Running For The Buzz (Colin Hunt)


“Running for The Buzz” was kindly passed to me by Louie Hunt, Colin’s wife, back in late 2016 along with other athletics memorabilia for the Tipton Harriers’ archives.

I had cause to revisit the manuscript in 2022 when looking for information on a particular race. On reading it again then I knew a wider audience would appreciate it and it should be available to all.

It has gone unpublished until now, in 2022, when with the generous approval of his wife Louie it can be read by that wider audience.

Colin Hunt was one of a special breed of Black Country runners from a now largely forgotten era. Colin drove himself with a zeal that had to be admired.

This is his story in his own words. Colin was born on 19th March 1939. It takes him from a callow youth in the early 1950’s through to a wise realistic veteran of the sport. It tells of dreams, hard work, adaption, dedication, friendships & principles. It spans three Staffordshire athletic clubs and a wonderful era for the sport of athletics and, in particular, ultra-distance running.

Colin had taken the time & trouble to document his running career from his childhood through to 2003 when, aged 64, injury restricted his ability to continue in the same way. In many ways this reflective document built on his daily regime of logging his running and race career that had been part of his life for nigh on fifty plus years. Colin died on 15th July 2016 aged 77.

When I received it was typed up but in a rough draft form. I have attempted to iron out the format errors and correct also some inconsistencies. I have split the document in an attempt to make it more readable. Other than these minor cosmetic changes it is as he wrote it.

It is a story of love – love of his sport, his wife, family & friends. A fitting tribute to a fine athlete. Enjoy it.


(19/03/1939 - 15/07/2016)


An afternoon lying in the sun, watching young ladies running about in athletic clothing, seemed too good to miss. That was the thinking of a typical fifteen year old male, at my school fifty years ago.

I was typical.

The school sports day was considered by the head master as a significant event in life at Wolverhampton Technical High School (WTHS).

As usual however, the lads worked out a scheme that provided a perk for them, that required nil input. The procedure devised was as follows:

Submit entries to four events. Four being the maximum number deemed to be within the capabilities of the normal teenager.

Report to the sports field on the afternoon when the eliminating heats were held. Indicate to the member of staff on duty that injury or illness unfortunately would prevent participation.

Limp slowly to grassy bank, and try as far as possible to appear frustrated by incapacity.

I had found that this system had worked for me during previous years, but this year I had an affliction not understood by most of my class mates. It was enthusiasm.

Roger Bannister had, on 6th May, become the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes. I wondered how far I could run at that speed…….one lap? Maybe two?

I had since junior school, managed to convince successive Games Masters that I was a reasonable soccer player. I was not particularly quick, but usually did as much as anyone else during the latter stages of games.

During the year 1953, I had become interested in attempts by the world’s best middle distance runners to run a mile in less than four minutes. The best on record had been just one and four tenths’ seconds over four minutes by Gunder Haag of Sweden in 1945.

Resulting from this interest, I had, usually under the cover of darkness, tested myself by running around the block near my home in Fallings Park. In those days people just did not do that sort of thing, and so I said nothing of my eccentricity, not even to my parents or sister Barbara.

It was Barbara however who in the end enabled me to meet up with her “husband to be” Brian who knew something about athletics, and middle distance running in particular that caused the running bug to bite, and bite hard. I read one or two books, and, unusual for me listened to advice. The problem now was I was keen.

When the entry forms appeared on the notice boards at school during late April 1954 inviting names for inclusion in afternoon elimination heats, I took much more interest than was expected of me. I put my name forward for the usual four events, on this occasion, 880 Yards, 440 Yards, High Jump, and Discus. The afternoon of the heats meant decision time, I scratched from the two field events, but felt ready for a real go in the two running events.

I had only one idea in mind, to run as fast as I could. For as long as I could. This I carried out to the letter it meant that I qualified for the finals in both events. I knew however that by far my best chance lay in the longer event, I had won my heat without too much pressure from behind in the 880 Yards, but had seen enough of the competition in the shorter event to accept that my chances were fifth or sixth in the final at best.

The big day arrived. I was on edge; I expected a lot of myself. I knew that a lad by the name of Alan Warner was the clear favourite to win, he even had a pair of spiked shoes to run in! Then there was a classmate of mine Alfie Wright, quite a bit quicker than me over shorter distances, I had always lost out to Alf on the football field. I convinced myself that I just had to give everything from the gun, otherwise they and possibly others would leave me standing in any sprint finish.

Our sports field looked really smart, grass neatly mown, the 220 Yard running track stood out, with small flags marking the inside edge, a marquee at the one end looked brilliant white in the warm sun, and there were the whole school and plenty of parents and other invited guests to enjoy the show. Just for a moment I recalled previous years when I had withdrawn prior to the heats and been one of the pack, but I wanted this one. The 880 Yards Middle School event was not quite the last track race of the day, but almost, I had run my final of the 440 Yards, two laps of the track, and had finished fifth, but had not been too far away from third place, the first two however had been in a different league, and for the first time, it had occurred to me that spiked shoes did make a difference.

At last we were called out onto the track, I had, as advised, done a little jogging in order to warm up, and after being told that we needed to complete four laps of the track, the starter fired his pistol, and we were away. I was involved in the inevitable scramble prior to entering the initial bend but got the lead which I believed to be vital to my chances, I ran close to the inside flags just as soon as I could and ran very hard. I soon had the feeling that I was getting away, and as we began the third lap sneaked a glance behind, there were two on my tail, and then a gap opening up, I poured the pace on, running as never before, I felt that this was my day. There seemed to be quite a lot of shouting going on now, I still felt good, very good as we entered what would be the finishing straight next time round, I saw clearly the bell being lifted and rung this was the time to drag any remaining energy out from wherever it lies waiting to be called upon, with half a lap, just 110 Yards, still to go, I strove to ensure that I reached the last bend with whatever lead I had forced from the other competitors, I even remembered to edge out just slightly so as to make it more difficult for anyone to make ground on me as we came into the straight, now I was drained, I later understood this as the first time that I had actually experienced oxygen debt. The feeling when I caught a glimpse of a foot then a knee, coming alongside me, I shall never forget. It was Alf. He edged half a pace ahead, I had no more to give, and then, outside both of us, came Alan, he seemed to just make the tape first, all three of us within about four yards. I had led, it was said later, for 865 yards but had not quite been able to hold out.

I was devastated. In spite of many of my friends, and staff, saying what a superb race had been created by my front running, I had finished third, and I knew that I could not have bettered my performance on the day, beaten by the apparent lack of ability to find any effective extra pace, after a fast 800 Yards.

I announced my retirement from athletics to my classmates. As usual they did not believe a word that I said!


Anyone born around the beginning of the second world war, will recall rationing, horses and carts, and the Nit Nurse. I vividly remember our garden being the location for a large Air Raid Shelter. This was not one of those semi underground jobs, but a brick built structure with as I recall, a roof of concrete which was all of six inches thick. It occupied the full width of the garden and was square, with no windows. Most of the kids in the immediate vicinity saw it as a venue for all sorts of fun and games, it was ideal for ghostly pranks because of its complete darkness. It was hardly ever used for its original purpose, my mother at times of air raid threat, much preferring the secure feeling that she felt, huddled under the stairs in our small pantry. At times like this, my Dad was either involved in Home Guard duties, or at work, since he worked on shift rotas at a factory in nearby Wednesfield. Just around the corner from where we lived, were the Hughes family. They like us, were a foursome, Mary the daughter, was a similar age to my sister Barbara being two years older than me, and Stanley a month or so older than me. Their house, an end terrace, had a sizeable cellar, now that was a decent place to gather when the siren sounded warning of a bombing raid! There was one hell of good bond with neighbours in those days, and one was always willing to share whatever one had with each other. Street games were the order of the day there being very little traffic other than one or two cyclists and horse drawn carts. Motor vehicles were very rare, so there was plenty of scope for use of the road space. It was not at all unusual for there to be long skipping rope in action across the road width, for the girls of course! The lads would be either playing cricket, using the lamppost as the stumps or football, with chalk marks or clothing for the goal posts. This did at times cause some problems, since there would regularly be someone trying to sleep during the daytime before going off for their nightshift The trick was to always steer your mates elsewhere when it was your Dad s turn. Our house, similar to most, had no hot water system, so no bathroom, and an outside toilet. We burnt solid fuel (coal) in the fireplace in our living room, and whilst there were open fire places in the front parlour and two bedrooms, it was only the living room where one would be able to feel comfortably warm during winter days. Fires would be lit in the bedroom in instances where someone was sufficiently ill to be confined to bed, and expecting a visit from the family doctor. We had electrical lighting, but no higher voltage power circuit or plug system. My mother for example would press clothing with an electric iron plugged into the centre light of the living room, the light swinging from side to side in time with her ironing strokes. We had a galvanised bath that was kept in the coalhouse, that would be carried into the kitchen on bath night, usually Saturdays, this would receive hot water poured from saucepans which had been heated on either the gas stove, or the larger copper vessel which was the means of providing hot water for the dreaded Monday clothes washing day. During winter days bath night meant the door of the gas oven was left open so as to make the kitchen temperature more tolerable. I recall that even then you, did not linger, the draught from beneath the outside door serving to urge you to get a move on, besides there was always the next person to think about that was waiting for their turn before the water became too cold.

