RIP Allan Rushmer

We have today heard of the sad death of Tipton Harriers legend Allan Rushmer on 23/04/2024 in York. He was 80.

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Allan was truly one of the greats that have graced this club and had one of the longest competitive associations with us.

Known to many simply as “Rushie.” Allan was born 27/02/1944. Alan Trevor Rushmer, only son of Mr & Mrs Dennis W Rushmer, Regent Road, Tividale.

What an “L” of a guy!

His first name has caused many a writer and journalist issues and Allan and family must have tired at answering questions as to how to spell his first name.

He has long been known to as “Allan” and according to a newspaper article in the Sports Argus in March 1973 it came about due to a loss of his original Birth Certificate at some point in his young life, which, when a new one was applied for, came back with the “Allan” spelling. He was then Allan from then on.

Allan went to Tividale Comprehensive but did not run at school. He did not start running till he was 16.

He saw some people running in the park. On enquiring he found that there was a 3 mile road race on the Saturday, at Oldbury AC. They asked him to run, it was the day of the 1960 Cup final.

He recalled in 1986

“I remember thinking that I must be an idiot to want to go racing when I was a football fan, but anyway I turned up. I had an old singlet, a pair of old shorts and a pair of black pumps and I won it. I won a plaque or something and I thought it was great. That was how I started really, I must've run myself to a frazzle as I felt bad when night time came, but I thought, "well I'm good at something," and so it went from that.”

He then signed up with Oldbury A & CCC. This club had been established in the late 1940’s by “Taff” Hier a former member of Tipton Harriers. “Taff” was a Welsh International.

Allan’s first appearance in AW (Athletics Weekly) was probably in 2nd July 1960 where the results for the Worcestershire Track & Field Championships held on 28/05/1960. These included a certain “A Rushmer (Oldbury)” placing 2nd in the Youths mile. No time was given.

Later in that year he had hit the roads and turned in a fast time in the Belgrave Youths event at Wimbledon.

He was also experimenting and in July 1961 was trying out the steeplechase along with other hopefuls. He placed 4th in MCAAA Junior Championship over 1500m just ahead of Dudley runner Pat Butcher who later went on to become a national athletics reporter and author.

This experimentation continued into 1962 when he actually won the MCAAA Junior title over 1500m earning himself the “E F Turner Cup” for best performance in that age group. Later on, he was to give up the event as he felt his style, or lack of hurdling ability, was not helping.

1963 saw him gain further experience when he headed to race at Wembley. At this time there was an indoors facility and Allan was invited to race a 2 Mile event. He won beating many nationally recognised runners of repute.

Racing for Oldbury he was developing a strong reputation as a formidable racer over road, track, and cross country.

In the mid 1960’s, living at 74 Regent Road, Tividale, his trade was given as an upholsterer at the local Vono firm. He was noted as being present at the Tipton Harriers Boxing Day Handicap in 1964.

Then joined Tipton officially on 20/10/1965 when his application was considered and accepted at Committee subject to Oldbury A & CCC having no objections. They appear not to have had.

Due to much more stringent eligibility rules for team competition then in existence he was unable to contribute to team performances at Tipton Harriers for another 14 months. He could however race in Tipton colours and that he did enhancing their reputation further.

His first reported race in AW for his new club was in December 1965 where he was 2nd to Alan Simpson, of Rotherham, in the Harry Whitehouse Memorial Race.

In early 1966 Allan was racing on the roads. Mel Batty was someone he had admired having watched him win the National. He took him on and won at Maidenhead.

In one report of the 1966 Maidenhead 10 Road Race the former great athlete Sam Ferris described Allan’s defeat of Mel Batty by a minute as follows:

“This stylish boy was simply smoothing out the gradients in a coasting attitude easy on the eye.”

Later in his career when asked about favourite exploits the Maidenhead race was one he treasured.

“I never had any others I followed. Mel held the course record in the Maidenhead 10 and I went down for that one year and ran against him. I beat him and broke the course record as well and to me that was marvellous, one of the best ever things.”

