Mona’s Bringing It All Back Home

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Ballarat Marathon Weekend

Steve Moneghetti AM shouldn’t need much in the way of introduction. Winner of the Tokyo and Berlin marathons, “Mona” has represented Australia at four Olympic Games, four Commonwealth Games and six World Championships. Since retiring from professional running, the Sports Australia Hall of Fame member has given much of his time to helping others participate in the sport. He’s either on the board or an ambassador for many of this country’s marathons, peak bodies and charities, from Run for the Kids to Athletics Australia. On top of all that, he’s famous for his down-to-earth, approachable nature. He was certainly generous with his time when it came to explaining what he’s been up to – as only a part of a talented team, he hastened to add – as race director for the new Ballarat Marathon.

Hi Steve, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. What does it mean to you to be able to create this new marathon, the event you’re famous for, in your hometown of Ballarat?

It’s pretty special. People have always spoken about Ballarat being one of the centres of distance running in Australia. Even before my time, there has always been a strong club aspect to Ballarat, including cross country running with the lake and forests around town. So it’s great to now have an event that can solidify that attention and give people an opportunity.

In the past we’ve had people come out of Ballarat, so we produce a Collis [Birmingham] or a Stewy [McSweyn] or a, you know, Steve Moneghetti. But now we’ve actually got people coming to Ballarat to see what we’ve got here. So it’s a bit of a role reversal.

“The mile and 5K on the Saturday will be pure go hard, go fast racing. Whereas on the Sunday we’re looking for people to run PBs over the 10K, half and marathon.”

Steve Moneghetti


We often discuss the marathon within Victoria during the autumn period, and runners have asked if there could be another race around this time. So it’s great to see this emerge.

Yeah, the timing is good. There are so many events now, it’s hard to get a date that’s completely clear – there’s Great Ocean Road in a few weeks and Canberra Marathon that’s just been – but I think we’ve found a pretty good time.


You’re branding it as the Ballarat Marathon, but you’ve actually got two days of events. On Saturday, you’ve got the 5km, both community and elite, and then you’ve got elite miles for adults and juniors. Then, on Sunday, it’s the 10km, half marathon and the classic 42km distance.

What was the goal with combining the middle distance and long distance events over a full weekend like that?

We hope people will visit Ballarat and maybe spend the weekend here, not just drive up on the morning, run their particular half marathon or 10K and then drive home. We want them to stay and embrace the city.

We wanted to bring a cycling criterium flavour to the events on the Saturday; it’s got a street circuit vibe, so people can come down, have a drink, get some food and watch some pretty slick racing. Then maybe you’ll have an early night and get up and pound the pavement yourself on Sunday, or maybe you’ll just support the runners in the longer events.


What’s been your hands-on, day-to-day role as race director in all of this?

I’m race director for lots of events, but I’m not technically the race director for this one. It’s my title, but perhaps some people’s idea of what a race director does and what I do are two different things. I’m more of a race conduit. I’m the face of the event and a good sounding board.

We’ve assembled a terrific team from all around Australia, so it’s really coordinating that. I’m providing my expertise from over a number of years, being a local, liaising with some of the organisations that we need to engage with.

On the weekend, I’ll be around to answer the questions that people might have, but I’ll also be able to direct them to the person that does have the answer if I don’t have it.

“The idea was to have two laps rather than go to what might have been the hillier parts of Ballarat or more difficult sections that were a bit messy.”

Steve Moneghetti


What can you tell us about the course?

It’s an interesting course. If you said to me, give me anywhere in Ballarat to set out a half marathon course, it would be picturesque. And pretty fast – I reckon we’ve got that ticked off. I was thinking of the Commonwealth Games, when that event was going to be here, and the potential marathon course for that. I wanted to showcase Ballarat and we’ve been able to do that on this course.

There are two laps, which personally I don’t mind. The idea was to have two laps rather than go to what might have been the hillier parts of Ballarat or more difficult sections that were a bit messy. I reckon this one’s pretty clean, and you don’t go too far in a straight line. You go for about 3km and then we’re into Victoria Park, which is nice park land, then back out onto Sturt Street up through the Arch of Victory for another couple of kilometres up there. Then you come back, going around Lake Wendouree, which is my home and where I do a lot of running.* And it can be really picturesque, so it’s a beautiful part to run.

*Editor’s note: In fact, Steve has done so much running there that the lakeside circuit track is named after him.


And then back down Sturt Street. We do a little loop around the historic part of Ballarat: Lydiard Street, Camp Street, then down to the mall, and then you’ve got to come back up. There is a 200 metre hill at the finish, but I’m quite happy that it’s near the finish. We could have reversed it and started with that, but we preferred to have the open run up Sturt Street at the start. So it’ll be a slightly challenging finish, but it’s a beautiful course. It’s only about 80 metres elevation per lap, so it’s a fairly flat course. If it’s not windy, it’ll be a really fast course.

And that’s for all courses. The different distances cut off little bits here and there, but basically all the distance courses are using part of that Sturt Street strip and circuit. And they’ll all be separate, except the half and the marathon which are starting together. On Sunday, the 10K won’t start until most of the participants have finished those two events.


For the shorter events, we wanted to create the opportunity to run a fast mile or a fast 5K. We were looking at events like the Noosa Bolt, which I’ve run a few times. We wanted it to have that kind of feel. We do have that hill at the finish, so it won’t be breaking world records, but it’ll be a really fast course.

