Born at Casterton on March 7, 1935, John showed great interest in athletics, and won a great many distance races during his education training around the State. He met Carl Rhode, a famous Bendigo trainer and early in 1956 turned professional.
His first stint at Stawell saw him win a half mile off 38 yards, in a smart time of 1.48.6 secs. Following success at various meetings around the State, John married and while honeymooning at Stawell, won the Herb Hedemann Mile off 30 yards in 4-6.8 secs. Success followed success, and in 1964, the two giants of distance running, Downes and McCracken met at Stawell, with McCracken running the fastest ever Mile from scratch, in a time of 4 min. 2.8 secs. In one of the most remarkable finishes ever seen at Stawell in which the lead changed numerous times in a tight finish.
In nine events at Stawell from 1956 to 1969, John McCracken lowered his colours only twice in one and two mile events.