The Sydney:10, now established as a quality 10km event in the Sydney running calendar, takes place this Saturday. We look back at the origins of the event.
Sometimes innovation and progress is in response to necessity; other times, due to opportunity. For the Sydney:10 it's a bit of both.
The event, in terms of its NSW Road Championships component, has a long history dating back to 1927 and has been held over a variety of distances from as long as 25km before being whittled down to 15km and finally the current 10km distance in 1991. David Tarbotton has written extensively on the history for Athletics NSW.
It's that 10km distance that has become a staple distance for mass participation events, but the foray into the Sydney:10 being an event open to all runners and its prime Sydney Olympic Park location - as opposed just being an event for registered Athletics NSW athletes - was primarily driven by the difficulty for Athletics NSW's clubs, who traditionally had been host for winter championships, in securing an appropriate course.
Throughout the 90s and early 2000s Holsworthy Army Barracks was the home to the event, with a 5km loop road inside the base providing a good course without the need for any road closures, traffic management plans or the like. But as time went by during times when Australia was involved in military conflicts abroad, the Army rightfully couldn't always provide access to the secured environment.
Come 2003, Holsworthy was not available and a makeshift location at Abbotsbury was used. Simply put, the course was a disgrace, with the surface labelled by many participants as a 'goat track'. The winning time - previously always under or around the 30 minute mark for the men - was over 32 minutes.
Forays into other locations in future years when Holsworthy wasn't available continued to pose problems, but things came to a head in 2007 when at a week's notice Holsworthy wasn't available and a course at Appin was hastily secured by Athletics NSW. It was apparent the state body had to take over the future running of the event directly when it became clear that Holsworthy could never be relied upon again as a venue - the Army had advised confirmation could only ever be given 48 hours prior to the event and was subject to change.
With an office based at Sydney Olympic Park, ANSW's search for a permanent location for a flat, fast course was self-evident, but requiring partnership... an event with only a few hundred open participants wasn't attractive enough to guarantee road closures without considerable expense. Enter the Sydney Striders - who also had hundreds of participants running their monthly 10km races - and a pilot for a jointly conducted event got legs.
It involved change in practices in running the event, but more importantly, a change in mindset. It was developing into a race for all, rather than only club members. It wasn't entirely welcomed by all traditionalists ("how can you have our Championship at a Fun Run?!?"), but was much overdue, as ANSW noted at the time in a media release: "For too long Athletics NSW has been working parallel to other groups conducting winter fun run events rather than working in conjunction with them."
The 2008 event 'ticked the boxes' in year one - a quality winning time of 29:45 from Russell Dessaix-Chin in defeating then 19-year-old junior Ryan Gregson (30:17) and Eliza Stewart winning the women's race in 34:27, and over 500 participants in the 10km race. After two years Athletics NSW took over running of the event, and in time adopted the Sydney:10 brand, integrated commonplace technology such as chip timing, broadened the participation base and has secured sponsorship year-on-year.
The event now finishes inside Sydney Olympic Park Athletic Centre and boasts quality race records from 2015 of 29:22 (Liam Adams) and 32:12 (Gwen Jorgensen), and even has Star Wars merchandise available this year (being held on May the Fourth) and will have around a thousand participants. Leading contenders this year include World Cross Country representatives Emily Brichacek and Leanne Pompeani in the women's field and national record holder Ben St Lawrence in the men's.
To follow the results of this year's Sydney:10, visit Athletics NSW's website.
Disclosure: Tim was the Communication Manager at Athletics NSW from 2006-2008, the period during which the the inaugural Athletics NSW/Sydney Striders Road Race was established.
Scott Westcott leads Anthony Haber during the 2009 race.
Current national 1500m champion Chloe Tighe was a winner of the junior 5km in 2009.
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