Interview: Trevor Vincent – Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist

1962 Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist in the Steeplechase Trevor Vincent Provides Tips and Insights for Runners of all Levels

Trevor Anthony Vincent is a former 3000 meters steeplechase runner from Australia. In 1962 he competed at the Commonwealth Games in Perth, Western Australia, winning the gold medal in the 3000m steeplechase event. He also competed at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. Vincent has been awarded an Australian Sports Medal and the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to athletics. He now coaches at Glenhuntly Athletic Club as at a running group at Monash University’s campus in Clayton for more than 100 students and staff.

Below you will find insights into the motivation and drive which saw Trevor reach the highest levels – as well as some practical tips for runners at all ability levels looking to improve their performance.

You went from a teenager watching the 1956 Melbourne Olympics to winning Commonwealth gold six years later. Quite an achievement! What made you start running and what kept you motivated?

There was a nice lead up how I became an elite runner.

In my last year at Secondary school I ‘found’ running – with inspiration from a dedicated teacher, who loved the sport of athletics. That year I won – with little to no training – the school 1 mile & 880yds championships.

In 1954 the exploits of our own John Landy, in his effort to achieve the first sub four minute mile, captured the imagination of all Australians, young and old – and this, followed by the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne made a huge impression on me. I was inspired by the efforts not only of the Australians – but also by the super stars who competed here, in a wide range of sports. I also was fortunate enough to train with the World Record holder for 6 miles, Dave Stephens regularly around 1960.

So I had tremendous motivation around the age of 18/19 – a critical time for an athlete to gain focus and set realistic goals.

Can you tell us the story how you won the gold medal and a little anecdote of that very special day?

In 1961 with the Victorian State team I went to New Zealand for a series of Cross Country races. On that trip I met Olympic Medalists Murray Halberg, Barry Magee, and John Davies, and this was an incredibly motivating experience.  Also in 1961 I showed a few glimpses of some ability on the track – winning both the Victorian & Australian 1 Mile Championships.

I was most fortunate during my serious running career to have some most talented athletes  to train regularly with – and the most famous was Ron Clarke – who went on to establish 18 World records and  win an Olympic medal in Tokyo 1964 (in the 10k).

Partly due to my feeling even in those very early days that Ron was something special –  I decided to tackle the 3000m Steeplechase event, and I found very quickly that this event suited me perfectly. I went on during my career to win 4 Australian Steeplechase Championships.

I was named in the Australian team to compete in the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Australia. Prior to the Games I traveled to Indonesia for International competition where I won both the Steeplechase and 5000m events there.

At the 1962 Commonwealth Games I went in to my race as one of the favourites – together with an English athlete, Maurice Herriott, who later (1964) picked up an Olympic Silver medal in the Steeplechase event. The day of the Steeplechase final was very hot (103.9 Degrees) and made the race extremely testing. After a tough struggle with Herriott and 2 other Australians I broke clear in the last lap and went on to win the Gold Medal by a clear margin (1.6 sec)

Being a pro athlete takes a lot of self-discipline and is paved by great sacrifices. How did you find a balance between your personal and professional life?

During my best running years I most certainly had to perform a juggling act with my lifestyle and  priorities. I was a full time employee, I also was married and in 1962 we welcomed our first child.

Most fortunately my wife was very understanding and supportive during those times and there was sufficient flexibility in my employment to permit me to run, work and have a stable family life.

Trevor Vincent Runner

What were your personal bests and achievements?

3000m Steeplechase – 8 min 38.9 sec – in 1964 – and that ranked me in the top 10 in the world at that time. In fact I was one of the race favorites for the Steeple at the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, however, due to injury, I was unable to perform at my best at the Games in my heat and failed to make the final.

1 Mile event –  4 min 1.7 sec – and that ranked me 6th all-time in Australia at the time. One of my regrets is not achieving a sub 4 minute mile – a task I feel was within my capability.

I won around 20 State / Victorian Championships & 6 Australian Championships – over distances of 1 Mile/1500m, 3 Mile/5000m, & 3000 M Steeplechase as well as in Cross Country & Road Running events.

I set National records for the 3000m Steeplechase & 2km flat distances as well as State records for the steeplechase in Victoria, New South Wales & Western Australia as well as twice establishing New Zealand records for the Steeplechase.

Of course my Gold Medal winning performance in the 3000m Steeplechase at the 1962 Commonwealth Games was a highlight.

