40 Years on – Ron Bentley & the 24 Hour World Record (Part 5)

VITAL STATISTICS

The following table shows some of the headline statistics for each 10Km part of Ron’s performance.

No. Distance (KM) Total Laps Total Time 10Km Spilt Time Average Lap Time Max Lap Time Min Lap Time Variation (Max-Min) Min Per Mile Miles Per Hour
1 10 25 00:45:35 00:45:35 00:01:49 00:01:54 00:01:44 00:00:10 00:07:20 8.179
2 20 50 01:31:19 00:45:44 00:01:50 00:01:52 00:01:48 00:00:04 00:07:21 8.165
3 30 75 02:16:59 00:45:40 00:01:50 00:02:26 00:01:44 00:00:42 00:07:21 8.165
4 40 100 03:02:20 00:45:21 00:01:49 00:01:52 00:01:46 00:00:06 00:07:20 8.179
5 50 125 03:47:49 00:45:29 00:01:49 00:02:55 00:01:42 00:01:13 00:07:20 8.183
6 60 150 04:34:22 00:46:33 00:01:52 00:01:56 00:01:49 00:00:07 00:07:22 8.153
7 70 175 05:20:46 00:46:24 00:01:51 00:01:56 00:01:47 00:00:09 00:07:22 8.136
8 80 200 06:06:04 00:45:18 00:01:49 00:01:51 00:01:47 00:00:04 00:07:22 8.148
9 90 225 06:52:58 00:46:54 00:01:53 00:02:01 00:01:47 00:00:14 00:07:23 8.125
10 100 250 07:41:43 00:48:45 00:01:57 00:02:25 00:01:50 00:00:35 00:07:26 8.075
11 110 275 08:33:51 00:52:08 00:02:05 00:03:52 00:01:56 00:01:56 00:07:31 7.981
12 120 300 09:27:50 00:53:59 00:02:10 00:03:57 00:01:51 00:02:06 00:07:37 7.879
13 130 325 10:17:40 00:49:50 00:02:00 00:02:59 00:01:50 00:01:09 00:07:39 7.847
14 140 350 11:14:37 00:56:57 00:02:17 00:03:52 00:01:53 00:01:59 00:07:45 7.737
15 150 375 12:10:11 00:55:34 00:02:13 00:03:28 00:01:58 00:01:30 00:07:50 7.659
16 160 400 13:05:40 00:55:29 00:02:13 00:04:06 00:01:49 00:02:17 00:07:54 7.592
17 170 425 14:00:40 00:55:00 00:02:12 00:04:02 00:01:47 00:02:15 00:07:58 7.539
18 180 450 14:59:02 00:58:22 00:02:20 00:04:49 00:01:53 00:02:56 00:08:02 7.464
19 190 475 15:52:43 00:53:41 00:02:09 00:03:32 00:01:53 00:01:39 00:08:04 7.435
20 200 500 16:53:00 01:00:17 00:02:25 00:04:20 00:01:54 00:02:26 00:08:09 7.361
21 210 525 17:51:19 00:58:19 00:02:20 00:04:08 00:01:56 00:02:12 00:08:13 7.308
22 220 550 18:57:02 01:05:43 00:02:38 00:05:24 00:02:02 00:03:22 00:08:19 7.214
23 230 575 20:00:30 01:03:28 00:02:32 00:05:06 00:02:05 00:03:01 00:08:24 7.143
24 240 600 21:12:06 01:11:36 00:02:52 00:04:24 00:02:09 00:02:15 00:08:32 7.034
25 250 625 22:18:47 01:06:41 00:02:40 00:04:52 00:02:13 00:02:39 00:08:37 6.962

The following graph shows an indication of Ron’s pace variation (in MPH) as the race went on.

 PaceChart

CELEBRATIONS & CONGRATULATIONS - THE IMMEDIATE AFTERMATH

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Microphones were thrust under his nose and a wreath was draped around his neck. There were TV cameras too recording the moment. TV & Radio interviews were done on the track.

