Jack Holden (Cliff Franks Profile)

This article was written 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.

Jack Holden

One of the all time greats of British distance running. Jack achieved everything there was to achieve in athletics except an elusive Olympic Medal.

Certainly he competed in the Birmingham League when his club Tipton Harriers were admitted to membership of the League in 1935. Unfortunately no results exist of fixtures that were held prior to 1959. So it is uncertain how Jack fared in these fixtures. However, he made his mark in the League as Sgt. J.T Holden of RAF Hendesford during the War years. Local Service camps being invited to join the League for the duration of the war years.

The good sergeant represented his RAF station throughout the war, at all the Leagues AGMs. Often proposing and seconding motions such as the one taken from the League minutes and shown below: Mr J.Pearce asked if any members has any ideas re-trials for cross-country courses for this season, owing to the shortage of paper. B Bashford suggested that as far as possible courses should be marshalled. J.T. Holden seconded and this was agreed to.

Between 1932 and 1946 Jack Holden won the Midland Cross Country Championships on no fewer than eight occasions; and this was with six years out, for the event was not held throughout the war years. How many might he have won?

Indeed his successes were not just as Midland level, Jack first finished in the top ten of the National in 1929, when he finished 9th. He was to finish in the top ten every year after that until in 1938 he won the National, which he went on to defend successfully in 1939 and again in 1946. Once again the war years robbing him of perhaps so much more. Jack was still scoring for his beloved Tipton in the 1949 National finishing 33rd. A span of twenty-one years from when he first finished in the top ten.

Although being a member of the England team from 1929 Jack first won the International Cross County Championship in 1933, defending the International title successfully in 1934, 1935 and 1939. His last Cross Country vest for England was in 1946; having made the team every year from that 1929 debut.

Jack was not just a great Cross Country runner he won the AAA 6 mile track Championship on three occasions between 1933 and 1935 and the 10 mile Championship in 1934.

However his crowning glory was to come late in his career when he turned to marathon, winning the AAA Marathon championship of four occasions between 1946 and 1950. 1950 saw Jack run three Marathons, winning the Commonwealth Marathon title in Auckland, New Zealand in the February. Running this event in the pouring rain, his shoes split and came off, causing him to run the last eight miles with bloody, blistered feet. After his AAA Championship win he was to win the European Marathon Championship in Brussels in a most convincing style.

These two valued titles capped a wonderful year for Jack Holden and indeed a marvellous athletic career Jack was 43 years of age when he won both these titles.