A History of the Parramatta Park Runners

On 16 July 1968 three keen Western Suburbs runners began to meet regularly for a lunch time run in Parramatta Park near the (now demolished) tram shed. They were:

  • The late Tony Burns       (Airline Steward)
  • Brian Sharpe                   (Printer)
  • Graham Taylor               (Accountant)

Each of these runners had a previous connection with Parramatta Park. In Graham’s case, he had first visited the Park on 21 October 1939, had his first race there on 2 May 1953 and then became a regular visitor.

However, during 1966, several runners from the Parramatta Police Boys Club, under the leadership of the late Sgt Con Hanson, had also begun meeting for a regular informal jog in the Park. They were:

  • Ken Cameron                  (Railway Man)
  • Laurie Faggotter             (Parole Officer)
  • Mike Gooley                   (Council Officer)
  • Doug Luckman               (Council Officer)
  • Kevin Muller                   (Council Officer)
  • Ron Murphy                    (Fireman)

In 1971 Ken Cameron (who was also connected with Western Suburbs Athletic Club) decided, after the first City to Surf, to organise a more formal group consisting of the foregoing Police Boys group and the three Western Suburbs runners. He also encouraged others of his acquaintance to join in. The merged group called itself the Parramatta Police Boys Runners Club. In later years the name changed to the Parramatta Police Citizens Youth Club Runners and finally, became the Parramatta Park Runners.

The first female to join the group was Yvonne Taylor on 1 October 1976.

The group continued to grow and prosper under Ken’s dedicated guidance (and meticulous record keeping) to the point where, in the early 80’s, the monthly handicap run attracted an all time record field of 82 runners. The reasons for this growth were many. During the 1970’s and 1980’s the running boom attracted many runners to a range of clubs throughout Sydney and beyond. For our club, Ken provided an environment that encouraged participation, competition, commitment and fun that enhanced personal health and fitness through running.

Runners from the Ken Cameron era speak proudly of the Personal Best Certificates hand-prepared by Ken and awarded to each runner who ran a personal best time on handicap day (for examples, please refer the artefacts page on this site). The handicap race was always a staggered start and prizes were awarded immediately after each race, often going down to 20th place. The prizes were purchased by Ken from subscription monies prior to each event and it was evident that he held a stock of these items at home, ready for each race.

Ken was almost a ‘one-man-band’. He was treasurer, secretary, handicapper and club captain. However, he was ably assisted from time to time by a range of people including his wife Nancy, Doug Luckman and Graham Taylor.

During the 1980’s, an annual challenge race was held between the Police Runners (led by Ian Toll), the Fire Brigade Runners (led by Ted Thompson) and our club. The race venue alternated each year between Parramatta Park and Centennial Park. Although the rivalry on the track was intense, the friendships and camaraderie continued unabated.

Ken Cameron retired from his leadership role with the club in December 1987 and, rather than disband the club or resort to informal Friday lunchtime runs, Phil Mallitt (Taxation Office Director) and Graham Taylor, put a proposal to club members which would enable the club to continue. The proposal was that the Friday lunchtime runs continue, a handicap race to be held on the 4th Friday of the month and that they provide a leadership role for the club. The major difference between the previous operation and the proposed one was that many of the features that Ken had introduced to the club would need to be scaled down. It needed to be a ‘no frills’ operation.

The proposal was put to club members in January 1988 and a unanimous ‘yes’ vote was received.

Phil was required to take a brief 9 year sabbatical when the Penrith Taxation Office was finally relocated from Parramatta to Penrith on 12 December 1994. However, upon his retirement from the ATO, he returned to the club on 9 January 2004 and, while still competing as well as ever, has played a leading role in the administration of the club to this day.

Since 1989 it has become a club tradition to mark a member’s 500th appearance at the Friday lunchtime runs with the special presentation of a sequentially numbered trophy. To date we have recognised forty-two runners, with Ken Cameron the first to be honoured. The second was Doug Luckman and the third was Graham Taylor. The current record for the highest number of actual runs (as opposed to attendances) is held by John Storey (Tax Agent).

Since the 1970’s the course has closely approximated 5 miles/8 kilometres. There have been a total of seven slight variations to the course brought about by the changes that the Parramatta Park Trust has made to the roadway over the years. The course record holders, in chronological order, have been:

  • Frank Riley
  • Tony Burns
  • Mark Robinson
  • Paul Lockyer
  • Alex Watson
  • John Andrews
  • Rob O’Neil
  • Ray Doran
  • Chris Dwyer
  • Brendon Hince
  • Dr James Harrison
  • Mark Vassallo

The record for our current course is 27 minutes and 57 seconds but the record for the fastest time over any of the courses is held by John Andrews with a time of 24 minutes and 19 seconds.

In 1999 a major celebration was held in the Park when we celebrated the 80th birthday of three of our members. They were:

  • the late ‘Gentleman’ George McGrath (after whom the Handicap Pointscore Trophy is named);
  • the late Frank McCaffrey; and
  • the late Vic Townsend.

All three of these noteworthy gentlemen were highly decorated Second World War veterans. The 1999 celebration was attended by a ‘who’s who’ in NSW running including John Collins and the late John Milne.

Our 50 years of existence have provided a rich history of gifted athletes: Olympians, World Masters Champions and record holders, Commonwealth Games, Australian and State champions and representatives including

  • Waldemar Cierpinski     –       Dual Olympic Marathon Champion – Montreal (1976) & Moscow (1980)
  • John Plummer                –       Empire Games – Auckland (1950)
  • Dave Power                    –       Dual Olympian – Melbourne (1956) and Rome (1960); Commonwealth Games (1958)
  • Keith Ollerenshaw          –       Melbourne Olympian (1956)
  • Ron Crawford                 –       Melbourne Olympian (1956)
  • Frank Clark                     –       Mexico Olympian (1968)
  • Alex Watson                    –       Seoul Olympian (1988)
  • Maree Holland (Ripper)  –       Seoul Olympian (1988)
  • Andrew Lloyd                  –       Auckland Commonwealth Games (1990)
  • Louise Bonham              –       Australian Triathlon Champion
  • George McGrath             –       World Masters Champion who also set several Masters World Records
  • Phil Mallitt                        –       World Masters Champion
  • Dr James Harrison          –       NSW ‘Fun Run King’ & NSW representative

Our club is a non-profit organisation and from an annual fee of $20 ($10 until 2006) we have been able to fund the following:

  • An annual Christmas Party at which prizes and trophies are presented; and

Since 1997, donations to:-

  • SIDS ($100)
  • Leukaemia Foundation ($100)
  • Betty Cuthbert ($100)
  • Tsunami Appeal ($100)
  • Miscellaneous Individuals (Total of $100)
  • Bill Crews’ Exodus Foundation ($2000)
  • The Westmead Children’s Hospital (Cancer) ($2530)

We have been and will be concentrating on The Westmead Children’s Hospital (Cancer) in future years.

The results for runners participating in our club runs over the 40 years are progressively being brought online and can be viewed under the ‘Results/Rankings’ part of this web site.

A happy coincidence is that the 40th anniversary of the club occurred in the same year that Parramatta Park celebrated its sesquicentenary (150 years since its dedication as a public park).

Based on text by provided by Graham Taylor and Phil Mallitt, December 2015.