 I do not recall being hungry as a child, although looking back at typical quantities of food that were squeezed from the frugal rationed allowances, I guess that Mom and Dad themselves sometimes went short so as to ensure that Barbara and I were provided with all that we needed. I do have recollections of what seemed like real treats, when on Sunday lunchtime Dad would appear with sweets, these being over and above ration levels. My Dad, I recall gave up all cigarette smoking just after the war ended, but acted as an agent for a Wednesfield retailer, by selling “fags” to his workmates and some of our neighbours, in return we had these extra sweets. Dad was a very capable musician, this also meant opportunities to earn a few bob tinkling the ivories a couple evenings each week at a local pub. Occasionally, Barbara and I were allowed to stay up late on Saturday evenings, and count Dad’s musical earnings. These were three or four handfuls of coins that had resulted from a “whip round” among the singing customers at the local.

These little extras meant quite a lot to us as a family, I now realise, since Dad did not have a particularly good job and needed to work overtime whenever it was available.

I remember little of early school days, I attended Prestwood Road Infants School until I was seven, this being near to our house in Milton Road, it meant being together with your local playmates walking to school, and for most of your lessons. A couple of things I do recall were being punched in the eye whilst sitting on a low wall in the school playground. I fell backwards into the piles of coke that were stored there. The lad who landed the punch was Arthur Baldwin, what it was all about, I don’t know.

One other matter I recall, was being guilty of not closing my eyes during prayers, the child telling tales about me was severely rebuked, I wonder why?

I used to get my leg pulled at the time for apparently paying a lot of attention to a girl by the name of Christine Normington. Even my parents were in on the act, doing their best to get me to blush when the subject was raised. Then came the move to Heath Town Junior School, this would be September 1946.

No problem, I felt that growing up was not so bad, after all I was now seven years old!

The trip to school was a little longer than I had been used to, but since my two close friends Stanley Hughes and Brian Forest were beginning at the same time it was no issue. Barbara of course was a couple of years ahead of me, and also attended the same school.

I did well at Heath Town, operating at near the top of my classes, I became quite keen on art and mad keen on football. We were encouraged to take part in acting, and fight off any shyness of going on stage to take part in plays in front of the whole school. During my final year a team was entered in the Wolverhampton Junior Soccer League, and I was proud to be selected to represent the school. We were provided with a superb football shirt for our games, red and white quarters, Mom knitted a really great pair of long woolly socks, red and white hoops, it was a pity that I wasn’t as outstanding as my kit!

Play times were good too, since playing kiss chase was popular, it wasn’t always easy though to catch the particular girl that you wanted to. Along came the old 11 plus examinations and although I was said to have a reasonable chance of gaining a pass, I was very surprised to do so. My Mom and Dad were delighted, I was to move to WTHS (Wolverhampton Technical High School), this being the school that we had put top of our list, mainly due to the fact that my two older cousins, Barry and Raymond both attended there. I realised though, that it would not be all plain sailing, money at home was not plentiful, and I was going to miss my close friends. At the time when I thought about it, I was not too sure that I wanted to take up the chance, I knew however how much it meant to Mom and Dad, I‘m very glad that I stuck with it and made the break.


When the actual day arrived that I was to start my new school, I was not at all keen. The pressure had built up during the long summer holiday, and to make matters worse, my friends Stanley and Brian had begun at their new senior school a full week before I was due to get started. So, I had a week to concentrate upon what may lie ahead. I was equipped with a school uniform that I felt would ensure that I stood out like the proverbial sore thumb, but, yes there was a “but”, I would have to begin without the compulsory school cap. Reason? The worst possible, my head being larger than average meant that, for the first week at least I was bare headed. So, I became immediately known as the big headed fag. Fag being the traditional term used by the older pupils when making any reference to the first year scum.

To say the least, I did not find my initial months at the school at all easy, one moment being at the top end of junior school, and well able to cope both socially and academically, and then being among what seemed to me to be young men and women, and having no friends. I had been near to the top of my form in junior school, and now I was middle of the field and just hanging on. I did manage to make the first year soccer eleven, having comfortably gained a place in my house side, I also began to notice girls, or since I liked the look of one or two that were older than me, young women!

There was an incident that I now realise, was of some significance. One wet unpleasant day, at break time I was indoors probably trying to quickly finish of overdue homework in a noisy unsupervised classroom when a third year lad, a bit of a bully, came into the room and informed me that I must write one hundred lines for him. I acted as if I had not heard him, or I suppose I hoped that he was addressing someone else. I was sitting and he strode across, and grabbed my collar shouting as he did so. Completely on impulse, I stood up quickly and pushed him away hard with two straight arms, he stumbled backwards and fell, clattering into a desk and chair as he went down. I went on top of him, and after only a brief scuffle we were dragged apart by Mr Batchelor, one of the masters. He told us that we would be dealt with in due course, and to get to our next classes. Later that day, he pulled me on one side and asked what it was all about. I suppose probably fearing a follow up from the other party, I said that I had nothing to say on the matter. I was convinced that Batchelor knew full well all that had gone on from his other sources and probably his knowledge of the other lad. He cautioned me regarding fighting, but significantly I had no further hassle from the other lad during the rest of my days at the school. It was a good thing, since really, I was terrified, but he did not realise it!

Once my second year began, I felt more established, in that there were others who were going through all that I had, and now I was in a position of being able to offer advice based upon experience, I certainly felt much more part of the place, rather than a spectator, constantly amazed at all that went on.

Making the second year soccer eleven gave me much satisfaction, although we were not a very successful side in our matches with other schools. This was the time when pressure began to be applied by the teaching staff, who never missed an opportunity to remind us all that the time was approaching when we needed to make choices as to specialisations at the beginning of our third year. I was always heading towards the Engineering option, although looking back, Art could have been an alternative. My parents would not have been too pleased had that other route been taken, since certainly then, employment opportunities in manufacturing were plentiful. So, I entered the third year Engineering course with a decent apprenticeship as a target, certainly the schools’ facilities were well ahead of others of that time, so that we were acquainted with workshop machinery and drawing office equipment, alongside laboratories and heavy doses of mathematics, physics and chemistry.


Outside school, change was afoot at home. Sister Barbara had left her Prestwood Road Senior School and had taken up employment with the local company, Chubb, the well-known safe manufacturer. She seemed happy there, and had soon made friends with several others of around her age. Very significantly as events turned out in the next few years, one of her new contacts, being aware of her interest and abilities as a singer, invited her to go along to the Methodist Chapel in Heath Town where she was informed they were to present a pantomime at around Christmas. They were on the lookout for several brave souls in order to get rehearsals underway. Barbara duly went along, and was asked if she would take a lead role as Aladdin in their production. Having said yes, rehearsals began. After two or three weeks, she asked me if I fancied going along since they were short of someone to take the part of a policeman, I agreed having been assured that it was essentially a non-singing part. I did not realise then what I was getting myself into!

The “Panto” was a great success, we did three shows in the Chapel’s Sunday School room, and one at the Prestwood Road School for Heath Town Labour Party.

As a result, I met up with a good group of new friends, including a number of girls!

After our short show season, I continued to attend the youth club, which met each Wednesday evening. Another attraction, besides the females, was the opportunity to play some badminton with some early competitive experience, since a team was entered in the recently formed youth club’ s league, which operated in and around the Wolverhampton area.

Our club leader was a most enthusiastic chap, Brian Gelsthorpe. In those times, you only rarely saw anyone running as a means of keeping fit, let alone being known to be a regular competitor in local cross-country events. Well Brian was such a person, and over the next three or four years assisted me an enormous amount, to the point where I was keen enough to begin to see middle-distance running as a more likely sport for me than football.

I would, when my parents were out, and when it was dark, and I felt that I would be unseen, run a couple of miles or so, usually around the Wednesfield area. It was following this period that I ran and was beaten into third place in the school 880 Yards race, after which, you may recall I had, rather prematurely, announced my retirement from athletics.


At the beginning of my fifth and final year at school, I was realising that I hadn’t made the best possible use of my opportunities at, what I now knew, was an excellent school, one of the very best in the district.

My mates from Milton Road were beginning to earn money, and here was I still with a year to do at the Wolverhampton Technical High School with several years of college study to follow. How could you get keen on girls if you had no money to ask them out on a date? Talking with some of my class mates, I learned that their answer was to get some sort of part-time job! Yes, this was the solution, I told Mom and Dad, and they fell about laughing, especially when my chosen job was newspaper deliveries, which included a 6:30AM start each day and a further stint from 5:30PM. Dad announced quite confidently that I wouldn’t last the first week.

It turned out that that was just the challenge that I needed. What better than being told that I would never do it?

