House. I’d had flu earlier in the month, and hadn’t run at all during the previous four weeks, so I wasn’t running very fast. My time for the first 5 kilometre lap of the Olympic triathlon course was 26 minutes and 11 seconds (I wasn’t even running at a 5 minutes per kilometre pace), but – crucially – I was running and I was enjoying it.
I headed on round the course again, and during the second lap my most memorable NSW run became even more memorable: it was very nearly the last run I ever went on. While I was running north down the eastern side of Macquarie Street, I stopped for a red traffic light at the Bridge Street intersection. There was virtually no traffic on the roads. A couple of cars coming south up Macquarie Street were stopped on the other side of the road and, to my left, there was nothing coming up Bridge Street. I looked round, saw nothing, and thought I might as well cross the street despite the red light.
Halfway across the street a large red car shot past me – missing me by millimetres at the most. I hadn’t seen it; the car’s driver clearly hadn’t seen me. What I hadn’t seen, too, was a feeder arrow enabling traffic coming down Macquarie Street to turn right and thus get onto the Cahill Expressway. It was undoubtedly the closest I have ever been to being killed on a run. If I had started running across the intersection a split-second earlier, the run would have been remembered by others, but not by me.
This Google street view looking south up Macquarie Street shows cars heading towards the Cahill Expressway using a feeder arrow to cross the Macquarie Street / Bridge Street intersection – the spot where I very nearly lost my life.
Chastened by this frightening experience, I now make a point of obeying traffic lights when I am in strange cities and do not know the traffic patterns. I was still feeling chastened and shaken when I finished the run about four minutes later. My total time for the 10 kilometres was 53 minutes and 51 seconds. Relief and gratitude gradually washed over me: I was alive; it was a beautiful day; I was at the Olympic Games; I’d be watching the final night of the athletics in the Olympic Stadium in 10 hours’ time.
Holding the Olympic flame aloft at the Sydney 2000 Games.
I will end this account of my most memorable New South Wales run by highlighting what, to me, were the three most memorable moments of the final night of the athletics at the Sydney 2000 Games. The first of the evening’s highlights was watching Cathy Freeman – an Aboriginal Australian and outstanding runner who earlier in the Games had won the gold medal in the women’s 400 metres race – warm up for and take part in the women’s 4 x 400 metres relay (sadly, though, the Australian team only came fifth).
Cathy Freeman (in the white top) warms up prior to the women’s 4 x 400 metres relay on Saturday night, 30 September 2000.
A second highlight was seeing a Norwegian, Trine Hattestad, win the gold medal in the women’s javelin competition. Norway has been called “the New Zealand of the North Atlantic”, so as a New Zealander I was naturally supporting her.
The medals ceremony for the women’s javelin throw, which was won by Trine Hattestad from Norway.
And, finally, I really enjoyed the spectacle of Henry Kissinger – a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) – having to present bronze medals for the men’s 4 x 100 metres relay to the team from Cuba. For a man who hated Fidel Castro and who, as US Secretary of State, had once set up secret contingency plans to launch airstrikes against Havana in order to “smash Cuba”, it must have been an extremely bitter pill to swallow.
The first time I ever visited Queensland was in late August / early September 1993, and the first time I ran in Queensland was on Sunday, 29 August 1993 – the day after I first arrived in the state – and I regard that run as my most memorable run in Queensland because it’s one I repeated a fair number times afterwards over a period of 18 years.
1993 was a very busy year for me. In addition to the teaching, research and administration I did at the Victoria University of Wellington, I was also – for the second year in a row – an official advisor to the Electoral Referendum Panel that the government had established in order to ensure that official information for the 1992 and 1993 New Zealand electoral referendums was comprehensive, fair, and unbiased. What is more, I was also Television New Zealand’s election-night commentator, which involved – among other things – fairly frequent flights to Auckland for planning meetings. Towards the end of the winter, I was tired and in need of a holiday, so Heather and I did what we’d never done before: we decided to have a tropical seaside holiday during the university’s August-September vacation. After considering a range of options, we decided to go to Port Douglas in the far north of Queensland.
