Percy Cerutty

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Percy Wells Cerutty
Born Percy Wells Cerutty
(1895-01-10)10 January 1895
Prahran, Victoria
Died 14 August 1975(1975-08-14) (aged 80)
Portsea, Victoria
Occupation Track and Field coach

Percy Wells Cerutty (10 January 1895 – 14 August 1975) was one of the world's leading athletics coaches in the 1950s and 1960s.

The eccentric Australian pioneered a home-spun system of 'Stotan' training, embracing a holistic regime of natural diets, hard training in natural surroundings, and mental stimulation.

Cerutty coached Herb Elliott to a series of world record performances, culminating in an Olympic gold medal in the 1960 Rome Games.

Early life[edit]

Percy Cerutty was born in Prahran, a suburb of Melbourne, in 1895. He was four years old when his mother left her alcoholic husband and struggled to raise her six surviving children.

In 1907, he left school to help support the family but was considered unfit to serve in World War I. He competed in athletics without distinction, suffering from illness after racing. Despite this fact, Cerutty was still incredibly motivated to reach his highest potential.

In 1939, Cerutty was faced with an incredible challenge in his life. At the age of 43, he was told by doctors that he did not have much longer to live. He was given 2 years to work with. After this, he began educating himself on healthy living. He focused on an extreme diet including mostly uncooked vegetables, weight lifting, and of course, running. His tactics must have worked because he lived well past his death sentence. These habits he picked up during this time were very much reflected in his coaching and running philosophy.

After World War II, Cerutty began competing in distance running events. At the start of his career he failed to do much more than a jog. However, over the years he started making good strides towards being competitive in the running world. Right before he turned 51 he completed his first marathon in a time of 3 hours and 1 minute. Not long after that, he retired from running and began doing what he is really known for: his coaching.[1]

Stotan philosophy[edit]

Cerutty's 'Stotan' philosophies were a blend of Stoic and Spartan principles. This combination gave Cerutty a base for how he would train his athletes.

In 1946, Cerutty acquired 3/4 acres of land in Portsea, Australia so that he could start a training camp there. In order to bring this new camp some attention, he ran 80 miles from Portsea to Melbourne. This act is reflective of his overall approach to the sport of distance running.

He introduced this approach to the athletes he trained at his Portsea, Victoria headquarters. Training would involve running in idyllic scenes, along the beach and up the dunes, mixing poetry and philosophy with athletics training. His athletes would partake in routine runs up sand dunes, on bark or wood chip paths, and would even weight lift frequently.

Athletes training under Cerutty said "You came here with the object of running more quickly, and achievement in running, but really it was an education in life" and "You got a whole philosophy of life and attitudes" [2]

The new philosophy of life included the following tenets[5]:

  • Only consumption of whole wheat bread, as white flour was a poison.
  • No consumption of alcohol
  • No consumption of cigarettes
  • No consumption of water or drink with meals or following for a few hours
  • No socializing after midnight

Between 1959 and 1967, Cerutty published six books on his training philosophies.

His philosophies were considered to be very strict in his time.[3] This eventually led to rivalries between Cerutty and other coaches who used a different approach to training.

Cerutty maintained a great rivalry with fellow-coach Franz Stampfl whose Interval Training techniques were disliked by Cerutty.[4]

Cerutty's training techniques will always remain controversial among those who study the sport of running. However, Cerutty believed that what he was doing created the most physically and mentally tough athletes on the planet.

Herb Elliott[edit]

Main article: Herb Elliott

Cerutty's greatest successes came through Herb Elliott. Elliott won two gold medals at the 1958 Empire Games, and set world records at Mile (3:54.5) and 1500 metres (3:36.0) during the year.

Cerutty began coach Elliot at the age of 18. Elliot was a 4:20 miler when he came to run for Cerruty, and within a few months, he had run 4:06 (a world record at the junior level).

Soon enough, Elliot topped Merv Lincoln to be the top miler in Australia.

Merv Lincoln was coached by Cerrutty's rival Franz Stampfl. Lincoln and Elliot raced many times, but as Cerutty says of Lincoln "Never did he once beat my Herb Elliot.[5]" This quote shows how proud Cerutty was to have coached the great Herb Elliot. Elliot continued to be a huge success for Cerutty.

At Rome in 1960, the 22-year-old Elliott set a world record to win the Olympic gold medal in the 1500 metres setting another world record of 3:35.6.[6]

Elliot broke the 4 minute barrier 17 separate times. This was an incredible feat for athletes during his time period.

Elliot was never beat at the distance of a mile or the 1500.

At one point during his career, Elliot and Cerutty got in an argument. To solve the argument, Cerutty challenged Elliot to a mile race. Whoever won this race would also win the argument. Sure enough they raced and Cerutty was beat time wise (he was racing the top miler in the world). Elliot didn't even have to try to win the race between the two of them. However, when Cerutty crossed the line, he told Elliot that he had won because he had put in more effort than Elliot. His point being that regardless of the circumstances, 100% effort should always be put forth. This story reflects accurately upon his "Stotan" training philosophy.

Other athletes[edit]

Further athletes trained or assisted by Cerutty included:

Cerutty also helped cyclist Russell Mockridge and boxer Jimmy Carruthers during their sporting careers. His strict training philosophy was able to carry over to other sports as well because he taught people how to be tough. Not just how to be good at distance running. He truly saw his coaching philosophy as a way of life and a way to train.


Cerutty gave up coaching athletes in 1969 and continued to live at his beloved Portsea home - CERES.

Described as 'Australia’s most enigmatic, pioneering and controversial athletics coach', he died of motor neurone disease in 1975 in Portsea.[7]


6.Racing past profile: Herb Elliot[1]

7.Australian Broadcasting company[2]

8.Athletics Australia[3]

  1. ^ "Racing Past - Herb Elliott". Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  2. ^ "Body - Percy Cerutty:". Retrieved 2015-09-29. 
  3. ^ "Herb Elliott". Retrieved 2015-09-29.