SMC Road Race Series

We are a non-profit running club, run entirely by volunteers. Anyone can run at any SMC event, no matter what their ability, speed or experience. All runners are issued with timing chips and bibs, and all finishers get an official time from our electronic timing system.

You do not need to be a member to run at an SMC road race.  You can enter a single race online, or purchase multiple races in advance to save even more time and money.

Full details of the current season can be found on the Calendar page.

Next Event - Sunday, 21 February 2021

Race Six

STAGGERED Start Times while on COVID restrictions:

Half marathon:
Expected finish > 2hrs 15min: 6:30am
Expected finish < 2hrs 15min:   6:45am -7:00am
10km:   7:30am
5km:     7:50am
2km kids: 7:45 


Note: With COVID situation, the above date may be changed at short notice. Dates are also subject to change without prior notice for circumstances that are beyond our control.

Registration closes at 6 pm on the day before race day.

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The Winter Olympic Games are now behind us and the Commonwealth Games is Brisbane are fast approaching so I thought it would be a good idea to tell you ‘what it takes to be an athlete.’

I started running in the middle of 1980, I was 31-1/2 years old. I think I was destined for running because I was born at home in Racecourse St. Marsa, Malta. We lived near a racecourse and as a young kid I watched horses gallop on the track. The neighbors used to say to my mother: “We never see your son walk anywhere, he's always running!" I ran my first marathon on the 26/6/82 at the Holsworthy Army Barracks. Three of my mates asked me to join them and form a team of 4. I felt I was ready because between 1980 and 1982 I ran 15 Fun Runs, and that includes my first City to Surf in 1981 (57.40). In the early 80's they were very popular, there was one somewhere in Sydney just about every weekend, raising money for charities, schools, Hospitals etc. I also ran one 25km and 3 x 30km races, in March of 1982, I ran the 30k in 2 hours and 3 minutes.

When the gun fired, I took off fast, got swept away with the other runners and when I reached the 30k mark in 2hrs and 2 minutes, I realized that this was not a 30km race, I still had 12.2kms to finish and I was running out of petrol very quickly. Suddenly I hit that proverbial wall they talk about in marathons – I lost all my energy, just couldn't run anymore, I was dehydrating badly. To put it simply, I wished I was some place else. However I was determined to finish the race, so I did the Cliff Young shuffle for the last 10k and crossed the finish line in 3 hrs 9 minutes and 23 seconds. It took me five weeks to get over the sore and stiff  leg muscles and get back into normal training.

The City to Surf was quickly coming up (8/8/82) and one of my friends said: 'Why don't you join us and run in the Railway team?' At that time I was working at Wagon Maintenance Centre Clyde in the office. So on the day I caught a train to Central station, walked across to the Railway Institute, picked up my Railway T Shirt, then we walked to Town Hall where we picked up our chest numbers and then walked to College St and sat down in one spot for an hour and a half. I remember it was a cold morning, I put on an old T-shirt to keep warm while others had plastic bags. Just before the race started, we all took off the old shirts and tossed them on the side.

That year I finished the race in 60.28 (1660th place), heartbreak hill slowed me down and when we all assembled at the other end of Bondi Beach, the team organizer Ken McCawley said to me: “I'm forming two teams (three in each team) to run in the Big M Melbourne Marathon on 17/10/82, would you like to join us?' And I said: “I'm still suffering the after effects of that marathon, look at my time today, I finished 3 minutes slower”. And he said: “Don't worry about that, you still have 6 weeks of training, I'll put you in the slow team so you can take your time and just finish the race, besides you'll get free sleeper on the train free food and accommodation in Melbourne and you can also bring your wife along, we'll have a good time”.

The race started in Frankston and finished in the city, part of the race it rained and my cheap $20 Dunlop shoes were saturated with water and I had a blister in my right toe. I should've rubbed vaseline or use bandaids. I was also dehydrating and lost all of my energy plus I had a stitch on the left side of  my chest, probably from all the food I ate the night before. I felt so bad that the last 8kms I was shuffling and walking but managed to limp across the finish line in 3.19.45 and placed 1389 position. The next morning when we arrived at Central Station, it was a big effort walking up the steps, my legs were so stiff and sore, plus I was limping from the blister in the right toe.

In preparation for my next marathon on 12/6/83, The Wang Marathon, I joined the Sydney Marathon Clinic Club. In those days, their headquarters was in Rosford St Reserve, Smithfield.

I learned a lot about marathon preparation from the club because 7 weeks before the marathon, I was running 100k per week and almost every Sunday a few of us from the club would start from Smithfield and run to Cumberland Hospital, other times we would run to Warwick Farm and sometimes we would drive to Heathcote Rd to the bottom near the river, run up hill and then go into a bush track which took us all the way to Woronora Dam – that was about 30k, we called it the Pipeline run.

Some of the members were experienced marathon runners and by just listening to their conversations as we were running along put me on the right track on how to prepare properly before running a marathon.

Monday to Friday I would run between 12 and 16k every day except on Tuesday, I went to Central Gardens, jog 7k and race 9k with the Amateur Athletic club  and on Wednesday I would run 21k, Saturday was my day of rest. Note: A week before the race, I cut down my training to 50k.

