The Stawell Gift is Australia’s richest footrace, which is held in Stawell each year over the Easter long weekend. As one of the world’s most prestigious running events of its kind, the winning male and female runners each take home $40,000, while the other finalists also receive prize money. It’s a race that puts the Grampians on the international map and draws many eager athletes to the region to join in a world-class weekend of athletics.
Staged in Stawell’s Central Park – just a 10-minute drive from our Great Western cellar door – this year marks the 140th anniversary of the esteemed 120-metre sprint, which has run in all but five years since its inception in 1878. Four races were missed during WWII, and the fifth was due to the pandemic in 2020.
As the Official Wine Partner of the 140th Powercor Stawell Gift, Best’s Wines is thrilled to join in the action of this prestigious local event. Our finest Best’s Wines will be available at the official functions and for the spectators to sample at the many bars and cafes onsite. Let’s take a stroll back down memory lane to run through some of the significance of this historic local Victorian event. Get ready to run through the highlights…
Always a calendar highlight with locals in the Grampians, the three big days of racing also draw competitors and spectators from much further afield, and Stawell’s AFL and cricket ground is transformed into an athletics field for the long weekend.
Entertainment makes up a big part of the program, including a betting ring with visiting bookmakers from around the country, Fashions on the Field – with $1000 up for grabs for both Lady of the Day and Best Dressed Gent – and kids’ activities on Easter Sunday, with the egg hunt always a huge hit.
The 120-metre Powercor Stawell Gift is unique in that it runs on a grass track, with lanes separated by rope instead of painted lines on a traditional synthetic rubber track. The course is on a slight incline, too.
An unusual length, the race is equivalent to 130 yards, which is said to reflect the distance between two local pubs in England’s Sheffield, where professional running is believed to have started.
Over the three-day event, other races are also held across a range of distances, from 70 metres to 3200, plus the various heats for the Stawell Gift and the women’s race, known as the Change our Game Women’s Gift. It all culminates in the final men’s and women’s 120-metre sprint on Easter Monday.
The inaugural Stawell Gift was held in nearby Botanical Reserve in 1878, with a first prize of £20, and it ran at this site for 20 years before moving to its current home at Central Park.
The Stawell Gift is a handicapped race, where each runner starts off a different mark – the idea being that competitors should finish at the same time. The handicap is based on each runner’s abilities, calculated according to their previous times and performances in other sprint events.
This system means savvy competitors may try to make it work in their favour by qualifying for the finals at a time well within their capabilities. This can then give them a handicap that puts them in the best possible position for a win.
The competition has changed a lot since inaugural winner Bill Millard trained for the race by chasing kangaroos. The three-day event has since become one of the most serious on the running calendar and drawn countless big names over the years.
These include Olympians Asafa Powell of Jamaica, and Australia’s Tamsyn Lewis, Steve Hooker and Cathy Freeman, who made history in 1996 by winning the 400-metre event for the second year in a row, this time with a 50-second handicap.
Many other great stories have also come out of the race, including last year’s men’s winner Edward Ware. He won the 2021 Stawell Gift after first competing in the sprint in 2008 and placing second in 2011. He also took out the 200-metre event the same day, making him the first person in more than 50 years to win both titles.
This year, the program is once again jam-packed, with visitors able to move between the various food hubs and bars, betting ring and kids’ activities, as well as watching all the action on the field.
With the event offering equivalent prize money to women since 2015, the Change our Game Women’s Gift is not only important on the professional running circuit, but also the wider professional sports scene.
For anyone unable to attend the event this year, The Seven Network will broadcast the races live on Easter Monday from 11.30am.
The Easter long weekend provides an ideal opportunity to attend the event as well as explore the Grampians. From the Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park to its surrounding towns and villages, the region presents an array of activities and is home to incredible food and wine.
With our Best’s Wines cellar door just a 10-minute drive from Central Park, we’re in easy reach of the action, so be sure to make a booking for your preferred time. Discover our wines through one of our seated tasting experiences, perhaps followed by a platter of local produce enjoyed on our grounds. Be sure to book ahead though, it’s always a busy weekend.
Built in 1866, our cellar door gives you a taste of the region’s history – to a time even before that inaugural Stawell Gift – and you can also take a tour of our 1860s underground cellars, which were hand-dug by miners. There’s plenty of reasons to run on in and discover some of our best kept secrets.
If the Stawell Gift inspires you to get moving, several other running events are held in the Grampians region throughout the year, offering a great excuse to visit and, in these cases, participate.
Run the Gap is one of the biggest events, set to be held in Halls Gap within the Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park in May this year. There is a choice of 6km, 12km and 21km trails, and all proceeds go towards improving the region’s bike and walking paths. In addition, $1 from each registration will help maintain the park’s walking tracks.
In late August, there is the Wonderland Run, also held within the national park, with 20km and 66.5km trails for the serious runners, and a flatter, shorter run open to all ages, with kids’ prizes up for grabs.
And if you’re visiting the region at any other time and want to incorporate a run, walk or jog into your weekend, Park Run offers a free 5km community event in Ararat every Saturday morning.
We hope to see you over the Easter Long Weekend.
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