The name of the female TV reporter in the above photograph is understood to have been Penny Singleton.

When asked what he fancied Ron cheekily answered “Besides you a pint of beer!” The gentleman with the other microphone is Tom Pollak who was also reporting on the event for Athletics Weekly.

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Ron is congratulated by Walton & Weybridge Council Chairman Sven Farmer, Billy Carr is in the background.

Each runner was weighed after the finish by Dr John Brotherhood as another measurement of the impact of their performance. In Ron’s case he started the race at 71.0Kg and ended up at 65.24Kg a weight loss of 5.76Kg. This is an 8% drop.

As the celebrations died down each athlete was in a world of his own. Reflecting on the race and the experiences they had undertaken. Some made their own way to the changing rooms to have a bath and change. Ted Corbitt had to be lifted into the communal bath his body stiffened. Black Country humour followed him when one of the Tipton gang told him he had qualified for the final.

 Along the side of the bath was a gallon of beer, believed to have been provided by the BBC. This began to ease the aches and pains of the race along with the warming waters.

 Those that had run knew the part they had played in a momentous event. Those that witnessed it were left marked by the resolute nature and personal performance of each of the competitors.

 Goodbyes were eventually exchanged but the “unspoken” probably told more as each one their bid their personal farewell.

 THE ROAD HOME

After the race was over and everything had been sorted out. They hitched up the caravan to the back of Ron’s car fully expecting one of the helpers to get in and commence the drive back to Tipton. Here again we see the strength of the man. Ron, complete with blisters, drove home. He drove barefoot, due to blisters, as the others slept in the back of the car and also in the caravan being towed. The journey was broken up by a visit to a pub where a few beers and some sandwiches were eaten.

As if the trials of the race were not enough then the journey home was also eventful as in the early hours the lights failed on Ron’s car.

Arriving in Tipton in the small hours he dropped them all off at their homes before heading to his own house. He managed a few short hours sleep before the telephone began to ring at around 8.00am.

RON’S RECOLLECTIONS (FROM THE RRC JANUARY 1974 ROADRUNNER)

Ron reflected on his performance, preparation and feelings in an article published in the January 1974 edition of the “Road Runners Club Newsletter”. It is worth repeating here in it’s entiriety.

“I’ll try and get across to you a personal account of that great day, of my doubts, expectations, mental discipline. To be fair about it, I think I was probably the only one in the race, who was mentally prepared for it. I knew I had trained hard for it and all the time I was training I could see myself still there at the finish, and close to the world record. Thinking of the runners in the field, there was only Joe Keating, who could hope to run with me for a hundred miles, I secretly thought I would still drop him afterwards. As it turned out Joe wasn’t mentally prepared, and I got away from him much sooner than I had expected. I wasn’t worried much about anyone after that, so I relaxed and concentrated on the record.

 I knew if I could get to 100 miles in about 13 hours, I would get the record and that was how it turned out.

 The only problem then, was to control myself and not go too fast. I felt pretty good to around about 140 miles. Then doubts started, when it began to rain. My leg was getting very stiff, and I had to make more stops. I kept telling myself, if I had to walk, I would still break it. Of course I wouldn’t have done, because the record was better than most people thought. After all Wally Hayward was one of the “greats” at ultra distance, winning the Comrades five times, and the London to Brighton and he had run in Empire and Olympic Games Marathons for his country.

 I was very proud to have beaten his distance. I will be eternally grateful to the R.R.C. Council and to all the officials who helped me in this great venture.

 I was sorry not to have put more miles on to it, but I was mentally and physically drained. Once I’d lost my concentration I was finished, I never knew how I got round the track for another 50 minutes.

 I must thank the other competitors for the way they encouraged me. I was very glad most of them got through.

 I personally learnt a lot from this race, and I think when the time comes again I could second someone, who has the right approach, to break the record. Meanwhile I’m content and satisfied to know I’ve been at the top.”