The newspaper round did turn out to be tough at times, Mom and Dad seemed certain that my last year at school would be ruined by my dashing around too much, at the expense of homework, that appeared in increasing amounts in the fifth form. The pay from this work was better than I had expected. The shop from which I delivered was near to an area of land being developed for local authority housing, this meant enormous potential from new customers moving into the area. I scored well because of this financially, since John Aldridge, the shop’s manager agreed that I could gain a special bonus for each new newspaper weekly order that I could obtain from families moving into their new homes. The method that I used, was cycling around the new estate on Saturday’s and following furniture vans as they moved new folk into their houses and knocking on the doors and convincing them that I was the one that would ensure that they got their magazines and daily newspapers on time. I also during the football season delivered the Sporting Pink late on Saturday afternoons, for which I was paid a halfpenny a copy! Wow! All this together with commission for collecting money from customers houses on Sunday mornings. As a result, I was not too badly off for spending money, but a bit short on time to do all that I wanted. School, youth club, secret running, still playing football in the school first eleven, and visiting the cinema on Sunday evenings with a friend Larry Mason, and a couple of girls. This did cause some friction at home, Mom decided that it was wrong to go to cinemas on Sundays, and Dad wanted to know why I wasn’t home before 10:30PM when, in those days the cinemas closed at 9:00PM. There was an added difficulty, this being that “big sis” had begun to attend Sunday evening chapel services, and at times would invite a number of friends home after the service for tea and biscuits. My mother said that she was uneasy when she explained that I was at the cinema. I was known by most of Barbara’s friends from chapel, as a result of my pantomime exploits. The more that I became involved at youth club, led to my going to chapel on occasions, my Mom saw this as a great conversion, she felt that she had rescued me from the devil himself.

For me I became more part of this group, and picked up some free advice on running matters from Brian with whom I began to run once a week. He went easy on me; we went to a few sessions at Marsh Lane playing fields where I began to learn about training for track running. There was a 440 yard grass circuit laid out there, and it was from this that I developed a new attitude to competing as a runner, and planned another attempt at the 880 Yards in my last school sports day. As a fifth former I would be allowed to run in the one mile race, something which interested me, in view of the effect that Bannister’s sub four-minute mile had had on the general public’s attitude to athletics. I was delighted to be given a pair of spiked running shoes by my cousin Raymond, and looked forward to my next trip to Marsh Lane.

I had at this time, a good level of general fitness, from football, a little badminton, and rushing around my newspaper round twice each day. I had also managed to get in several steady runs, usually with Brian, of around four miles around the local area, my secret training, was now not so secret, as I had been spotted by neighbours at various times, trotting around locally. They were always interested enough to ask what I was up to, but I suspected that deep down, there was a feeling that I was just a wee bit ”crackers“.

 My track training, took on a very simple structure. I had run my 880 Yards in 1954 just inside two and a half minutes, at the end of which I had lost out to Alan and Alf, since in the finishing straight I was utterly spent, having consumed every bit of my energy in trying to run away from them.


Now, I had the option of either developing my sprinting ability, or ensuring that I could get sufficiently far ahead of all opposition before the finishing straight. My honest feeling was that I had little hope of becoming significantly quicker over 50 to 100 yards, so developing my staying power seemed the route to take. So, at Marsh Lane, I jogged for about a quarter of an hour in my flat gym shoes, changed into my spikes and tried to run a quarter of a mile, inside one and a quarter minutes. I did this easily, recording about 69 seconds. My pace judgement was pretty poor, but I was pleased with the effort, and made the session one of repetition 440 Yards, averaging inside 75 seconds for my five stints. I was jogging a very slow 440 in between each effort. At the end I trotted slowly for a further mile in order to cool down. I was tired but pleased. I was particularly knackered during my cycle ride home, and was keen to repeat the exercise with progression towards getting the average down a little, and the number of repetitions up.

I did talk to Brian about this, he was very supportive, but suggested that I run the reps a little faster before trying to increase the quantity. I genuinely felt that I could get somewhere now, and re-read some parts of “Athletics “written by members of The Achilles Club.

About six weeks prior to our school sports day, I had deliberately run, what was considered to be, “one hell of a long way“ for a sixteen year old, a slow but continuous run of nine miles. It was intended to be ten miles, but I was completely shattered, but did make it back home, just. This was very much my secret, and came about because of some of the talk that I had picked up concerning Emil Zatopek the triple Olympic gold medallist from the Helsinki games of 1952. I told absolutely no one, since I was sure that I would be considered utterly mad. It was certainly not something that youngsters were advised to do in those days. Then, all I did for the remaining weeks was some further track sessions similar to the one that I had begun with at Marsh Lane, and a few steady trots of three or four miles. I felt ready and able to run a decent mile race, and determined to give the 880 Yards a go too.

The morning that details of sports day were published on the notice board, really got me going.

The one mile event was to be held separate from the main event, during the previous week, this suited me down to the ground, since I had been trying to work out which event was most likely to provide me with a genuine opportunity of victory. I now had the chance to give both races a go, without the risk of ”falling between two stools”, something that I had pondered over.

The afternoon of the one mile race, I had nothing to eat at lunch time, and arrived at our sports field about 45 minutes before start time. I was ”twitchy” but felt that I had a reasonable chance of staying with the pace. I still had the previous year’s 880 Yards finish in my mind as I jogged a cautious warm up, and it was then that my race plan completely altered from” sitting on any pace- maker” to, pushing the pace from the front, in Zatopek style.

Things worked out perfectly for me, since from the very first bend, I got the inside lane and went for it.

I was only really aware of any other competitors, with about 180 yards to go, and although I was very tired, I was able to find that bit extra that had previously been missing

My winning time was 5m 07.6s, a new school record. I had not bargained for that!

The next morning, I was congratulated by the Headmaster on stage during morning assembly.

Actually, I felt a bit of a twerp, this didn’t fit in with the culture, around at the time, of not trying too hard at anything.

During the day, Hickman‘s House Master, asked me to consider not competing in the 880 Yards on Sports Day, since our House Captain, a pupil in the sixth form, was thought to have an excellent chance of taking the Victor Ludorum Trophy if he won a middle distance event, alongside likely successes in his other stronger events. He had won the 880 Yards Senior event the previous year when I had finished third in the Middle School event. I was amazed at this and could not see the problem as each of the four houses was able to put three competitors into the final on sports day. I said that I was very keen to take part and felt that if I could do well, and produce something decent in a field event, I too could go close in the overall Victor Ludorum, which until then hadn’t occurred to me. He asked me to think the matter over, but clearly did not expect me to make our conversation known to anyone else. I certainly kept the matter to myself, but remained behind after school that day and met with the House Master again and said that I planned to compete on the day since this would provide Hickman House with a better chance of gaining points from the event if we both did well. He said that he accepted my decision, but asked that I keep the content of our conversation confidential, particularly to ensure that our House Captain never became aware of what had transpired. I was absolutely bloody seething!

When the following Wednesday arrived, it had seemed like an eternity, I convinced myself that I was ready to run myself into the ground. After all this time it was only half a mile, I had managed to stay ahead of the pack to win the mile race, so, it wouldn’t hurt so much or for so long. There was plenty of atmosphere, unlike the one mile race, where we had raced in front of probably two or three dozen supporters, the whole school were present plus the staff and some parent’s friends and guests. A little unwisely for such a short distance, I had only the same old race plan, go for it from the front, this would be expected of me. I had concluded that if I didn’t push the pace, the race would be too slow for me to have any realistic chance against others whom I knew were better sprinters than me over 80-150 yards.

The start was fast, but I got to the front after about ¾ of the first lap, 160-170 yards, there was no choice now, go like hell, with just a bit in reserve, I was aware of plenty of close attention from runners hanging on, but did feel good, as we were half way around the final lap, I recalled that a year previously I had been in a similar position and had lost out, not this time, I held nothing back and ran the last 85-100 yards, as they say, eye- balls out, there were no last minute hitches this time. I won in a personal best time for me of 2m 16.8s. My, I was well tired but very, very pleased.

I was told afterwards that I was to represent the School in the one mile event at the West Midlands Grammar School Championships to be held at the Perry Barr Stadium during the following month. That turned out to be the fastest mile of my running career. It lasted about seven seconds at best, I hit the cinders hard entering the first bend, and was eventually the recipient of four or five stitches in my left calf. But I learned that you do not go for the inside lane without regard for your fellow competitors, especially when they are mostly more experienced than you, and probably a wee bit better too!

There was though one very worthwhile plus, news of this circulated at school, and I became a temporary favourite with some of the girls who previously had seemed reluctant to grant me any sort of audience, the really bold ones asking for a trouser leg rolled up to inspect the wound!.


The school bit was coming to an end, examination results, careers guidance -Hands up those of you who do not yet have a job - ”Go to Stewart & Lloyds“

S & L were the huge steel makers in Bilston, I applied, went along for an interview, was asked to take a guided tour of the plant, given a cup of tea, and was told that I was to be offered a position as a trainee Shift Chemist! Boy, was I pleased? No, I certainly was not! I had requested consideration as an engineering apprentice, but was non-committal, and decided to look elsewhere.

The opportunity came up much sooner than I could have expected. I caught a bus outside the S & L main gates, and got off again at the very next stop, simply because the factory of John Thompson Ltd looked vast and in need of someone like me! After another cup of tea within what was called their Labour Office and another interview, I was offered a conditional start with them, subject to a satisfactory school report, to train as an engineering apprentice. I liked the sound of what I was told, and my Dad was convinced that I was on my way to my first million. All I had to do next was to give up my newspaper round, this turned out to be not as straight forward as I had thought.