His first international vest was against the USSR at the White City in June 1966. This was on 17th June and he placed 4th in a PB. His fellow team mate that day was Bruce Tulloh.

The England football team won the World Cup on 30th July 1966 and then in Jamaica during August Tipton’s finest Allan Rushmer picked up a bronze medal in the Empire Games 3 Miles, held on 8th August, behind the great Kenyan Kip Keino and Australian Ron Clarke. These Games were the subsequently known as the Commonwealth Games.

On his arrival back from the Empire Games on 16th August he headed home and an hour and a half later was training with his mates down the Club.

A special accolade for all runners, from the lowly clubman up to the top international was to “get in AW”. Allan did this on numerous occasions and following his bronze medal made the cover in the 3rd September 1966 edition.

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He became eligible for Tipton Harriers in team competition in January 1967 and made an immediate impact in a League XC race at Cheltenham.

1967 saw another major landmark or two. In August he broke the AAA National record for 3 Miles and on the same weekend at Northampton he broke the four minute barrier for a mile with 3m 58.1s.

The mile was not a distance he ran many times. His “sub four” was probably the first for the Tipton Harriers club.

Small in stature but massive in heart and soul. His main racing focus was at distances from 2 miles to 10,000m. Rarely did he venture to shorter distances.

The winning of the Senior Men’s National in 1969 at Parliament Hill Fields in London was notable for the Club and Allan. Allan was 2nd scorer in 14th spot. Reflecting later in his life this event was one of the most memorable and significant races in his career. It embodied all that was good with the Club.

As a consequence of the race it allowed Allan another treat. On 8th March the Club were invited to process the trophy around the ground of West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns when they were placing Chelsea in Division 1. In front of a crowd of 25,137 Allan and his team mates showed off the trophy feted by the fans. Sadly his beloved Albion lost 3-0.

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With the quality performances he was now producing more opportunities came to race abroad. During his career he raced in many countries including Canada, Tunisia, Italy, Switzerland, USA, Kenya, Spain, France, Finland, Germany, Hungary.

As was the norm around this time his England selection for racing abroad in winter typically came from the ECCU and he would head away at weekends to race on the near continent along with the likes of Ron Hill, Gerry North and Dick Taylor. All this on the back of a full weeks training and holding down a full time physically demanding job.

Allan was a consummate racer often letting others do the work and then he would release a big “kick” and often take yards out of his rivals to win.

Allan, when fit, was a prolific racer. He loved to race and none more than when he faced his friend and rival Dick Taylor of Coventry Godiva. They had some great battles.

The late Cliff Franks recalled in 2003

“In those dark distant days of the 1960's, when all sport had been rained off and washed out. The B.B.C. came cap in hand to the Midland Counties A.A.A., asking if they could cover live the Midland Track & Field Championships on Television. This, seemingly, the only event not affected by the weather. What we should do for such coverage now! The B.B.C. obviously knew what they were about for they had a truly wonderful afternoon's athletics, with many of the Countries leading athletes participating. However, the highlight of the afternoons sport was a cracking three mile race where Coventry's Dick Taylor a front runner of some note, tried all he could to rid himself of the diminutive Alan Rushmer. For lap after lap the two ran as hare and shadow, with Dick trying his hardest to break the invisible string that seemed to attach the two athletes together. Well into the final lap 'Rushy' released his explosive finish, slowly edging himself up to Dick's shoulder and finally edging by into a three or four yards victory. A great run and my first major memory of the tenacious Rushmer.”

Allan supported the county side of athletic competition but, due to the vagaries of local boundary changes he actually represented two to good effect. Initially Worcestershire saw some of his exploits, often winning their cross country and track championships, then it was to be Warwickshire where he again excelled.

Allan was a traditionalist in many ways with his training. Using the winter to develop strength and endurance he would then introduce more speedwork to get him right for the track season.

Allan is one of very few athletes to have competed in each of the Divisions of the Birmingham & District Invitation Cross Country League and met with success by winning races. His first outing was back in November 1960 as a Youth for Oldbury which he won!