The mile and 5K on the Saturday will be pure go hard, go fast racing. Whereas on the Sunday we’re looking for people to run PBs over the 10K, half and marathon.

You mentioned the wind just now. What’s the weather usually like in late April in Ballarat?

Obviously I can’t control the weather, but we get some beautiful days in April. Two out of three years, or two out of three times, it will be good. I’m a positive person, so I’m hoping that this first year is one of those first two, not the third. For spreading the word in the first year, obviously we’d like to have perfect weather. I can’t guarantee that, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

“From an elite athlete winning and running two-hours-plus-a-few-seconds to the participant who is crawling across the finish line, or has hit the wall and is really struggling, when we cross the finish line, we’re all equal.”

Steve Moneghetti


Yeah. Fingers crossed for you, for sure. Can you tell us a little bit about the kind of field you’re hoping to attract?

We’re delighted with the athletes coming through at the top end. Tom Do Canto [2:11:51, Valencia 2023] will lead the marathon pack. Queenslander Ella McCartney, who finished seventh in last year’s Gold Coast Marathon [with a time of 2:38:43], has signed up. And we’ve got some really good runners in the half. For example, we’ve got the Mango Boys – Dave Ridley, Reece Edwards and Ben Kelly – coming up from Melbourne.

And how many entrants are you looking at?

We’re edging up to 4,000 across the weekend, which is absolutely outstanding. I could not be more delighted with the entries. We’re seeing that entries in events across Australia, across the world, are pretty high at the moment. We’ve been a beneficiary of that, and I’m really excited about the enthusiasm and the number of people who want to come to Ballarat to run.


More generally, what is special to you about the marathon, compared to all other running events?

I love the marathon. Obviously, there’s the history of [the ancient Greek runner] Pheidippides dying, but then there’s the link to the modern Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens and that true human spirit that the marathon embodies.

There are great stories that unfold in the marathon from a personal nature, and I’ve been through them myself. You have good days; you have bad days. The human body’s not generally meant to run that far, so you test yourself. What I love now is the dropdown effect of the event. From an elite athlete winning and running two-hours-plus-a-few-seconds to the participant who is crawling across the finish line, or has hit the wall and is really struggling, when we cross the finish line, we’re all equal. We are all members of the marathon club. I love the uniqueness of that club because you have to look inside yourself, you have to dig deep, and you have to get that last bit of energy and effort out to cross the finish line.


So, you learn a lot about yourself. You never win; the marathon always wins. That’s how it works in our event. But you also build some great camaraderie and respect. You know, the runners that I’ve raced against over the years, I’ve got the utmost respect for them. We’re all friends because we understand the hard work that goes into completing a marathon. It’s immense and you respect everybody’s efforts for doing that. That’s what I love about the marathon; it’s almost a metaphor for life.

That’s certainly played out over my career. I used to say “I’m a marathon runner” and people would go, “Wow, you’re crazy. How do you do that?” Now people go, “Oh yeah, I ran three last month. They’re a great event, aren’t they?” So it’s become normalised. I don’t have to explain what a fascinating event the marathon is because everyone gets it now. Which is great – it means we can get on with the banter about what unfolded in our own marathons!


You’ve also been an ambassador and advocate for running for a long time. Why is it important to you to help others follow in your footsteps?

I love what I do. I’ve been fortunate to find this specific area of my life that I was very good at and have been able to continue to do over a long period of time. I love challenging myself, so I love that feeling of what competitive running does for me. I’m having a few issues at the moment just with my health and my body, but I like to think that I’m still going to be in a place where I can continue to set my own personal goals.

So I love seeing other people also go through that journey. So, for me to stay involved, to promote events, I’ve become an ambassador for everything! I have a true passion for running and the benefits it can give you – the health, mental, physical and social benefits. So to be able to share that and have other people embrace it as well, it’s just so fulfilling for me.

“You never win; the marathon always wins. That’s how it works in our event.”

Steve Moneghetti


Being involved in organising events is almost like training for a marathon. You decide, “Yes, I’m going to do an event.” So you pick it, and then on the first day you go, “Oh yeah, this is hard but it’s a long way off; it’ll be fine.” And then you get through the middle bit; you get fit. Then you start getting a bit nervous. You’re going, “Oh actually, gee, I might run all right here – this could be good.” And then you get to the event, and you’re nervous on the start line, but the event goes ahead. You do what you’ve got to do and afterwards you sit back and do the debrief, and you have a beer and chat about it.

That’s sort of what’s happening now in my life, you know? I get involved in an event and I see it start; then I follow it through and watch it evolve. On the day, people turn up, the gun goes, they all participate, and we finish and I chat to a few people at the end of it. I’ll say, “How was that?” And they go, “Hey, that was fantastic. That’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.” And I tick that box and off we go to the next one.


And the other good thing, and sometimes this gets overlooked, is all the charities and causes that we are now bringing to the forefront of people’s consciousness because of running. Like Run for the Kids, which I’m involved with – we raised $1.3 million this year. So it’s the financial contribution, but it’s also the recognition that we are giving to a number of different causes. That makes me really proud to be involved in events.

It’s not too late to join any of the Ballarat Marathon events. Head over to the website and sign up.

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