Roy Langford - Article No.23 (12/08/2013)

I take up my story again on the Wednesday morning following my gutsy! Performance at RAF Cosford last evening (Tuesday 17th January) when I was one of a small group of about 50 athletes taking part and witnessing World Indoor Athletic history in the making, when the powers that be, the RAF, made available a huge indoor arena (aircraft hanger) which enabled the promoters to stage a full 100 yards flat race for the first time from anywhere in the world, with Daphne Arden (Birchfield Harriers) name going down in Black Country folklore history as the first athlete to win an indoor 100 yards race her winning and unofficial world record time was 11.2 seconds. But with the euphoria of last night, it didn't deter the way I felt this morning after a bad night with my niggling cough, and of course I wasn't in the best of moods when the ringing tones of my alarm clock rang out denoting my wake up call for work. Arriving at work (Ewarts) on that morning did nothing to put off my feeling down in the dumps mood, because it was like walking into a morgue there were no smiles from my workmates (Joe Smith, Eric Cooksay, Ron Darlow, Jack Cooksey, Billing Higginson and George (Sabu) Westwood) or 'how did you get on last night Roy' just that air of gloom which had been brought about by those redundancy notices served by the works management on over 40 of our workforce, on unlucky for them Friday 13th January 1961, a date which would no doubt be in their minds over the coming weeks while they worked out their notices. Even our noteworthy foreman Arthur Hemming was feeling the pressure because he hadn't turned up for work since the redundancies had been announced. It was also as plain to see as the nose on your face that even in those early 1960s that a firm could no longer guarantee its workforce a job for life as we all well know in these troubled times today.

Very Sad News at Tipton Harriers Club House

My on going frustration at not training was curtailed for another few days to allow my cough to clear up but my fitness problems were put into perspective when I paid a visit to the Tipton club house on Sunday morning, on entering I was greeted with the very said news from club official Len Myerscough that our dear old club trainer and caretaker Jack Baker had passed away on Friday 20th January at Burton Road Hospital, Dudley, aged 78.

Jack was a founder member of Tipton Harriers way back in September 1910, and without the vision of such great men and his counterparts there would have been no Tipton Harriers club. Rest in Peace 'Owd Jack' 1883 – 1961

Back in Training on Tuesday 24th January

With my cough on the mend, I decided to take a gamble on my first training session for over two weeks on Tuesday evening (24th January) and with the winter daylight hours in short supply after leaving work at 5 pm, I decided to keep my next few days training sessions close to home on my local park (Buffrey Park) to build up my fitness levels again, because I was somewhat surprised how my energy my cough had taken out of me, so that this moment in time didn't want to push myself on one of these mad 6 mile road runs with my Tipton Harrier mates. But the next Cosford meeting only 3 weeks away on St Valentines Day 14th February 1961, I really couldn't pussy foot about for to long or it would be a 'St Valentines Race Massacre' for me at Cosford, so by Sunday of that week, I got stuck into some serious training again, when I met up with John Brimble, Andy Fereday and Dave Fereday for a real honest to goodness training session on Tipton's Victoria Park, it was great to be back in their company again for some sprint practice or so I thought.

Our gang really set ourselves a hard workout on this very windy morning by running 3 x 600 yards leg sapping races in the space of ¾ hours and to finish off our 1½ hours training session a series of 6 x 150 yards very competitive races at ¾ speed, my legs felt like jelly after those and to rub salt into the wound I came trailing in last in all those races but the only loss to me was a bit of pride, which didn't matter I was happy just putting in another top class training session again.

Over the next week of so my fitness and sprinting form got something like back to normal thanks to the help of Dave Fereday and John Brimble who gave me the support I needed to regain my form by pushing me hard enough in my training sessions to let me know I couldn't rest on my past sprinting laurels with the Cosford indoor meeting only a week away on 14th February with all three of use entered for the sprint events or so thought at that time but with no confirmation at this time from Bill Marlow.