OTHER RECOLLECTIONS

A number of other people were moved to put pen to paper and various letters appeared in Athletics Weekly in the weeks that followed.

The current (2013) President of the Road Runners Club, Ian Champion, wrote “I was present at the ’24 hour track race’ for a total of five hours and from what I saw and heard it was a truly magnificent show. From the groundsman right through helpers, attendants, officials, timekeepers and announcers to the runners themselves – everybody involved – should be congratulated and thanked. Their efforts, which were a test of endurance, cannot be expressed or quickly dismissed in just a few brief words.”

Harold Lee, the Road Runners Club President at the time, summed his feelings up : “It was a wonderful occasion and the excitement that mounted to a climax when the record was in sight and continued to the end of the race, expressed our admiration for all the competitors whose careful preparation, knowledgeable judgement, courage and determination made it a memorable athletic event in the best sense of the word.

 On behalf of the officials I can say that it was a privilege for us to have had the chance to help, and add a word of thanks to the competitors for the unfailingly cheerful help they all gave to Dr Brotherhood in his efforts to see that the scientific data from this unique were not wasted.”

John Grundy from Wakefield Harriers who was present wrote :- “May I say how privileged I was to have been able to watch this stirring event, having some experience of ultra long distance myself (but never on a track) about ten years ago. The memory of the pain and suffering had long since disappeared but to watch the lads battling it out during the darkness of Sunday morning was staggering.

 The excitement as Ron Bentley broke the English Native Record of Derek Reynolds was nothing compared with the emotion that built up as he approached the World Record. I felt as if I could cry and when I mentioned this to people standing near me they all agreed they felt the same. The applause as he broke the World Record was terrific, I only wished there had been 100,000 spectators there to give him the applause he so deserved.”

 The AW report of the race came in for some stick from competitor Brian Kemp (Ealing & Southall A.C.) who rightly drew the attention to the personal not statistical side of the race : “From reading the report it is not immediately obvious how Peter Hart managed to finish second, never having apparently run well enough even to merit a mention. Had I not been there I would be left wondering what happened during the last nine hours of the race. I think something might have been said about the titanic struggle that took place between Pete Hart, Ted Corbitt, Ken Shaw and Don Turner, and of how Pete Hart – running the race of his life – recovered from a period when only determination moved him forward to chase and pass first Ken Shaw, and then with less than an hour remaining an utterly exhausted Ted Corbitt.

 I also see nothing of the torrential rain which came down so hard with four hours to go that within ten minutes the track was awash under two inches of water. The competitors, having been running for twenty hours, had to contend with water flowing over their shoes. It hardly seemed fair that having run so far that such weather could threaten to wash away Ron Bentley’s chances of the record.

This race was not just a list of statistics. There were actually fifteen men out on the track going through depths of dejection and reaching heights of personal achievement that only those who saw the whole of the race could hope to describe.”

 In 2013 Dr John Brotherhood paid this tribute to Ron :- “Ron was an absolutely committed and courageous athlete. His training schedules were legendary! Despite his considerable achievements he was extremely modest and of course had a fine sense of humour. To my mind he was typical of the club athlete. He was a committed member of a team, but also an athlete who set himself and achieved great personal goals. He was a member of a ‘happy band of brothers’. Running was not a religion but he took it seriously; it was an important part of his life.”

 Colin Hunt a close friend of Ron remembers “I had a tremendous feeling for everyone out there. I've been running now for almost 20 years and during recent times have myself run a few 'Brightons', but I felt that this was happening already completely outside my knowledge. By halfway these men had already shown courage well beyond all normal horizons. I watched the great Ted Corbitt very closely. What a man! He was the only one whom I did not see have any sudden surges of faster running. He seemed very rough from early morning, right through to the end; a most impressive display of courage and determination.

 The most amazing thing about the event, generally, was the number of peaks and depressions that almost all seem to experience; times when the running came again easier after barely being able to raise a shuffle. The concentration required and the pressure on a fellow like Ron Bentley were tremendous.”

