John Gilmour
John Gilmour

Gilmour says: `Over the years I've had numerous falls, run into wire, torn the seat out of my shorts through misjudging a barbed-wire fence, but ... whenever I fell on my back I'd tell myself "Get up, Gilmour. In no way is running a race going to defeat you after what you've been through."' He began serious competition running again in 1946, representing Western Australia in National Championships.

My time over the 15 miles that year was 1:28:36. As a veteran, 20 and 30 years later, I ran that distance four or five minutes faster...

Gilmour proved not only one of our greatest sportsmen, but as a veteran he has proved an astonishing achiever and may be held up as an inspiration to veterans, to the blind, and to anybody capable of understanding heroism. He received the Order of Australia in 1979 and has a vast array of sporting awards, but, probably because he is a Western Australian, his recognition beyond the sporting area has been modest.

At the age of 60, Gilmour was putting up Olympic times and could have represented Australia at the Olympics. He celebrated his 60th birthday in Hanover by winning every event at the World Games from the 800 metres through the marathon in `a rampage unequalled in the masters' track and field,' with new world records in four of five events. He took 19 seconds off the 1500 metre record, running it in 4 minutes 32 seconds, the first 60-yearold to break 4.50. As reporter John Woods wrote:

In the 5K your correspondent had the honour of being placed in the fast heat, and Gilmour just nipped him at the wire by two feet. Of course, your correspondent then completed the race by running two more laps!

He was, Woods commented, 'the most unobtrusive champion at the meet'.

Perhaps ironically, at the veterans' athletics in Japan in 1982, as Gilmour recounted it: `the Japanese veterans seemed more intent on encouraging me than concentrating on their own performance ... after the race I was surrounded by Japanese men of my own age and older. They wanted me to autograph their program. Maybe I'd met some of them during the war'. As usual he won his age group for the event and the Japanese gave him 'a gold medal big as a frying pan'.

At the age of 80 he is still breaking International records, and one imagines that if he ever slows down it will simply be under the weight of medals and International awards he has won: `I have yet to burn out. Burning out is in your mind through listening to others talking instead of your own body. You burn out when you're looking for an excuse ...'

This nearly blind old man still has what seems a young athlete's body, buoyed up by an utterly unquenchable spirit. If Gilmour's survival in the war is the first part of this book, and his athletic achievements the second, it is that great spirit that is the third part of it, uniting the rest of the story. Also-and perhaps this is the most important thing of allit is the story of a good man, modest, unassuming, a devoted husband and father who has put a tremendous effort not only into his own sport but into helping people.

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