Picked to Represent The Midlands at Cosford

After work on Tuesday 9th February I made my way down to the Vono Sports Ground, Tipton for a pre-arranged training session with John and Dave, our changing rooms residence and meeting up point was the cricket club pavilion by the tennis courts and 5-a-side football pitch, with Dave Fereday already in his track suit, we had a 10 minute wait before John showed up walking across the sports field with Eric Silk and for some reason which would soon be made clear, looking very pleased with themselves. On reaching me John handed me a letter from A.A.A. coach and secretary Bill Marlow in the sort of handwriting akin to a doctor's prescription form, which translated into this letter which reads:

Dated 7/2/1961

Dear Mr Brimble

As you will no doubt know (we didn't) there are no open events for the next meeting at Cosford on Tuesday 14th February. I would however appreciate it if you would ask Langford if he would compete for one of the Midland teams in the match.

Please also ask him to inform me as soon as possible whether he is available.

The transport arrangements are as normal.

Yours sincerely

W E Marlow

With my eyes wide open in utter amazement I finished reading the letter, this move was followed by the congratulation handshakes from my training mates Eric, Dave and John and that shock news about being no open events was a real let down for John who was in great sprinting form and all keyed up to run at Cosford on the other had for me to run for the Midlands was a wish beyond my wildest dreams and a great mile stone in my athletic career,

That ground breaking news for me had thrown us all off course from our training session but with out any further distractions in winter's fading fast daylight we set about our warming up session with 4 laps of the sports field before setting ourselves the target of 6 x 220 yards and 6 x 150 yards races at ¾ speed, these races took place on the well lit road way running along side the Vono factory buildings over a period of nearly 2 hours which tonight had a very competitive edge, with John Brimble all fired up about missing a run at Cosford next Tuesday, and he brought all that determination into another training session we had on Sunday on Victoria Park, Tipton, but this time in the company of myself and Andy Fereday, on this fine spring like morning our main training session, after our warm up period was 4 x 600 yards leg sapping races, I had to keep a calm head on my shoulders and not push myself to hard on these out of my comfort zone races, and sensibly let Andy and John do all the pace making on these heart pumping races and just hope at the end of the sessions I hadn't taken too much out of myself, with only two days to go before my debut race for the Midlands athletic team at Cosford.

D-Day for Cosford meeting

Tuesday morning 14th February and with just an hour or so into my working day on the pipe brazing section at Ewarts Ltd, and with all my thoughts on being a nervous wreck thinking about running at Cosford tonight were quashed when I was summoned into the pipe department offices by our works manager Mr George Woodall, 'sit down young Ray, what I'm going to say is nothing to worry about, but I wonder if you wouldn't mind going to work on the hand pipe being section for a few weeks till the work picks up again', of course I said 'yes' he had made me an offer I couldn't refuse on the sound basis we were scraping the bottom of the barrel for work on the pipe brazing section, and after all the redundancies I was just glad to have a job and a pay packet at the end of each week.

This job took an immediate effect and was shown the in and out pipe bending ropes so to speak by an old campaigner from the 1914-18 war named Bill Bradley, a great block, and age wish well into his 60s, in those days there were no compulsory retiring at 65 you could literally work till you dropped down dead at your work bench, our charge hand on that section was Jack Hill who let it be said 'was a man of many moods' and another ex-service man from the 1939-45 war years.

I managed to leave work at 4 pm on that special afternoon with the backing of a pass out from our works manager George Woodall, who was a great follower of my athletic career with Tipton Harriers. My usual set routine from then on was a light meal prepared by my gran (Susan Woodall) before setting off on my journey to Cosford via the 48 trolley bus to Wolverhampton then the coach to Cosford. On entering the RAF base tonight it didn't hold any surprises for me, but what was now classed as the World's Largest Indoor Arena, was still an awesome place to perform in and looking down the programme of events, tonight's meeting featured two representative matches and some invitational events.

With the Midlands (A) team lined up against the RAF, Oxford University and Loughborough Colleges, with the Midland (B) team who I found out I was representing up against Birmingham University. Loughborough College (B) team and Nottingham University, wow what a feast of athletics tonight. I'm only sorry my Tipton mates couldn't be present tonight to share in my experience. I was competing for the Midlands at my worst event the dreaded 440 yards in race (A) of two 440 yards races in the Midlands (B) match, which meant running almost two laps of this 250 yards oval Cosford track.

