Ron Clarke

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For other people of the same name, see Ronald Clarke (disambiguation).
Ron Clarke
Mayor of the Gold Coast
In office
25 March 2004 (2004-03-25) – 27 February 2012 (2012-02-27)
Deputy Daphne McDonald
Preceded by Gary Baildon
Personal details
Born (1937-02-21) 21 February 1937 (age 78)
Political party Independent
Spouse(s) Helen Clarke
Occupation Athlete

Ronald William "Ron" Clarke, AO, MBE (born 21 February 1937 in Victoria) is a former Australian athlete, writer, and Mayor of the Gold Coast from 2004 to 2012. He is one of the best known middle and long distance runners in the 1960s, notable for setting seventeen world records.

Early life and family[edit]

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.[1]

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

Athletic career[edit]

Ron Clarke
Medal record
Competitor for  Australia
Men's Athletics
Olympic Games
Bronze medal – third place 1964 Tokyo 10,000 metres
Commonwealth Games
Silver medal – second place 1962 Perth 3 miles
Silver medal – second place 1966 Kingston 3 miles
Silver medal – second place 1966 Kingston 6 miles
Silver medal – second place 1970 Edinburgh 10000 metres

During the 1960s Clarke won 12 Victorian track championships ranging from 1500 m to 6 miles (9.7 km).

He settled for the bronze medal in the 10,000 m at the 1964 Summer Olympics when he was upset by Billy Mills, but never won an Olympic gold medal. At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Clarke collapsed and nearly died from altitude sickness sustained during the grueling 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 opponents from some of the African countries, 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, but remembered nothing of the last lap. He sufficiently recovered to compete in the 5,000 meter heats a few days later.

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. 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 10,000m world record by 36.2 seconds to 27:39.4, becoming the first man to break the 28 minute barrier.

To win against a field of kickers, Clarke needed a fast pace throughout or a sustained surge at the end. He improved his 2-mile (3.2 km) speed in 1967 and 1968, lowering Michel Jazy's world record by 3 seconds, running an 8:19.8 and then an 8:19.6.

Political career[edit]

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.[1]

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.[2] Clarke failed in this campaign, coming fourth and recording only a 4.6% primary vote.[3]


In 1966 Clarke was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) "In recognition of service to athletics".[4]

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."[5]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Clarke was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 1985.[6]

In 2005 Geelong Athletics honoured Clarke with an athletics meet to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Clarke 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.

Emil Zatopek had great admiration for Ron Clarke. In 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.”[citation needed]

In 1982, awarded Victorian Father of the Year.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gold Coast City Council. "Mayor Cr Ron Clarke MBE". 
  2. ^ Kelly, James (27 February 2012). "Clarke says Gold Coast needs independent MP". ABC News. Retrieved 6 March 2012. 
  3. ^ "2012 State General Election - Broadwater - Booth Details". Electoral Commission of Queensland. Retrieved 6 August 2012. 
  4. ^ It's an Honour
  5. ^ Queen's Birthday Honours List 2013 | Herald Sun 10 June 2013. Retrieved 10 June 2013
  6. ^ "Ron Clarke MBE". Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Retrieved 10 September 2013. 

External links[edit]

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