The first race took place in 1983 to commemorate the centenary of the founding of Broken Hill, with competitors pushing loaded wheelbarrows across 355km over five days.
Peter Salerno, who participated in the inaugural event, said the significance of the wheelbarrow race was to acknowledge the trek that Cornish miners at Burra were forced to make after copper mines closed in the 1800s.
“In Burra when the mines ran out and Broken Hill started their mines, they had to leave,” Salerno said.
“The original miners packed up what they had in wheelbarrows and set off for Broken Hill.
“When they did the race, they incorporated those things into it. There was about thirty kilos of mining gear in the wheelbarrow.”
The Regional Council of Goyder is now planning for a tribute event later this year to mark 40 years since the original gruelling race.
“We aren’t doing a full-length revival, we are just going to run it from Terowie to Burra and we are looking at October for the event,” said the event coordinator Glen Christie.
“We have had quite a number of inquiries, particularly from people with memorabilia back when the races ran.”
In the 1980s, teams of four to six would take turns pushing the wheelbarrow while the resting teammates stood on makeshift running boards on a car alongside the runner.
Salerno said that the fast swap-overs between teammates were what separated the higher placed teams from the rest.
“You only ran fifty metres at the most, and the quick changes were what made people get way ahead,” he said.
Christie said the organisers are trying to figure out how to make it feasible for people who want to compete to safely do these swap-overs in light of the increased traffic on the road today.
“Obviously considerations like B-triples and B-quads being on the highway more now than they were back then is a big thing,” Christie said.
The original race had a $13,000 cash prize for the winning team, equivalent to $40,000 today, and Christie said there will be prizes for the racers this year as well.
“We do have financial support from AGL who’ve come on board, so we’ve just got to work out what the logistical costings are going to be,” Christie said.
“What we’d really like to see is the prize donated to a charity if people are willing to do that, as a first year event.”
Participants from the original races are invited to contact the Goyder City Council with any insight they can share, while anyone interested in running in the new event is also encouraged to come forward.
“If things go well and we think it’s logistically possible, we are hoping to do a full-length five-day event next year,” Christie said.Jump to next article