Vale Tim Thomas: MUAC’s own Man for All Seasons

The life member.

Under leaden skies at 11 a.m. on Tuesday 23 March, our beloved Tim Thomas, known to everyone simply as TT, passed away peacefully at Royal Melbourne Hospital, family by his side. Melbourne University Athletics Club wishes to pass on its deepest sympathies to Tim’s family. 

The outpouring of grief we saw following the news was evidence of the esteem in which TT was held, probably more than he’d ever know or admit to. Tim seemed to carry a kind of greatness cloaked in the humility and gentility of a nobler age. His world, of course, revolved around the Parkville precinct with his love of running, his passion for the University Blacks football club, his drive to make the world a fairer place through his corporate law work, and his vast storytelling abilities and reassuring presence in the local establishments around his home in North Carlton. 

A Uni Blacks stalwart, one day in the 1990s Tim drifted across the hallowed oval, broached the white picket fence and found himself on the Rawlinson Track where he unobtrusively started training firstly with Frank Henagan and then as MUAC’s luck would have it, the club’s distance squad. Little did we know this quiet entrance heralded one of our greatest club people. It was a mutually beneficial exchange for footy and aths clubs: TT taught the footballers about running and the athletes about competitive – toughness.

The staunch and loyal club man.

Smart, funny, big-hearted, and knowledgeable, TT was also unassuming. A club run might turn into a history lesson – when you least expected it – via his unrivalled knowledge of the club and university sport in general. Tim felt it important to pass on his knowledge to the novices who turned up at the club, or on a warm down lap around Princes Park. But unlike some Tim was never, ever boring.

Of course, Tim served on the Committee for a number of years, variously as secretary and club registrar; the latter a role perfectly suited to his strengths – nervous prospective members would immediately feel at home upon reception of Tim’s welcoming email at a distance and beaming smile in person. Tim cared deeply for the welfare of all those who passed through the club, never discriminating between the itinerants or those who stayed for the longer haul. Off-campus runs, especially on crisp winter nights, found Tim shepherding home the weary stragglers from the inky depths of Royal Park.

Tim’s long-time coach and close friend Tony Brain said, “Tim was one of those constants, the reliable stalwarts that go quietly about their business, ensuring everything is in its place. He was often the first to volunteer to officiate or transport gear to athletics meets, winter and summer alike.” Throughout the seasons he went above and beyond – even filling his trademark TT esky with beverages for team trips home from, for example, a cold and windy Ballarat.

The runner.

Facilitator non pareil off the track, Tim Thomas was brutal on it. TT’s running approach was ruthless. In any weather he gave everything. Whether it was six merciless repeats of a one-mile circuit in the rain, or ten times up Royal Park’s heartbreak hill in the heat, Tim destroyed himself, sometimes metaphorically and sometimes almost literally. 

Non-competition Saturday mornings found Tim shuffling around Rawlinson Track prior to launching into his favoured session which was 14 times 400m with 60 seconds recovery, each 400m harder than the last. Try it sometime to get an idea of TT’s fortitude.

Over summer holidays, when everyone was resting on a 40-in-the-shade afternoon, one could always find TT out on the track, or admiring the handiwork of the Main Oval’s groundskeepers before launching into some strides across its magnificent greensward.

In a race, Tim was immediately identifiable, white cap bobbing as he cranked out his characteristic high-powered, shoulders-forward running style, singlet flapping around like sails on a high sea. On the results front, TT medalled in various 40+ State Championship races – something he was rightly, but of course quietly, very proud of. 

The legend.

In training sessions, indeed, in races as well, Tim always planted himself a few metres in front of you, urging you to go faster – a motto he lived his life by – and he was almost impossible to catch. 

Now, Tim Thomas will always be ahead, and we will run in the memory of his footsteps knowing that we are following greatness.


“ … a man of angel’s wit and singular learning. I know not his fellow [an equivalent]. For where is the man of that gentleness, lowliness and affability? And, as time requireth, a man of marvellous mirth and pastimes, and sometimes of a sad gravity. A man for all seasons.”

  • Robert Whittington, 1480-1553, on another Thomas: Thomas More

 The funeral service will be at 11:00am on Thursday 1 April at Newman College, Melbourne University, however as attendance numbers need to be managed due to capacity constraints, the club will advise of further details as they come to hand.