Ron Clarke

Last updated

Ron Clarke

Ron Clarke.jpg
Mayor of the Gold Coast
In office
25 March 2004 (2004-03-25) 27 February 2012 (2012-02-27)
DeputyDaphne McDonald
Preceded byGary Baildon
Personal details
Ronald William Clarke

(1937-02-21)21 February 1937
Melbourne, Victoria
Died17 June 2015(2015-06-17) (aged 78)
Southport, Queensland
Political party Independent
Spouse(s)Helen Clarke
Sports career
Personal information
Height183 cm (6 ft 0 in)
Weight72 kg (159 lb)
Event(s)5000, 10,000 m, marathon
ClubGlenhuntly Athletics Club
Sports achievements and titles
Personal best(s)5000 m – 13:16.6 (1966)
10,000 m – 27:39.89 (1965)
Marathon – 2:20:26 (1964) [1] [2]

Ronald William "Ron" Clarke, AO, MBE (21 February 1937 – 17 June 2015) was an Australian athlete, writer, and Mayor of the Gold Coast from 2004 to 2012. He was one of the best-known middle- and long-distance runners in the 1960s, notable for setting seventeen world records.


Early life and family

Clarke was born 21 February 1937 in Melbourne, Victoria. [1] He attended Essendon High School and Melbourne High School. His brother Jack Clarke and father Tom played Australian rules football in the Victorian Football League with Essendon. He was a qualified accountant. [3]

In 1956, when Clarke was still a promising 19-year-old, he was chosen to light the Olympic Flame in the Melbourne Cricket Ground during the opening ceremonies of the 1956 Summer Olympics in Melbourne. [4]

Athletic career

During the 1960s Clarke won 9 Australian championships [5] and 12 Victorian track championships ranging from 1500 m to 6 miles (9.7 km).

Ron Clarke (in third place and second from left behind #615) at the 1964 Summer Olympics. At the fore are Billy Mills (722) and Mohammed Gammoudi (615). BillyMills Crossing Finish Line 1964Olympics.jpg
Ron Clarke (in third place and second from left behind #615) at the 1964 Summer Olympics. At the fore are Billy Mills (722) and Mohammed Gammoudi (615).

He won the bronze medal in the 10,000 metre (m) race at the 1964 Summer Olympics when he was upset by Billy Mills, and never won an Olympic gold medal. [1] Although he received from Emil Zatopek one of his Gold medals as what he refers to as one of his most cherished presents. At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Clarke collapsed and nearly died from altitude sickness sustained during the gruelling 10,000 m race final. Despite training in the Alps to get acclimatised to high altitudes at Mexico City, this could not put him on par with many opponents from Africa, who had always run at high altitude (with the notable exception of 5,000 m gold medalist and 10,000 m bronze medalist Mohammed Gammoudi of Tunisia, who was born and lived not far above sea level). Clarke finished in sixth place, [1] but remembered nothing of the last lap. He sufficiently recovered to compete in the 5,000 metre heats a few days later. [6]

In the 1962 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, he won silver in the 3 mile event, and in the 1966 Games he won silver medals in the 3 miles (4.8 km) and 6 miles (9.7 km) events. [7]

During a 44-day European tour in 1965, he competed 18 times and broke 12 world records, including the 20,000 m (12.4 miles). On 10 July, at London's White City Stadium, he became the first man to run 3 miles in under 13 minutes, lowering the world record to 12:52.4. Four days later, in Oslo, he lowered his own 10,000 m world record by 36.2 seconds to 27:39.4, becoming the first man to break the 28 minute barrier. [8] [9]

World records

DistanceTime /
5000 m 13:34.8 Hobart, Australia1965-01-16 [10]
5000 m 13:33.6 Auckland, New Zealand1965-02-01 [11]
5000 m 13:25.8Los Angeles, United States1965-06-04 [12]
5000 m 13:16.6 Stockholm, Sweden1966-07-05 [13]
10,000 m 28:15.6 Melbourne, Australia1963-12-18 [14]
10,000 m 27:39.4 Oslo, Norway1965-07-14 [15]
20,000 m59:22.8 Geelong, Australia1965-10-27 [16] As part of 1 hour world record.
1 hour 20,232 m Geelong, Australia1965-10-27 [16]
2 miles 8:19.8 Västerås, Sweden1967-07-27 [17]
2 miles 8:19.6London, England1968-08-24 [18]
3 miles13:07.6 Melbourne, Australia1964-12-03 [19]
3 miles13:00.4Los Angeles, United States1965-06-04As part of 5000 m world record.
3 miles12:52.4London, England1965-07-10
3 miles12:50.4 Stockholm, Sweden1966-07-05 [17] As part of 5000 m world record.
6 miles27:17.8 Melbourne, Australia1963-12-18 [14]
6 miles26:47.0 Oslo, Norway1965-07-14 [15] As part of 10,000 m world record
10 miles47:12.8 Melbourne, Australia1965-03-04 [20]

