Roy Langford - Article No.26 (11/11/2013)

My next meeting after the Whit Monday fiasco at Manor Abbey, Halesowen where I got disqualified in my 300 yards handicap race was now all water under the bridge, as my sights were now set on the Worcestershire Counties Championships, and this year my training mate Andy Fereday was also an entrant into the Championships for the first time as a junior athlete, a junior athlete is classed between 17 years and 19 years of age.

The Championships were taking place in the settings of the Stewards and Lloyds sports recreation ground at the Combeswood Works, Halesowen on 3rd June 1961 at 2.30 pm.

Our last training session together leading up to this meeting was on the Vono Sports ground on the Thursday evening of that week (1st June) along with Andy and John Brimble (John was running in the Staffordshire County Championship on the same day at Aldersley Stadium, Wolverhampton if my memory serves me well).  We started our training session with some loosing up exercise before we went into our main training session, laid out by coach Stuart Williams which included 6 x 220 yards sprints at ¾ speed and to finish off our easy relaxed session 6 x 150 yards again at ¾ speed, and with my energy levels running high, I didn’t want to push myself too hard, wanted to be in tip top condition for Saturday’s Championships.  After the workout we parted company, with Andy and myself wishing John the best of luck at the Staffs Championships, on the other hand me and Andy would meet up on Saturday at Fisher Street Bus Station at 1.15 pm for our joint journey to Halesowen, which we did on that appointed day.  The sports ground was situated just off Gorsty Hill in Coombs Road and within a couple of good stone throws away from the main works of Stewarts and Lloyds a great name in the Midland’s industrial circles, we arrived at the ground at about 1.45 pm, along with a large crowd that was forming at the entrance to the sports ground on this dull overcast day, with the eager beaver programme sellers out in full flow forcing the programmes of the public for the sum of 6d, this duty today was being carried out by the Coombswood Boy Scout movement and a grand job they were performing.  One blessing about today’s meeting there was no shortage of changing room accommodation; ever through more than 150 athletes both men and women were competing in over 30 championship events.   Both Andy and myself were entered for 3 events myself the Senior Men’s 100 yards, 220 yards and 440 yards, with Andy entered for the same events in the junior category, it all made for an interesting afternoon’s athletics, and we had over an hour to prepare ourselves for our first event the 100 yards heats.

But our next step was to collect those all important vest numbers from the competitors Stewards tent, my number was 17 and Andy’s 55.

It’s at this point of my story nearly folds up because my usual steadfastness at filling in my athletic programme was sadly lacking on this busy afternoon, because I didn’t pencil in any results of Andrew’s and my self’s heat performances leading up to the finals, but I can’t let a small matter like that ruin my story, and in no way am I going to speculate about such details, suffice to say both of us reached the finals of our three spring events, and have those results and will concentrate on those and other leading events on the afternoon of 3rd June 1961.

 100 yards Championship Finals

My final of the 100 yards was scheduled for 3.39 pm and Andy’s 3.40 pm not that’s what I call fine tune timing, with all the will in the world those times could never be adhered to, but me and Andy could only turn up for our finals when called to do so, our warm up procedure went well and were both looking forward to our respective finals, and yet once again one of those unexplainable hands of fate were to strike us both down on our races.

The starter of today’s events with a busy afternoon ahead of him was Halesowen’s former stalwart athlete Mr Stan Smith and six runners contested both mine and Andrew’s final.  My nerves were on something of a high as I lined up against my two greatest rivals in the championships namely Jack Cole and Dave Pugh (last year’s winner) both from Halesowen AC.

The starter calls us to get set on our marks the large knowledgeable crown falls silent for those few nerve racking seconds, then the piercing sound from the starting pistol echoes into my eardrums, in one explosive movement I push away from my starting blocks and to my horror my leading foot slips on the damp grass track, causing me to stumble and almost come to a standstill, before I can regain my composure I’ve lost valuable seconds as my rivals blast into a 5 yard or so lead over me, and I now face a hopeless task to make up that distance on such good athletes, but a great sprinting effort got me home in 4th place, the race was won by Jack Cole in 10.2 seconds, with Dave Pugh runner up, C R Jones from Bromsgrove & Redditch AC finished in third place, fate had once again played its part in one of my races again.

Next race up was the Junior 100 yards final which Andy was contesting, and not the jinx bug was about to hit him, when he was very slowly away, thinking the race was a false start when one of his rivals got away with a flyer (in layman’s terms beat the starter’s gun) but the recall gun didn’t go off and Andy trailed in like me in fourth place, winner was E T Crumpton (Birchfield Harriers) in 10.5 seconds, luckily for us those would be last pieces of bad luck we would have on this afternoon’s championships.

The Junior 880 yards Final 

Before taking up our positions on the starting line of our next races the 440 yards final at approximately 4.30 pm, Andy and myself watched with great interest the final of the Junior One Mile Championship race in which a mate of ours was running, this young 17 year old lad was named Allan Rushmoor competing in his first year as a junior athlete for Oldbury AC and Allan worked in the same Upholstery Department as my dear Auntie Ivy Broome at the Vono Works, Tipton.

Allan running talents would take him on to join the ranks of Tipton Harriers and would without a doubt become one of there all time track legends, but for the next four years his allegiances would be to his present club Oldbury AC.

The final outcome of that Junior One Mile race was another win for the title holder J A Cliff (Small Heath Harriers) and runner up R G Thine (MalvernCollege).  Allan finished third.  Winning time 4 min 26.8 seconds, this was the first step on the podium for young Allan as a junior track athlete, and this lad had a great athletic ahead of him.

