RIP Ron Copson (02/03/2014)

Club President Ron Bentley reports that Ron Copson, one time member of Tipton Harriers has sadly died recently.

He was a regular member of the Tipton Harriers Ultra Distance squad during the 1960's & 70's. He raced the majority of the ultra classics in the UK including the RRC London To Brighton Road Race, Exeter To Plymouth, The Two Bridges & Maindy 40 Mile Track Race. He also competed for the club in many road relays.

In 1972 he went to South Africa with the "gang" who won the Comrades Marathon which brought him immense pleasure as he wrote in 1975 where he reflected modestly on himself.

"That only leaves myself (last as usual) on whom I refused, on the grounds that I might incriminate myself, to pass any comments, except to say that I have had my moments, and slight flushes of success, running with and against the lads, and that to me is my satisfaction. Amongst my collection of souvenirs and trophies is a tankard engraved with the words "a member of the magnificent seven" – I need say no more.

He also wrote, promoting the expolits of the ultra squad and was published in the Road Runners Club journal, an example of which follows.

Ron Bentley & Pete Boxley attended the funeral on behalf of the club.

Our thoughts go to his family and friends.

Tipton Harriers, Ron Copson (Road Runners Club, August 1975)

It is often said that you only get out of something what you put into it. When it comes to ultra long distance running this saying has been put to the test and undoubtedly cannot be contradicted by any member of the Tipton Harriers distance squad for having done just that, the results over the past years speak for themselves. I doubt if there has ever been a more successful or consistent team over such a long period of years – in fact the perfect combination both on and off the "road."

In the initial team of approximately ten years ago, were two lads, who contributed so much in forming the basis of such a good squad and no amount of praise is too high for them. I refer to Mick Powell and Tony Fern who ran some great races and times, even back in those days. Mick does not run anymore and is now engaged in school teaching. Tony, of course, had moved away and runs for Southampton where he is helping their rise, but these two savoured early success with Tipton.

What of others? Well, I could write a book about them, let alone an article for the Newsletter. Whatever one says or concludes, the basis of one success has always been the hard continual training both individually and as a group. At the time, not so long ago, when it was almost a foregone conclusion and we were fortunate in that geographically we all worked within a radius of a few miles from the club, so that we all met on Tuesday and Thursday evenings straight from work, and ran together for a few miles before dropping off as each went his separate way. Nevertheless, and most important, we had run together feeling one another out, as we joked and laughed along the way – some nights it could be quite hilarious, if Gordon Bentley was on form.

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 in 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.

No completely retired from athletics and spending his time free-fall parachuting is George Johnson, who has been around the long-distance scene longer than any of us. It is a pity we shall not see him running the roads again. He ran some fine races for us and, to my mind, he will always be remembered as the one who nearly won the London to Brighton. A strange feature about George was his running shoes. Ron Bentley always said that no chiropodist could ever define which part of his shoes touched the ground, the joke was always part of the general atmosphere with the lads. There is no doubt George is sadly missed by us all.

The "twins" Johnny Malpass and Tony Burkitt, deadly foes when racing, but great friends when training, alas have both somewhat lost their lustre due to private and business reasons. If they could only muster the old enthusiasm they could again become the deadly due. Johnny can best be remembered as the runner who must wanted to succeed, and that's just what he did when he and I used to run together to work. He always said he would break the myth and records of the late and great John Tarrant who was held in great respect and admiration by us all. Johnny captured the Exeter to Plymouth record, the course being longer on that day due to road repairs and also the Isle of Man 40. He had turned the corner, and he never looked back for a year or so. Tony has probably, out of all of us, the greatest natural potential, and few runners could have had such an introduction to ultra distance running as he did in the London to Brighton – always a consistent and tenacious competitor, who never knew when he had had enough, and when he was in full training, a top class ultra runner.

Mick Orton had without doubt, the greatest introduction to ultra distance running of any runner today, when he won the 1972 Comrades marathon on the uphill course in a new and still existing record time. It is, in my considered opinion the greatest run by any Tipton athlete past or present. When the news was passed on to me during the Comrades, I ran the fastest 100 yards ever run over that course in jubilation. Mick, unfortunately, doesn't run or train so often these days.

That only leaves myself (last as usual) on whom I refused, on the grounds that I might incriminate myself, to pass any comments, except to say that I have had my moments, and slight flushes of success, running with and against the lads, and that to me is my satisfaction. Amongst my collection of souvenirs and trophies is a tankard engraved with the words "a member of the magnificent seven" – I need say no more.

Producing the winning team with such consistency never came easily, but a few years ago the domination in winning the team prize reached the situation where virtually all the trophies to be won belonged to us, so that the eventual talk turned to what other races we could run in and where. Naturally the Comrades always became the first topic of conversation. How much would it cost? How long had we to train, what would the conditions be like, how may of us, and which of us should go? The idea was kicked around for quite some time until at the 1971 Two Bridges Race Charlie Chase, who was over here from South Africa to run, gave us a written challenge. We accepted, and from then on we had accepted our greatest challenge both on and off the road. The only thing which seemed to give cause for alarm was raising the money, but raise it we did by every known means, and a few others. It was on! Training was increased to as almost, new and unknown level even by our standards, so that we all got very fit, and could not wait to get there. The rest is by now all so well known. We all finished, won the team and individual races, and a new course record – the end to a perfect dream, the most magnificent tour ever, and a credit to Tipton and the R.R..C. All that was 1972 and alas 1975 is getting well underway, and the halo has slipped a little over the last three years yet Tipton is still a force to be reckoned with and perhaps this season could see a revival? In any case the failure seems to be taken care of in the for of Mick Orton, Alan Richards and Ken Rock, so who knows it may still be "LOOK OUT THE GREEN AND WHITE ARE ABOUT!"