Roy Langford - Article No.15 (10/12/2012)

West Bromwich Transport Department Social and Sports Club 2nd Annual Open Athletic Sports Meeting - 10 July 1960 at 3 pm

One of my first memories of this athletic meeting at the Oakdale Sports Ground, Beeches Road, West Bromwich was to just arriving at the sports ground before 2 pm and being greeted by one almighty rain storm and having to make post haste to one of the changing room marquees lining the sports field. Where I sheltered with other athletes and weathered out the storm which at one stage threatened the meeting not going ahead but luckily after half an hour the grey storm clouds drifted over and the sun came out to greet us but still a breezy day which to some degree helped dry out the six lane grass track which at one time during the storm looked like a paddling pool.

This West Bromwich Transport meeting was organised with the aid of officials of West Bromwich Harrier Athletic Club, which brought together some of the best athletes in the Midlands, representing clubs such as Birchfield Harriers, Sale Harriers, Bedford and County AC, Coventry Godiva Harriers, Gloucester AC, Lozell Harriers, in other words from all corners of the Black Country Athletic scene.

My Ten Seconds of Fame in Beating Peter Radford

With the sun and wind doing it's utmost to dry out the sodden track and with the meeting officials all in position the meeting started on time at 3 pm. Which brings me to my best memory of this day's athletics, it was of the participation of Britain's fastest ever sprinter the 20 year old Walsall physical training instructor Peter Radford (Birchfield Harriers). Peter like me was down to compete in the Men's 100 yards Open Handicap race.

There were 8 heats in this event with the first two in each going on to run in the second round heats and contesting these races were some of the best club sprinters in the Midlands with of course the greatest of them all Peter Radford and as luck of bad luck would have it I was drawn to run against him in Heat no 5. Peter was off scratch in the race which befitted his role of World Top Class sprinter. I was off my handicap mark of 7¼ yards, the official starter on this day was Mr G McKeown and seven athletes lined up for this race on their various handicap marks. I was very nervous but kept my composure as we went through two false starts before blasting away from our blocks. The race was almost over in the blink of any eye as my spiked running shoes ploughed through the wet grass to beat Peter Radford by one clear yard in 10 seconds dead. Peter clocked 10.1 seconds off scratch we had both made it into the second round heats at 3.45 pm.

I felt like a King as I took the congratulations from my fellow team mates who were shocked and somewhat amazed at my victory over Peter.

Second Round Heats

It was an half and hour wait before the two second round heats of the Men's 100 yards Handicap races took place and I watched with great interest as Heat No 1 was won by B White (Northampton AC) off 7½ yards, second F T Moore (Bilston AC) 10½ yards and in third place my made Terry Gibson (Birchfield Harriers) off 6½ yards winning time 10 seconds.

My Second Victory over Peter Radford

With the adrenalin pumping madly through my body I took up my position on the starting line in Heat No 2 and I was drawn against Peter Radford again. To me I had already run the race of my life to beat Radford once, now I was faced with the prospect of doing it all over again but if had been a dream come true for me to run against one of the world's greatest runners of my generation and this was Olympic year for Peter Radford so he was in peak condition at this meeting. But this was a handicap race which gave every runner in the race an outside chance of winning and would again test Radford to his limits being off scratch and this applied to myself because I was giving a few yards start to some very useful sprinters and I needed to finish in the first three to book my place in the final.

Mr McKeown the starter got us off to a clean break, no false starts this time and I ran another great race with only a couple of yards separating the four leading runners when we crossed the winning line and by the narrowest of margin's victory west to Ken Jones off 9 yards (Small Heath Harriers) in second place R Normanton (Sale Harriers) off 8¼ yards and myself a very close third place. We had all piled on the agony for Peter Radford because he finished in 4th place and out of the final at that moment in time but there is a twist in the tale of this story, Because on finishing this race I felt a very slight twinge in my hamstring tendon the back of my knee and decided there and then not to compete anymore that day. A big disappointment to me but I didn't want to risk aggravating the pulled muscle by competing in the final, so I reported my decision to the track stewards and jokingly recommended that Peter Radford take my place in the final. The track steward just laughed at my cheeky remark and must have been thinking it was rather presumptuous of me to make such a statement but they must have perhaps taken some notice of me because Peter ran in the final.

