Ron Clarke

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For other people of the same name, see Ronald Clarke (disambiguation).
Ron Clarke
Ron Clarke Mayor of Gold Coast.jpg
Clarke as the mayor, shown in ABC News (Australia)
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 Ronald William Clarke
(1937-02-21)21 February 1937
Melbourne, Victoria
Died 17 June 2015(2015-06-17) (aged 78)
Southport, Queensland
Political party Independent
Spouse(s) Helen Clarke
Occupation Athlete

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[edit]

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.[2]

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.[3]

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 9 Australian championships [4] and 12 Victorian track championships ranging from 1500 m to 6 miles (9.7 km).

Ron Clarke (12, no.1 visible) 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] At the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, Clarke collapsed and nearly died from altitude sickness[5] 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[edit]

Distance Time /
Location Date Note
5000 m 13:34.8 Hobart, Australia 1965-01-16[10]
5000 m 13:33.6 Auckland, New Zealand 1965-02-01[11]
5000 m 13:25.8 Los Angeles, United States 1965-06-04[12]
5000 m 13:16.6 Stockholm, Sweden 1966-07-05[13]
10,000 m 28:15.6 Melbourne, Australia 1963-12-18[14]
10,000 m 27:39.4 Oslo, Norway 1965-07-14 [15]
20,000 m 59.22.8 Geelong, Australia 1965-10-27[16] As part of 1 hour world record.
1 hour 20,232 m Geelong, Australia 1965-02-27[16]
2 miles 8:19.8 Vasteras, Sweden 1967-07-27[17]
2 miles 8:19.6 London, England 1968-08-24[18]
3 miles 13.07.6 Melbourne, Australia 1964-12-03[19]
3 miles 13.00.4 Los Angeles, United States 1965-06-04 As part of 5000 m world record.
3 miles 12.52.4 London, England 1965-7-10
3 miles 12.50.4 Stockholm, Sweden 1966-07-05 [17] As part of 5000 m world record.
6 miles 27.17.8 Melbourne, Australia 1963-12-18[14]
6 miles 26.47.0 Oslo, Norway 1965-07-14[15] As part of 10,000 m world record
10 miles 47.12.8 Melbourne, Australia 1965-03-04[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. [21] [9]

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.[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".[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 "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."[29]

Awards and recognition[edit]

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 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."[5]


Clarke died of kidney failure on 17 June 2015 at Allamanda Hospital in Southport, Queensland.[36] Clarke is survived by his wife Helen and sons Marcus and Nicolas. His daughter Monique died of breast cancer in 2009.[37][2]

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 passing.[38] 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". [39]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."[39] 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."[40]