This Google map shows the location of Port Douglas in Queensland (which is Australia’s second largest state – its 1,730,648 square kilometres constitute almost a quarter of the total land area of the country).
We chose wisely. Port Douglas is an idyllic spot – as close as can be imagined to heaven on earth. Situated 70 kilometres north of Cairns and only 16 degrees south of equator, Port Douglas is a small village (with a permanent population of about 3,000) on the Coral Sea coast. It’s a major jumping off point for visitors to the Great Barrier Reef and to the Daintree rain forest. The town is a wonderful place to relax and recharge one’s batteries, and one of Port Douglas’ best features is Four Mile Beach.
An August 2009 photograph looking south down Port Douglas’ Four Mile Beach from the top of the hill at the northern end of the beach.
In 1993, Heather and I stayed at the Whispering Palms resort, a motel roughly four-and-a-half kilometres south of the centre of Port Douglas. It was situated near the southern end of Four Mile Beach, because – for all practical purposes – the beach is not really four miles long. A creek and mangrove swamps mean there’s a risk of encountering saltwater crocodiles around the southern-most perimeters of the beach, so only the foolhardy swim there. Nevertheless, that still leaves literally miles of golden sands bordered by the Coral Sea to the east with bushes and palm trees on the west.
The Great Barrier Reef is about 30 kilometres offshore and it acts as a protective barrier: very few large waves hit the beach. High tides usually creep slowly up the beach and then retreat back down it, leaving a large swathe of hard sand. It’s perfect for walking, running, and even cycling. While Heather and I were based in Port Douglas in 1993, we didn’t use a car and, as a result, Four Mile Beach was our main thoroughfare for getting into town. We simply walked up and down the beach.
A photograph that I took in August 1993, looking north up Four Mile Beach from near the Whispering Palms motel.
Late in the afternoon on our second day in Port Douglas, I went for my first run in Queensland. I left the Whispering Palms motel, headed across to the beach, turned left, and ran north up the hard sand until I reached Port Douglas, when I turned round and ran back down the beach, past the entrance to the Whispering Palms complex and past the Four Mile Beach Park to a creek that, in effect, constitutes the southern end of the beach. I then turned round and ran north again, back to the Whispering Palms motel.
This Google map shows the route of my most memorable run in Queensland – namely, up and down Port Douglas’ Four Mile Beach.
The run took me 46 minutes and 2 seconds, and I calculated that I ran roughly 10 kilometres. I enjoyed the run so much that I repeated it (or did a slight variant of it) three further times during the next four days. When Heather and I went back to Port Douglas, first in 2009 and then in 2011, we stayed near the northern end of Four Mile Beach, much closer to the heart of the village. Not surprisingly, though, running on Four Mile Beach was again an integral part of both those holidays.
An August 1993 photograph looking north up Four Mile Beach from near the Whispering Palms motel. This photograph even includes an unknown runner!
The first time I ran in Queensland – in late August and early September 1993 – was less than ten years after I first ran in Australia (namely, in Tasmania in December 1983). In just under a decade, I’d run in six of the eight states and territories in Australia. I never thought that it would take me very nearly 23 more years to complete my quest to run in all eight …
I first met Eric Hodge on a late-1991 expedition to Nepal when he and I – together with seven other neophyte mountaineers from New Zealand and Australia – attempted to climb Lobuje East, a 6,119-metre high peak near Mt Everest. We were gloriously unsuccessful in our attempt, but the nine of us became firm friends, and Eric and I became climbing partners.
An October 1991 photograph of Eric Hodge (right) and me resting after we’d first reached 5,000 metres above sea-level on our way to try to climb Lobuje East in the Khumbu region of Nepal.
