Roy Langford - Article No.12 (03/09/2012)

About a month had elapsed since my baptism into the world of indoor athletics at RAF Cosford and had filled in my time during that period, playing football for Vono Sports team but even then my head was still in the clouds thinking about the forthcoming athletic season.

With this in mind all my training was geared up for this purpose only, so the three Tiptoneers Andy Fereday, John Brimble and myself would meet up on a Tuesday and Thursday evening at Tipton Harriers Headquarters in Sedley Road East and tag along with our long distance running mates Eric Silk and Bill Carr on a somewhat shortened version of their road runs of between 5 and 8 miles. Looking back I sometimes wonder how they put up with us on those mad jaunts around the road and pavements of the Dudley and Tipton area which included many enthusiastic sprint races being thrown into the run to liven up the proceedings on those dark winter evenings.

Today passers by would have been frightened and thought us mad but in those far off days Tipton Harriers were a familiar sight pounding the roads and no-one paid us any heed and another bonus then was not many automobiles on the roads in those days.

It was in the middle of March that year in 1960 when I turned up for one of my usual training sessions with the lads, but this evening would be of special interest. On entering the club house a great deal of interest was being centred on the HQ notice board. So I moved in closer to see what all the fuss was all about my eyes lit up when I read it pinned to the notice board was a poster appealing for athletes to take part in a series of 'Experimental Sunday Morning Competitive Training Sessions' at Aldersbury Stadium during the month of April. This was another nail in the coffin for my footballing days.

The first of these meeting was pencilled in for Sunday 3rd April 1960; this idea was the brain child of those marvellous Wolverhampton Harrier officials. The purpose was to get us match fit for the opening of the athletic season at the end of May, starting off with the County Championships, an event I have never entered but worth bearing in mind for the 28 May the day of the County Championship. It would be a good chance to kick start my athletic season.

Also these meetings would give the local athletic officials the chance to get some rust out of their joints and brush up on their organisation skills such as stop watch skills for timing races and the man we all sometimes loved to hate the starter. These attributes we all just took for granted and didn't always appreciate especially when called up for a false start or lost a race by the thickness of a vest and wondered why they didn't just call it a dead heat. But in all fairness these officials did a great job and did it for the love of the sport.

Sunday 3rd April 1960

I was up like a lark on that Sunday morning and full of the joys of spring, my dear Gran (Susan Woodall) had prepared for me a light breakfast of poached egg and beans on toast. My Gran always said 'your breakfast is the most important meal of the day' and I would have a couple hours for my stomach to digest the food before I ran. After with my running kit neatly packed away in my sports holdall I set forth from my house in Fairfield Road, Dudley on that bleak cold windy morning all wrapped up to the nines in my winter overcoat, woolly hat and scarf wrapt tightly around my neck.

My lone journey to Wolverhampton and then on to the Aldersley Stadium gave my mind plenty of time to wonder how many of my fellow Tipton team mates would commit themselves to this meeting was al that enthusiastic talk around the notice board just talk and nothing else. I would soon find out as I stepped off the bus and with the wind whistling around my ears I entered the stadium and headed for the changing rooms inside there sitting cosily and chatting away to one another and already in running gear were Andy Fereday, John Brimble and Alan Warner our middle distance runner. We would be the only four Tipton athletes to uphold the worthy Tipton name that morning.

Sunday Morning Run at Aldersley

More than 60 athletes turned up at Aldersley Stadium, Wolverhampton for the first experimental Sunday morning competitive training periods and the conditions were far from ideal with the wind sometimes gusting to gale force whirling around the stadium on this April 3rd spring morning. There was only a limited amount of events on offer over some most unusual distances on this ground breaking first morning.

The opening event just after 11 am say Roger Hughes (Wolverhampton Harriers) defy the buffeting winds to run a well judged 1000 yards race and defeat Neil Duggan (Sparkhill H) by a couple of yards with our own Tipton Harrier representative Alan Warner in third place, winning time 2 min 26.6 seconds.