In 1965, Clarke beat the 10,000m world record in Turku, Finland with a time of 28:14.0 but it was never ratified as it was said that permission to run was requested too late. [9] [21]

Political career

He was elected Mayor of the Gold Coast, Queensland in 2004, defeating the incumbent Gary Baildon. Clarke and his wife, Helen, first came to the Gold Coast for a holiday in 1957. The couple returned almost every year thereafter, and in 1995, after 14 years abroad mainly in Europe, came back for good. [22]

Clarke resigned as Mayor of the Gold Coast on 27 February 2012, when he announced his nomination to run as an independent candidate for the seat of Broadwater in the 2012 Queensland state election. [23] Clarke failed in this campaign, coming fourth and recording only a 4.6% primary vote. [24]

Former Australian Football League CEO, Andrew Demetriou stated that Clarke as Mayor of the Gold Coast played a major role in the AFL establishing a new team Gold Coast Suns on the Gold Coast. [25]

In 2011, Clarke was part of the lobbying team that secured the 2018 Commonwealth Games for the Gold Coast, Queensland. [26]


In 1966 Clarke was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) "In recognition of service to athletics". [1] [27]

In 2000, he was awarded the Australian Sports Medal for "Significant contribution as a competitor (Athletics)". [28]

In 2001, he was awarded the Centenary Medal for "Distinguished service to the eco-tourism industry". [28]

In the 2013 Queens Birthday Honours List, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) "For distinguished service to the community through a range of leadership roles with local government and philanthropic organisations, and to the promotion of athletics." [1] [29]

Awards and recognition

In 2005 Geelong Athletics honoured Clarke with an athletics meet to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his breaking the world record for the 20,000 m and one hour run at Landy Field in October 1965. This meet is held annually as part of the Athletics Australia National Meet Series.

On 15 March 2006, Ron Clarke was one of the final four runners who carried the Queen's Baton around the MCG stadium during the 2006 Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. [35]

Emil Zátopek had great respect for Ron Clarke. In 1966 (often erroneously noted as 1968) he invited the Australian to Czechoslovakia, and as a parting gift he gave him his 1952 Olympic 10,000 m gold medal with the following words: "Not out of friendship but because you deserve it." [36] [37]


Clarke died of kidney failure on 17 June 2015 at Allamanda Hospital in Southport, Queensland. [38] Clarke is survived by his wife Helen and sons Marcus and Nicolas. His daughter Monique died of breast cancer in 2009. [3] [39]

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten paid tribute to Clarke in Parliament on the day of his death by stating that a great Australian had been lost with his death. [40] Herb Elliott, Australian 1500 m Olympic gold medallist, said "Ron was a great man. His contribution to athletics was enormous. He was also a wonderful contributor to public health through lifestyle programs and gymnasiums and the communities in which he lived. Ron will be greatly missed". [41]

Mitch Mitchell's sculpture depicting Clarke and Landy Sportmanship sculpture.jpg
Mitch Mitchell's sculpture depicting Clarke and Landy

John Landy, who famously helped Clarke when he fell during a mile race at the 1956 Australian Championships, said, "Ron Clarke, by his running feats inspired Australian distance runners and in a world sense, demonstrated the potential athletics achievements possible." [41] Frank Shorter, the 1972 Olympic marathon gold medallist said "Ron Clarke was my idol. I grew up seeing Ron Clarke in the dark blue singlet with the V on it – to me that was the symbol of running." [42]


See also

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Preceded by
Flag of the Soviet Union.svg Pyotr Bolotnikov
Men's 10,000 m World Record Holder
18 December 1963 – 3 September 1972
Succeeded by
Flag of Finland.svg Lasse Virén
Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Flag of New Zealand.svg Peter Snell
Track & Field Athlete of the Year
Succeeded by
Flag of the United States.svg Jim Ryun
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Flag of Kenya.svg Kipchoge Keino
Men's 5000 m Best Year Performance
Succeeded by
Flag of New Zealand.svg Dick Taylor
Olympic Games
Preceded by
Guido Caroli
Final Olympic torchbearer
with Hans Wikne

Melbourne 1956
Succeeded by
Ken Henry
Preceded by
Paavo Nurmi and Hannes Kolehmainen
Final Summer Olympic torchbearer
with Hans Wikne

Melbourne 1956
Succeeded by
Giancarlo Peris
Political offices
Preceded by
Gary Baildon
Mayor of the Gold Coast
Succeeded by
Tom Tate