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.

In 1939, following a nervous breakdown, Cerutty took leave to re-build his body, adopting a natural diet, studying philosophy and psychology, and resuming running and weightlifting.

After World War II, Cerutty began competing in distance running events, winning the Victorian State Marathon Championship before he retired from the track.[1]

Stotan philosophy[edit]

Cerutty's 'Stotan' philosophies were a blend of Stoic and Spartan principles.

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.

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.

Cerutty maintained a great rivalry with fellow-coach Franz Stampfl whose Interval Training techniques were disliked by Cerutty.[3]

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.

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.[4]

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.


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.[5]