How it all began...
It was in 1958 when Bruce Samuels, a local footballer and railway porter, ran to the top of the (438m) Mount Cooroora. He later casually announced in the bar of the Railway Hotel which used to be in Pomona, that he had done it under an hour. His claims brought doubt and scoffs from the idling drinkers who needled Samuels into declaring that he was prepared to do it again, under supervision. The race was arranged, a good few side bets placed, and Samuels after no special preparation set out on March 22nd 1958 to prove he could do it “inside the hour”.
To the amazement of most, Samuels returned with twenty minutes of his hour to spare to collect his hundred pound wager. He became the town hero and was nicknamed “Hilary” Samuels. The feat was recorded on the wall of the hotel bar and it was there in 1959, that Barry Webb, a 21 year old Brisbane man, decided to take up the challenge. Barry was no speedster but knew that he had stamina and was in good condition. He declared that he could beat Samuels’ time and a race was set for the following Saturday. There was little publicity, no fanfare, but as it is the way in small communities everyone knew it was on and the street in front of the hotel, just before 2.30 pm, resembled a city rush hour.
Webb, ruddy faced and hot but showing surprisingly little distress, delivered the sealed envelope that he had collected on the mountain top to the door of the hotel as the stopwatch recorded 35 minutes. To the cheers and backslaps of the crowd he received about 25 shillings from the passing around of the hat. One of the first to shake Webb’s hand was “Hilary” Samuels who later announced that he would do some preparation and attempt to recapture his record.
On June 27, 1959, the first official Pomona King of the Mountain Race was organised with each runner having to run the course before the next was allowed to start.
Frank Mainwaring was the fastest, taking 31.51 while Samuels took 31.52.5, the other three runners were Reg Ollenberg (32.06) fourteen year old Ken Fullerton (32.27) and Barry Webb (33.34).
Since then the race has become a regular event with the record standing at 29.44, set by Ken Fullerton in 1960.Nobody remembers how many races were held.
In 1979 The Cooroy/Pomona Lions Club revived the race. For the next six years the race was won by George Fewtrell who reduced the record to 24.51 in 1984. Fewtrell suffered his first defeat in 1985 when Brisbane’s Graham Baralett won in a record time of 24.27, but his reign lasted only one year. In 1986 New Zealand’s Mountain Champion Barry Prosser set a new record of 23.48. This record stood until Graham Baralett once again set the record at 22.50 in 1987. This record will probably never be broken since the course has had to be lengthened due to requirements placed on the race by the Department of Natural Resources. The time taken by Aaron Strong, a first contestant from the other side of the Tasman on the new course was 28.19, closely followed by local star Michael Dean on 29.42.
The closest competitor to breaking the record was Nambour ‘s Neil Labinsky who in 2008 ran a time of 22-56 just 6 seconds outside the record. He then realized that the record was within reach so after some serious training leading up to the 2009 KOM Neil lowered the record by 7 seconds to 22-43 and also claimed the most number of KOM titles won with 7 consecutive titles from 2006 to 2012.