The Bluestone Classic – A Brief History
By Kevin Cassidy
So named for having been run in the shadows of the old Pentridge Prison’s imposing bluestone walls for many years, the Bluestone Classic has a lengthy history. More historic was the prison itself that stood in the Melbourne suburb of Coburg for over 100 years before being reborn as a housing estate.
The brainchild of Coburg club stalwart, Mal Owen, the initial plan was to stage the event over an entire weekend with athletes spending the night in the clubrooms. Consisting of three separate 15km races over the three disciplines of track, road and cross country, the Bluestone Classic was not intended for the faint hearted.
After much thought and deliberation, club president Harold Stevens decided that a more condensed version on a single day would be far more manageable from an organisational point of view.
September 1985 saw the inaugural Bluestone Classic event take place in the form of Harold’s suggested one-day format encompassing 3km on the athletic track, 4km on the road and 8km of cross country in one continuous run, a combination that is unique across the nation and remains as such today.
Sunday morning was the initial timeslot before soon giving way to the Saturday afternoon scheduling which became somewhat of a tradition. Tradition doesn’t always govern everything and a return to the Sunday morning timeslot has occurred in recent years.
Lifting the trophies in the inaugural year were Ross Shilston and Lynley Thompson, setting a legacy that is now 33 years long.
In the early 90s, a visiting team of Chinese athletes graced the event and duly cleaned up all the trophies. Club President Brian Delaney provided us with much amusement as he struggled to pronounce the Chinese surnames at the presentation!
The deceptively testing cross country circuit amongst the paddocks of the old Kodak factory nestled neatly beside the athletic track is one of Melbourne’s best kept secrets that every runner should tackle at least once. No one should pass up this golden opportunity.
As for our 1985 champions, neither are still running. Lynley now lives in Bendigo while Ross can be found sitting with yours truly cheering on the Melbourne Storm.