I had worked part time, for just under a year at one of the Wednesfield shops of Jack Thompson, I understood him to own four such outlets. When I said that I was leaving school, Mr Thompson as we all knew him, asked me to consider a completely different style of career and stay on with him, eventually as he invitingly put it, running my own shop. He said that my earnings would be higher with him, and he would release me for a day each week in order that I could pursue a commercial qualification. I never did seriously consider staying in the retail business, but it led to one or two interesting, heated discussions with my Mom and Dad on the subject. I did wonder after the event when my initial wage within my engineering apprenticeship was just £2 8s for a 44 hour week. I was not altogether convinced of the age old promise ”you will feel the real benefit when you qualify as an engineer when you are twenty-one”.

So life began its inevitable change, but sports wise, I continued to play some football, badminton in the Wolverhampton Youth Clubs League, and most importantly joined Wolverhampton Harriers. It was during September of that year 1955, that I ran a new personal best for the mile of 4m 56s, I was hooked on this running caper, and was dead keen to have a stab with the Harriers Youths Section competing in the winter series of cross-country races.


My apprenticeship began with a 6 month stint in the company training centre at Ettingshall, there were about twenty of us as I recall, mostly my age, with three or four lads a couple of years older. So, it was four days each week being shown the basics of the operations of lathes, shapers, millers, grinders, alongside bench fitting work. It was at this stage that I realised the real value of the schooling that I had received. We had during our final year at WTHS been released one day of each week to begin study at the then, Wolverhampton & Staffordshire Technical College, at the end of which we were able to gain exemption from the earlier stages of National Certificate Course subjects, we were also reasonably well versed in Technical Drawing, and Mechanical Science. This I certainly found to be an advantage with both training at the company, and in picking up the required subjects within my release for further education. Socially work was good, a super group of good mates, we must have been a bit of a nightmare to control. Typical of larger companies of their day, Thompsons provided good sports & social facilities, I had the occasional run around the sports fields after work, a shower, change, and off out for the evening.

Being spotted completing a session one evening, I was asked if I fancied a game with one of the company’s football teams. I explained that I was occupied usually on Saturday afternoons either racing or training with the Harriers, but said that I would welcome a game if they were stuck at any time. This did result in three or four games, playing in a local works league. I had a preference when playing to operate as a traditional half or full back, but each time I was asked to play as a winger, simply because I had been seen doing a fair amount of running. Works league players, certainly at the level that I experienced, set out to put a stop to wingers that were much quicker than their defenders, this assisted me in reaching the conclusion that I couldn’t play football and run cross-country during the winter, and that the Harriers had a much stronger pull.

Training from St. Luke’s, the Harriers winter headquarters, really was a super experience. We had a talented squad, who made a run on a winter’s afternoon a laugh a minute. It was at times tough, particularly for me as a newcomer, but the weekly club run was not the time to thrash anyone, but an opportunity to get a few steady miles under your belt and live with having your leg pulled, and getting the odd jibe back when the chance arose. The facilities were basic, certainly by today’s standards. We had a coke stove, around which we gathered for a natter after our run, tea brewed by Zac Marsh and a warm bath outside in the yard! Mr Marsh’s tea and cake always went down well too. Our club captain Colin Kemball, was married to Mr Marsh’s daughter Barbara. Most non racing Saturdays there would be about twenty or so of us we would set off as one group, irrespective of age or ability, at a pace which easily permitted plenty of banter, a chance to pick up where the last group run had ended. After two or three steady miles younger members and those not wanting to venture too far would split off from the main bunch and take a reasonably direct route back to St Luke’s, The seniors would continue and, in those days, run around 8 or 9 miles of pretty tough hilly muddy tracks and fields. In my early days it was always the laughing and chat that I remembered afterwards rather than the run itself. Whilst there is no easy way to get to running fitness this was a very enjoyable means of putting down the basis for more serious competitive running.

I recall one Saturday when the weather was damp and dreary, and I and the Youths’ Captain Roger Gibson were the only youngsters that turned up at the hut. “Come with us today, all the way” announced the Club Captain, and so we did. Well, yes, I’d had enough at the end, we had run around what was known as the senior club championship course, 9 miles, but I was bitten, it was not often afterwards that I did the shorter Saturday run. The message from CK (Colin Kemball) always was that it was speed that killed, not just distance. My first season of cross-country was OK, I was, I recall 14th in the Staffordshire Youths race, and managed a couple of scalps that had eluded me in track racing. The winner on that day was Alan Whittle then running with West Bromwich Harriers. I managed to win the club youth’s cross-country championship despite losing one of my shoes and was 40th in the Midland Championship, both on a snow covered courses, not too bad, mildly encouraging. I was also playing a fair amount of badminton and now a regular attender at the chapel youth club.

My difficulty really was finding that I was worse off financially than I had been with my part time newspaper job, not good when trying hard to impress the girls. The trouble was, at that stage, there seemed to be girls everywhere, at work, at technical college, at youth club, at Aldersley (the cinder running track at Wolverhampton) yes and me usually skint by Monday morning!

My first pay rise came after one year, I had an extra 10 shillings (50 pence per week) I was now earning at the super rate of two pounds eighteen shillings per week, boy was I frustrated!

For all of my being rather fed up with being short of funds, my Dad complained that I was not paying sufficient attention to my studies, he felt that I was never at home. He had also become an expert in training for track and cross-country running, I had always done too much, insufficient, or the wrong type of preparation, as can be imagined this caused a deal of friction between us, very normal for teenagers and their parents, of course.

My racing track times did improve. With hindsight, as much due to competing against better opposition as due to my training routine. At this stage I was running four times weekly, which in those days was considered sufficient for a 17 year old.

I was flattered to be elected as Youths Cross Country Captain at the beginning of my second season over the country. I had hoped to improve significantly second time around, but it was not to be, my performances being more or less at the same level as previously. Hindsight tells me that I didn’t give my running sufficient priority, there was plenty of other things going on at that stage. I sneaked the occasional alcoholic drink, and if I thought it looked big, the odd cigarette.


I certainly did at least one worthwhile thing at this time, that was to ask a particular young lady to join me for an evening at the theatre, she was Louie Seymour, a girl that I had known since my sister had introduced me to the chapel youth club. Since we have now been married for over forty years, I know that I have Louie to thank for her having always encouraged me in my running. That is not to say that there haven’t been times when my determination to run was considered a pain, but there is no way that I would have continued all these years without her help and support.

College work was successful, as I got a good ONC (Ordinary National Certificate) in Mechanical Engineering, and went on into the higher grade. There were a good group of lads that I met at college, we would meet at times away from lectures, perhaps to watch our local football side Wolves play, (they were one of the most successful teams in the country at the time), we also enjoyed a beer or two now that I was old enough to indulge! I recall that we put together a soccer team to play a side made up of Hungarian refugees who had come to live in the area following the Russian invasion of their country during 1956.

At home Barbara became engaged to be married to Brian with whom I ran regularly, both from home and at the weekend club runs. Brian was very much able to influence my running, which at this stage kept me focused, and ensured that I did not give in when tempted to “pack it all in“ when progress would not come as swiftly as I wanted. My pal Brian Forest, had joined me as a regular youth club attender, and we struck up a quite useful badminton partnership, playing at youth club level. We also went along for additional experience to the local Springfield Badminton Club. It taught us that we had much to learn!

Brian Forest, or ”Foghorn” as he was better known, could have been a more than average pole vaulter had he progressed into athletics, he also did some long jumping and several times accompanied me on training sessions at a local school field. He and I for a considerable time ”knocked about” together. We gradually drifted apart as we each began preferring female company!

A significant running target for me was to record an 880 Yards run of two minutes or less. I never made it, but striving towards what was for me a really decent performance kept me going. I had run 2m 12s to win a cut glass vase on a grass track at Wordsley, and was pleased with that, particularly as I had to find something of a sprint finish over the last 80 yards to scrape home by a couple of strides. The following week on a cinder track, although I finished fourth, I was even more pleased, with a finish of 2m 09s. I have always attributed progress at that stage to some sprint training that I had begun to do with a mate, Frank Darby. Frank was then a good club junior sprinter, being a couple of years younger than me. We helped each other, he forced me to include fast sprinting as part of my routines, and I persuaded him to get some longer runs in as an aid to his stamina. Although our badminton league competition were as mixed doubles, Frank and I paired up for some competitions and became reasonably successful. We had a couple of seasons playing for the Wolverhampton Technical College side, very much different standard, we learnt a lot.

Things moved on at home, Barbara and Brian became husband and wife, and so initially moved to live with Brian’s aunt this being a temporary arrangement until they could afford a place of their own


I got myself onto a four week Outward Bound Course, sponsored by my employers, and so experienced life at Eskdale in Cumbria. Now that was one hell of a stint, I would not have missed it for anything.

Eskdale is a fabulous valley tucked away to the west of the Lake District. I joined the course there after travelling up by train to Seascale, from where I was collected in a small ten seater mini-bus. During the initial couple of hours I was weighed, tested for rate of pulse recovery by running up flights of stairs, and shown around what was a large country house converted to accommodate about sixty young male hopefuls. From day one the weather was superb in fact, during the whole of my stay we had just four days of heavy rain. I did not have any problems with respect to the food at any time during my stay, other than at times I could have eaten more! Sometimes, especially during the first few days, I found that some of the others did not eat what was available, so I was able to help them out!

