He is the eldest son of Monty Hirst, a highly regarded trainer of professional sprinters and the older brother of Tony, an outstanding distance runner who was one of the initial inductees into the Hall of Fame in 2000.
John was by nature a distance athlete and ran for Collingwood Harriers when he was 15 years old. He first started coaching schoolboys in 1956 as a 19 year old. As a self trained runner, John ran 3 seconds and a third at Stawell during the early 1960’s.
He can’t remember the first runner he trained to win a pro race but his first successful runner at Stawell was Kevin Pettiona who won the 1957 Victory Mile.
From 1977 he was coaching both amateurs and pros at the Doncaster Athletic Club where he coached Commonwealth Games Marathon silver medalist Sean Quilty and Australian Amateur Champions Dean Paulin, Jason Rock and Sean Quilty, all of whom won at Stawell as well.
John’s induction into the Hall of Fame complements the previous acknowledgments of his 45 years contribution to training – he has previously received an Australian Sports Medal for dedication to athletics, and Life Memberships of both the Victorian Cross Country Club and the Doncaster Athletic Club.