NANANGO ULTRA: Runners from across the world would travel to Nanango to compete in the international 1000-mile race. (Picture: Bruce Long)
NANANGO ULTRA: Runners from across the world would travel to Nanango to compete in the international 1000-mile race. (Picture: Bruce Long)

Nanango ‘once the ultra-running capital of the world’

FOR SEVERAL Burnett runners, making their way around the Dead Cow Gully track in Nanango on Sunday was a blast from the past, taking them back to the 1990s when Nanango was famous for 1000-mile races.

From 1992-2000, runners from all over the world would descended upon Nanango to compete in 1000-mile races, state forest races and five-day pioneer footraces.

 

THE CLIFFY SHUFFLE: Cliff Young competing in the International 1000 Mile Ultra-Marathon in Nanango at 76 years of age. (Picture: Bruce Long)
THE CLIFFY SHUFFLE: Cliff Young competing in the International 1000 Mile Ultra-Marathon in Nanango at 76 years of age. (Picture: Bruce Long)

One man who was instrumental in the implementation of these events was iconic Australian ultra-runner Ron Grant.

Grant said with the help of the community and former mayor Reg McCallum, he was able to draw thousands of people to the little town.

"Back in the 90s we put on several ultra events and people would come from all over the world to compete," Grant said.

"We had 1000-mile track races, five-day pioneer footraces as well as 52 kilometre state forest runs.

"The last 1000-mile event was so popular that I received a call from the London Athletics Association asking if I would put on the world titles, and with that news the whole town jumped on board."

 

ULTRA-MARATHON MAN: Ron Grant was a pioneer of ultra-marathon running and was the first man to run around Australia. (Picture: File)
ULTRA-MARATHON MAN: Ron Grant was a pioneer of ultra-marathon running and was the first man to run around Australia. (Picture: File)

The events were a spectacle for the town, and news teams from across the country covered them.

One school student at the time, Timothy Walsh who is now the event organiser for next year's Dead Cow Gully Backyard Ultra, said they were such unique events for Nanango.

 

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"The whole town got behind the event, it was a unique spectacle for a small town and every local was curious to what these people were doing," Walsh said.

"How is it humanly possible to run around a 300 metre loop for two weeks straight?

"A lot of people would drive to the track before and after work just to watch the runners and track their progress."

 

1000-MILE RACE: Peter Gray and Bryan Smith competing in the Nanango 1000-mile race. (Picture: Bruce Long)
1000-MILE RACE: Peter Gray and Bryan Smith competing in the Nanango 1000-mile race. (Picture: Bruce Long)

Another world record-holding Australian ultra-runner David Holleran said Nanango was famous around the world, and at one point was the ultra capital of the world.

"The South Burnett has such a rich history with ultra-running and Nanango used to host some incredible events," Holleran said.

"People would read about these events put on by Ron Grant in magazines all over the world and then turn up to compete.

"It was such an exciting time for the region, with several world records broken in Nanango.

"They were wonderful events that attracted thousands of people and the races would go for weeks.

"All the schoolkids would come out, there were Channel 7 and Nine helicopters flying around and thanks to Ron Grant and the people of Nanango these events became famous around the world."

 

AROUND THE TRACK: Eleanor Robinson, during the International 1000 Miles Ultra-Marathon Championships at Nanango (Picture: Bruce Long)
AROUND THE TRACK: Eleanor Robinson, during the International 1000 Miles Ultra-Marathon Championships at Nanango (Picture: Bruce Long)

Both Grant and Holleran said they were looking forward to next year's Dead Cow Gully Backyard Ultra and hoped it could replicate some of the success Nanango experienced in the 90s.

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