Roach's Recollections (16/11/2014)

Steve Roach, from the Halesowen area, got in touch with us during the summer regarding the RRC 100 Mile Track Race held at, and staged by, Tipton, that he had some information on to share. He has now kindly passed on his recollections from his time at the club in the past.

"I have read some of the linked articles and identified with the spirit of the club at that time in the early 70s. I only have fuzzy memories of the 24 hour race and don't want to make things up, so will limit my memory to the sight of the Hard Men doing lap after lap, after lap, after lap, seemingly with only death stopping them from finishing the race.

For what it's worth for the record I can summarise my experiences and memories of Tipton Harriers below. Please ignore part or all of them as you see fit.

I went to school with Brian Cole and he persuaded me to join the club in 1968 at 16 years old.

I ran in some road relay races with pretty limited success as the standard there was high but fared much better over occasional outings over 400m. Tony Phillips looked after me at the club and always impressed with his enthusiasm for the sport; Bert Harbach also showed an interest, even after some poor relay legs which tended to take my hope away of reaching a good standard, and looking back those two were influential in bringing a whole pile of youngsters into the club and keeping them from drifting away. I drifted away from it for a couple of years during A levels but Tony telephoned my parents out of the blue when I left school in 1971 with running "quarters" for the club in mind . I got hooked again....

I ran for the club as a sprinter in the early to mid 70's before getting repetitive leg muscle problems and fading away from competition with frustration with the injuries. Never forgot the times there though, and am trying now to do longer distances and get to a reasonable (for my age) standard (but 62 now, getting slower all the time...).

Some of my proudest moments in life were winning the Mens' Senior Sprint two years running in the early 70s and getting presented with the trophy at the clubhouse. The other sprinters were Nigel Higgs, Ray Farmer, Phil Bennett, and Chris Cook. A young man called Keith O'Meally started running for the club, and got better and better. I have seen that he still holds the 800m club record but he was amazing over 400m.

The long distance runners there were awesome but down to earth. If you didn't try your best you would know about it; even if you didn't do well, maximum effort was regarded as everything and voluntarily giving even an inch in races was something to be ashamed of. Criticism from the long distance men for the "soft" sprint runners was direct, sometimes painful, but always justified. They could smell even minute lack of effort a mile away. On one occasion Doug Fownes told me that I needed to lose weight after seeing me train after a break for studies . He was of course right as I was half fit, not good enough for the Harriers. Ron Bentley could tell you when he thought that you were not trying hard enough just by looking at you. You tried a lot harder if you got another chance at a race. The ethic has survived well.

One of my memories was of the club knocking together a team to compete for the Sir Peter Studd shield (track and field meeting at Polytechnic Harriers' stadium) in London in 1972 with me dragged in as a raw 19 year old for the 400m. We won the overall trophy against all odds (some of the athletes were Olympic standard) and it left a mark on me as one of the abiding examples of the eternal team spirit at the club, regardless of the individuals who change with time. The announcer of the team winner made the remark over the tannoy that he didn't know how Tipton managed to win it (Black Country behaviour, the accent, and "direct" mannerisms seemed to throw the well spoken organisers and officials), which made us all smile. A young skinny youth named Steve Emson came third in the 800m final against tall muscular athletes who towered over him at the start line. I think that on the same day the club won the National Road Relay, as I can recall someone's telephone conversation with the clubhouse telling them that we'd won in London and hearing of an even better result?

I got in touch with Jeff Taylor in 2012 (the late Andy Holden picked up my e mail and passed it to him) and asked about joining. He invited me to sample some interval training at the "Ball Park" and as expected I got murdered. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences of recent times for me and since then I've continued to train as broadly advised by Jeff, in between the inevitable injuries. I'll see how next year goes in the Park Runs, try another "sample" training session and gauge whether to join the club again in April/ May."

If you have any recollections of your time with the Harriers that you think we might like to know about the send them in for consideration. Drop us a line via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.