  • The Measure of Success : a personal perspective. South Melbourne, Vic. : Lothian Books, 2004.
  • Run Easy. Melbourne : Information Australia, 2001.
  • Never Say Never : Couran Cove Resort from dream to reality. Avalon, N.S.W. : Banyan Tree Creative Services, 1999.
  • Fixing the Olympics. Melbourne : Information Australia, 1999.
  • Enjoying Life : a champion's guide to the good life. Melbourne : Information Australia, 1999.
  • Total Living : for everyone who wants to be fitter, trimmer and smarter. London : Pavilion, 1995.
  • Ron Clarke's Running Book. Collingwood, Vic. : Outback Press, 1979.
  • Successful Athletics : from beginner to expert in forty lessons, with Raelene Boyle. Melbourne : Thomas Nelson, 1976.
  • Ron Clarke Talks Track edited by Jon Hendershott. Los Altos, Calif. : Tafnews, 1972.
  • Athletics the Australian Way. Melbourne : Lansdowne, 1971.
  • The Lonely Breed, with Norman Harris. London : Pelham, 1967.
  • The Unforgiving Minute, as told to Alan Trengrove. London : Pelham, 1966.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Ron Clarke". Sports Reference - Olympic Sports. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Johnson, Len (16 June 2015). "The man who changed the world". The Runner's Tribe. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  3. ^ Organizing Committee of the XVI Olympiad, Melbourne, 1956. "THE OFFICIAL REPORT OF THE ORGANIZING COMMITTEE FOR THE GAMES OF THE XVI OLYMPIAD MELBOURNE 1956" (pdf-34.4 MB). p. 227. Retrieved 17 June 2015 – via  ('Snippet' via Google books)
  4. ^ "Ron Clarke". Athletics Australia Historical Results. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  5. ^ a b Bunrton, Simon (22 June 2012). "50 stunning Olympic moments No 41: Emil Zatopek the triple-gold winner". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  6. ^ Nichols, Peter (19 June 2015). "Ron Clarke obituary". The Guardian. 
  7. ^ "Ronald 'Ron' Clarke MBE". Australian Commonwealth Games Association website. 
  8. ^ a b "Athletics Australia Hall of Fame". Athletics Australia website. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  9. ^ a b "Australian IAAF World Record Holders * World Best Performances as of January 2008". Athletics Australia website. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  10. ^ "Clarke's new record". Canberra Times. 18 January 1965. Retrieved 19 June 2015. 
  11. ^ "Clarke bettersFix this text own world time". Canberra Times. 2 February 1965. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  12. ^ "Clarke has four world records ratified". Canberra Times. 16 January 1966. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  13. ^ "Clarke ill but still breaks record". Canberra Times. 7 July 1966. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  14. ^ a b "Clarke sets two world times". Canberra Times. 19 December 1963. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  15. ^ a b "Clarke shatters record". Canberra Times. 16 July 1965. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  16. ^ a b "Clarke smashes records". Canberra Times. 28 October 1965. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  17. ^ a b "Another record to Clarke". Canberra Times. 29 June 1967. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  18. ^ "Clarke races alone to record". Canberra Times. 26 August 1968. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  19. ^ "Clarke smashes world record". Canberra Times. 4 December 1964. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  20. ^ "Another record to Clarke". Canberra Times. 4 March 1965. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  21. ^ "Vale Ron Clarke - a fitting tribute by Paul Jenes and Brian Roe". Athletics Australia website. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  22. ^ Gold Coast City Council. "Mayor Cr Ron Clarke MBE". Archived from the original on 12 February 2012. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  23. ^ Kelly, James (27 February 2012). "Clarke says Gold Coast needs independent MP". ABC News. Retrieved 6 March 2012. 
  24. ^ "2012 State General Election - Broadwater - Booth Details". Electoral Commission of Queensland. 2012. Retrieved 6 August 2012. 
  25. ^ Smart, Nick (17 June 2015). "Suns, says former AFL boss Andrew Demetriou". Herald Sun. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  26. ^ Kimmorley, Sarah (17 June 2015). "Legendary Australian athlete and former Gold Coast Mayor, Ron Clarke has died aged 78". Business Insider Australia. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  27. ^ "CLARKE, Ronald William". 11 June 1966. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  28. ^ a b "CLARKE, Ronald William". It's an Honour. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  29. ^ "Queen's Birthday Honours List 2013". Herald Sun (News Corp). 10 June 2013. Retrieved 17 June 2013. 
  30. ^ "France honours Ron Clarke". Canberra Times. 7 January 1967. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  31. ^ "Helms award to Ron Clarke". Canberra Times. 14 January 1966. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  32. ^ "Past Winners". BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Retrieved 19 June 2015. 
  33. ^ a b "Ron Clarke MBE". Sport Australia Hall of Fame. Retrieved 10 September 2013. 
  34. ^ "Past winners". Fathers Day Council of Victoria. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  35. ^ "Queen's Baton Relay". Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games website. 
  36. ^ Weston, Paul (17 June 2015). "Former Gold Coast mayor and Olympic medallist Ron Clarke dies, aged 78". Gold Coast Bulletin. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  37. ^ Anderson, Jon (17 June 2015). "Australian athletics legend Ron Clarke dies aged 78". Geelong Advertiser. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  38. ^ "Abbott, Shorten pay tribute to a great". 17 June 2015. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  39. ^ a b "Vale Ron Clarke". Australian Olympic Committee News, 17 June 2015. Retrieved 17 June 2015. 
  40. ^ Johnson, Len. "Former world record-holder Ron Clarke dies". IAAF News, 17 June 2015. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 

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