The Merri Marathon

On Wednesday morning, just across the bridge from The People’s Republic of Northcote, the Merri Creek Primary community held a run-a-thon to raise money for the school. It was called the Merri Marathon.

The event was organised by Trevor who, sounding like a marshal from the Olympic Stadium in London, did a superb job. He was helped by his fellow teachers – like Reita (in her red runners) and Mellane (who was disguised as a kid) and all the others – and by those parents fortunate enough to be involved, because their partners were off in the city being website designers and barristers, or in their home studios converting the La Sera takeaway menu into iambic pentameter.

The kids jogged along Merri Creek to the home of the Brunswick Zebras, where the grass was green and lush and cool. Each class made a base camp in the centre of the soccer pitch, and then the kids started running.

They ran and ran and ran and ran and ran and ran.

It was a spectacular sight.

Those who were fortunate enough to be at Sumner Park will remember the day they learnt that Merri Creek Primary is a school of diversity – biomechanical diversity. Not since the good Lord sat down to design the leopard (in the morning) and the dromedary (late in the afternoon) have such possibilities been entertained. There were short strides and long strides, pigeon toes and duck’s feet; there were head wobblers and ground watchers, grimacers and gigglers; there were Cathy Freemans and Alberto Juantorenas, and even a Mo Farah or two.

But, whatever their style, they all tried so very hard. It was great to watch.

They were encouraged by the fund-raising cause and, by the flawless tallying regime of ice-cream sticks, texta, and a system of Base 3 counting – the educational opportunities extended beyond mere PE.

At school events like this, we notice the kids we know, the ones whose names we always hear around the dinner table, and whose faces greet us when we are late to school each morning. Stig was simply amazing; Zoe decided to chart a Lane 8 course (which I hope Mellane took into consideration in her final distance calculations); Henry ran even further than last year; James showed his characteristic determination; the twins – Meg and Ollie – are both as fit as a Merri trout; Ruby, with her arm in plaster, ran fearlessly until the final whistle. After a sluggish start, in keeping with his approach to mornings generally, Theo came to life and got going. Anna found a comfortable rhythm and pushed herself at the end.

Merri Creek Primary just kept wandering past the spot where I was standing.

I was encouraging Theo and Anna to stick at it, mainly because Uncle Sparrow and Uncle Mick had not considered the full mathematical possibilities of sponsoring a committed Merri Creek student at the rate of x$ per 100m, and I was looking forward to their reaction on receiving the bill. And, of course, I was also encouraging them because the money raised will make a difference.

On Wednesday night we were talking about how the funds might be used. I suggested the expansion of the mulberry plantation might be a high priority. But that was howled down by the kids who were arguing for a slip’n’slide from the basketball court to the steps of Mellane’s room, and a year’s supply of Everyday Agree shampoo.

So now the collection is on. Uncle Sparrow is negotiating instalments.

Congratulations to all you kids at Merri Creek Primary School. You were magnificent.



Visit our kids website

Check out the new sports writing magazine Long Bombs to Snake: Stories from Australian Sport. More info HERE.

1 Cover.indd

Available now

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo13, Anna11, Evie10. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.


  1. Mick Jeffrey says

    I still remember in High School during the first or second term we had the “Jog-A-Thon” on our school oval athletics track (grass). The inside lanes were sealed off for the serious runners, the outside lanes were for the walkers who just thought it was cool to get out of lessons. The poor old homeroom teacher often had a couple of girls acting as spotters to make sure they took our laps.

    Basically the lure for the semi serious was to raise a little money for equipment/pay to go on school teams (I made cross country team twice) and if you ran 30 laps (25 for girls) of the standard 400m track in the hour allocated you got a special school shirt with a “30 lap club” print on the back (a simple $20 donation in your name or the name of a family member was all that was needed). I was on course to make it one year when I was on 20 laps with 20 minutes to go before the rains came to wash out the last 20 minutes.

  2. What delightful images your story conjures, I wonder whether well towards the back of the pack was a fat wheezing kid … red of face and complaining … That would be me.

  3. matt watson says

    Oak Park primary did a fundraiser at the little athletics track near Moonee Ponds Creek.
    We all had to run a minimum of six laps.
    I think I raised a dollar.
    It was the seventies…
    Not sure where the money went, but the school deputy praised everyone.
    Another year the event was held at the school.
    I ran until my lungs ached for air.
    Raised about a dollar.
    People sponsored me for the event, not the number of laps…

Leave a Comment