Peaks that Eric and I successfully scaled together after our failed Lobuje expedition include Mont Blanc in 2004, Mt Rainier in 2007, and Mt Hood in 2009. Eric and I also embarked on a quest to climb the highest mountain in each of Australia’s six states and two mainland territories, and it was in pursuit of that goal that we flew into Ayers Rock Airport on Tuesday afternoon, 14 May 2013. The nearby town of Yulara was where we were going to join an expedition to climb Mt Woodroffe / Ngarutjaranya, the highest mountain in South Australia. First, though, Eric and I had given ourselves two-and-a-half days to explore the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park – the UNESCO World Heritage site that is home to the world-renowned Uluru / Ayers Rock and the Kata-Tjuta / Olgas rock formations.
Eric and I had also an additional goal on the trip. Of all my running companions in Australia, there’s no doubt that Eric is – by far and away – the best runner. As a schoolboy in England, he’d been a champion runner, and during the period from 1980 to 1985 he ran eight marathons (in Canberra, the Gold Coast, Melbourne, and Sydney). Eric ran his first marathon in a time most people can only dream about (namely, 2 hours, 45 minutes, and 44 seconds), and yet that was his slowest-ever marathon. Eric’s best marathon time was 2 hours, 34 minutes, and 23 seconds (and he ran faster than that in two unofficial marathon time trials). What is more, Eric twice ran half-marathons in less than 72 minutes (i.e., more than ten minutes faster than my fastest-ever half-marathon, which I ran in Hobart on 7 January 1984).
Eric Hodge finishing his fastest formal marathon.
It wasn’t too surprising, therefore, that Eric and I both wanted to go running while we were in the Northern Territory, and we had an obvious goal for our first run: to run round Uluru / Ayers Rock.
This Google map of the mainland of Australia shows the location of Uluru / Ayres Rock in the Northern Territory.
As a result, Eric and I got up before dawn on Wednesday, 15 May 2013, and initially drove so a spot that’s renowned for viewing Uluru / Ayers Rock at sunrise. Sadly, early morning clouds reduced the impact of the sunrise on Uluru, but seeing the mammoth rock bathed in a purplish-hue was still highly worthwhile. Eric and I then drove to the Kuniya car park at the foot of Uluru / Ayers Rock, where we took off our warm clothes, locked the car, and set off to run anti-clockwise round the 384-metre high sandstone inselberg (which is German for “island mountain”).
Uluru / Ayres Rock at dawn on Wednesday, 15 May 2013.
Uluru / Ayers Rock has a circumference of 9.4 kilometres, so that’s roughly the distance we ran on the walking trails that go round the rock. At times we ran right alongside the rock; at other times we were several hundred metres away from the base of the rock per se. Sometimes the surface of the reddish-brown rock was smooth; sometimes the rock face was rippled and wrinkled; and at other times the rock was pockmarked with honeycomb-patterned weathering. The shape and texture of the massive rock – in all its different guises – was fascinating.
Knowing that it was likely to be a most memorable run, I carried a small digital camera and took photographs of Eric with it, while he sometimes carried it and took pictures of me. The pictures do not tell a lie: at times I laboured to keep up with Eric (who is, of course, a considerably better runner than me). Overall, though, the run was extremely enjoyable. Eric and I were aware that we were privileged to be doing something special.
Round the rugged rocks the ragged rascals ran: four photos of Eric (wearing black) and me running round Uluru / Ayres Rock on Wednesday morning, 15 May 2013.
When we finished the run in a time of 57 minutes and 32 seconds, we’d built up a healthy appetite and enjoyed refuelling back at our hotel in Yulara before setting out to do some serious sightseeing. That evening we went back to the rock to see it at sunset, and we were rewarded with a stunning view of Uluru / Ayers Rock looking as though it had been painted red by the rays of the departing sun. It was more than a mere “Kodak moment”; it was unforgettable.
Sunset hues on Uluru / Ayres Rock on Wednesday evening, 15 May 2013.
After successfully climbing Mt Woodroffe / Ngarutjaranya, Eric and I drove to Alice Springs and we ran together there. Six days later, I also went for an early morning run along Darwin’s seafront. There’s no doubt at all, however, which was my most memorable Northern Territory run: it’s not just hard, it’s impossible to go past running round Uluru / Ayers Rock.