Being gradually moulded together in teams or patrols, as we were known, helped to set up friendships and although at times the going was hard, we had some fun, and only limited friction spoiled things. Once we began our real outdoor projects, I would have to say that I was in my element, free time was minimal and so missing home was something that was pushed to the back of the mind. We had some fabulous four day treks, camping, cooking, getting lost, but most importantly learning to live and work together.

During the course we were set certain physical targets that we were expected to strive for. These included running, jumping, medicine ball work and the like, obviously I really enjoyed the running events, these ranged from 100 yard sprints, half mile time trials, and towards the end of the fourth week, a 5 mile x-country race. This was some course, with some very stiff climbs to run over some of which were, for me, more testing to run down, when trying to do so at high speed. We were instructed in basic rock climbing techniques, with all the rope handling work that was required, and experienced mountain rescue procedures, which included abseiling, stretcher lowering, and included acting the part of the patient and being strapped onto a rescue stretcher and being lowered down faces of some of the training cliffs.

After returning from one of our four day treks, on one of our very wet days, we were in the showers just before dinner, when we were called out to search for a couple of walkers that were missing somewhere in the upper reaches of the Eskdale valley. Immediately into dry kit, we were (we being two patrols each of twelve men) driven as far up the valley that Land Rover type vehicles could get. We spread out and began to comb the valley width always ensuring that we were in visual contact with a colleague on either side, I was just about finishing off eating a sandwich which was a substitute for the huge meal that I had been anticipating when we were called out, it was getting dark as we headed higher up the valley, and the rain heavy. We were trying to sing in order to keep spirits up, this also was intended to be heard by the lost souls for whom we were searching. We were taking turns at carrying ropes and stretchers (2) as it became really dark and torches became essential, a loud whistle brought us to a halt, our patrol leader received a radio message that the couple for whom we were searching had turned up in Langdale, the next valley, and we were to return to base. It seemed a long tramp back down to the spot where our transport had dropped us earlier, and it was indeed a pretty wet bunch that arrived back at HQ.

 I can however still recall what a great meal we enjoyed after drying out, we were all knackered to say the least but had learned an awful lot about ourselves and each other. Personally, I was delighted that we were turned back when we were. I could not have imagined myself being very alert had we have been required to spend the night out searching for those unfortunate enough to have needed assistance.

Hell did I sleep well that night? Yes, but only after the usual dormitory tom-foolery had subsided!

 It was the second Sunday of the course, and we had a free day. A few of us decided that a day on the beach would go down well, and thanks to a lift on the back of a lorry, we made the sea shore at Seascale.

The weather was so good that in spite of not being equipped for bathing, we opted to take a chance and take a dip in the sea from what was a deserted beach. We were larking around in sufficient water to conceal our nudity, only a couple of us being properly attired, a vigorous splashing affair, fighting for possession of a light rubber ball. All this was suddenly put into jeopardy, a shrieking group of girls descended onto the beach, and after shedding their outer garments, in ones and twos made even more noise as they squealed their way into the water. Now we had something of a problem, what clothing we had was some way up the beach, did we stay put, in the hope that they would go away, or run for it?

Our togetherness as an outward bound patrol came into play, eventually. Among our clothing on the sands was a cycling cape which one of the lads had brought along in case of rain, one brave soul legged it at great speed out of the waves back to cover himself, even more shrieking greeted his exposure, he then, having quickly got into his shorts, rescued us one by one by wading into the water and passing the cycle cape as the cover for the trip up the beach. We now had a good chat line to get among the girls, but the teacher accompanying them kept us in “Victorian Order” It turned out that they were a group of senior boarders from an all-girls school. Maybe their minds were broadened a little, whilst our appetites were whetted!

It is not just this episode however that I remember from that day, but an item in the Sunday newspaper that I had purchased. It was the first such paper that I had read since my journey up on the train, but I soon turned to the sports page. I was amazed to learn that our athletic club captain, Colin Kemball had won the AAA Marathon Championship, held in conjunction with the famous Windsor to Chiswick event, defeating all beater known and more favoured opponents, and gaining selection to represent England in the British Empire and Commonwealth Games.

The fact that I actually knew this fellow seemed to me, to be of enormous significance, since I had always somehow thought, that the winners of events such as this, were super - humans, or if not, always from elsewhere. What an inspiration he turned out to be to so many of us during the next few years.

Outward Bound had been a superb experience as far as I was concerned, as much as anything else it taught me the importance of target setting in life, since how can you evaluate progress, or know if you are on the right path if you are unsure as to where you are heading?

Upon returning home, I found it difficult to fully settle down into my old routines. The need to do so was postponed somewhat, as Louie and I enjoyed a superb ten day break during early September, staying together with Barbara, Brian and their baby son Timothy, back in the Lake District. The weather for the whole period was warm and sunny, which enabled us to undertake some good long days walking and climbing.


During the next few months, I experienced monetary frustrations, apprenticeship pay was awful, and my mind was often back in the great outdoors. The comparisons with a factory environment were getting me down, so much so that I seriously considered breaking away from engineering. I even made application for an instructors post back at Eskdale. It was a crazy notion, such a change would have meant living away for ten months of the year, and the salary was no incentive. In any event had I have walked away from my apprenticeship I would have needed firstly to have completed a period of National Service, which at that stage I saw as the follow on for August 1960, after the completion of my five year commitment to John Thompson Ltd.

This mixed state of mind did nothing for my running, since although I continued to run regularly, I progressed little, and made excuses to myself and others that I was too busy with preparation for my ongoing Higher National Engineering Examinations to train satisfactorily. My relationship with Louie also suffered, and to crown it all my Dad was consistently harping on about how much benefit I would feel just keeping my head down, and not being so stupid! What do fathers know?

Within John Thompson Ltd. An uncle of mine, Cecil, (yes really!) ran one of the Drawing Offices, and soon after I started with the company, he had assured my Dad that at some stage in my training I would be working for him. The thought horrified me! Cecil was a bit of an odd ball as far as I was concerned, and I learned from one or two of the more senior apprentices, that he was reputed to be about 175 Years old, this having been calculated by adding together the vast number of experiences to which he made claim. Fearful that a period of our working together would not be in either of our interests, I requested a placement within a Drawing Office which would enable me to undertake work of a Production Engineering nature, since this was more in keeping with my HNC specialisation. Also, when interviewed to this end by the companies Training Officer, I explained my being related to Uncle Cecil, and how our being related could be a disadvantage to both parties. This led a few weeks later to my being considered for a placement with a toolroom Drawing Office in order to cover for an ex-apprentice departing for his stint of National Service.

After meeting with the people with whom I would be working, it was felt that this could be a sensible move for me, and one likely to take me into an area of work suitable for my first post apprenticeship appointment. This move turned out well for me, the work was interesting, very closely linked to my HNC studies, and I was able to benefit enormously from some sound engineering know-how within the department. But very importantly I found the people their most amiable, indeed I gained some true friends. Work was very often fun, a rare but important commodity.

To crown all this good fortune, I was able to begin a routine of running to and from work each day since I was able to use the shower baths which were part of the admirable Sports and Social Club facilities. The shortest distance from home was about three and a half miles, this meant that my morning runs could be long enough to be beneficial without being too arduous, and of course my evening run could be what-ever I wished to make it.

I was now unable to use the excuse that I was too busy to fit in adequate regular running time.

Louie and I had not been able to confidently plan our future life together since our combined incomes were insufficient to fund our marrying and moving to make a home together. Neither Louie’s parents or mine were in any position to assist us greatly other than with parental advice, and you can imagine how welcome that was received!


One evening in late March 1961, Louie and I were chatting about how our respective days had gone work wise, no doubt in my case reporting to her some tom-foolery involving Messrs Alan, George and Les, three of my closest workmates, and a little too regularly, drinking partners. Louie added her bits of office gossip from her day along the corridors of power within that most vital of local companies, Bank’s Brewery. Mrs Salmon (Sam), Iris, Jean and the “Boss” Jack Astle, being among the names that I recall.

Included on this occasion was news of one lady who was leaving her job, so as to stay with her son for a year, at his home in Rhodesia where he was working as a policeman. We discussed the boldness of this move, she was widowed, and the matter of her house, in Bushbury north Wolverhampton, being unoccupied for such a long period. It was then that I said “Why don’t we get married and rent the house for the year? I realise now how unromantic this ranks as a proposal of marriage, but it struck us both that here was a golden opportunity for us to get forward to the next stage of our life together.

Louie spoke with the lady concerned, and a couple of evenings later we went along to see the house. We took no time at all to recognise what a super offer had opened up for us, the house being very nicely furnished, the gardens neat and easy to maintain. Ours for one year, for a weekly rental of just £3 this amount to be paid directly into an account that would be set up for the purpose. Having made this, what was for us both, a momentous decision, we then completely floored our family and friends, by shopping for an engagement ring, and arranging our wedding to take place at Heath Town Wesleyan Chapel on Saturday August 19th, this being just four and a half months ahead. There were many who thought that maybe we had other reasons for making such shock, swift plans!


This early part of 1961 was also very significant as far as my running was concerned, in view of my determination to run a marathon. Within Wolverhampton Harriers at that time, we had in our Club Captain Colin Kemball, a great motivator, advisor, whose very example made many of us feel that we could improve our competitive running way beyond what we had previously considered. My performances over the Winter of 1960-61 had been sound, without being too outstanding. I had however, with my to and from work routine, been able to run regularly, and had used cross-country races as the incentive to push myself hard speed-wise, something that I have never found at all easy or particularly enjoyable.

