Could Aussie style Pro Running work in the USA?

We have just had a Canadian sprinter arrive in Australia and last week he had his first taste of “pro-running” competing in the 120m Reynella Gift in South Australia. He was very impressed with the conduct of the meet and how it is run with athletes running off handicaps in the 6 heats before advancing to three semis and then the final. The Canadian visitor has a PB of 10.51 (2005) so his starting handicap was only 3.25m. He is well short of PB shape therefore was going to struggle to advance beyond the heat. Despite that he still got through to the semi final with a 3rd place in his heat.

I asked him what do the average American college athletes do after they have graduated or left school and he said unless they were elite or semi elite (say 10.8 or better) they basically give it away because there is not the structure in athletics to really support them. It’s really geared towards the higher level and the average joe fades away from the sport.

It’s sad that there is something for the 11/12s 100m or 50s+ 400m runners to keep American (or Canadian) men & women active in the sport. Why some enterprising person with a passion for the track hasn’t considered setting up a circuit in the USA, (with its population), is probably a shame because as our Canadian friend suggested to me, this would be fantastic in the states and would soon get a lot of people off their backsides continuing their sport and out there competing.

At Reynella last Friday night there were 10 races from 120m to 1600m, including events for under 20’s, women, novices (haven’t won a race before) and over 35’s. The 120m Gift attracted 41 entries who ran in 6 heats. First 3 in each heat made the semis, where the first 2 advanced to the final.

One of my athletes, 32 year old Duncan Tippins, won the 120m Gift off 6.50m in 12.60s on a sand based grass track. As is the norm in pro running, most meets are held on grass footy ovals converted for the day to an athletics venue. Duncan has a PB of 10.87 from 2005 and has also run 21.72 and 47.28 from 2006, so he is no slouch. He has run several races on the pro running circuit including the Bendigo 400m - one of the richest races on the Australian pro running circuit. Dunc has never made a national final nor got close to representing Australia but the pro running has kept him involved in the sport and he continues to be a quality backmarker, even at 32.

There was about 120 athletes competing with over 200 entries. The 300m Open was a cracker with 48 runners in the 7 heats, meaning heat winners only advanced to the final.

Our squad was fortunate to win 3 races on the night and we had 4 runners in the 6 man Gift final (1st, 4th, 5th 6th).

All races have prizemoney with the Gift being one of our smaller Gifts, offering $200 for the winner. All finalists get something, even last place in the under 20’s 300m final gets $5.

The next pro meet in SA is the rich Whyalla Gift on November 17. Whyalla is a mining town 350kms north west of Adelaide. Total prizemoney offered is $17,000 with the 120m Gift worth $6000 in total (about $3000 to the winner).

By the way, the results of the Reynella Gift are as follows:


120m Open Reynella Gift
1st – Duncan Tippins (6.5m)
2nd – David Gross (9.5m)
3rd – Stephan Thiel (9.0m)
Time: 12.60secs

120m Women’s Gift
1st – Leanne Hodge (4.75m)
2nd – Emily Bourke (11.75m)
3rd – Lynette Mattingly (8.75m)
Time: 14.34secs

120m Over 35s
1st – David Wujek (7.25m)
2nd – Ali Saliu (14.5m)
3rd – Paul Brattoli (15.0m)
Time: 13.75secs

300m Open
1st – Michael Nitschke (23m)
2nd – Stephan Thiel (24m)
3rd – Alexander Bubner (10m)
Time: 34.30secs

300m Women
1st – Holly Noack (18m)
2nd – Paige White (38m)
3rd – Lucy Buckley (45m)
Time: 38.67secs

300m Under 20s
1st – Matthew Jose (21m)
2nd – Brad Schutz (22m)
3rd – Thomas Smith (25m)
Time: 36.10secs

800m Novice
1st – Brian Golden (52m)
2nd – Shane Moss (102m)
3rd – Simon Thompson (80m)
Time: 1min 56.78secs

800m Over 35s
1st – Mark Beveridge (Scr)
2nd – Gary Zeuner (95m)
3rd – Peter Noblet (200m)
Time: 2mins 9.76secs

800m Women
1st – Lucy Buckley (92m)
2nd – Kirsty Meekins (110m)
3rd – Celeste Knowles (98m)
Time: 2mins 14.34secs

1600m Open
1st – Matthew Fenech (135m)
2nd – Michael Roeger (170m)
3rd – Peter Davis (130m)
Time: 4mins 12.72secs

It is an amazing thought Youngy.

I’m sure the novelty of handicaps would capture the interest of many anyway. Throw in some prizemoney and there might begin a new athletics culture in the US. With the US’s population, economy, and depth of talented athletes it may well get off the ground quicker than one thinks.

