Distance no hurdle on the track to career change

Published 13 October 2020
“I was studying law at UNE during the Sydney 2000 Olympics, and do recall asking for an extension on an essay for a week so I could focus on my race.” - Shaun Creighton.
Competing in the Games is something every athlete dreams of, but few get the chance. For Shaun, the Sydney Olympics in 2000 was part of a running career that would last 15 years across the world, before his transition into law.

Shaun started his law studies at 31, at a time UNE was one of the only universities offering it externally. “I knew the day would come when I could no longer run professionally. That is exactly why I enrolled to study law at UNE. My transition plan was finishing my running career in the same year I started my legal career,” he says.

This was back in the late 1990s, when UNE mailed out reading materials, and lectures on cassette. “I used to drive around listening to them in the car ... Since I was combining full-time study, part-time work and running internationally, time efficiency was very important.

I recall one year studying on a train from a race in Paris back to my training base in Switzerland, having to swap trains near the border in Basel, and leaving my UNE law unit outline on the train. That required UNE kindly and quickly mailing a new unit outline to Switzerland.

Shaun says representing his country on home soil in 2000 was “beyond my wildest dreams” as a boy growing up in Armidale.

Unfortunately he had not yet recovered from a chest infection when it came time for the 10,000m, and placed 14th in the first heat. However, he was thrilled to watch longtime teammate Cathy Freeman win the 400m - “a truly memorable moment”.
“My coach Pat Clohessy instilled in me early that a running career isn’t measured by a single performance. My personal competition experience at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games wasn’t what I wanted, but with the fullness of time, I can reflect on the great honour to have pulled on the Australian Olympic singlet, lined up against the best in the world, and given it my all.”

Shaun has represented Australia 24 times, including at the Sydney and Atlanta Olympics; broke several 20-year-plus records in track and steeplechase events in the ’90s; and has held the Australian 3000m steeplechase record for the past 28 years.

Now a partner at Canberra law firm Moulis Legal doing intellectual property and commercial law, Shaun has “a wonderful wife, Stella, terrific children of whom I’m very proud, William and Gretchen, a great extended family, and a terrific group of friends, many of whom I met through running”. He still runs every day (the last time he didn’t was in November 2017), and hold the over-50 men’s records for 3000m, 5000m, 10,000m and marathon. He enjoys coaching, and is one of three National Track and Field Selectors.

He volunteers on the boards of the Physical Activity Foundation, the ACT Olympic Fundraising Committee and the local organising committee for the World Cross Country Championships. He says no amount of talent can beat “persistence and determination”, and having a “real passion for what you do” is the key to any success, athletic or otherwise.

“If someone has a dream in any field of endeavour, I encourage them to pursue that dream unrelentingly,” Shaun says. “As they say, the pain of discipline is ultimately far easier than the pain of regret.”