Contributed by Kevin Cassidy, AURA Member
It’s difficult to articulate the sadness of the last few weeks as we mourn the loss of AURA’s founding father. Never regaining consciousness after a sudden stroke while cycling on September 30, Geoff passed away two days later at the Box Hill Hospital which ironically overlooks the athletic track that hosted many of his better 50mi and 24hr performances.
My memory quickly went back to 9 September 1984. Riding on the coat tails of the “Cliff Young” mania at the time, the mayor of the inner Melbourne suburb of Coburg had organised a 100km run on a 500-metre circuit at the local shopping centre. I was conscripted to assist with lap scoring. Never having met Geoff, I duly spent the next nine hours with pen and paper in hand recording each of his laps as someone verbally called times from a hand held stop watch. Computer chips were a distant space age dream in those days!
A formidable ultramarathon runner during the 1980s and early 1990s, ‘Hookie’ or ‘The Hook’ as he was more affectionately known made his biggest mark upon the Australian ultra scene by establishing AURA in 1987 and undertaking the role of president, a position he held for 14 years.
Hookie poured untold hours into the organisation’s administration which included a constitution, race regulations and standards, record claim procedures, rankings lists and the production of a very bulky magazine every three months.
He established the Maroondah Dam Trail 50km event and took over a number of other races adding to each event’s professionalism and credibility in an era where the convenience of the internet was unheard of.
Further notches in his belt were representing Australia on the International Association of Ultrarunners [IAU] executive committee and the establishment of a national 100km championship giving our athletes the opportunity to represent their country at the world championships.
Travelling with him to the US in the early 1990s, he spent the entire flight buried in AURA administration work and confided to me that he was spending over 20 hours a week dealing with the various issues, including – on the odd occasion – some inflated egos making ridiculous record claims or just generally complaining about something. Maintaining his patience with such people was admirable to say the least. Hookie managed all this along with a full time job and his own running.
Course measuring was another string in Hookie’s bow. As an internationally accredited measurer, he set up and certified most major marathons and various road races in Australia along with several overseas events. Always working behind the scenes, he was largely anonymous to most modern day athletes despite his massive devotion and contribution to the sport.
Hookie was not without his foibles. With his peak competitive days behind him, he arrived at the start of the low key Frankston to Portsea 55km run in 2002 and took off down the highway forgetting to hand over the nominal two dollar ‘entry fee’. Finishing in Portsea with a garden rake in his left hand, the weird and wonderful looks he received produced a memory for the ages.
“I saw it on the road coming through Sorrento, it’ll be handy for the backyard,” he enthused, much to mirth of those of us still present.
And I never did see that two dollars…
Geoff was 74.
Pictured (feature): Geoff Hook midway through the 2001 Frankston to Portsea 55km run. Photograph – Supplied.
Pictured (1): Geoff Hook in the light blue t-shirt at the start of the 2001 Frankston to Portsea 55km run. Photograph – Supplied.
Pictured: Geoff Hook (far right) receiving his Life Membership certificate in 2006.