The extra training paid off  because I ran the Wang Marathon in 2.58.59, it started at North Sydney, across the Harbour Bridge and I remember going through La Perouse and finish at the Sydney Athletic Field which was at Moore Park. I remember Cliff Young was in that race, it took me 15k to catch him, he finished in just over 3 hrs.  – In preparation for the City to Surf which was on 7/8/83, I chose to run up a few hills to toughen my leg muscles for heartbreak Hill – On Monday I would run 16k from my place to end of Fitzwilliam Rd, across to Oakes Rd and run up that very steep hill, go left and down to Buckleys Rd, back to Oakes Rd and repeat the cycle. For extra speed work, on Thursday a few of us would meet at Parramatta Park and run one km as fast as we could, then a slow jog for one km and repeat the cycle 6 or 7 times, my best time for a fast km was 3 minutes. On Friday I would run another 16kms from my place to bottom of Cornelia Rd around the Crescent and Metella rd go to bottom of Cornelia Rd and do it all over again three times.

That year I finished the City to Surf in 53.58 and placed 456 overall, but best of all I qualified as a preferred runner, we were given a special chest number and on race day, they put us in confined area near the starting line where we could warm up properly and 10 minutes before the race, we are placed right at the front.That made a big difference because the following year 1984, I ran the City to Surf in 51.18  When you're at the front and you hear the starting gun go off, you run like hell down William street because there's 40,000 people behind you pushing ahead and God help you if you trip and fall. In that same year I ran the Big M Marathon in 2.58.57. In 1984 I was elected Club Secretary and one day I received a letter from the Lidcombe Sports Clinic and they invited me to go there and run on the treadmill – they stuck all these wires on my chest and I jogged on the spot for 10 minutes and run fast for another 10 minutes. They told me my heart was in good shape, pulse rate of 42 but my running style was awkward. They said: 'When you're running keep your back and head straight, your arms are like two pistons, swing them in rhythm with your legs and keep them above the waist. Also stretch your legs out when racing and land your feet flat on the ground, don't twist the ankle”.

1986 was a good year for me, on the 12th  July I won a half marathon at Bathurst in 1.15.22 seconds - here is a photo showing me and Phil Garvin, winner of the full marathon with the Chairman of  Mid West Credit Union.

In the City to Surf our Railway team finished first in the Travel and Transport Industries division in 1985, 1986,'87 and 1988.  I was the number one runner in 1986, '87, and '88. Here is a photo taken at the City to Surf headquarters presenting us with the trophies – I finished first in 49.08, Kon Ostrowski second in 49.15 and Roy Humphries in 51.49. We had 34 runners in the team that year.

On October the 12th I ran the Big M Marathon, Melbourne in 2.42.58 and placed 84th position out of a field of 3,000 competitors. I looked up my diary to find out what I did different to run such an incredible PB by over 4 minutes which is a big chunk to take out in a marathon. That's like finishing 1.2 klms quicker for me. I was training 120 kms per week for 6 weeks and I don't know how I found the time to do it because  I was working in Transport House at Wynyard, finish at 5.00pm, arrive at Toongabbie after 6.00pm, ride my bicycle home, run 16kms, be home after 7.30pm and by the time I had a shower, had something to eat, wash my gear and prepare my lunch for the next day, bang, it was 9.00pm, time to hit the sack, so I had no time  to be with the kids till the weekend except for a quick hello and off  I go running. A week before the marathon, I tapered off to just 42k Sunday to Friday.

1987 was to be my last marathon, I was almost 39 years old.  At the end of the SMC road race series in May, I finished 2nd overall, beaten by a very fine athlete Graham Heape, he thought me all  about marathon racing, diet, race tactics, proper shoes to wear, and dealing with niggling injuries. I was also awarded marathon runner of the year.

In June, I made headline news all over the world for pacing Tani Ruckle in the Australian Marathon Championships and was banned from racing events that were organized by the Australian Athletic Union for two years. The ban didn't affect me very much because I wasn't a member of that union or contender for the Olympics. Tani appealed and her solicitor asked me to fill in a Statutory Declaration which proved crucial to the judiciary at the hearing. She won the appeal and was reinstated. Anyway that same year I went to Bathurst to defend the half marathon title I won the previous year, however I finished in third place 1.15.22 which was the same I ran in 1986, only this time there were two faster competitors in the field. As a consolation prize I had a good run in the City to Surf, finished in 48.12 and placed 168th overall.

In September of the same year 1987, our parish priest in Toongabbie, Fr McNamara told me that a few seminarians from St Patrick's College at Manly were organizing a relay run from Melbourne to Sydney and they were “raising prayers” for the priesthood calling it 'Prayer on the Run' He said they were looking for an experienced runner and suggested I should join them, so I did. My boss didn't want to give me any time off, so I saw my doctor and he said: 'What do you want me to write on the certificate?” And I said: 'Just write down, I've got diarrhoea!' There were 24 runners, 10 in each team and each runner had to run 10kms in under an hour, the first shift started at 6.00am till 2.00pm, second shift from 2.00pm till 10.00pm and I was on the night shift from 10.00pm to 6.00am. We had seminarians, priests and a few lay people like myself. We had a great fun doing it. Here is an article from the Albury paper: Running for priestly prayers – Running for prayers: seminarians Danny Austin, Michael Guy and Stephen Heffernan cross the causeway yesterday.

