A Tribute To Ron Bentley (Poem)

A Tribute To Ron Bentley, Of Tipton Harriers On The Occasion Of His World Record Run


How slowly breaks this November’s dawn upon the Walton Track,

Flood lighting, as if in competition fighting,

To hold the daylight back.


At last the lights go off and day comes on,

And strewn around the track we see,

Blankets, chairs, tents and sweat soaked clothes hung out to dry,

Some men run while others walk, and some just hobble by,

Yes! in this scene a story’s told,

The race is thirteen hours old.


Only now the very strongest hold a steady pace,

Around a hundred miles are done,

For here we see the longest race of all,

Run on, and on, for 24 hours, or till you fall.


The hours creep slowly on, a little sun,

Distant morning church bells, a garden fire nearby,

Now a few more people fill the stand

And as they settle comfortably, little do they know,

That in honoured exit from this race

A world champion is lying just below.


We hear encouragement softly spoken,

And see raw courage quietly displayed,

Imprinting pictures on the mind to quietly remember

Oh no, we shan’t forget this Sunday in November.

The day wears on and men wear out,

But not within their hearts,

They try, and try to run again,

Then rest, and try again.


And carried on the autumn air

With falling leaves of yellow, gold and red,

There drifts the sound of an accent familiar to our ear,

“Come on our kid”, “He wants a cup of tea”, “He’d like a pint of beer”.

Yes, well represented here, the men of Staffordshire.


So at last the afternoon arrives,

Overcast with dark and heavy skies.

“I hope to heaven it doesn’t rain” we hear a shout,

But apparently Saint Tippington is not about.


The rain is heavy when it comes,

And as the minutes pass becomes torrential.

What cheering rises, from the comfort of the now full stand,

As ankle deep each runner passes, in his sodden plight.


Though clouds remain, the heavy downpour eases,

Quite unaffected by the rain the runners

Still upon the track, plough through.

The weather may do what it pleases

We know the rain will stop, before these gallant few.


Now suddenly a most uplifting sight,

Back on the floodlights, heralding the night.

Less than two hours now to do,

These men have run the daylight through.


All day we’ve watched one solid figure dressed in white,

Who now, with steady stride, runs in the night.

The tannoy loud informs us, to a deafening cheer,

What he, and all have waited long to hear.

This man Ron Bentley, the national record’s near.


As each lap passes the cheering mounts,

All eyes now on the one that counts.

The same relentless stride goes round and on,

He’ll take the record home today, this “Tipton’s son”.


The crowd now start to leave the stand,

Walking across the track to where the record falls.

And jostling one another, line the final yards.

And looking back towards the darkened bend,

All proudly wait to witness and to greet

England’s new champion and his record run.


We wait, but no one comes to reap the waiting cheers.

Ah, now a figure of similar size and gait appears,

No longer clad in that familiar white.

The change of clothes, this reason for delay, is no disguise.

He wears his Tipton vest.


The cameras flash, the spotlights glare and die,

With one short wave, and generous smile,

The green and white goes sailing by.


Thoughts now flood in of other times and other men

Who’d watch this run with pride, but no!

That’s not for now, this night belongs to one,

Who’s still six miles to run before his life’s ambition’s done.


Now once again the familiar white

Shining through the gathering night.

The stocky figure runs, and runs, and runs.

Another stop, more water on those aching legs,

Then on, and round, and round again.


Come on!   Come on!   Once in your lifetime Ron,

Don’t falter now you’re nearly there, come on!   Come on!

What can we call between the cheers that any help can give?

We’re seeing something we may never see again as long as we may live.


A long hoarse yell of “Tipton!” once a lap,

A quiet call from men who stand and gently clap.


A tall man stands beside the track,

The veteran of so many runs.

He stares and shakes his head,

How can he grasp the effort that this runner shows?

And so by standards that he knows the best,

The runner’s great performance is assessed.

Three London to Brightons all in one!

Or without a rest, six marathon!


Un-noticed now the gently falling rain,

As round that track, still round, and round again.

Another mile, another walk, another drink.

Then on the white clad figure runs, with every thrusting stride we see,

That grim determination that makes the champion.


The tannoy blares out times and laps

Of other runners gamely pushing on.

Some briefly rested, now increase their pace,

But only one can win this race.


One final effort now, the greatest prize is won,

Unfaltering, the flowing stride goes on.

The worst is over now, the best to come.

Run Ron, Run Ron, Run on.


With just a flicker of our heart

We hear the long awaited countdown start.

Six laps to go and he’ll be there,

Six laps, and then the waiting laurels wear.


A quickly taken final drink, so willingly supplied.

For in these closing moments, and oh, so rightly so,

His son is at his side.


Now for it Ron, the long road’s end

Not trod for twenty years.

He’ll do it now and as he runs,

His steady stride allays our fears.


The cheering mounts, the laps descend

And now at last the record,

Beckons as a friend.


At last, at last, the longest last, the final lap arrives.

Oh take it slow, don’t rush this one, let’s savour your endeavour.

These moments in your life and ours,

Will live with us for ever.


The white clad figure now begins the record breaking lap.

And as before, he lingers on the darkened bend, then runs into the light,

And once again we see the cause of the delay.


Among the cheers hold back your tears, as he now gives his best.

For on this night, the greatest sight,

He wears an old green vest.


And now with cheering, cheering all the way,

The final yards are done,

One hundred and sixty miles, the longest ever run.

And humbled such achievement makes us feel,

Who only stand and watch.


Of great occasions past, or future we may see,

There never, as on that night could be,

An old green vest, worn with such dignity.


So when you at some distant time the ratings read,

That tell of laps, and Ron Bentley’s record time,

Remember, that included there are moments, precious,

Far above the rest.

For when the greatest crown was near his hand,

He stopped ! !

And upon a rain and sweat soaked top,

He pulled an old green vest!