Fellow competitor Billy Carr stated “.... It was a magnificent experience to run on the same track at the same time as Ron Bentley. The tension round the track was absolutely fantastic as he approached a new world record. Only when he had broken the record did he falter.

 I've trained with Ron over the last 10 years and know how much sweat and toil it has taken to make the record possible.

 Ron is a great inspiration to everyone in athletics, and to the local people who know him well he's a living legend. All this, and not to mention he is 43 years of age."

 Another Tipton character Bert Harbach penned:- “I've witnessed some fine performances and endurance by ultra-distance men over the years but none finer than were enacted by the runners in the Accolade 24 hours race.

 If ever a man deserved to crown a career with such glory that man was Ron Bentley. To my mind anything he achieves in the future can never surpass his Walton effort. Although Ron took the main honours I will always remember the day for the last few painful hours of Ted Corbitt's run which typified the courage of these men.

 Full marks to the organisers and officials who worked so hard to put on this race to give Ron the chance to capture the record for England and to bring it back to Tipton where we hope it will proudly rest for a long time."

 A few years later, in 1975, Ron Copson, another Tipton ultra distance runner, recalled the three members of Tipton who contested the race.

“Over the years, Ron Bentley, by his determination to succeed, his leadership, guiding influence, and above all his dedication has automatically become our captain – his World 24 hours record climaxing his career. One could not wish for a better leader. Following in his brother’s tracks is Gordon who, incidentally is the greatest advertisement for cigarette smoking in athletics that I know of, but who, with his limited months of training every year, and with the results he shows for it, proves what a remarkable runner he is. He has still to better his time in the London to Brighton when he ran with a broken arm in a support. Just as remarkable is Billy Carr who year after year trains consistently as few runners could equal. He has certainly made the top grade – Bill must also rank as one of the finest club men around, devoting all his time and energy to Tipton.”

 MEDIA ATTENTION

On the Monday after the race Ron got a number of calls from local newspapers including the Black Country Bugle and the Express & Star.

Ron, Billy & Gordon met up in the Park Inn and it was there that a photograph was taken of them with their feet in bowls.

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 There is a notable absence of photographs and newspaper reports from the event due to their being a national newspaper strike. The BBC did cover the feat on television.

Luckily the Gutteridge family have a record of the occasion and we are indebted to Eddie and his late father Bill for allowing us access to his collection. These were taken on the day by Jim Coomber and given to Bill Gutteridge.

John Jewell also managed to capture the event using 8mm cine film. This, along with others, have been conserved and copies exist within the Road Runners Club Archives and copies have been lodged at the Cadbury Special Collections Library at the University of Birmingham.

The day after the race Ron received a number of letters & telegrams from friends and organisations.

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DRUGS TEST CLEARANCE & RATIFICATION

It took many weeks to get the results scrutinised and ratified.

On 15th December 1973 Eddie Gutteridge wrote a detailed letter to John Jewell within which he describes the scrutiny that had been undertaken of all the recording sheets as well as the lap and leader boards used at the race.

A number of minor administrative errors had been found, investigated and resolved across a number of the competitors.

It is also of note that the distances listed in the results and oft quoted were primarily in miles. Remember that metrification was, at least in the UK, in its infancy in 1973.

In Eddie’s letter of 15th December he states “I would appreciate a conversion (and a check on those already calculated) from, kilometres to miles and yards and then I can get an official result sheet published.”

The track was of 400m and so any mileage figures relating to the race were going to be based on mathematical computation involving a conversion factor and subsequent rounding (to agreed standards).

John Jewell replied on 19th December 1973 (to Eddie) with the necessary conversions. The conversion to kilometres was done using the standard IAAF procedure and tables for this purpose. In this same letter he also explained at great length some of the intricacy in the calculations using the table based methodology.

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John Jewell, through his natural attention to detail, had, in fact, also found an error in the official IAAF tables and drawn this to the attention of the governing body!

In his letter of 9th January 1974 Eddie reports.

