Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

The Great Ron Clarke AO, OBE (June 2015)

RON CLARKE AO,MBE (21/2/37- 17/6/15)

RON CLARKE, first started his working life as an accountant. He became a Company Secretary and finally retired from his working life as the Mayor of Gold Coast Australia. In the interim he was Managing Director of Cannons health Club in the City of London.
          Despite those important posts, as well as being a happy family man, his World Wide fame came through his running.
Although he broke 17 World records, there was disappointment amongst many of his fellow countrymen, when he arrived back home from major championships with no gold medals but, that was short sighted, if you consider he achieved four Commonwealth silvers and an Olympic bronze medal, over the space of eight years.
           Ron was impressive to watch, as he was tall, sun tanned, with a fairly long stride. I interviewed him, at length, in 1965 & 1970. I found him the most outstanding courteous ‘Gentleman’ I had ever met in my 52 years of interviewing.
           His brother Jack, who played Australian Rules football for Victoria State realised, although Ron was a good cricketer he should take to athletics.
‘As you are the Victoria Junior Champion you should be a runner not a cricketer’ he declared, ‘Alastair, I feel I might easily have made my name as a cricketer instead of at athletics.’ It was quite on the cards”
           Ron Clarke ran for Melbourne High School Old Boys but then moved to Glenhuntly Club, as there was a stronger interest in distance running.
In 1956 he was the young man, 19 years old, who lit the Olympic flame, at the Melbourne Olympics then, apparently, took a bus home.
           After he achieved his last silver medal, coming second in the Commonwealth 10k in Edinburgh in 1970, I asked him which race in his career would stand out as the most satisfying for him?
           The 10,000m in Tokyo. I think I ran that race as well as my fitness allowed and that is really the aim of an athlete. For my state of fitness I ran 40 seconds faster than I had done three weeks earlier, and I had broken everybody. I got more absorbed in the real tactical battle than in any other race, before or since (It was with 50m to go, as the three of them sprinted to the line, Billy Mills started to move ahead with Mohamed Gammoudi trying to stay with him. First 3:- Billy Mills (USA) 28:24.4; 2 Mohamed Gammoudi (Tunisia) 28:24.8; 3 Ron Clarke (Australia) 28:25.8). “In Tokyo I think that the move that won the race was when Billy Mills got knocked behind back straight away he ‘hit the trail’ on us. To my mind, anyone who comes off the bend with two blokes in front of him has a tremendous advantage.”
           ‘What would have given me the greatest satisfaction, I think, would have been the 1968 Olympic 10K race - if it had been held at sea level- because I was fitter than I had been in 1964. My fittest period - ‘My peak’ was between 1965 and 1968 inclusive (Like many others Ron Clarke suffered very seriously in the altitude of Mexico City in 1968).
           I was fortunate enough to be at the race when Ron Clarke became the first man to run Under 13 minutes for 3 miles, of course on cinders. It was at the White City Stadium on the 10th of July 1965. Ron comes in “The only time I admit to thinking about a time was when I heard the bell and everybody started shouting at me from the inside of the track ‘The record’, ‘The record’ Then with the time at 11:51.4 I realised  I could crack the 13 minutes!”

First six home:- Ron Clarke 12:52.4; 2 Gerry Lindgren (USA) 13:04.2; Lajos Mecser (Hungary) 13:07.6; 4 Derek Graham (UK) 13:15.8; 5 Bill Wilkinson (UK) 13:17.4; 6 Fergus Murray (UK) 13:21.2.  
Alastair Aitken

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