12 March 2024

GP on the run with eye for Goulburn community's wellbeing

| John Thistleton
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Dr Bruce Gerard at the Goulburn Parkrun on Saturday morning, renewing acquaintances among distance runners and patients.

Dr Bruce Gerard at the Goulburn Parkrun on Saturday morning, renewing acquaintances among distance runners and patients. Photo: John Thistleton.

His lithe frame moved along the concrete track with an easy stride, past the geese gazing up from their deep green pool in the Wollondilly River and the scattered wood ducks grazing along grassy banks.

On this sunny, windless autumn morning for the Goulburn Parkrun, the 80-year-old former general practitioner had returned to his former hometown, where he had made a bigger splash than people may realise.

Among a field of 120 walkers and runners on Saturday morning he cruised effortlessly over the five-kilometre course, passing many younger runners.

Only after collecting his time at the end of his run did fellow runners realise it was their family GP from the 1980-2000s. “You delivered my son,” a woman said, beaming into the smiling eyes of Dr Bruce Gerard.

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Now living in North Sydney where he often joins a field of 450 runners, he enjoys travelling around and chiming in with other Parkrun events in different towns and cities. He completed his 50th Parkrun at Gungahlin in 2016. He’s done a few ocean swims in Sydney too.

The bow tie and moustache are gone. But that distinctive voice is unchanged from the unhurried consultations he did decades ago. It was during one of these consultations that he had remarked on the cleanliness of the Goulburn Swimming Pool, and that it was about time in his view it was heated to encourage more people into the water.

Dr Bruce Gerard in the 2011 Lieder Theatre’s production of Captain Rossi and the Bishop of Goulburn. Photo: Lieder Theatre.

That suggestion was aired in the local newspaper soon afterwards, and then local politicians John Sharp and John Fahey picked up the idea and called a public meeting.

One after the other, speakers explained why the city needed a heated pool. Back then, even in December, children enrolled in learn-to-swim classes sat on the edge of the pool and shivered with purple lips and arms covered in goose bumps.

At the public meeting one parent recounted rising well before work to take his daughter and promising swimmer to Canberra for training.

Dr Peter Searson was elected to head up a committee, investigations were done and a budget drawn up on costs to enclose and heat the 25-metre pool. Government funding stalled, politics muddied the water, businesses chipped in what they could and fundraising included raffling a new car.

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Eventually enough money came through from the State Government to complete the project.

Outside of his career Dr Gerard was a regular among the distance runners and on the Lieder Theatre stage. During his latest visit to Goulburn, he watched the theatre’s current play, Fox on the Fairway and recounted the enjoyment he had after productions, sharing a bottle of red wine with fellow cast and audiences.

He played several characters on stage, but his role in the medical clinic promoting health for individuals and their community had the best encore, with the opening two years ago of the $30 million Goulburn Aquatic Centre. Shivering children are a thing of the past.

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