Alan Rushmer Profile (Cliff Franks Profile)

This article was written in 2003 by the late Cliff Franks, then Secretary of the Birmingham & District XC League. It was included in one of the race programmes for the first race of the season when all divisions came together at Senneleys Park, Birmingham which was a true celebration of cross country running.

Alan Rushmer

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

Alan was not interested in running at school, it was only at the age of sixteen that he saw some people running in the local park and they informed him that there was a three mile road race at Oldbury A.C. on the following Saturday (Cup Final day). Thinking himself a little mad that he should agree to run in this race, especially as he was a football fan. He toed the line with some trepidation. Dressed in old vest and shorts and with a pair of black school plimsolls as footwear; Alan showed his potential by winning the race and receiving a plaque for his effort. Despite feeling tired and exhausted that evening, he was also elated and thought to himself 'Well I'm good at something' and with this thought he decided to continue and joined Oldbury A.C.

On joining Oldbury A.C. Alan was to take his mile time down from 4m.17s. to 4m.13s. Despite only running about ten one-mile races in his career he continued to reduce his time for the distance. Finally, running 3m. 58.7s for second place against Alan Simpson in 1967; just 6 tenths of a second behind one of Britains great milers. Interestingly, Rushy became the 89th athlete in the world to beat the four-minute mile barrier.

Cross Country was always a great part of Alan's running, from the start as a Junior he competed well finishing ninth , seventh and fifth in the Junior National. It was found out later that the I.A.A.F. age groupings for juniors was different from the English National age groups (it still is). Four of the athletes competing, in the first year that Alan competed in the National were later found to be too old. That was the year that Rushmer would have made the team had these individuals been taken out of the team as they should have been. He was too old to be selected on the other two occasions that he ran the Junior National.

Indeed, at this time his track career was progressing as Alan was ranked second in Europe for the 3000m. steeplechase. He decided to drop this event as his technique was poor, in that he was placing his foot on the top of each hurdle at every clearance. In addition to this he found his flat speed to be good, thus giving him the feeling that he was a much better flat athlete.

One of the major highlights of Alan's track career was when he finished third in the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Jamaica. The race not starting until approximately 11.30 in the evening (The programme running late due to cycling events held in the same arena, earlier in the afternoon). The race started very fast with Ron Clarke and Kip Keino getting away and they were being chased by the 10,000 metre Champion Naftali Temu. Rushmer was in the main pack with Dick Taylor, Ian McCafferty and Bill Wilkinson. At the bell he decided to go and chased after Temu, catching him in the home straight and sprinted by to take the bronze medal. Some achievement on only his third athletic trip. In the same year and just a few short weeks later, Alan was to run the 10,000 metres for Great Britain in the European Championships in Budapest. Once again he ran exceptionally well to finish in fifth place; first Britain home. His time of 28m.37.8s equalled Mike Freary's British record. Alan was just five seconds behind the bronze medal position, beating such luminaries as Bruce Tulloh, Gaston Roelants and Jim Alder.

It was at this time that Alan began making a name for himself in the England Cross- Country squad. Finishing ninth in the National of 1967 at Norwich, he made his International cross-country debut at Barry where he finished 23rd. the seventh Englishman to finish. A year later he was selected for the International in Tunis where he finished in an excellent seventh position, fourth Englishman home and his first winners team medal.

Altitude and the fright of the unknown, probably led to Alan's early demise in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico. Finishing his heat in the modest time of 15m.05.2 made sure he did not progress any further in the competition. He was later to describe his performance as a disaster.

The 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh was to see Alan finish in the worst position of all 4th. place. In what for the Scots turned out to be the race of the games with Ian Stewart holding of Ian McCafferty for a Scots one two. Allowing a gap to develop between Kip Keino, Ron Clarke and himself, Alan left a lot of work to be done in the later stages of the race. Rapidly closing the gap, catching and passing Ron Clarke yet not quite getting on terms with Keino. A superb run, that perhaps could have been capped with a bronze medal had he not let the gap develop.

Training hard for the 1972 Munich Olympics, much of his training done with Ian Stewart. Alan got very fit and was entered in the National at Sutton Coldfield. Yes that National! starting as if it were a bright spring day, that by time the senior men's event was under-way finished in a blizzard. Never has there been cold, wet and snowstorms like it. Never has a test of stamina and fitness been greater. Rushy ran to a magnificent third place only to be beaten by renowned strong men Mal Thomas and Bill Robinson. However, this clinched his place in the England team for the International; this time to be held in Cambridge.

Running solidly at Cambridge, Alan finished in sixteenth position and was the third English scorer. The team once again packed well to beat the Moroccans for first place. Once again Alan taking home a team gold medal.

Picking up a chest infection just before the trials for the Munich Olympics Alan was to find that the trials were a test too much for a body racked with illness. Sadly he was to miss the 1972 Olympics and his problems increased when he was diagnosed with bronchial asthma. So severe were the symptoms that it looked if it would end his athletic career. Indeed, it was nine years before he started to run well again.

At the age of 37 Alan made his comeback in the national cross-country finishing in a wondrous fourteenth place, only just outside the England team. Second scorer in the winning Tipton team, A year later he was back helping his beloved Tipton to yet another National win, this time finishing in 48th. position and fourth scorer for the Club. Two years later and a veteran Alan was still helping his Club to great things in the National 124th position and sixth scorer in the team helping the green and whites to third team.

Other achievements in a long and distinguished career include running a 2hr.20m.11s marathon an event that he only dabbled with, barely scratching the surface of the event, this again at the age of 37. He has helped so many Tipton teams to success in both the National and the National twelve stage road relays, that it must seem to his contemporaries that he is Tipton Harriers. Certainly with his friend Andy Holden he has been the backbone of many of their victories. Perhaps, one of his greatest honours was when Tipton made him a life member of the Club in 1982.

In 1984 Rushy became the European Vets Champion at 10,000metres, this after winning the bronze medal in the 5,000metres. However, his priorities were always more concerned with making a Tipton team for the Twelve Stage or to get a place in the National team.

So what about the Birmingham & District Cross-Country League, the bedrock of all cross-country competition in Alan's day. Rushy was one of the few top athletes to have run in three separate divisions of the League. Winning the third division races on three times in the colours of Oldbury A.C. He then moved up to the second division having many a great battle with Maurice Herriott, although having to give best to the steeplechaser on six occasions. Changing Clubs to the green and white hoops of Tipton Harriers Rushmer was a regular member of the Black Country team in most League races, finishing in the top fifteen on more than twenty occasions. He had a top five placing in the first division at least eleven times, having a who's who of distance running surrounding him. His best effort in the League was three second placings, having athletes of the calibre of Ian Stewart and Roger Hackney ahead of him.

Alan has been the consummate performer at all level of the sport International, Club runner, Veteran. I suspect though, that his days with the great Tipton teams of the sixties, seventies and eighties will be somewhere near the top of his memories. Alan, above all was a great Club man, whom I'm sure will be judged in this light by his many peers.