The result of that Men's 100 yards Open handicap was a great win for R Normanton (Sale Harriers) second Ken Jones (Small Heath) third Terry Gibson (Birchfield Harriers) winning time a good 9.7 seconds. Peter Radford finished in fourth place.

Great Win for Tipton Harrier

Tony Burkitt (Tipton Harriers) ran an inspired race in the 1500 yards Scratch Team Race. This event was open to all athletes who had never won a prize in open competition at the mile or over. Tony broke his duck when he ran away from the rest of the field on the last lap to defeat J Edwards (Dudley Harriers) by more than 40 yards in the brilliant time of 3 minutes 55.8 seconds, which also helped Tipton win the team prize from Dudley Harriers. This win would kick start a brilliant athletic career for Tony Burkitt with the Harriers.

Those Wonderful Bilston Town Lady Athletes

This meeting also witnessed a great performance by those keep as mustard young ladies of Bilston Town Athletic Club who lived and breathed athletics. They had also been on my side and cheered me on when I beat Peter Radford, there was always a strong bond and of course rivalry that existed between our two great clubs and it was some how befitting that three wonderful Bilston Lady athletes would dominate the final of the 80 yards Junior Ladies Open Handicap race and make it a clean sweep by finishing 1st, 2nd and 3rd in this event. Race won in brilliant style by Barbara Edwards off 8¼ yards, second Sandra Watson of 10 yards and in third place was my dear friend, the diminutive but lightening fast Janice Llewellyn off 4 yards, who had faced an impossible task in this race by giving away so many handicap yards start to her great club sprinting rivals. Winning time 9.1 seconds.

The Legend of Black Country Sprinting

Before putting down my pen from writing this story I must reiterate about the greatness of Black Country Legend, Peter Radford. 1960 was undoubtedly his finest year in athletics from my point of view anyway because with his magnificent World Record time for the 220 yards with 20.5 seconds and with two further United Kingdom best times with 9.4 seconds for 100 yards and 10.3 seconds for 100 metres all gained in the summer months of 1960 and this year had also been about Peter competing at the Olympic Games in Rome in August and September. My own Olympic Games would take place in my dreams like many other athletes who dreamed about Olympic glory and standing on the rostrum to collect a medal of any description and take the applause from the massive crown but to me this all came to an abrupt end when my dream shattered by the alarm clock going off to get me up for work.

But for Peter Radford this year it was no dream it was all so real in September when so gallantly won an Olympic bronze medal for third place in the Men's 100 metres Sprint Final a contemporary report in a sports magazine summed up and describes this race as quote 'at the third attempt the field got away to a perfect start with Peter Radford perhaps the worst away. A gasp for the crowd as Armin Hary's phenomenal pick-up catapulted him a yard ahead at 40 meters and cheers from the crowd as he held on to part of that lead right through to the tape with Radford coming through very well indeed for a close up third spot. He looked crestfallen, but I cannot imagine whey because he ran a wonderful race and equalled his United Kingdom record of 10.3 seconds in the process' end of quote.

I suppose over the years Peter must have thanked his lucky stars at achieving such a high standard of excellence to be up with the great names of world class sprinting and like I said my hopes were only in pipe dreams and a million light years away from reality. But on packing up my sports kit and leaving the sports field my next down to earth goal was to hope and pray my pulled muscle would soon be ok, because I had set my sights on helping Tipton Harriers to win the Stourbridge and Wordsley District Track League title in two weeks time on Tuesday 26th July at Aldersley Stadium, Wolverhampton and Tipton Harriers go into this last of 5 track league meeting with a 38 point lead advantage over nearest rivals Bilston Town Athletic Club. I will let you know the thrilling outcome of that meeting in my next story.