Ron Grant was born in Munduberra Qld on 15 February 1943 and moved to Caboolture with his family when he was eight years old. At school he was a reasonable runner who always preferred the longer distances. As a youngster, he became involved with the scouting movement where he excelled at bushwalks and camping. As is typical of Ron, he threw himself into anything he did and in 1958 he was awarded the Queens Scout Badge. He then became the first Caboolture lad to become involved with Surf Lifesaving. He achieved this by hitching a ride on weekends and then catching the barge to Bribie Island. He gained his Bronze Medallion in Surf Lifesaving and went on to win the Rotary Youth Leadership award (Caboolture) in 1962. This was to establish a pattern. He was never afraid to attempt anything new; more often than not he would do it alone having little or no assistance. Everything he undertook he worked hard and smart at so as to excel. In his words, he always gave it his best.
After these achievements, he became a little restless and ventured to Christchurch in New Zealand on a working holiday. One wonders whether subconsciously he was searching for a new adventure. Ron tried the surf lifesaving movement but quickly discovered that the water there was too cold for his liking. He then joined a workmate who ran a 50 mile race, intending to run only 10 miles. He ended up running 26 miles for his first equivalent to a marathon. Soon afterwards, we was invited to attend a talk by world renowned coach Arthur Lydiard who was visiting Christchurch. Most runners in NZ followed the Lydiard principles and still do to this day. Lydiard was a great motivator and an extremely inspirational man who advocated the benefits of long distance training. He followed the same regime first developed by Percy Cerutty (AURA HOF member). Arthur insisted that even his 1500 metre runners should run 100 miles per week in training. Ron was hooked.
In his first real attempt at long distance running, he ran his first standard marathon 15 months after Arthur’s talk in a time of 3:05. He followed this up 3 months later with a very creditable 7:05 in the New Brighton 50 miler. Soon afterwards, he returned to Australia.
Ron visited Perth in 1964 to attend the Commonwealth Games. He was extremely inspired by many of the athletes and their achievements. None more so than swimmer Murray Rose, a strict vegetarian. Such was the effect that Ron changed his eating habits for life, realizing that proper nutrition and an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals was essential for sound performance.
In 1969 he ran his best ever marathon of 2:53. In 1970 he ran 10 miles on the road in 57:50 and in 1972 helped form the Caboolture District Amateur Athletics Club and became their first President. In the years 1974 to 1982 he was the organizer of the Queensland Marathon Championships. By 1977 he was running track races where he recorded personal bests of 16:18 and 34:41 for 5000 and 10000 metres respectively.
Then came the big change. His insatiable desire to run further emerged and he ran his first solo ultra. It was from Bundaberg to Caboolture, a distance of 350km. Immediately after this run, Ron decided that he would never again do another long run, concluding that he was just not cut out for it. However, he soon recovered and in due course embarked on yet another adventure.
This time it was to run from Sydney to Brisbane a distance of 1012 km, attempting to break Tony Rafferty’s record, which he did. The year was 1979.
He then ran a series of long runs, including
- 1980: Birdsville Track, again breaking Tony Rafferty’s record 505 km
- 1981: Caboolture to Gympie and return 200 miles
- 1981: Simpson desert – winter 379 km
- 1981: Winton to Longreach Ron –v- horses 112 miles (23:20)
- 1982: Cairns to Townsville 350 km
Then came the big one! In 1983 Ron ran around Australia.
This was no ordinary run. This was a continuous run. Ron set the bar at a minimum of 20 km every single day. Failure to run as far as 20 km on any day or to take a day off would void the continuous nature of the run. To make matters worse, Ron had a serious problem with his hip and back. Twelve months prior to embarking in this rather ambitious undertaking, he received advice from an orthopaedic surgeon that if he ran more than 5km he would end up in a wheelchair. Undeterred, Ron continued with his preparation and set off with an A frame and special boots in the accompanying caravan. If his back became sore, he would hang from the A frame for 20 – 30 minutes at the end of the day’s running. He had to do this many times and also endure many other hardships on this epic adventure; such as lack of funds, unexpected crew departures, vehicle breakdowns, flies in plague proportions, clouds of dust, sometimes heavy traffic and sometimes hundreds of kilometers of isolation. Ron ran with a stress fracture in his leg from Perth onwards. Such was the strength of his mind and the courage of his conviction. Ron was determined to finish at all costs.
Ron’s feat in running around Australia, the first person to do so, indelibly etched him into the minds of not only the running fraternity but the whole of Australia. Ron’s run was in an anticlockwise direction, starting in Brisbane, then to Townsville, Mt Isa, Darwin, Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne,Sydney back to Brisbane. He had civic appearances in many towns and in all capital cities but, nonetheless, was able to keep up the regime of at least 20 km each and every day. Ron completed the circumnavigation of 13,383 km in 217 days for an overall daily average of 61.67km. For full details of this epic run, see Margaret Carlyon’s book “My Life on the Line”. Although out of print for some time, copies may be available at second hand book stores. It is well worth reading. In training for this run, Ron would run 300km/week for weeks on end.
BBC’s Sporting Witness has a 9 minute podcast with Ron available at their website or listen below
Soon after this achievement, he was awarded the Queensland Sportsman of the year Award (1983), Queenslander of the Year (1984) and Order of Australia (1984).
In 1985 he completed the first ever summer crossing of the Simpson Desert on foot (3:20:35). In 1986 he contested a match race against Tony Rafferty across the Simpson Desert, again in Summer. Ron won in a new record time of 3:17:52.
Having conquered all there was to conquer in solo and adventure runs he then turned to more unique events such as those undertaken by the Flying Pieman (AURA HOF member) in the 1840’s. He established a new 1,000 hour record in 1991. For this he ran 2.5km each and every hour for 1,000 hours. This is an amazing exercise in overcoming sleep deprivation. In 1992 he advanced this to 3km/hour for 1,000 consecutive hours.
Ron then pretty much retired from active running but used his creative talents to stage the 1000 mile track race at Nanango in 1994. This was no ordinary undertaking. First, he needed to recruit a minimum of six runners. Then he had to find a suitable venue and have it surveyed and marked out. Then last but by no means least, he needed to organize a team of people to lapscore for six runners for 24 hours per day for 16 days. This was no mean feat for a man without an organisation. However, always the innovator, Ron organised a team of Nanango townspeople to handle the dayshifts from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm and a team from a local army division to handle the ightshifts from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am the following day. The race was a great success with Gary Parsons emerging to break the then world record, held to that point by Tony Rafferty. He then organized a second 1,000 mile race in 1996, with Gary bettering his world record. He was instrumental in recruiting others to take the event over, with it being conducted again in 1998 and 2000. Although not ongoing, it is a great credit to Ron’s extremely inspirational nature and organizational capability for him to have been successful in creating this series of races.
He was also instrumental in establishing other well known Queensland races, in particular the Nanango five day stage race (330 km), the Nanango State Forest race (50km) and the Caboolture Dusk to Dawn 12 hour race. Ron was the inaugural President of the Qld Ultra Runners Club Inc. formed in 1992 or thereabouts.
In a period of 30 years, Ron ran 147,692 km, averaging 96 km/week. He currently lives in Caboolture Qld. Ron proved to be a man with dreams who worked extremely hard to fulfill them. He was a quiet achiever, an extremely capable long distance runner and a great inspiration to others.
Contributed by: Ian Cornelius Updated 19 July 2019.