The Churchill Park Handicaps have been held in the Churchill National Park, Lysterfield, since the establishment of the event in 1987. The park is located approximately 35 km from the Melbourne CBD via the Monash Freeway and is a remnant of natural bush and an example of the original landscape before the development of the south-eastern suburbs. Native flora and fauna, including kangaroos, flourish in the park.
Athletes have the choice of running a single lap of the 6 km course or two laps in order to complete 12 km. Runners traverse a challenging circuit of dirt and gravel trails, including a climb to a hilltop which provides a magnificent view over the suburbs to the city, although it is likely that few athletes are paying much attention to the view by the time they have laboured up the very steep hill.
Several of the Association’s best known athletes have prospered in the Churchill Park Handicaps. Richard Hope (SK) holds the 12 km course record and has recorded fastest times on four occasions. Greg Lyons (OS) has also been the fastest runner four times. Anna Thompson (OW) holds the women’s records for both distances and has recorded the fastest women’s time on five occasions. Somewhat controversially, Craig Couper (OH) won the 6 km handicap four years in succession from 2006 to 2009.
Old Carey and Old Geelong Grammarians host afternoon tea in the park’s picnic shelter after the racing is over for the day, continuing a tradition that has been greatly enjoyed by the athletes.
The Churchill Park Handicaps commence at 2.30 pm and athletes should check in no later than 2.15 pm. Parking is tight, so it is a good idea to be early.
Richard Hope (SK) 38:22 1995/Anna Thompson (OW) 44:26 2000
Darren Wilson (OS) 18:39 2001/Anna Thompson (OW) 21:08 2001