Message From Len York (March 2011)

Len York was an athlete, mountain walker, cyclist and rock climbing mountaineer. He had climbed the Matterhorn in 1971 the mountain world was his oyster.

On 23 July 1972, he again reached the top of the Matterhorn but whilst descending with a colleague, he suffered a fall at 12,000 feet. In a split second, his life was changed completely.

On the descent down the mountain one foothold slip, at about 13,000ft, bought Len hurdling some 120ft down the mountainside.

After being winched to the ground by helicopter, he then remained in a coma for 12 hours, and when he woke in a Swiss hospital, he was told he would never walk again.

The extent of his injuries were a broken neck, 16 stitches in a head wound, cuts requiring stitches in both legs and was bruised generally.

After returning home to England, and then spending eight months in hospital, he returned to his Halesowen home on his own two legs.

After months of dedicated effort by medical experts in Switzerland and Oswestry he was released from hospital.

Now paraplegic, he started the painful process of rebuilding his life. It is a story of grit and determination of a monumental order. Supported by his wife Brenda, his achievements and philosophy of life are quite extraordinary.

Len has had a close association with Tipton Harriers for many years and recently sent the following note:-

“I had been eagerly awaiting the Tipton 100 celebrations after it was first announced and was completely gutted when I knew the date of the great event. Horror upon horror – it coincided with an important family celebration which I just could not ignore! So I am very very sorry to miss this historic event and to miss the company of great friends I have known for over 50 years.

I recall training sessions at lunchtime with the Bentleys, Colin Hunt, McWhirter, and many others in the 1960s and 70s, and that great year in 1972 when the lads beat the world in the Comrades Marathon in South Africa and while this was happening I lay paralysed with a broken neck in the Orthopaedic Hospital in Oswestry. Following my fall on the Matterhorn!

While I lay in traction with weights attached my head by a calliper my Tipton friends came to visit the along with trophies from the Comrades and the London to Brighton races.

I felt so proud as Ron Bentley toured the Wrekin Ward showing them to my fellow spinal patients while brother Gordon was holding my feet urging me to try to push against his hand. He could feel some response!!!

In 1973 when Ron Bentley broke the world record in the 24-hour race track race I had only just been discharged from hospital after eight months but my wife Brenda drove me to Kingston on Thames to see Ron cover 154+ miles in record time is. While this was taking place I managed a quarter mile on my crutches! And received tremendous applause from the grandstand crowd! A tremendous day out! I was back again with the lads!

If you do have a toast at the dinner for absent friends I will be with you all in spirit. Please excuse the scribble my hands are not quite as they were before my accident! God bless you all have a wonderful night."

Len York