Roy Langford - Article No.21 (10/06/2013)

I had hardly slept a wink on the night after my brilliant race at RAF Cosford the previous evening and was still on a somewhat adrenalin high for the rest of my working day at Ewarts Ltd, Burnet Tree Works, Dudley and those 8 long working hours couldn't pass quickly enough for me to leave work and purchase my local evening newspaper the 'Express & Star' it was my forlorn hope that I might get some recognition on the sports pages along with Robbie Brightwell (Loughborough College) and Barry Jackson (Lazell Harriers) with news about our great runs in those 330 yards races, because to all intent and purpose Brightwell's time of 37.9 seconds, as well as being a Cosford track record, was to my mind also an unofficial British indoor record, with my time of 38.1 seconds ranked third in Britain, what a great accolade for me. But I was brought back down to earth with a bang because I didn't get a mention only my race time in black and white newsprint along with the rest of my colleagues with the full evening athletics classified results. Well I suppose this was to be expected after all I was just a little known club athlete and it was the international famous Peter Radford (Birchfield Harriers) 6.3 seconds race over 60 yards that hit the newspaper headlines and rightly so, along with the record breaking Robbie Brightwell and Barry Jackson race.

But with my philosophical attitude this disappointment didn't dwell on my mind for very long it was only another small blip in my budding athletic career which for that one special evening at Cosford had rocketed me ahead of my greatest expectations but my success wouldn't have been achieved without those hard training sessions with my mates Andy Fereday, Eric Silk, John Brimble and Bill Carr and I really had to thank them for this insurgence of form. They had pushed my training boundaries far ahead from what I expected of myself.

Heroes Welcome down Tipton Club House

The news of my success had already spread around the Tipton club house before I stepped over the threshold on the Thursday evening of that week and our club captain Ken Rickhuss was one of the first athletes to step forward with a congratulative well done handshake followed by club officials Jim Bedford and Len Myerscough. It was somehow refreshing to be in the limelight at this time of the year because it was mainly the cross country runners who were taking all the plaudits but my performance had shaken their roots just a little and with the great team spirit which existed at the club I knew my success would have a knock on effect to my younger team sprint members.

Back into training for next Cosford meeting

I couldn't rest on my laurels because there is an old saying that you're only as good as your last race, which is very true, so I must rollup my track suite sleeves again and put in some more hard training sessions over the next four weeks if I want to repeat my performance of Tuesday evening. The next Cosford indoor meeting is pencilled in for Tuesday 29th November 1960.

With my motivation at an all time high I set abut my 3 to 4 times a week training sessions with real gusto, along with my training mates John Brimble and Andy Fereday who brought along his younger brother David to join forces with us on our training sessions. His forte was also sprinting and following in his brother's footsteps so to speak. David had already got the natural fitness of youth on his side as well as being a member of Dudley Grammar School athletic team so eh was a good addition to the Tipton club and fitted into the slot of training on the roads with our long suffering road running mates Bill Carr and Eric Silk who still kept faith with us to push us along on those 5 to 8 mile road runs splattered with sprint races.

And so it was that all mine and John's training sessions were geared up once more for the Cosford Indoor Meeting on 29th November 1960, and John Brimble was again the back one of forging ahead with getting ore Tipton Harriers interested in that forthcoming meeting and to a small degree it seemed to work with Roy Thorpe, Stuart Williams, myself and John setting a competitive example by re-entering our names for those 330 yards races along with some new conversions to indoor running namely Doug Fownes and Richard Bratt both contesting the one mile races, with a bit of a shock entry with Glynnis Gray from the women's section deciding to give the meeting a once over by competing in the Women's 660 yards race, thus breaking the mould by being the first female Tipton athlete to compete at Cosford. Her sister Joy the ladies sprint champion of Tipton Harriers and great friend of mine hadn't entered for any sprint event but was still make the journey to Cosford to support her sister and fly the flag for Tipton Harriers and her great hope was to see me get near Robbie Brightwell's track record for the second time in my 330 yards race.

Our transport details were again handled with clock work precision by Mr Bill Marlow our A.A.A. representative and match organiser arriving at RAF Cosford just before 6.30 pm and all its coach passenger athletes knew that we faced a long hard night's athletics before us, the majority of the crowd on these Tuesday evenings was made up of military personnel from the Cosford air base and tonight they had plenty to cheer about because the evening's main feature was a four cornered match between Cambridge University, Loughborough College, RAF and a top quality Midland Team, besides the match events there was a series of open event which myself and other club athletes were entered for which had drawn together over 150 athletic mad athletes from all corners of the Midlands seeking what they hoped would be their few seconds or minutes of tantalising fame, for these Cosford meeting are considered by the competing athletes to be the home of indoor athletics in this country.

Meeting Gets Away to a Flying Start at 7 pm

This terrific night of indoor athletics got off to a real flying start (excuse the pun) when RAF runner John Reeve burst upon the track scene in the opening match event the One Mile race, he was in supersonic form and dominated the eleven lap race from start to finish, beating in the process two jet lagged top Midland mile runners Neil Duggan and Bill Goddard, his winning time of 4 minutes 16.5 seconds was a new Cosford track record time.