Remarkably I ran in two indoor events at RAF Cosford. On 17th January winning over 880 Yards in 2m 07.8s, and then on 28th March winning a one mile event in 4m 37.4s.

During March, actually on my 21st birthday, Wolverhampton Harriers held their annual 3¾ mile road handicap, I recall the day very well since I ran the second fastest club time of the day with 19m 46s and won the event comfortably, a run much better than I had previously achieved on track, road or cross-country So with some long steady club runs of twenty miles during the March-May period, coupled with the fast running that road relays demanded, I felt that urged on by my older team mates, I was in with a shout.

I was surprised and very pleased with my run of 1h 56m in a race at Liverpool in early May, and so when we travelled down to Windsor on the morning of June 10th, I was hopeful of a reasonable performance. As the race developed, I was sucked along a little too fast, not an unusual error with inexperienced long distance racing, and so although getting to 21 miles at just about six minutes per mile pace, I then began to slow and found the last five miles easily the toughest that I had ever experienced. I made it over the line in 2h 45m. Now although this was better than I had honestly expected, and had exceeded the predictions of my team mates, I felt that had I been able to kerb my early race pace, my finishing time would have been closer to 2h 40m. I did not recover too well afterwards, being unable without sickness to take much liquid of any sort, let alone celebrate with a pint or two as others seemed capable of.

I continued for the few weeks up to our wedding day, with running to and from work most week days, and included a one mile handicap race at Aldersley when I won from scratch in a new personal best time of 4m 36s. All the longer slower training runs had also made me able to produce better short distance results. Pity really, because this was effectively the end of my determined competitive running until almost three years later. It was not my becoming married that brought about the change but the fact that very soon afterwards I moved to better paid work, further from home, so the shortish runs to and from my workplace ceased, and training became a real chore. When I did run with the club afterwards, I found how much my performance had deteriorated.


So, the 19th August saw Louie and I married, the service held at Heath Town Wesleyan Chapel followed by a reception at the George Hotel, Wolverhampton. By 2:30PM we were aboard a train leaving the station headed for our honeymoon destination, Grasmere in our beloved Lake District.

On return we moved to our home at 25 Sherbourne Road, Bushbury and resolved to work and save hard for a year so as to be able to move to a house of our own. Four months later I moved to work in Willenhall, with a metal pressings manufacturer as a press tool designer, more money, yes, but not really suited to daily to and from running. I did fit in a few runs (7.5 miles each way) but I was not as committed as previously and certainly I allowed my athletics to slide down my priorities scale.

Travel to my new workplace was a walk up Sandy Lane and a 30 minute bus ride to Willenhall and then another walk to Ann Street. The reason for my being appointed was a high volume of fresh work coming into the company and the move of the previous job holder, Rex Parker, to a post of wider hours than I had previously. This was acceptable, since Louie and I were committed to save sufficient money during our year at Bushbury, to then begin to purchase our own home. With both of us working hard, and our very low monthly rental, we found ourselves able pretty well to stick to our ambitious targets. It was not therefore a time when we were unable to socialise, on the contrary we at times rather over did things and saw more late nights than had been our norm, my running therefore took a back seat, my fitness level declined further. As a result, my place in club teams was lost, unless they simply needed   “someones” to make up numbers from time to time, this type of competitive running however I learned was painful and most unrewarding.

We were happy during our period at Bushbury, and then in the late spring of 1962 began looking at the question of where we wished to live afterwards. My sister Barbara and hubby Brian lived in Sedgley and we had when visiting them, spotted new houses being developed in their area, that was how we came to eventually to spot a Sandyfields development that seemed to suit our needs. We had seen houses built by K E Millard at Fordhouses, north of Wolverhampton, and were sufficiently interested to seek out their work in the Sedgley area. An opportunity to look more closely at these houses came when we were driven to Gornal one Sunday afternoon by our friends Frank Darby and his wife to be Ann. We were returning from Gornal and found ourselves amidst just the Millard houses that we were seeking. We saw the Agent on site, looked at the plots that remained, and decided that we would as soon as we could pay an initial deposit on Plot 120 which at the time had outer walls just about 18 inches high. Within three or four days we had taken the plunge and committed ourselves to Plot 120, our new home to be!

It was just a couple of weeks later that again with Ann and Frank that we visited the site, in order to view progress, and in doing so, I spotted a fellow a little lower down from, what was to become our new home beginning to make something of his front garden. I recognised him as a fellow that I had seen from time to time training at Aldersley Stadium, and indeed going a little further back running in the dark lanes of Westcroft when I had run from Milton Road during my earliest running days. I went along and we spoke briefly together, he told me that he and his wife Jean had recently moved in. This at the time did not seem to be of enormous significance, but suffice to say that as two couples we became very close friends, and our families have developed into a most happily integrated unit, which has withstood the searching tests that growing families can bring. I am very indebted to David Wildman for his friendship, and help as we eventually rescued each other’s running ambitions from the scrap heap.

Louie and I moved into Plot 120 on the 16th June 1962, where we have remained to this day.


Getting to and from my workplace from Sedgley was more time consuming than it had been from Bushbury, being at best a two bus trip each way, Louie was able to continue to travel reasonably conveniently to her work at Banks Brewery in Chapel Ash, Wolverhampton During this period we did rather well socially, regularly eating out, and having at times more than a few drinks together with a group of friends, Margaret and Bill Blyth, Barbara and Colin Kemball, Marion and Peter Craggs, Nanette and Darryl (“Mac”) McWhirter to name a few. This did my running not a bit of good, especially since I was not applying myself nearly as seriously as I had during my days prior to our wedding. From our very earliest days in Sedgley however Brian began to at least drag me out for a 5 mile run through Baggeridge Woods each Sunday morning, and I would be called upon by the Harriers from time to time to make up a team, often at short notice. These outings of course served only to remind me that I was slipping back quite dramatically performance- wise. It was of little help that my Saturday mornings were taken up with my work since I was required to work a five and half day week at Willenhall. It was however one Saturday lunch time as I was returning from work that a chance meeting opened up a whole fresh approach to regular running again. I was standing at a bus stop at Fighting Cocks, having just left the bus from Willenhall, when David Wildman pulled up in his car offering me a lift home, he too returning from his workplace. Although we had spoken briefly when we were first moving to Dingle View, we had not got to know each other, but in just this three mile car trip we arranged to meet later that afternoon for a steady short run together. That day we were not to know how much that meeting was to influence our relationship, and how it was to bring together Jean and Louie, and eventually our two families. David had prior to his army days, he is a little older than me, competed athletically as a discus thrower and middle distance track runner for his club Bilston Town Athletic Club but had not at all seriously considered longer distance running as likely to be a feature of his sporting life, the years ahead however saw us both eventually enter a most rewarding spell of sporting friendship that continues to this day 45 years on.

Quite soon following this chance meeting, we were arranging to meet each other for evening runs bringing that vital regularity that needs to be established if fitness is to be sensibly developed, alongside these evening sessions, usually a steady 5 mile run, Jean and Louie got together and so making the whole situation one which worked well for all four of us. Our runs during dark evenings were around a road circuit, and then during the summer a trot around a cross-country route each of these on weekdays being about five miles


Then step number two, Colin Kemball began to join us for some of our Sunday morning runs and whilst this made no difference to the pace of our efforts, we began to extend the length of our runs, the die was being cast, although we little realised it.

An opportunity arose to purchase a car, something that we had not seriously considered, but one of my new work mates had an old 1939 Morris “8” that he wished to sell, after some haggling the car became ours for just £18! unbelievable today, but that was just about a week’s pay for me at that time.

There was only one problem, I could not drive and therefore needed to quickly sort out some driving instruction, some formal lessons with a reputable school in Wolverhampton, and some practice with brother in law Brian, and my boss Rex Parker. After a very concentrated few weeks, I was able to persuade the Ministry of Transport Examiner that he could let me lose on the general public and so we were mobile, and I now had an even better reason to forget my running to and from work notions, and put myself into the position of seeing my running rather now as a jog to keep fit activity, not in any way as a serious competitive activity. Fortunately, there were enough harriers around, determined that I should keep up some sort of running routine. Dave was my regular partner, there was brother in law Brian, another Brian, Brian Hall a good steady runner, and one minded whenever he could to run long distances though be it very steadily. I recall some quite crazy winter runs with Brian Hall, starting from home at about 7:00PM

In darkness, and running until beyond 10:30PM! Barmy, then following bath and food and drink sitting up talking until one or two in the early hours. Not much of a programme for any serious minded athlete.

One Sunday morning Brian and I set off from his house in Compton where he lived with his parents, our plan was to cover the marathon distance. We headed out towards Bridgnorth and then turned to quieter country lanes looping our way steadily back in the general direction of his home. It was the first time that I can recall getting lost on a training run, not something I would recommend but one hell of a means of firming up the determination, and making your legs and mind keep you going when your whole being is insistent that you should just lie down. We eventually made it back to Compton after being out for almost four hours. We were in some sort of state, his parents had been worried sick having returned from church, eaten their lunch, prior to us staggering in. I remember well, following a shower, the disapproving silence from Ma and Pa when Brian placed his lunch, already stuck firmly to its plate, back into the oven, and informed them that he was coming with me to The Mermaid, the local pub, for a couple of pints! I’m sure that I was seen as an evil influence in what was a good Christian home.