“Result calculated using IAAF “metric conversion tables 1969”, and checked by electronic calculator.”

A letter from the RRC Honorary Statistician, Brian Nott, to John Jewell states:

“Many thanks for your letter of 13 December (1974) enclosing the lap charts for Bentley’s 24 hours record. It appears that everything is in order, and I recommend that it be accepted as a new World Best Performance.”

Finally correspondence dated 9th January 1974 from Eddie Gutteridge carried the “Official Results” and confirmation of the “World’s Best Performance”. It also carried the statement:-

“The result of the drug screening test stimulants carried out on the winner and two random competitors after the race proved NEGATIVE.

 Tests carried out by Prof Beckett, Department of Pharmacy, Chelsea College, London.”

RON’S PLACE IN THE 24 HOUR RECORD PROGRESSION

It is now worth looking at the way the record has progressed, particularly since Ron’s performance in 1973.

Date Class Name Distance Venue Notes
Miles Km    
12/09/1908 Amateur Tommy Hammond (GB) 131m 580y 211.354Km White City London  
04/04/1931

Professional

Arthur Newton (GB) 152m 540y 245.113Km Hamilton Arena, Hamilton, Ontario Set on an indoor track entailing 13 laps to the mile.
21/11/1953 Amateur Wally Hayward (SA) 159m 562y 256.400Km Motspur Park, Surrey First record set on a standard 400 metre track
04/11/1973 Amateur Ron Bentley (GB) 161m 545y 259.603Km Walton On Thames,  
02/06/1979 Amateur Park Barner (USA) 162m 537y 261.204Km Huntington Beach, California Not ratified as no lap times taken.
12/10/1980 Amateur Jean Gilles Boussiquet (France) 164m 192y 264.108Km Blackburn, Lancashire  
03/05/1981 Amateur Jean Gilles Boussiquet (France) 169m 705y 272.624Km Lausanne, Switzerland  
23/05/1982 Amateur Dave Dowdle (GB) 170m 974y 274.480Km Gloucester  
16/03/1985 Amateur Yannis Kouros (Greece) 176m 388y 283.600Km Montauban  
07/05/1995 Amateur Yannis Kouros (Greece) 177m 554y 285.362Km Surgeres  
14/04/1996 Amateur Yannis Kouros (Greece) 182m 1316y 294.104Km Coburg  
02/03/1997 Amateur Yannis Kouros (Greece) 183m 568y 295.030Km Canberra  
05/10/1997 Amateur Yannis Kouros (Greece) 188m 1038y 303.506Km Adelaide  

POETIC INSPIRATION

A number of poems were written at the time to celebrate and commemorate the occasion. Two are reproduced here. One conveys graphically the performance. The second, in Black Country dialect, shows affectionately how Ron became a local and British athletics hero to rank alongside the great Jack Holden.

The first was written by Derek Cartwright who was on hand at the race to witness the events. A cassette recording exists of Derek movingly performing the poem.

A TRIBUTE TO RON BENTLEY, OF TIPTON HARRIERS

ON THE OCCASION OF HIS WORLD RECORD RUN

How slowly breaks this November’s dawn upon the Walton Track,

Flood lighting, as if in competition fighting,

To hold the daylight back.

At last the lights go off and day comes on,

And strewn around the track we see,

Blankets, chairs, tents and sweat soaked clothes hung out to dry,

Some men run while others walk, and some just hobble by,

Yes! in this scene a story’s told,

The race is thirteen hours old.

Only now the very strongest hold a steady pace,

Around a hundred Mile are done,

For here we see the longest race of all,

Run on, and on, for 24 hours, or till you fall.

The hours creep slowly on, a little sun,

Distant morning church bells, a garden fire nearby,

Now a few more people fill the stand

And as they settle comfortably, little do they know,

That in honoured exit from this race

A world champion is lying just below.

We hear encouragement softly spoken,

And see raw courage quietly displayed,

Imprinting pictures on the mind to quietly remember

Oh no, we shan’t forget this Sunday in November.