The meeting was sprinkled with star studded performances all evening and none more so than the eagerly awaited 330 yards clash between those top two international quarter milers Barry Jackson (Midlands) and Robbie Brightwell representing Loughborough College. Their head to head races at Cosford always had a touch of magic about them and their show piece race this evening was no exception those two great athletes once again scorched the Cosford wooden track floor at break neck speed, which resulted in a great victory for Barry Jackson in the brilliant new track record time of 37.8 seconds beating Robbie Brightwell by a handsome 3 yards, his time of 38.2 seconds with R Elgie (RAF) clocking a creditable 38.9 seconds in third place.

Tipton's One Mile Indoor Debutants

Two Tipton team mates Doug Fownes and Bob Bratt had both taken a fairly low key gamble and took the out of season step forward by competing in the One Mile open events at this meeting. Doug Fownes was a brilliant up and coming junior athlete, at ease with outdoor track running, cross country running and road running. On the other hand Bob Bratt was a modest track runner and it turned out to be a fairly enterprising evening for these two versatile runners with Doug Fownes gaining a third place in Race (A) one mile event beaten by track race specialists John Mills (Sparkhill) and Wilf Aston (Bilston) – Doug's time a useful 4 minutes 32.2 seconds. Bob Bratt then took up the challenge in Race (B) but he was easily beaten into third spot by D Coop (Halesowen) and T Wood (Nottingham University) – Bob's time 4 minutes 47.8 seconds.

330 Yards Open Events

My two other Tipton colleagues Stuart Williams and Ray Thorpe had by some quirk of fate been drawn to compete against one another in the open 330 yards races for the second successive meeting and from their respective personalities it was a race they revelled in. When the starter set them off on this 2 lap race there was plenty of fire in their bellies as they matched stride for stride around this oval track and with their club pride and credibility as individuals at stake these two put on a real show for the exuberant crowd and it was the will power and strength of Ray Thorpe which saw him gain a 3 yard victory over his great team mate Stuart Williams, who it was to be said 'Still on his comeback trail after a couple of seasons out of competitive athletics' winning time by Ray Thorpe 43.6 seconds.

The Last Indoor Meeting inside This Gymnasium

While all these races were in progress word was going around that his indoor meeting was going to be the last inside this unique gymnasium with no more competitive races gracing this wooden floored track leaving it like a hollow shell without a heart because these monthly meetings had brought the place to life over the past six years, and after tonight's meeting all the track records made inside this sym would be sort of frozen in time.

All this made me think about my last training session down the Vono sports ground on the Sunday morning prior to this meeting when Joy and Glynnis Gary joined our group of Andy Fereday, Dave Fereday, John Brimble and myself in a somewhat more relaxed training session with the welcoming distraction of the ladies joining in our training session. I was looking for an easy morning workout because I wanted to save all my sprinting energies for Tuesday's Cosford meeting and in a general passing conservation with Joy Gray, who by the way was a devoted Elvis Presley fan, mentioned she had bought his latest record that week entitled 'It's Now or Never' and somehow the title of that song summed up tonight's meeting with my 330 yards race looming ahead of me and my last impudent chance to get near the new track record time of 37.8 seconds set by Barry Jackson this evening so it was really a case of 'It's Now or Never' with this prophetic song would I be good enough or was my previous race here just a flash in the pan. I would soon find out as I took the good luck wishes from my Tipton Harrier friends and lined up on the starting line with my three opponents, I try and blank out all around me as I nervously for the utmost time pull up my socks from around my ankles the starter calls 'Get Set' the crowd falls into silence, then the deafening sound of the starters pistol sends us off on our last race around this Cosford track, with some very aggressive running I took the rack by the scruff of the neck and take the lead around the first bend which gives me control of the race. With my three rivals losing the battle to stay with me and lead the race over those two leg sapping and lung busting laps and from the deafening cheers from the crowd I crossed the finishing line some 40 yards ahead of my nearest rival D Cutler (Halesowen) and with my lungs still burning from my race efforts I wait with baited breath for the timekeepers to announce my time for the race it was a brilliant 38.4 seconds the fifth fastest time ever recorded at this Cosford meeting I had failed to beat Barry Jackson's record by 6/10th of a second but looking back now over the years this wasn't a failure but a great triumph, how could I have kidded myself that I could run faster than two great Olympic athletes like Robbie Brightwell and Barry Jackson but still those two athletes were the only runners to have completed that 330 yards race faster than myself.

Glynnis Gray rounds off a great evening Athletics for Tipton Harriers with a Win

While still recovering from my race exertions another great race of significance to our small band of Tipton Harriers was the Ladies 660 yards race, with my dear friend Glynnis Gray contesting this open event race and taking a leaf out of my book. She ran an inspirational race by leading all the way around the 4 lap course to gain a 4 yard victory over J Plows (Small Heath H) her winning time 1 minute 54.3 seconds.

With Glynnis's race over it was the curtain call on a brilliant night's athletics with the Midland Athletic team winning the four cornered athletic match with 91 points from Cambridge University with 66 points, in third place RAF with 64 points, fourth Loughborough College 58 points.

I left that Cosford meeting in a somewhat elated mood but somehow still in the back of my mind tinged with some sadness knowing full well I wouldn't be racing inside this unique gymnasium again and knew that next time I set foot inside RAF Cosford I would be stepping into a new era of indoor athletics at Cosford and would have the great distinction of performing around one of the largest indoor athletic arenas in the World which would be based inside a giant aircraft hanger and I had that meeting to look forward to on 17th January 1960.