In 1964 after over four years of super working experience with Rex Parker and W R R Pedley of Willenhall I moved on to take up a position as a Training Advisor with Walsall Chamber of Commerce. An improved salary was of course one of the objectives, but I primarily moved in order to gain experiences that would eventually aid a move into more managerial type employment. The post required me to obtain a more modern type of car since visiting manufacturing plants in and around the Walsall Area was an essential part of the job. So, Louie and I became the proud owners of a smashing little Riley Elf, a leap for us in that spare parts should they be required, could be obtained from service stations, car dealers, or garages rather than scrapyards as had been our previous sources when keeping our pre-war vehicles on the road.

 I remained in this employment for a year and a half, but realised quite early on that the move was not a particularly good one. To be brutally honest, I felt that I had insufficient to do, and at times I was confronted with instances where my clients were only interested in avoidance of their legal obligations under The Industrial Training Act which had created my job in the first place. Certainly, the work did nothing to aid my athletics ambitions which were well into the background. Louie and I continued to have a pretty good social life, getting about a good deal and beginning to dine out more often than ever before, another factor in my rather downward running spiral.

Then events took a turn which delighted both Louie and I, we had a baby on the way, wow!

I had also been seeking a job change, and was offered a training officers position with the Tube Investment Group, working for Accles & Pollock in Oldbury, which was just six miles from home. Some of my friends said that I would miss the freedom of being out and about most days, but as things turned out it was just what I needed. A base that I could run to and from on a regular basis. The pay was better, the post much more satisfying, and I began to make progress to at least get back into some sort a structured regular running. Looking back, the most important person I met in my earliest days in my new job, was Jack Mallard, he among a variety of duties was responsible for some superb showering facilities just 50 yards from my office. He soon fixed me up with a set of keys and told me to use the facilities, morning, noon, or night. I took him at his word.


I had at this time, been keeping a record of all my training and racing, and so now can quote from my diaries. During 1966 I was running very regularly, for example January 314 miles did not train on only 2 days, February 257 miles, no rest days, March 260 miles, 4 days’ rest. April 343 miles, ran every day. To give an idea of the sort of level of my racing performances, I ran 15 miles in 1h 29m 36s in the Staffordshire Championship in mid-March. I felt quite pleased with the result, although the time was a little slower than the previous year. At the end of May I ran 2h 05m for the Pembroke 20 miles going through the 15 mile point in 1h 30m 45s. I ran the Polytechnic Marathon (the “Poly”) in June, but dropped out at 22 miles, having struggled from the 17 mile point. Needless to say, I was disappointed. I was able to remove the disappointment somewhat 3 weeks later by running the RRC Marathon at Port Sunlight in 2h 52m. My targets at this stage included running the South London 30 Mile race in early September and so some long slow runs were planned, and often two runs per day. 381 miles during August, and a couple of 27 mile training runs in about 3h 15m. Colin Kemball, John Lees and Dave Wildman were great training companions at this stage, such regular running cannot be easy, but in such company, it was a social outing as well as a vigorous preparation. The South London was a very good day for us Colin won it! John was 31st and I was 23rd in 3h 23m. (I had managed 3h 17m in 1965) but our 2nd Team award put us onto the long distance road running map. I was not yet ready for the really long races as my coming out of the London to Brighton Race at almost 45 miles showed on 24th September. Being completely knackered at the bottom of Dale Hill was an awful experience, but even during the dismal journey home afterwards I was determined to crack this race. To me the “BRIGHTON” was “THE” long distance race. When I began to run to and from Oldbury daily during November 1966 (at least 6 miles each way) I genuinely began to feel that I could step up a level or two. The year saw me total 3846 miles of running. Having ideal facilities such as I now had made all the difference, the decision of when and where to run being no longer an issue.


This was to become the year when I settled down and got back towards the level that I had attained in 1961. January, 285 miles, February 270, March 275, April 329. Regular running but not showing much at all by way of results. During early May I ran 1h 36m for 15 miles and it seemed dammed hard work I guess I was settling in to the to and from work routine. Then on 3rd June I ran a 59m 10 miles at Coventry and it seemed so easy I felt that I could easily have run on at that pace for a while longer, and 7 days later ran the “Poly” Marathon in 2h 47m, with 5 mile splits of 31m 05s, 62m 30s, 1h 34m, 2h 05m. This meant that my final 6 miles 385 yards had taken some 42m. None of the awful struggles of my previous marathon finishes. Very pleasing on this day was Dave Wildman completing his first marathon, although he had not until then considered himself particularly suited to long distance running. He was subsequently to prove that given a steady but progressive period of longer runs one’s performances can exceed all expectations.

I had decided to miss out on the London to Brighton in order to get more endurance under my belt without running the risk of another failure to finish this classic long distance road race. To this end I took part in a 50 mile walk overnight 8th-9th July but from the outset planned to jog /walk the event. In the end I was on my feet over 11 hours and surprised myself with how well I felt. I had eaten and taken drinks throughout the whole way. I was very pleased with this as part of my stepping up towards a real go at the “Brighton” during 1968. Two weeks later I ran to just about 40 miles in the Liverpool to Blackpool 48.5 mile race in about 4h 45m but had to drop out being completely shattered. My intermediate clocking’s were - 65m 50s, 2h 12m and then 3h 20m at thirty miles. Beyond this point I began to fall apart, I still had much to learn about competing in ultra-events.

Then on September 6th. I at last managed to finish a long event when pleasingly I scraped a 6th place in the Woodford to Southend 37.5 mile event finishing in 4h 14m 37s.

Split times were - 33m 29s, 64m 41s, 1h 38m, 2h 10m 20s, 2h 45m 30s, 3h 22m, 3h 59m 30s. I felt I was coming on a bit. The remaining months of the year I ran regularly and was getting quite serious about a good bash the following year. For some reason I failed to keep an accurate record of my running during the later months of 1967 but estimate that I just about ran the same annual total as the previous year.

From here on, throughout my best running years, that is until the end of 1974, I have an ongoing detailed daily diary to assist my recollections of events.


My records show that I ran at least once per day, every day during this year, and in fact, more significantly began the regime of three runs on many mid-week days. This was made, not easy, but easier by running the six miles each way to and from Oldbury, plus a lunch-time grass-trail run of usually 5-6 miles, this run in the company of others. In fact, later on this session became quite well known in the area and attracted “guest runners” from various parts when they were in the Oldbury area.

It does not require a great knowledge of competitive running to realise that testing out such a programme meant that my results needed to be analysed and a degree of patience shown in order that I did not just to collapse into an exhausted disillusioned heap. So, this year, certainly the early months were a vital period to my longer term ambitions. A glance at my monthly running totals shows that only during the first and last months of the year did my totals not exceed the 300 mile mark. My overall annual figure being, at 4186, some 286 miles greater than my previous highest recorded. My results in competition were initially neither one thing nor another; Hereford 20 miles during April 2h 05m. It is relevant however that this result came from a full week running of 101 miles made up over 11 sessions. But then in mid-May, I managed the Halesowen 16 mile road race, a famously tough course (first half fast downhill, and an awful hard run back) in a personal best of 1h 33m 30s. Two weeks later 1h 55m 19s in the Liverpool Pembroke 20 miles was another personal best.

I was rather disappointed with my performance in the Polytechnic Marathon 15th June being 2h 47m. Though be it on a scorchingly hot day. A rather different training day two weeks later was a run over a route known as The Shropshire Summits being about 36 miles covering the six highest points in the county in 7h 18m which was better than the previous best recorded

Then at the end of July came something of a breakthrough, I finished third in the 48.5 mile Liverpool to Blackpool race in 5h 45m only losing 2nd place to Tony Fern during the final mile, the outstanding John Tarrant having shown both of us a clean pair of heels. My recovery however was pleasing in that I ran another personal best nine days later for 10 miles 1656 yards in our club one hour track race at Aldersley Stadium, this being 600 yards better than my run of 1967.

Another PB came with my 3h 14m 29s for the SLH 30 miles going through the marathon in 2h 46m. Then came three weeks of preparation prior to my crack at the “Brighton” - 71 miles, 97 miles and 80 miles. The two middle weekend runs being 3h 50m for about 29 miles.

This was it.


John Lees and I had convinced ourselves that the course first class standard of 6h 25m could be achieved if one managed to run the whole of the 52.5 miles. This of course meaning two marathons averaging about 3h 12m 30s for each one. We tried not to allow our minds to dwell on this too much simply believing that the mind now had to play its part in pulling the body towards what it had been suggesting was a possibility.

We travelled to London staying overnight at the flat of John Cummings and his wife (John had been a regular training companion of mine during his employment with me in Oldbury) We were treated quite royally, a smashing three course meal and a couple or so beers. Sleeping bags on the floor but softened with as many cushions as required. After a light but very early breakfast we were driven to the dressing rooms for registration and finally were set on our way by the strokes of Big Ben at 7:00AM, John and his wife being our support team the whole way along the course.

John Lees and I did indeed run the whole way, and made the seafront at Brighton in 6h 20m 36s finishing together in 14th position. I shall never forget that feeling of seeing the sea with about 500 yards to run, Wow!