The day wears on and men wear out,

But not within their hearts,

They try, and try to run again,

Then rest, and try again.

And carried on the autumn air

With falling leaves of yellow, gold and red,

There drifts the sound of an accent familiar to our ear, “Come on our kid”, “He wants a cup of tea”, “He’d like a pint of beer”.

Yes, well represented here, the men of Staffordshire.

So at last the afternoon arrives,

Overcast with dark and heavy skies.

“I hope to heaven it doesn’t rain” we hear a shout,

But apparently Saint Tippington is not about.

The rain is heavy when it comes,

And as the minutes pass becomes torrential.

What cheering rises, from the comfort of the now full stand,

As ankle deep each runner passes, in his sodden plight.

Though clouds remain, the heavy downpour eases,

Quite unaffected by the rain the runners

Still upon the track, plough through.

The weather may do what it pleases

We know the rain will stop, before these gallant few.

Now suddenly a most uplifting sight,

Back on the floodlights, Heralding the night.

Less than two hours now to do,

These men have run the daylight through.

All day we’ve watched one solid figure dressed in white,

Who now, with steady stride, runs in the night.

The tannoy loud informs us, to a deafening cheer,

What he, and all have waited long to hear.

This man Ron Bentley, the national record’s near.

As each lap passes the cheering mounts,

All eyes now on the one that counts.

The same relentless stride goes round and on,

He’ll take the record home today, this “Tipton’s son”.

The crowd now start to leave the stand,

Walking across the track to where the record falls.

And jostling one another, line the final yards.

And looking back towards the darkened bend,

All proudly wait to witness and to greet

England’s new champion and his record run.

We wait, but no one comes to reap the waiting cheers.

Ah, now a figure of similar size and gait appears,

No longer clad in that familiar white.

The change of clothes, this reason for delay, is no disguise.

He wears his Tipton vest.

The cameras flash, the spotlights glare and die,

With one short wave, and generous smile,

The green and white goes sailing by.

Thoughts now flood in of other times and other men

Who’d watch this run with pride, but no!

That’s not for now, this night belongs to one,

Who’s still six Mile to run before his life’s ambition’s done.

Now once again the familiar white

Shining through the gathering night.

The stocky figure runs, and runs, and runs.

Another stop, more water on those aching legs,

Then on, and round, and round again.

Come on! Come on! Once in your lifetime Ron,

Don’t falter now you’re nearly there, come on! Come on!

What can we call between the cheers that any help can give?

We’re seeing something we may never see again as long as we may live.

A long hoarse yell of “Tipton!” once a lap,

A quiet call from men who stand and gently clap.

A tall man stands beside the track,

The veteran of so many runs.

He stares and shakes his head,

How can he grasp the effort that this runner shows?

And so by standards that he knows the best,

The runner’s great performance is assessed.

Three London to Brightons all in one!

Or without a rest, six marathon!

Un-noticed now the gently falling rain,

As round that track, still round, and round again.

Another mile, another walk, another drink.

Then on the white clad figure runs, with every thrusting stride we see,

That grim determination that makes the champion.

The tannoy blares out times and laps

Of other runners gamely pushing on.

Some briefly rested, now increase their pace,

But only one can win this race.

One final effort now, the greatest prize is won,

Unfaltering, the flowing stride goes on.

The worst is over now, the best to come.

Run Ron, Run Ron, Run on.

With just a flicker of our heart

We hear the long awaited countdown start.

Six laps to go and he’ll be there,

Six laps, and then the waiting laurels wear.

A quickly taken final drink, so willingly supplied.

For in these closing moments, and oh, so rightly so,

His son is at his side.

Now for it Ron, the long road’s end

Not trod for twenty years.

He’ll do it now and as he runs,

His steady stride allays our fears.

The cheering mounts, the laps descend

And now at last the record,

Beckons as a friend.

At last, at last, the longest last, the final lap arrives.