I know when Charlie visited here last Summer he was a little perplexed at this form of running when it was raised with him. Male vs Female vs mixed ability vs Youth vs Veteran all with the same chance at winning:confused:

I simply can’t get my head around the concept. Fairness issues in the handicapping aside, what about the idea of excellence? Why run 10.00 off scratch when an 11.50 guy can win the big prize with a huge head-start?

Agreed. Although I would say that anything that keeps people interested in the sport can’t be a bad thing.

There was a handicap meet the first day of our season a few weeks ago and although I wasn’t there understand it was very well received. There is another planned for a Friday night in a few weeks.

Charlie, I think what Youngy was suggesting was that it was more for those that will never be at that level and drop out which is an issue everywhere.

Horse racing uses handicaps with weights.

I like pro running, although I get annoyed when a winner says he is the best yet he was of 7m and 2-3 blokes behind him where off 2 and 4m etc…

As a spectator it is fun and it keeps a lot of guys training and competing so it is good.

I was going to compete in some carnivals in Tasmania until I found out I would be running of the novice mark which put me about 3 m (it could of been more) behind a guy that I had similar times too.


We have a plethora of competitions for the elite to prove themselves the best and run 10.00s if they are capable. However even you must have encountered athletes whose lack of natural talent prevented then from running 11.00s let alone 10.00s.

So what do these athletes do? Train as hard as thy can with little or no reward for their endeavours getting smashed week after week or do they seek another form of competition that allows them to be competitive against more talented and lesser talented athletes.

The races all carry entry fees - the Bay Sheffield has over 100 entries, with the athletes paying $40 each. If athletes were all to run off scratch, how many would bother to pay the $40 to enter?

Over time, like golf, the athletes sort themselves out with the handicaps and as athletes win races they get pulled back. At some stage an athlete will get back so far he/she can no longer win, and the athlete needs to work harder to maintain his/her competitiveness…or its up to the handicapper to reconsider the mark.

With an independant handicapper keeping up to date with performances that might affect a handicap, his job is to make the races as close as possible and to have as many as he can in the contest.

It makes for fascinating racing where no race is a foregone conclusion.

I know of athletes who have literally dedicated their careers to winning a Bay Sheffield or Stawell Gift and they have pursued it with as much vigour, sacrifice and sheer persistence as many Olympic level athletes.

I have 25 athletes in my squad, 12 compete in the amateurs, while all 25 run on the pro circuit. The attraction of prizemoney and rewards in a more competitive environment, makes it a far more attractive proposition for most.

surely you have to feel that a 9.8 guy running off scratch would make handicaps immaterial if he were in top form?

I’ve personally yet to see a 9.8 athlete run the equivalent of a 9.8s 100m over 120m on grass off scratch. (11.7 ish) But you are right, if one did, he would most certainly win and earn his victory.

I don’t think there’s a more exciting thing in athletics than to see a scratch man concede significant starts to some decent athletes, charge down the inside and win with only centimetres to spare.

It’s a beautiful thing…

Imagine 100 American athletes all around the 10.0 to 11.3s range going head to head in 15 heats, handicapped from scratch to say a 10m limit in the 120m Los Angeles Gift…no one knowing who the winner would be, that would be some spectacle, especially on a strip of grass say somewhere near Venice Beach.

Great point Charlie, if your fast enough to run 11.0 then there is no reason why the same person couldn’t run 10.7. Why reward them for running 11.0 when their true ability is much higher. I personally think hcp running holds back athletes rather then provide incentive’s to improve. Over my time I have seen less talented athletes make Olympic teams because they have followed better plans and had more commitment to training. On the other hand pro- running is great spectacle because the heats are often very close, the atmosphere is quite unique. Also pro running is set up over 3 rounds and on grass, so if you can be competitive from a tight mark, there is going to be a very good chance that your going to be running better then 10.4 100m.

I like pro running, but I feel it is sad for a 25 y.o. to quit comepting because there aren’t enough low level meets.
her ein italy we have many weekly meetings, with classiciation based on age group and so on.
Sometimes you get 15 heats of 100m, and , grouped for entry Seasonal or personal best, they compete against similar valued athletes:
You get the 10"30 senior and the 15" veteran

Sharmer, thats the art of pro running. Training up to the mark that would have you run a time required to win. Other than the specifics of the event, there is no difference to a ‘pro’ or an ‘amo’ runner. They are both training to run as fast as they possibly can at a prticular point in time.