Class Race by Peter Radford

The next race to warm up the cockles of the heart on that cold morning was the real class event of the morning with three international athletes lining up on their starting blocks for a 150 yards sprint race and this gale force assisted race was won in devastating style by the Walsall born wonder athlete Peter Radford in a time of 14 seconds. With fellow team mate Nick Whitehead (Birchfield Harriers) second and Mike Parker (Achilles) in third place. A very unlucky John Salisbury (Birchfield) another local contender for a place at the Rome Olympics 1960 pulled up in this race and limped off the track with a pulled hamstring muscle.

My 60 yards Sprint Victory

Finding a shielded spot to warm up for my 60 yards race wasn't easy with those penetrating gale force winds chilling you to the bone marrow and for that very reason my strategy was to run my race wearing my track suit bottoms to keep my legs warm and prevent any pulled muscles. Called to our marks we stepped forward on to the running track to be faced by the starter of the race Mr Sid Hodson who was always immaculately dressed in his red sports blazer and his distinctive wide brimmed jockey cap but today his blazer was hidden by a weather proof mac to keep out those biting winds and a pair of woollen gloves to keep both hands of his trigger fingers warm. Taking his gloves off Sid called us to get down into our set positions and no hanging around from Sid as the wind tried to lift us out of our starting blocks his pistol fired setting us off on our 60 yards dash. With only three of us contesting the race we matched stride for stride as the billowing wind blew us down the track in unison and only inches must have separated us as we three ourselves across the winning line. With neither of us willing to claim a victory it was left to the timing judges to sort out the placings. After a few tantalising minutes low and behold I was given the thumbs up verdict from John Hodson (Birchfield Harrier) we both clocked 6.8 seconds with the other great Birchfield Harrier Terry Gibson in third place in 6.9 seconds. A great start to my first Sunday morning meeting.

Olympic Hopeful in 1½ Mile Race

This was truly a great morning of athletics which even the gale force winds couldn't deter. Another Olympic candidate at this meeting was Maurice Herriott (Sparkhill Harriers) the current holder of the AAA 3000 metres steeplechase Championship who was hoping to book his plane ticket in that event at the Rome Games in August and September this year but today his sights were set on a lower scale the 1½ mile track race against two of Bilston Town AC most contrasting athletes namely the steady and reliable Wilf Aston and the very eccentric runner with the bubbly personality Brian Butler.

As they lined up for this race we all knew there would be no trouble who would set the pace with Brian in the race a real do or die character of our local track league meetings. I can still see him now setting off at break neck speed with all eyes focussed on him and slow down which he inadvertently did and today was no exception. He was passed after three laps by Wilf with Maurice in close attendance it was then just a match between the pair of them over the next few laps but with the undoubted pedigree of Herriott being just too strong for Wilf in the final sprint for the winning line with the plucky Brian Butler some 30 yards in arrears. Winning time 7 minutes 18.4 seconds.

A new sprint star found

A new sprinting star was discovered at this meeting by the name of Peter Hingley a local 17 years old Wolverhampton Grammar School lad who contested the junior 60 yards dash. He beat Bilston's top young sprint star John Purslow by two yards with our own top gun Andy Fereday (Tipton) in third place in the brilliant time of 6.8 seconds.

Bilston's Star back to Winning Ways

That 60 yards defeat by Peter Hingley was just a small setback for John Purslow (Bilston) because he redeemed his star status in the last race of the meeting. John had a dazzling win in the 150 yards spring race beating Michael Pountney (Wolverhampton H) and F Darby (Wolverhampton H) with my mate John Brimble who had so patiently waited all morning for his race finishing up in fourth place. Winning time for John Purslow 15.1 seconds. Just to put his race in perspective I know John Brimble was disappointed with his performance but he needn't have been because he was up against three of the best junior athletes in the Midlands.

Putting all that aside what a great morning's athletics it ha been under trying conditions. We had witnessed some brilliant races and been in the company of some top class athletes what more could you ask for with no prizes or medals on offer just competing for the fun of it and out love of the sport.