What are your preferred environments for running?

I rarely ran/trained on an athletic track – most of my running was done on grass and on forest paths – my much preferred environments. Discovering the fabulous forest environment in Sherbrooke Forest in the Dandenong Ranges (close to Melbourne) was a major turning point in my running career. I found running in that environment was greatly beneficial – it improved my strength, rythym, flexibility and reflexes.

Are you still running and/or competing?

I still visit the Forest almost every Sunday morning where I walk/jog/run for around 75- 90 minutes. We then retreat to our favorite café for morning tea. This remains one of the highlights of my week.

During the week I run on a local golf course around 4km on about 4 days each week.

What is the overall biggest motivation that keeps you running?

Easily my greatest motivation to stay involved is to stay in touch with other people with the same preferences for a healthy lifestyle – most of my best friends are involved in athletics.

Also I greatly enjoy playing a mentoring role as well as being involved in coaching distance runners.

The other motivation is the peace and tranquility I feel when on a run – or walk – in a nice environment. I also like the mental benefits of it; the opportunity to forget the troubles of the world for at least an hour or more each day.

You are running a much loved and successful running club at Monash University (Clayton, Australia). Could you tell more about the club and its members?

I was first invited to take the reins of the small running group based at the Clayton Campus on Monash University in around 2006. At that time they met of a Tuesday evening – as we still do these days. In those early days the regular weekly attendance was less than 10 and they were mainly males. These days we have a fifty-fifty ratio (M-F) and around 100 active members. We see local residents, University students and staff of all nationalities involved.

A most rewarding outcome of my involvement at Run Monash is the compliments I receive from members – and especially the continuing contact with overseas students who have returned to their home countries.

A comparatively new initiative at Run Monash are our regular (approx. 6 per year) 2km time trials. These are great to monitor individual improvement and progress.

Monash Running

Monash University – Pic Credit wikipedia.org

How can one get faster?

Fact, that some are ‘born with it’ (speed)

However everyone can improve in their running if they incorporate faster running with easy, run on a range of surfaces, include hills in their weekly program and race regularly.

Practice acceleration by experimenting in training and in races.

Include one run per week running in spikes, if aiming at racing shorter distances.

 How to become a better runner?

Lead a ‘balanced’ life style. Avoid illness and injury, as interruptions to training can cause issues if the return to running is not properly planned. So train sensibly, eat and sleep well, gradually increase the volume and intensity of your training. Set personal running goals – short, medium and longer term.

It is really important to learn how to pace yourself. Pace is categorized into easy (can talk while running), steady (talk is possible, but main focus is to maintain the effort) and hard (talking is very difficult and would cause disruption in the effort). The 3 different categories of paces can be mixed or practiced separately.

Keep a training diary to review your efforts.

What is the best nutrition plan for training, race and post race?

Follow a balanced diet – especially Iron, B12 and Vitamins A, C, & E

Eat less food on race days – go into a race a ‘little hungry’. Carbohydrate loading is popular with many leading into longer races – marathon in particular.

Remember fluid replacement during and especially after exercise. 

How would you set up a weekly training plan to be able to complete half marathon?

I recommend aiming to run on 6 or 7 days each week, following a graduated training program that is tailored to address your weaknesses and  get you stronger and faster.

A possible structure of a weeks’ training;

Sunday – long run – easy to steady pace- up to 2 hrs – on hilly course & on a range of surfaces.

Monday – Easy run – up to 1 hr (a lighter day to make you ready for the rest of the week). 5 to 6 strides to finish

Tuesday – after a reasonable warm up – a ‘fartlek’ session, then warm down run

Wednesday – Medium long run – (easy to steady), on an undulating course

Thursday – A track session – faster, shorter efforts – good warm up & warm down

Friday – Easy run – 40/45 minutes. Finish with 5/6 strong strides over around 80-100m (jog back to start recovery after each)

Saturday – Race, Hills session (hill up to 300m long), or acceleration run

What are your most cherished memories as a runner ?

My Commonwealth Games Gold medal.

Participation in the Tokyo Olympic Games.

Travel to various parts of the world for Athletic competition – including a number of trips as Australian Team Manager.

Meeting many of the world’s finest athletes from a wide range of eras.

Being awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for services to sport/athletics (2008), Australian Sports Medal (2000)

 

You can find out more about Trevor and the Monash Running Club, and find contact details too at: http://www.runmonash.info

Run Monash also have a Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/runmonash/

 

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