Track facilities were not readily available locally and so Allan did most of his training on the roads and canals in his home area. Speedwork was done in parks on grass or on the system of canals around the Black Country area. He used the system of Fartlek as one of his main strands of training.

He was not afraid of hard work and would recount tales of training with Ian Stewart over two sessions on a Sunday - a long run in the morning followed by a fast 10 in the afternoon.

Like Allan, Tipton Harriers saw many developments including the opening of the new facilities at Gospel Oak in 1971. An exhibition 3000m race was staged that included Allan which he duly won getting the Rotary International Trophy from the Duke of Edinburgh, Price Phillip.

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At the end of the 71/72 winter cross country season big changes were happening life outside athletics and he married Kathleen Ann Barton, a nurse, on 25/03/1972 in Tipton at St Martins Church. Ian Stewart was best man. The reception was held at the TSUT in Gospel Oak. The pair honeymooned in Stratford On Avon. A sign of the times. They went on to have two children.

He attributed his good run in the National 12 Stage, which Tipton won, to wanting to do his Dad proud who was not well at the time. He was very close to his father. 1974 was not a good year for Allan as he lost his father at the age of young age of 51 in May to cancer. In February 1975 he was made redundant from Jensen, the West Bromwich car maker.

Allan started out his running career in the early 1960’s when he would have found tracks ranging from rough grass, through cinders to concrete and eventually synthetic. Indeed one of his first experiences of the synthetic tracks was to be abroad in Zurich in temperatures around 100 degrees.

As well as dealing with the changes in racing surface he was also active around the time of the transition from imperial to metric distances. He moved seamlessly from 3 Miles to 5000m and 6 Miles to 10,000m setting records along the way.

Never one to really take on an “official” role in the club such as Secretary or Chairman, it was not really in his nature but he did get nominated and elected to positions of team captaincy.

The 1980’s saw many changes in athletics and Allan embraced them. The running boom was just taking off and veterans’ athletics was maturing. The number of races that an athlete could enter was growing and marathon mania was rife.

In Sandwell they staged a marathon in 1981 in which Allan and his great mate Andy Holden joined hands and shared the victory. Local lads supporting a local event. But he was not just racing at home as in October he was in Brisbane along with another Tipton Harrier, Brian Cole racing over 10,000m.

Allan would race as often as his work, family and fitness allowed. In his late 30’s he was still a major player and catalyst for success within the club in road relays and across country. If “Rushie” was racing there was always a chance of success. He inspired others to better things.

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In 1982 Allan was rewarded by the Club with Life Membership (24/05/1982). But such recognition did not extend to the new London Marathon where his application to run was rejected. He wrote to appeal to Chris Brasher.

There was a flurry of correspondence in AW about his rejection that included the following from Mike Kelly of Sparkhill Harriers

“At no time did Rushmer make any complaints or gestures to anyone. Throughout his long international career Alan has been the epitome of modesty and reticence, a credit to his sport.”

A credit indeed. He did run the race in the end placing 68th A Rushmer in 2h 23m 33s.

Racing was nothing if not eventful in those days. In a local Dudley 25Km he was impeded.

The driver in a black Ford ignored police instructions to halt at the traffic lights at the bottom of Mucklow Hill, Halesowen, and drove on, nearly knocking over race leader and eventual winner Allan Rushmer.

International opportunities still arose. In October 1982 he was even in Finland with the club at the Lidingoloppet, 30Km.

In 1983 Rushmer also appeared in a new event for the club – a running machine championship. At Hadden Hill Leisure Centre where they staged the regional heats, he partnered up with his mate Andy Holden and one other for the event. He was also used in the adverts carried in AW at the time. It was a gimmick that eventually caught on.

Turning 40 in February 1984 gave him another outlet. In those days competition for veteran athletes began at 40 not 35 as is now the norm.

Around him Allan had many friends and club colleagues over that age group that he ran with and socialised with. It was a natural progression for him to race but he always wanted to race against the best not just his age group.

Tipton Harriers played a big role on the establishment of veteran’s athletics and the MVAC/MMAC in the early 1970’s and often promoted their events. Indeed in 1984 the MMAC relays were staged at Tipton and Allan combined with Doug Fownes & Geoff Wood to win the event.

