Mile News

Albie Thomas, champion runner, was one of Australia’s best

November 06, 2013

Three-time Olympian first man to break 4 minutes for the Mile on a grass track

By David Tarbotton and Ron Bendall, Sydney Morning Herald

Albie Thomas was one of Australia's greatest distance runners. He broke world records, competed at three Olympic Games, was a dual Commonwealth Games medalist and after his career coached and worked tirelessly for the St. George Athletics Club.

Albert George Thomas was born in Hurstville on February 8, 1935. He was too small (his adult height was 165cm) for any success at rugby league, but in 1951, when he was at Canterbury Boys' High School, he started to emerge as an athlete.

In September that year, at the Combined High Schools state carnival, Thomas won bronze in the open 880 yards and Mile races. He was encouraged to join St. George Athletics and compete in the Tuesday night club races on Hurstville Oval, where he ran in bare feet until ''too many prickles'' drove him to buy a second-hand pair of shoes.

He was doing well but things changed in 1953, after he went to Percy Cerutty's Portsea training camp. He started following a training program written by Cerutty, running on the Wanda dunes, and in July 1953 he was third in the NSW junior cross country championship. Over summer he was second in the state two-mile championship. In July 1954 he won the NSW Novice Championship and his times were still coming down.

Excited about the upcoming Melbourne Olympic Games, Thomas bought tickets for his girlfriend, Nola Hartnett, and himself (he and Nola were married in 1958). He certainly didn't expect to be competing but, a little over 12 months later, he did.

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