Oh take it slow, don’t rush this one, let’s savour your endeavour.

These moments in your life and ours,

Will live with us for ever.

The white clad figure now begins the record breaking lap.

And as before, he lingers on the darkened bend, then runs into the light,

And once again we see the cause of the delay.

Among the cheers hold back your tears, as he now gives his best.

For on this night, the greatest sight,

He wears an old green vest.

And now with cheering, cheering all the way,

The final yards are done,

One hundred and sixty m, the longest ever run.

And humbled such achievement makes us feel,

Who only stand and watch.

Of great occasions past, or future we may see,

There never, as on that night could be,

An old green vest, worn with such dignity.

So when you at some distant time the ratings read,

That tell of laps, and Ron Bentley’s record time,

Remember, that included there are moments, precious,

Far above the rest.

For when the greatest crown was near his hand,

He stopped ! !

And upon a rain and sweat soaked top,

He pulled an old green vest!

SEWPERMON RON!

Black Country born un Black Country bred

Un wot a nerm RON BENTLEY’S med

Wheer ever Athletics is torked abaht

24 ‘Ours Werld Champion….. Theers ony one

un that’s our own Sewpermon

Let’s refresh yer memry a bi aer’kid

Un tell yer wot RON BENTLEY did…

Back in November Nineteen Seventy Three

‘e run himself in ter werld ‘istry

The dates wuz the 3rd un 4th uv November

Un it’s Twenty Foher ‘Ours ter alluz remember

in that time just gerrit clear

‘e broke Wally Hayward’s record uv Twenty ‘Ear

wen ‘e put is body on the rack

at Walton-0n-Thames around a track

Frum six o’clock uv the satdy nite

Ron kept runnin in Green and White

in Tipun ‘Arriers cullers sewper fit

‘e beat the werld wi’ guts un grit

‘ede gorra beat 159 mile

soo e’de gorra keep gooin all the while

but ‘e knows the record cud be broke

un ‘e prewved ‘imslef ter be the bloke

No runner in all our ‘ewman rerce

‘as run Twenty Foher ‘Ours at such a perce

mile after mile….. ‘The BENTLEY style’

Ron kept ‘Motorin’ all the while

It really meks yer wunder whether

This Athlete’s lungs am med uv leather

Moore Thun 161 Mile RON BENTLEY Run

breakin evry record under the sun…..

Records am med aer’kid ter be broke

but sholl we live ter see the bloke

ool beat that run RON BENTLEY med

ah daht it mate afoher ah’me jed

sum sewper ‘Six Million Dollar Mon’

mite challenge the record uv our Ron

but where ever ‘e cums from or ‘ow e’ze med

‘e who beat ‘Our Sewpermon ‘Black Country Bred!

HARRY HARRISON ‘Off the Cuff’

T.V. & Radio Black Country Poet

THE LATER YEARS

 Ron continued to run both over standard and ultra distances during the remainder of the 1970’s. He then gradually undertook more team management duties with the Harriers senior squad.

In 1975 the RRC staged an epic 100 mile race at Tipton won by another ultra legend Cavin Woodward from Leamington. This could form the basis of another good story at some point in the future.

His feverish and fanatical enthusiasm assisted many of Tipton’s National XC & 12 Stage prestigious roll of honour through the 1980’s & 90’s. For many from other clubs around the country Sutton Park would not be the same without the sight of Ron or an exchange of banter. Long may it continue.

To this day he is still as passionate and enthusiastic about running. After some major heart surgery late in 2012 he is now back to good health and setting a fine example through his weekly activities with the Action Heart organisation.

 RACE ORGANISERS REFLECTIONS – 40 YEARS ON

 Eddie Gutteridge, the organiser of the race, kindly provided a few reflections when looking back some 40 years since the race was staged and the record broken:-

 “After the performance of Ron Bentley at Radox 100 Uxbridge in October 1971 which I was privileged to organise and obtain the officials it was apparent that he was the man to break the 24-hour track world’s best performance at a future date.”

