Local Government has been a force behind the Burnie Ten throughout its 25 years. The race evolved from the then Burnie Council’s desire to promote the town and boost economic development through tourism.
When local port Deputy Harbour-Master and keen amateur runner, Captain Michael Boss-Walker, suggested a signature middle distance race a Burnie Development Committee, comprised of Council, Marine Board, Service Club, Business and Chamber of Commerce representatives, and Council fully endorsed it.
While elite runners provide the glamour, the Burnie Ten has not wavered from its original traditions to present a challenge for all of the family whether walking, jogging or running.
When Mike Boss-Walker suggested in 1984 a major footrace to promote the town, he could hardly have envisaged what an impact it would have, not only on this community but throughout Tasmania.
In 1984 a Burnie Ten Organising Committee was formed with Boss-Walker as Convenor/Secretary. The Committee were Councillors (Dr) Paul Cains and Deputy Warden (now known as Mayor) Adrian Hayward, appointed Publicity Officer and Sponsorship Officer respectively. Local teachers Phil Crombie (Athletic Director), Dick McKenna and Michael Walker (Financial Officers) and lawyer Nick Walker completed the group.
“We believe the Burnie Ten will do for distance running what Burnie’s New Year’s Day sports carnival has done for cycling and sprinting,” said Dr Cains.
The plan was to start and finish in Burnie’s main shopping centre, to promote the vibrancy of the town, with an out and back course to Wivenhoe.
Mainland and State elites were targeted and the Committee was confident it could attract up to a thousand participants.
They were not far off target, with 809 entries, including Stephen Moneghetti, of Ballarat (Victoria), who was destined to become a household name in middle distance athletics. Needless to say he won that first race and went on to repeat the feat three more times, in 1988, 1993 and 2001.
Tasmania’s three newspapers, local radio and the ABC announced the new event on Saturday, 8th September 1984, after a major launch function at the Burnie Civic Centre on the Friday.
On 22nd March 1985 The Advocate and Air New Zealand announced they had joined forces to become the race’s first naming rights sponsors. The contribution included three return air fares to San Francisco, flying Air New Zealand, for athletes to compete in the 10 km Bay-to-Breakers event.
By July 1985 it had become apparent the Burnie Ten was already being recognised as an event of national significance. Computer giant Wang, usually associated with capital city events such as the Wang Marathon and Live Aid telethon, had agreed to bring hardware and operators to Burnie to time the inaugural event.
By race eve, with 750 runners expected to face the starter, 22-year-old Ballarat civil engineer Steve Moneghetti, the reigning Australian cross country champion and just back from the World Student Games in Japan, was race favourite. His best 10km time was 28 minutes 56 seconds.
NSW Commonwealth Games representative Lawrie Whitty, however, would be competing with a previous best time of 28 minutes 26 seconds. Many others were considered to be “dark horses”.
Moneghetti, brooding over a disappointing campaign at the World Student Games in the heat of Kobe, Japan, finished in a time of 28 minutes and 54 seconds – the fastest 10 km ever recorded in Tasmania. It was the beginning of a legendary connection with this great race. Moneghetti went on to win the event four times – 1985, 1988, 1993 and 2001, the last only one second slower than his original winning time.
Whitty came in third, behind Victorian Adam Hoyle, who had led the field earlier.
Moneghetti followed a pre-race plan and took over the lead at 7km, opening up a 300m winning break.
While the race was a triumph for the elite athletes it more than fulfilled its promise as a run-jog-walk fun run, with competitors of all ages and stages and even a dog, taking part.
While Moneghetti’s four wins remain outstanding, there have been many other multiple wins. Andrew Lloyd (ACT) won in 1986, 1990 and 1991. Bundoora (Vic) runner Darren Wilson, later of the ACT, won the event in 1994, 1996 and 1997. Queenslander Pat Carroll won in 1987 and 1992, Ballarat (Vic) runner Craig Mottram in 2002 and 2003 and Martin Dent (ACT) in 2005 and 2007.
Tasmanians have also covered themselves in glory.
Best finished male Tasmanians include Dean Giblin, of Bellerive, who finished third overall in 1989 and Russell Foley, of West Hobart, who finished fourth overall in 1990. It should be noted that finishing positions have not always been recorded.
Hobart’s Kyle Risk is the undisputed female Tasmanian best ever. In 1997 Kylie finished second overall, 46 seconds behind Victorian Kate Anderson, who completed the distance in the record time of 32.02. The following year Kylie won the event, completing the distance six seconds faster, in 32.42. Then, in 1999 Kylie again won the race, this time in the record time of 31.42. Three truly remarkable performances! Kylie Risk was back in form in 2004 when she was first Tasmanian home, in 35.36.
Another Hobart runner, Donna MacFarlane, has been first female Tasmanian home on three occasions, in 2005 (36.50), 2006 (35.21) and 2008 (35.26).