When Heather and I spent a week in Perth in late June 2016, it wasn’t my first visit to Western Australia. Fifty-one years earlier, I’d spent almost two weeks at an NUAUS conference at the University of Western Australia. I was 20 years old and busy devoting my energies to student politics; I certainly wasn’t a runner then.
A photograph of delegates to the February 1965 annual council meeting of the National Union of Australian University Students (NUAUS), which was held at the University of Western Australia in Perth. (I’m the long-haired non-runner fourth from the right in the back row.)
As a result, Western Australia was a glaringly large hole in the map of Australian states and territories in which I’d run, and when I flew into Perth on Monday evening, 20 June 2016, running in the city was a prime personal goal – an ambition that I fulfilled the very next day.
A Google map of Australia. Western Australia accounts for a third of the land area of the entire country.
After spending Tuesday morning, 21 June 2016, visiting the Western Australian Parliament and then having lunch with Heather in downtown Perth, I made my way back to where we were staying (namely, the Mounts Bay Waters Apartment Hotel), changed into my running gear, did some stretching exercises, and set off on my first run in Western Australia. Precisely because it was my first run in WA – and because doing it meant I’d finally completed my long-held aim to run in all the six states and the two mainland territories of Australia – it was inevitably destined to be my most memorable run in Western Australia.
The Mounts Bay Waters apartment and hotel complex where Heather and I stayed in June 2016, and which was the starting and finishing point for my runs in Perth.
From the Mounts Bay Waters apartment and hotel complex, I initially made my way east to Perth’s CBD, and then ran down to the Barrack Street jetties, where I turned right and began heading west on the combined footpath and cycle-way that goes for miles alongside the Swan River.
This Google map shows the out-and-back route I ran on Tuesday afternoon, 21 June 2016. By doing so, I finally fulfilled my goal of running in both Australia’s mainland territories and in each of the country’s six states.
The Swan River is the jewel in Perth’s crown. Its estuary is fairly wide and deep, and is home to wild life that includes dolphins, seabirds such a pelicans and cormorants, and Australia’s indigenous black swans – after which the river was named (in fact, the original name of the colony that came to be called Western Australia was the Swan River Colony). There’s an extensive network of parks and paths beside the river, and they have been put to good use since colonial times (as Frederick Williams’ 1897 painting entitled Mounts Bay Road shows).
Frederick Williams’ 1897 painting, Mounts Bay Road.
After leaving the Barrack Street jetties, I dodged walkers, gawkers and cyclists on the sweeping footbridge that spans the entrance to Elizabeth Quay (“where Perth’s city meets the Swan River”).
The distinctive footbridge across the entrance to Perth’s Elizabeth Quay, and – in the centre of the photograph – part of the right bank of the Swan River along which I ran on Tuesday afternoon, 21 June 2016.
I then had the path and cycleway largely to myself as I ran under the Narrows Bridge and along the riverbank. I passed the old Swan Brewery and the Blue Boat House (both well-known riverside landmarks) before I came to Hackett Drive. I recognised the area: it was Nedlands, the suburb that’s home to the University of Western Australia and its distinctive orange-tiled roofs, and I had, of course, been there 51 years earlier.
The Blue Boat House on the Swan River is near Hackett Drive, which was the halfway mark and turn-around point of my first (and most memorable) run in Western Australia.
However, rather than going back in time, I had to look ahead. It was the shortest day of the year and the sun would be setting at about 5:20 pm. I needed to turn round and run back the way I’d come, which I duly did. When I got back to Heather’s and my apartment after a run that took me 1 hour, 7 minutes, and 51 seconds, it was still light, which was what I had hoped would be the case. All in all, I was extremely pleased with my run: I’d covered about 10 kilometres, I’d run predominantly along a safe path on an attractive route, and I’d finally filled the last hole on the map of the states and territories of Australia in which I’d run.
This page was last revised on 21 January 2018.