My eldest brother was an amateur runner. He was not a natural athlete but trained hard to compete in events at the Stawell Easter carnival and other events. My brother was not very successful but did win a number of heats during the years he competed in the 400 and 800 metre races. I enjoyed the long trip, with my family, through the length of the Grampians to attend the meet at Stawell.
The Stawell committee often invited well-known athletes from around the world to compete in the famed Stawell Gift, they were always handicapped off the scratch mark. The most memorable invited athlete, for me, was Cathy Freeman who ran the 400 metres off scratch, with most of the other competitors ranged many metres in front of her – some were surely 100 metres or more ahead. I wondered how was Cathy to overtake those front markers on this tight cornered track.
But, she did. It was a beautiful race to watch. So little fanfare and fuss – a lot of the crowd not even watching this race. But I’ll always remember it.
Back to my brother – (he carried the Olympic Torch in a leg of the Torch relay when it went through Portland on its way around Australia prior to the 2000 Olympics) I wonder if his ability and interest in running might have been inherited from our great grandfather, Thomas O’Connor. Thomas’s obituary stated, “Thomas, trained by his brother John, had notable successes as a pedestrian.” Now “Pedestrian” did not refer to someone walking on the footpaths of a city, but to someone who ran on the roads. Did he run marathons? I have no idea the extent of Thomas O’Connor’s athletic career, however, other family notices suggest that his brothers were also runners. A nephew, Bernie O’Connor, was also a runner.