Life Member Profiles
By Brian Mannix
Bill Williamson was the first person to receive life membership of the Kembla Joggers. He was awarded this honour in 1986 for his effort, dedication and enthusiasm in promoting the KJs as a viable alternative to general athletics clubs in the Illawarra.
Bill and his family arrived in Australia in 1972 from Belfast, Northern Ireland, bringing with him a great running talent. His stories of the discipline, training, running terrain and the people he ran with in the country of his birth are legendary.
As a young man, Bill was inspired by the great Czech athlete, Emil Zatopek, to the extent that he adopted some of his training techniques (although to my knowledge, he did not include running up stairs with wife Florence on his back!). He also incorporated some of the coaching methods of Arthur Lydiard, the famous New Zealand coach of the 60's and 70's, and of that radical of all coaches, the late Percy Cerutty of Portsea, Victoria.
The idea of a distance running club in the Illawarra, was conceived in 1973 from simple beginnings, within the walls of the Chief Electrical Engineer's Department at BHP Steel, and later from other departments within BHP ... Bill at the centre of operations.
Around this time, an appropriate name was sought for the running group and with much input from Bill and others, the name Kembla Joggers evolved. This title was appropriate as it reflected the workplace (Port Kembla) and the training venue (Mt Kembla).
Bill became the driving force behind the formation of the club as coach, mentor, motivator and handicapper extraordinaire. He kept the group together, arranging training venues, programs and races. To his credit, the run around Mt Kembla from Windy Gully still operates every Wednesday afternoon, as does Lysaght's Oval on Monday and Friday afternoons.
In the mid '70's, Lysaght's Oval was selected as a venue for track work and here, Bill introduced various forms of training based on his own experience and the training methods of the coaches previously mentioned. Bill provided a smorgasboard of interval work and sustained running over a number of distances.
With this increased training, the improvement in general fitness of the runners was remarkable. PB's were shattered and race times tumbled and, to keep everyone abreast of the latest exploits of members, he introduced a monthly newsletter, 'Kembla News', later changed to 'Mt Kembla News'.
The 'boom' years of running were in the '70s and early '80s and Bill could see that the Kembla Joggers had an opportunity to ride the crest of the fun run craze. He encouraged us to organise teams and run in the many fun runs that were around at the time. Between 1973-1975, Kembla Jogger teams placed first to third on numerous occasions.
Then in 1975, we were dismayed to learn that Bill and his family were returning to Belfast to live. This caused us great concern and I recall that his sendoff at the Master Builder's Club resembled something of a wake. However, the situation in Northern Ireland forced Bill and Florence to rethink their position and, to our delight, they returned to Australia in 1976.
It didn't take Bill long to settle in and he was soon back into a rigorous training routine and, as one would expect, he swept us along with his enthusiasm and inspiration to achieve our goals. It is significant to note that in 1978, the Kembla Joggers won many fun runs as a direct result of Bill's expertise. Some of these team wins were The Lighthouse 10, Fisher's Ghost, City To Surf, Mercury Fun Run, Nowra Circular 7 and the Surfer's Paradise 4 x 41/2 mile relay. Under his guidance the Kembla Joggers had become a force to be reckoned with.
As an indication of what inspiration and ability can do for you, Bill at 24 years of age, read a book entitled 'How To Become A Champion', on the evening before an important club race in Northern Ireland. It was written by Percy Cerutty. The race was a relay over a hundred miles and Bill ran the last 41/2 miles (6.8 km) in a record time of 19min 48secs (ie 4.39secs/mile or 2.55secs/km). As far as is known, the record still stands.
His record as a young man in Ireland is an enviable one:
17 years of age
220 yards 23.00
440 yards 51.00
23 years of age
880 yards 01.56
1 mile 04.14
2 miles 08.58
3 miles 13.58
10 miles 51.00
As a veteran athlete, Bill has an outstanding record:
1973 Age 36
2nd Australian Veteran's 10km Cross Country Championship
2nd Australian Veteran's 10km Track Championship
1974 Age 37
5th Australian Veteran's 1500m Track Championship
3rd Australian Veteran's 5km Track Championship
1975 Age 38
3rd NSW Veteran's 5km Track Championship
1st NSW Veteran's 10km Track Championship
1st NSW Veteran's Cross Country Championship
3rd NSW Marathon 2hrs 35mins
3rd NSW 1/2 Marathon 71.10
1977 Age 40
1st NSW Veteran's 5km Track Championship 15.33
1st NSW Veteran's 10km Track Championship 31.52
2nd Australian Veteran's 5km Track Championship 16.06
2nd Australian Veteran's 10km Track Championship 33.30
1981 Age 44
3rd NSW Veteran's 10km Track Championship 34.14
1987 Age 51
1st NSW Veteran's 5km Track Championship 16.01
1st NSW Veteran's 10km Track Championship
5th World Veteran's 5km Track Championship 16.20
7th World Veteran's 10km Track Championship 34.10
2nd World Veteran's 10km Cross Country
Bill has also held the NSW 5km Track Championship titles for the following age groups : 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54 years.
His performance as a Kembla Jogger is equally outstanding and serves as an example to younger members as to what can be achieved, given ability, determination and training.
Age 39 - 9 miler 50.36
Age 39 - 4 miler 21.50
Age 42 - 7.1 miler 41.08
Age 42 - 1 hour track run (grass) – 11 miles 426 yards
Age 46 - 6 miles(track) 32.57
Age 46 - 1 mile (grass track) 4.52
Over the 25 years that I have known Bill, he has always encouraged runners to reach their potential. It matters not to him that they are 8 years old or 80, or whether they can run a 5 minute or a 10 minute mile. His advice and support are always there.
He is a dedicated runner of outstanding ability, and although much water may have rolled under the bridge, his enthusiasm is always there. Many runners would not have reached their personal goals without his guidance.
The Kembla Joggers would not have existed without Bill's vision and energy in and since the early 1970's. He is the epitome of KJs.
It is with great sadness that we share the passing of Bill Williamson on Tuesday September 15th, 2020 after a long illness. Bill is survived by his wife Florence and family.