During the next few days my feelings moved between “never again“ and “I‘m sure that I can improve upon that performance.” I was convinced that my sometimes triple training days suited my life style, but that to move further forward I needed to both increase my total mileages, and include some really ultra-long steady training runs. I recognised that I had superb support from Louie, although she was more than busy looking after Ian and organising and running our home. Indeed, early in 1969 we were happy to be able to confirm that we were to have another addition to our family later in the year. I also realised how fortunate I was to have a group of good running friends that were an enormous help when covering some of the weekend longer runs.

My year had been a success, since I had recorded some personal best performances, and indeed the overwhelming run to at last complete a “Brighton”, had been very satisfying. Looking at the numbers side of my preparation I had raised total input to beyond the 4000 mile level. This had included a record month when in July I had totalled 451 miles and a record week of 113 miles. One big feature of running to and from work as a part of training structure, and in doing so leaving the car at home for Louie and Ian, meant that there were more than just running reasons to assist the determination to carry on. I recognise now that I was always going to carry on, since I was curious as to how much further perhaps, I could push myself. What type and volume of running could I reach? What was the limit that I could get to?

Certainly, I did not drop down mileages for the remainder of the year, although I did not expect to show very much during the cross-country season. Country running I always found hard but on the other hand very enjoyable, though I perhaps did not always push myself as hard as I could. I was surprised and delighted therefore to turn in a great run (for me) just four weeks after the “Brighton”, when again John Lees and I finished together as joint 5th Harriers in the annual Cyclists v Harriers race at Walsall. This I noted at the time was probably my best result over the country as a senior. I was looking forward to the coming new year with great optimism.


I kicked off the new year with a best to date position of 23rd in the Staffordshire cross-country championships, I had finished 39th a year earlier. I was pleased also in mid-February to make 40th place in the final Birmingham Cross -Country League race of the winter, this also being a highest place to date. At that time this league was one hell of a good standard, runners in those days not always seeming to be resting up for “the big one next weekend.”

I was keen to get on with the road running season, and was reasonably satisfied with my runs in the short road relays, at Livingstone, Midland (at Sutton) and a 21m 51s. Run in the Harborne event, this being easily a best ever for me, but surprisingly a fastest of the day among my fellow Wolverhampton runners.

The following weekend 17m 17s in our own relay from Regis School in Tettenhall, was also faster than I had previously managed. Then on Sunday 20th April we gained third team awards in the Hereford 20 mile race, another best for me of 1h 53m 23s and another week later fastest club time in Tipton Harriers relay 20m 40s easily my best on that course.

I was delighted with my overall form, but a little surprised with improvements over the relatively short distances, so the 20 mile run gave me a great boost that I had maintained a longer distance capability throughout the winter. When on 3rd May I finished 2nd to John Tarrant in the 44 mile Exeter to Plymouth race in a time 4h 58m 31s (I was informed that I was only the fourth runner to date to beat the 5 hour mark) I was suddenly wondering what might open up for me. Since the London to Brighton race in 68, I had run just three 20 mile runs in training besides the 20 mile Hereford race, all my other runs being of the order of 6-8 miles and the sharpening shorter relay competitions. (see Monthly Running Totals for volumes.) My recovery from this long race was much better than I could have expected, when two weeks on I had another best in the Halesowen 16 mile race of 1h 26m 39s. This was a six minute improvement on my previous best.

I was invited to compete for Staffordshire in the Inter-Counties 20 mile race eight days later, which I did. This was my first ever county representation, of which I was very proud, and so imagine my disappointment when I turned in easily my worst result of the year - 1h 58m 02s.

Was it pressure? Was it insufficient recovery? I shall never know, I suspect it was a little of both, to be seen as a caution perhaps. I put in my first 100 mile plus week of the year! This was then followed by a “Poly” Marathon run of again 2h 47m. On another hot day.

By way of a change, I then covered the Shropshire Six Summits in 6h 13m a record time in the history of the event, over an hour faster than I had managed a year earlier.


I was helped enormously with this pretty intense routine by Louie who kept me always with fresh kit to race and train in, fed with plenty of good freshly prepared food, and showing great interest and concern with my obsessive determination to get on in the ultra-distance road race events. All this alongside caring for Ian (now coming up to 4 years of age) and preparing for the birth of our second child, expected around mid-August time. It is worthy of mention here that given all of this vital support, I did have a struggle to fit in a weekend of rough climbing/walking in North Wales in mid-July. Louie did not exactly clap her hands at this idea, but off I went, and we had a superb weekend of clear sunny weather and covered the two classic walk/scrambles of the area, the Snowdon Horseshoe on the Saturday, and Tryfan and Bristly-Ridge and the Glyders on the Sunday. Yes, we even fitted in a six mile run early on the second day. My fellow climbers during this unforgettable weekend were - Alan Plant (Halesowen Athletic Club); Len York (Halesowen Athletic Club); Darrel McWhirter - “Mac” (Halesowen Athletic Club); Peter Craggs and Colin Kemball both from my own club. “Mac” also brought along a friend whose name escapes me, but I shall not forget his contribution to the fun and games of those two fabulous days. We were staying at Nant Cottage a rough hut belonging to Accles & Pollock Apprentices Society. The facilities were, shall we say very basic. A roof? Yes. Walls? Yes. Other facilities? No.

The super weather caused Alan (“Planty”) to state that he could not face the claustrophobia of cramped sleeping indoors, and that he planned to simply role out his sleeping bag on the concrete platform outside and go alfresco. Len (“Yorkie”) thought that this was a great idea and declared that he would do likewise. The others of us recognising, that the overnight temperatures would more than likely plummet, made sure that the outside party, once starting the night in the fresh air had to stay out. We explained our rules to the brave pair but they stuck with their plan, yes even after we drove down into the village for a few beers to ease our dehydration that had built up during our day on the Horseshoe.

I have referred above to the rather scant domestic facilities of Nant Cottage. Being blunt, there were no toilet facilities, no lighting and a tap for cold water, this being fed directly from the small dam just upstream. So it was that we all decided that it was time to get some rest since we planned a bright and early start next day so as to cram in a full session in the hills before driving back along the A5 in the direction of home. Those of us opting to sleep inside, had to ensure that we emptied our bladders prior to locking the door on the hardy pair kipping in the great outdoors, this we did and eventually after plenty of mickey tacking and general banter, silence reigned.

At just before 3:00AM I was awakened by a voice calling my name. It was “Yorkie”. “Colin come on mate, let me in I’m freezing” I knew that even if I had felt any sympathy, which I did not, there was no way that I could back down from a jointly agreed arrangement, I was after all a personnel man by profession. So even when we were all awakened by the disturbance, all that seemed with the exception of “Planty”, who as far as I could see from my peering through the window was well down inside his sleeping bag. The insiders were 100% in agreement that a deal was a deal, and I was instructed to convey this confirmation to the pathetic “Yorkie”, who sporting only trunk style underpants for cover. The night was one of those crystal clear but dammed cold nights that always suggest that the early hours next day are worth getting up for, but “Yorkie” was faced with the choice of making do with lying shivering in his bag, or negotiating a much cosier arrangement crawling in with “Planty”, with his own bag draped across the pair of them. It was no contest, close friends that they were there was not a hope in hell for “Yorkie”, “Planty” knew full well that his reputation as a thoroughly straight guy was at stake, amidst a group that would not hesitate to exaggerate just a little when the story was told, as indeed it would have been had co-habiting within one bag occurred. This hilarious shouting match seemed likely to be heading towards, to use industrial relations terminology, FTA - failure to agree, and indeed could have continued until good light stopped play, had a couple of the” inside “sleepers not used the incident as merely a useful distraction, permitting an unmissable opportunity to nip outside for a “quick pee“. You may recall that Nant Cottage was hardly of a five star classification in the provision of toilet facilities department. Well, with a couple of the inside party out, the door was ajar, and so it was that “Yorkie” shot back inside, and the fracas was pretty well over.

Not really what serious walkers/runners/climbers need in the early hours of a big day in the hills.

Up at just before 7:00AM, we ran a steady six miles, washed in the stream, breakfasted on cereals, bread, jam and mugs of tea, packed away our gear and drove up to Ogwyn Cottage and set off towards the summit of Tryfan, via the glorious scramble that is the north ridge. The day was one of those blessed with continuously clear skies and little wind, even at 3000 feet above sea level, and so it was that we went on up Bristly ridge onto the Glyders, and some six hours or so later eventually dropping back down into the valley, and even having a quick dip in a small ice-cold pool. Wow! We rounded off our weekend with a swift drive back as far as Newport (Shropshire) so as to sample some home brew at “Mac’s” friend’s house (I do wish that I could recall his name.) One particular statement I recall that he made was that he had never before laughed so much, and that in spite of being a keen photographer he had not been able to record much on film, because “You buggers would have been out of sight by the time I had set up, focused and taken a shot!”

Yes, he was the only one of us that was a non-runner.

This mad weekend did me a whole power of good, since just two weeks later I won the 48.5 Mile Liverpool to Blackpool road race in 5h 02m 17s. This being forty three minutes faster than when finishing third the previous year.

I got a small mention in The Sunday Times next day, and my Dad heard reference to it on Saturday tea time on the radio, boy was he chuffed.