The Big M Marathon was on the 11th of October, 1987, but I wasn't allowed to race it because the marathon was televised and Tani Ruckle was a guest on the panel doing the commentating and they didn't want to embarrass her by having me run in that race, so I looked for another marathon and found one at Coffs Harbour which was on the same day 11/10/87. I rang the organizer, told him who I was and he said: 'Joe I know who you are, we all know who you are! You're very welcome to run in this marathon”. So I said to Mary, “Guess what, we're going for a holiday to Queensland and visit my brother at Mt Tamborine, we leave on Saturday,stop over at Coffs Harbour, run the marathon on the Sunday morning and then keep travelling north to Queensland.” We stayed at Broadbeach.

The race started at the Big Shopping Centre just off the highway and it was a four loop course just over 10klm each loop, so you start and finish at the Shopping Centre. When I got there early in the morning, there was a large crowd, I didn't know any of the competitors but luckily some of my mates from Sydney came up to run the half marathon. I said to them: “Who do I have to beat to win this race?” And they said: “See that tall young fellow over there, he wins everything up here, fun runs, marathons etc. and the crowd are here to cheer for him !” I said: “OK I'm not interested how popular he is, what time do I have to do to beat him?” And they said: “You have to do 2.42 or under” - and I said: “ That's OK I think I can do it, to prepare for this race being my last marathon, I trained 125 kms a week”.

I remember one Sunday morning in September before the marathon, our club, the SMC was asked to organize a Biathlon for the Fairfield City Games and my job was to take care of the Marshalls and send them out to their locations on the course, so I had to be there at 6.00am. I thought, how am I going to fit in my 30 kms in the morning ? So I got up at an ungodly hour of 3.00am to run the 30k. I actually enjoyed it, it was quiet, no cars on the road and no air pollution. I remember I was running on the Western Highway around Mays Hill when a highway police car was following me for about 500m, I started to get nervous when the car came up beside me and the woman police officer said:'Good morning Sir, you are travelling at 20 kph and exceeding the speed limit for a human, if you don't slow down, I'm going to have to book you!” And I said:”Excuse me madam, you will have to get out of your comfortable seat and came out and catch me!” Note: I was jogging at 14 to 15kph, their speedo showing 20kph.

Anyway back to the Coffs Harbour marathon, after the first lap, about a dozen of us were leading the race but after the second lap, me and this guy were slowly getting away from the other group. By the third time around (30kms) it became a two horse race. I remember as we ran past the crowd, I could hear the people cheering for this guy, calling him by name. I looked for Mary and my mates and one of  them had my six year old daughter on his shoulders and she was waving her arms at me etc it was  good. We were now getting into the serious part of the race and with about 10 kms to go I felt comfortable enough to stay with him to the finish but if I did that, when we see the finish line from a distance, I was sure he would outrun me with his long legs.I decided to take a gamble and quicken the pace a little to see if he'll respond, and he did. We kept this pace for about 5kms and then I noticed that he was uncomfortable, his breathing was heavier and his arms dropped below his waistline. So I thought I'll run this guy to the ground and go a little faster, but this time he didn't respond and slowly I was getting away from him. With about 2.2 kms to go I started to feel uncomfortable, I was all alone, no one on the road to cheer and clap, my legs were hurting, mind you I was travelling at 3.50” per km and I had been running at that speed for the last 40kms. However I had to keep running at that pace because if I slowed down he would sense that I'm tiring and could get his second wind and catch me. Do you remember Andrew Lloyd in the 1500 meter race in the 2000 Olympics? 'Bugger the Silver, let's go for Gold' I looked at my stop watch and I was on target to run  2.40, that kept me going. It was a big relief when I saw the finish line at a distance and I could hear the people clapping and cheering even if they thought it was him approaching, it didn't matter, I crossed the finish line in just over 2.40 and achieved my dream of becoming an elite runner. The other guy finished just a minute and a half behind me.

The following year 1988, one of my mates ran the Coffs Harbour Marathon. When he came back he said: “Joe, this was the last marathon to be run at Coffs Harbour, so they gave the perpetual trophy to the winner who finished in 2'50” - you should've been there...Bugger!

I continued to run in the City to Surf for a few more years, in 1988 I ran my best time of 48.07 and finished 144th place overall. I ran my last race there in 1998 in 56.11. Altogether I ran 16 City to Surf races.

Someone asked me: Where did you get the energy to train 125 kms a week

First you've got to love doing it otherwise you get stressed out just thinking about running all those kilometers, plenty of good quality sleep, a good sustainable diet and avoid stressing out because stress takes out a lot of your energy and lowers your immune system which makes it easy to catch a cold or the Flu. Be prepared to endure a lot of pain and suffering along the way and with that in mind you will develop the stamina, will power and determination to achieve your goals and ambitions.