 “During 1972 and 1973 whenever I saw Ron at races I mentioned the 24 hours – yes I pestered him. He was the only man who could do it.”

“Having sorted officials and other matters by the early autumn of 1973 I became aware that Ron had injured his foot not once but twice, the second time – a nail through his foot. Come the day, Ron never let me down but I admit I was worried about his likely performance…being a tough “cookie” he delivered the goods at the greatest RRC promotion to date.”

“At the race I went through two extremes – firstly panic at the torrential rain and track flooding and how to clear the excess water and then, secondly, high emotion and my blubbing when the record was broken.”

 “The crowd, (the stands were full), the presence of the TV, the camaraderie of runners and officials, and the officials professionalism could never be bettered. The noise was nearly unbearable you could not hear yourself think at the race at the conclusion.”

 WHERE ARE THEY NOW (2013)

As has been mentioned Ron Bentley is in good health, living in Lower Gornal near Dudley in the Black Country area of the Midlands. The following shows a picture of him at the 2013 National 12 Stage Road Relay with another distance running legend Jim Alder of Morpeth Harriers.

24HrRecord 35

Eddie Gutteridge, the organiser of the 1973 RRC race, though retired is still involved in the organisation of athletics, in particular the Fire Service. He lives in Winslow in Buckinghamshire.

Dr John Brotherhood, the RRC Honorary Medical Officer at the time, emigrated to Australia where he continued his career researching and teaching in exercise and environmental medicine and is now retired living in the Sydney area.

 Of the other competitors that I have been able to track down and who have contributed their memories included:- Peter Hart (Leamington C & A.C.) is based near Banbury. Bill Carr (Tipton Harriers) is living in Bewdley. Don Turner (Epsom & Ewell) is in Epsom. Derek Funnell (Epsom & Ewell) is in Belmont, Surrey. Pat Ferguson (Vale of Aylesbury A.C.) is in Princes Risborough, Bucks. Mick Casse (Cambridge Harriers) is in the Hemel Hempstead area, Joe Keating (Ealing & Southall A.C.) is in Cricklewood. The clubs given are those they were competing for at the time of the race in 1973

I was unable to track down the following and would welcome any information that can be provided as to their whereabouts and wellbeing. The clubs given are again those they were competing for at the time of the race in 1973:- Gavin Riley (Bedford & County) & John Berry (Wakefield Harriers).

Sadly Ted Corbitt, Brian Kemp, Gordon Bentley and Ken Shaw are no longer with us.

Ron proudly pointed out to me that he & Gordon are still (in 2013) the current holders of the title the fastest brothers over both 100 miles & 24 hours.

POSTSCRIPT

Ron has a lot in common with another running legend – Alf Tupper. Alf was a top athlete for nearly 50 years starting his career in the “Rover” in 1949 and retiring in the 1990’s as reported in the “Victor” closely mirroring Ron’s own career.

He was hard working and once described as follows:- “he never seemed to put on an ounce of weight and was untouched by grey hairs” . Sounds like Tipton’s own “tough of the track” – Ron Bentley.

AlfTupper

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 THANKS, REFERENCE MATERIAL & CREDITS

Eddie Gutteridge, Ian Champion, Andy Milroy, Ron Bentley, Billy Carr, Colin Hunt, Derek Cartwright, Tony Jackson, Peter Hart, Eric Austin, Don Turner, Joe Keating, Pat Ferguson, Mick Casse, Derek Funnell & The John Jewell Archive Collection.

Dr John Brotherhood deserves a special credit as he was able to provide me with copies of all the contestants lap recording sheets as well as his recollections.

RRC Roadrunner, The Daily Telegraph, Athletics Weekly, Athletic Review, Corbitt (John Chodes), Veteris, Running (Malcolm Dillon), Special Collections Library at the University Of Birmingham.

AN APPEAL FOR FURTHER INFORMATION

If anyone has any further material relating to this event in the form of newspaper cuttings, photographs or film footage please get in touch. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.