Pro running only hold athletes back if they don’t try. Have you ever non-tried? Youngy will agree that there are other ways of going about things, like targetting particular races, running a bit flat by working to a training plan for a peak at another time…but never intentionally holding yourself back! An error made by some is to rely on the handicap to get you over the line, this is their worst mistake and maybe yours too. You must go faster, end of story! I can’t ever remember a runner that has won a ‘major’ without making every attempt at training to go faster. The incentive to improve is there, it comes in the form of good $$$$ to the winner! If you have never seen it, then your focus hasn’t been on the job to put a program together to attempt a big win.

What is true ability? If it isn’t tapped, then your true ability at a point in time is your true ability. It will always be a subjective answer, and one that only the handicapper will judge. You hope for it to be slightly out compared to your trained ability or from the year previous.

What is the best reward for a 10.7 runner in this country? Would it be a very weakly contested state title or final, never a national final? What if I said you could have a crack at $10000 or $20000, but what about $40000 and your face on every TV news program and on the front and back page every print media outlet in the country?

Best reward for 10.7 runner in this country, get 7m at Stawell and win $30,000- but i guess its not that simple. Then again turn that 10.7 guy into a 10.4 runner and your on a team. Its an individual choice. It depends on what you think the performance limits of an athlete is, usually these limits are psychological. You would have to agree, that many pro coaches do tell their athletes they are not fast enough for amateurs. I am not bagging out pro running if you read my earlier post, it does offer something that amateur athletics doesn’t. However from my experience I have known some talented athletes who never actualised their abilities because of they waited and set themselves from one or two meets are year only.

I think manipulation of times to get a better mark is bad juju. Americans already have enough opportunities to cheat in other sports :slight_smile:

I haven’t met many ‘pro’ runners who run dead in lead up races (I’ve seen 5 in my life).

I don’t do pro running, but it is nice change and gives people a chance.

As for the 10.7 to 10.4 remark, true. Dean Capabianco and Joss Ross made there mark in Aust as Pro runners as did Stephen Bibcombe and they all turned out okay for Aust teams.

Give yourself a good go at a few big prizes, get a couple of solid years of training under the belt and then unleash in the amateur ranks with some coin in the pocket. I suppose it isn’t as simple and straight forward as that, but that is what those guys a previous post mentions have done. Two more entering the scene through that method are last years Stawell Gift winner- Nathan Allen and a young bloke in Daniel Burgess.

What you do suggest in stiffling athletes and holding them back and waiting for too long is something that I believe is a thing of the past, with the old school pro only coaches.

You are right kentcounty, the old school pro running theory of running dead is slowly dying out, just as I’m seeing the old amateur narrow minded view that pro running is no good is now restricted to a small minority. (At least in SA)

There are still some old style pro running coaches who will never change but they are finding it more difficult to hang on to good runners as the athletes seek more modern and conventional training methods in order to get faster. The internet (ie: websites such as this) has opened up opportunities for athletes to better educate themselves on training methodology. If the coach is not at the cutting edge, he/she will be left behind.

My modus operandi is fairly straight forward, we train to get fitter and faster, running in meets along the way, timing the peak for the more prestigious events. We’ve won over 130 pro-races in just 9 seasons, as athletes run to win in everything they attempt. If you win that many races, you are bound to win a few of the more lucrative events.

I still cannot see why an enterprising person couldn’t go to the USA T&F Assoc and Mr Schwarzeneger’s state government to seek funding to keep weekend athletes active and fit, enjoying an exciting form of competition. The obesity issue in the states is horrendous, and surely this is a terrific way of giving the fat kids an incentive to keep doing track into adult life. You don’t need to be any good, just turn out fit and keen.

If Poker can be regarded as a sport worthy of tv coverage on ESPN, then surely oz style pro running has a chance?

One day, years from now, when the VAL has taken over the world, and we’re sitting down watching the heats of the 120m Los Angeles Gift or Venice Beach Sheffield, on cable TV, ya’ll be saying, shit that Youngy was a visionary! :smiley: :smiley:

Youngy I think you where next to Arnie when he was using that leaf which isn’t a drug;)

I think developing juniors under the pro format is a good concept, 3x120 on grass provides a better stimulus then beating up juniors on synthetic surfaces. When you have a athlete running inside 12 from 7 or less you know their going to match up well for the 100m. Joss Ross did run from 8m in NSW the year before he won Stawell,subsequently he has gone on to run 10.08 and maybe faster. So it can be done.

In the States… haha, have a look around home too. Local shopping centres here in Brissy are outragous:mad: Fat people everywhere, i get amazed when i see a normal sized person these days. Its going to get worse too, School girls walking about weighing must be close to 80kg+… a lot of em at that, in 10yrs when they are in their mid 20’s, bound to be well over 100kg…