But before the meeting got underway at 7 pm, I was already in my running gear but needed now to collect my vest card sign letter *M) denoting Midlands and pin them on to the back and front of my white running vest and a proud moment for me on this star studded evening of athletics.

Great Night of Athletics

My main focus this evening was the sprint events with some top class performances, with the undisputed star of the evening being Peter Radford running for the Midlands (A) team, he was back to his sprinting best after a recent injury, he won the 100 yards spring in great style from another young up and coming athlete named Adrian Metcalf (Oxford University) in the brilliant time of 10 seconds dead, with the people in the know such as top Midlands National coach Lionel Pugh saying the tracks on the slow side and Radford's time was worth a good 9.7 seconds, which to me was just a load of piffle, because an athlete can only perform to the best of his ability on any given race surface, be it concrete, wood, grass or cinders.

Radford went on to complete a brilliant sprint double by winning the 60 yards dash in a close run race from Alf Meakin (RAF) both clocking a time of 6.5 seconds, soon after this race Peter Radford was presented with the 'C N Jackson Memorial Trophy' as the outstanding British Athlete of 1960 by Mr R T Cooling a member of the British Amateur Athletics Board.

Other brilliant performances from the Midlands (A) team was the 440 yards (A) race Barry Jackson streaked home by 6 yards from M Todman (Oxford) winning time 50.8 seconds.

In the men's 880 yards race Roger Hughes (Midlands and Wolverhampton Harriers) won a superb neck and neck battle by a couple of yards from Midlands team mate Bob Lyons winning time 1 minute 58.8 seconds.

International athlete Brian Craig (RAF) won an excellent mile race from top Midlands running Neil Duggan in 4 minutes 15.7 seconds, the (B) mile was won by Bilston's stalwart athlete Brian Cook (Midlands) in 4 minutes 26.8 seconds.

With the match (A) team and (B) team crises crossing one another all evening it eventually became my turn to take my place on the starting line of the (B) team, with race (A) of the 440 yards. My warm up session had gone well with the help of my usual track rival Jack Cole from Halesowen A.C. and as I stood there waiting for the starter to call us under starters orders I was still undecided how to set about running this race, should I play the waiting gate or just blast off like I did in the 330 yards race in the old gym, but the running in lanes was the extra 110 yards of this 440 yards race was the 'X' factor of this event and knew my stamina limitations would be hard stretched in this quarter mile race, and with a poker face I tried to show no outward signs of nervousness and was glad my anguished thoughts couldn't be read by my three university opponents. I was unluckily drawn on the outside lane and couldn't focus my sight on my three rivals, the starter calls us to get set on our staggered starting line positions on the track , and the rules are we must adhere to our own lanes or be disqualified, some nerve racking seconds tick by before the echoing sound of the starter's pistol sends us off tearing around the track with the noise from the crowd at fever pitch all thoughts of tunning a tactical race go out of the window as in sheer panic I blast into the lead on the first lap, and was running much faster than I wanted to in the 440 yards race. I had taken a calculated gamble to try and out sprint my three opponents which almost succeeded but approaching the 400 yards mark my lungs were fit to burst and my weary legs felt like I was treading water my gallant effort had failed and I was overtaken on the run to the finish line by Humphries (Birmingham University) who won by about 3 yards, winning time 54.1 seconds, my time 54.4 seconds in third place Michael Poultney (Notts University), needless to say I was gutted at losing, but I had given this race my best shot, considering I was out of my comfort zone running the 440 yards race, and I knew you had to be an exceptional runner to hold your place in any Midlands athletic team and my 440 yards running didn't fit into that category, but I must say 'thank you' to the Midlands A.A.A. coach Bill Marlow for this experience of a life time, would I get another chance to run for the Midlands, well I would just have to waiting and see, but in any case this meting was the last of the 1960/61 indoor season at Cosford.

Match (A) team results

Midlands 98 points

RAF 81 points

Oxford University 80 points

Loughborough College 34 points

Match (B) team placings

Birmingham University 78 points

Midlands (B) team 75 points

Loughborough College (B) 59 points

Nottingham University 42 points