His racing record in this period still took in League, County, Area, National and European races. Often in the scoring “six” or making a difference outside the “six” by beating other clubs’ scorers.

In 1984 having just turned 40 he targeted the European Veteran’s Championships staged in Crawley. He won the 10,000m and was 3rd in the 5,000m.

During this decade he picked up countless more medals for Tipton helping the club to titles along the way. He explained at the time his philosophy to Alistair Aitken

“Even though I am a vet my main priority was to make Tipton's first team. I want to make the nine-man cross country team in 1986 when we will be much, much stronger. I'm determined to make it. In fact, it is that which gives me the enthusiasm for vet’s races later on. They are a bonus, basically, especially if I run well in them.

You have heard of the “Wrong Trousers” but in 1985 it was the “Wrong Prize” for Allan as, according to the Evening Mail he was cussing his wife after the Ironbridge 6 miles cross-country run. She mistakenly heard that the prize for the first man was a week in the Caribbean and the second weekend in Paris. The 43-year-old Rushmer pulled out all the stops, virtually breaking a gasket, before finishing second. It was only then that he learned his prize was a track suit!

But 1985 did bring more prominent rewards as the World Veteran’s Championships were held in Lytham St Annes. He placed 2nd in both the 10Km & 25Km road races. Allan said at the time.

“I have to find enthusiasm to compete. But when I do run, it is a serious business and I want to win.”

During this decade he was working as a gardener for Sandwell and he described his job at that time.

When I'm serious I go on the golf course in the morning and run 35 min hard. Because of the job I have one is very tired in the evenings. I do a lot of tree planting and it is all heavy work, it is not like greenhouse work. You can walk anything up to 18 miles a day with a mower which obviously is tiring.

Around this time another former Tipton Harrier and Black Country author, Steve Bartley, recalled a funny incident whilst working at the Tipton Sports Academy.

"A few years back Olympic and Commonwealth athlete Allan Rushmer worked alongside me at the Academy which is the home of Tipton Harriers. One day I was talking to Allan who was out on the football pitch when I noticed a young lad around 100 yards away sneaking into the tool store where Allan had hung up his coat. The lad had taken the keys out of Allan's pocket and when he noticed us watching he took flight. Allan and I gave chase and caught him. We took him back to the building and called the police. A little while later a policeman arrived. He looked at the lad and said "How stupid can you be, if you are going to pinch something and make a run for it don't try it at Tipton Harriers!"

As the 1980’s progressed Allan would race quite a few times in America, facilitated by Bud Baldaro, another lifelong friend and mentor, picking up prizes along the way. Miami, Tampa, Boston, Peoria, Orlando and many other US towns and cities witnessed winning performances from Allan, a real “master” of the roads.

The 1990’s saw a natural drop off in racing. Allan was a lifelong fan of West Bromwich Albion from an early age. His first memory of the “Baggies” was them winning the FA Cup Final in 1954 as a ten year old. Around the time of his 50th birthday he went along and met the manager and players. It was another day to remember.

Alan provided inspiration to countless athletes across many generations around the world. Perhaps it was his humility and dedication that captured the spirit of traditional club athletics. He was universally liked and respected. A modest, private family man, who valued close friendships often with those of whom were also his closest athletic rivals.

He raced on the track both indoors and outdoors, roads and cross country. He gained representative honours for many Midland teams throughout his career including matches versus RAF, Army and the UAU. He was sometimes named Captain of these teams.

He ran for his adopted counties, the Midland area association (MCAAA), England as well as Great Britain & Northern Ireland. But for many he will be most remembered in a green and white hooped vest running his heart and soul out for Tipton Harriers. A true “local hero.”

Our thoughts are with his family, friends, and former running colleagues.

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Career Highlights

3rd National XC 1972; 7th World XC 1968 and 15th in 1972; Ran in the Mexico Olympic Games at 5000m; 3rd Commonwealth Games 3 miles, 1966, 4th 1970 5,000m; 5th in the European Championships 10,000m and 12th in the 5000m, 1966.