The 440 Yards Championship Races


After our earlier disappointments in the 100 yards finals, it was a case for me and Andy to put ourselves into a more positive frame of mind for our 440 yards finals, but for the life of me I didn’t know why, I had entered for this leg sapping race again this year, because it just drained me of all my stamina for my favourite event the 220 yards later on, but then again this year I hoped my very latest sort of magic formula to top up my performance would work today through taking as advertised those melt in the mouth energy producing ‘Dextrosol Glucose Tablets’ pick me up remedy (I bet the mention of those tablets bring back may memories again to former athletes).  But whatever happened now was in the lap of the gods, as we wound up our warm up session for our moments of destiny.

Andy had three finalists in this 440 yards race and was firing on all cylinders as he streaked home in first place, to win his first 440 yards Championship final from W Gray (Birchfield Harriers) winning time 52.6 seconds, this win gave me a real fillip for my race which was next out on the track, with a new found confidence I lined up on the starting line against my 3 opponents, which included two former champions at this distance Jack Cole (Halesowen AC) and D Folkes of the Worcester Police AC.  I was drawn on the inside lane and from the start I blasted off into some sort mad adrenaline high sprint (I think I’d overdone the glucose tablets a bit) and sailed out into a good lead up to ¾ distance, it was then over the last 100 yards I felt the presence of the great Jack Cole on my shoulder with the crown deafening roar, he passed me like I was standing still, but from somewhere I found a reserve of energy and managed to hang on, to only lose the race by about 7 lung bursting yards, with D Folkes a couple of strides behind me.  I was ecstatic over my second placing, winning time for Jack Cole 51.2 seconds.  I had won myself another cut glass goblet with theWorcestershireCountycrest emblazoned on the side of the glass; it was turning out to be a lucky day for me and Andy after all.  Andy’s next final was the 220 yards at 4.45 pm which didn’t give him much time to recover from his tough 440 yards race, but Andy was up for the challenge once again, his stamina from the cross country running was brought into play because he ran brilliant to record his second win of the afternoon, he beat E T Crumpton (Birchfield Harrier) and W B Gray (Birchfield Harriers) winning time 24.00 seconds.  Wow what a turn up for the book.

 Classic Senior 3 Miles Championship Race


The penultimate race before the final of my event the Senior Men’s 220 yards race, was the Senior 3 miles Championship race, which took in 12 laps of the Coombswood Recreation Ground, and with the weather being fink to us all afternoon, it was befitting this race would be classic, with the two main contenders for this race being Bernard Browning (Birchfield Harriers) and our over own King of the Track Bert Harbach (Tipton Harriers).  Bert nearly always played the waiting game, allowing his opponents to set the pace, and this race wasn’t the exception against his 11 opponents, but after biding his time for 10 laps, Bert unleashed his known devastating finish to streak ahead of his rivals over the last two laps to become an easy winner of this third on the trot County Championship 3 mile title in 14 minutes 42 seconds, runner up was Bernard Browning (Birchfield) with I J Brotherton (Birchfield) in third place.

The Last Event of the Championship


The last event on this action packed afternoon of athletics, which the great crowd must have really enjoyed was the Senior Men’s 220 yards Championship Final, and by now my stomach was almost churned into knots with nerves as I warmed up for this race in the company of Andy Fereday, and this race was surrounded by a web of speculation to who would win the race, with two former champions of this 220 yards race contesting this event namely Dave Pugh and John Robinson (Small Heath AC) with myself runner-up in last year’s race, and ever mindful the brilliant Jack Cole was also a hot contender, who had already won the 100 yards and 440 yards, who would win the race my gamble would have been Dave Pugh (last year’s winner) because he had missed out the leg sapping 440 yards to be in top sprinting form for this event, but as I’ve found out to my cost, things don’t always workout as planned.  I’d given myself a sort of physiological mind boost by taking another couple of those energy producing glucose tablets, while Dave’s pick himself up remedy was a few more deep drags on his home made rolled up cigarettes.  Before the starter Stan Smith calls us to take up our staggered positions on the curve of the furlong tack (220 yards), with some intense concentration we settle into our starting blocks, you could almost hear a pin drop as he calls out ‘Get Set’ in one split second his pistol fires sending us pounding around the curve of the bend, all sense of time is lost as your mind just will’s you on to greater efforts, coming out of the bend its Jack Cole and Dave Pugh who lead the charge into the home straight, with myself close on their heels in third place,  with John Robinson struggling to keep up with us, all of a sudden I can see Dave starting to weaken as I draw along side him and then overtake him, proving my never give in attitude had today paid off, leaving only the master sprinter Jack Cole between me and a County Championship first place, but it wasn’t to be yet again as his 6 foot 2 inches frame with long matching strides say him sprint over the winning line a couple of strides in front of me to complete a fantastic sprint treble on this afternoon at Halesowen, his winning time was 23.3 seconds, a very down hearted Dave Pugh had to be content with third place.  I was jubilant at my second placing; the gods above had really been good to me again today.  All it needed now was for Andy and myself was to collect our well earned prizes before we got changed out of our running gear.

Andy had won two gold championship medals; I had won two beautiful crafted cut glass goblets with the Worcestershire County Crest emblazoned on the side of each glass.  This should have been the end of the story, but I couldn’t let this story finish like that, because of the remarkable coincidences in these CountyChampionshipson 3rd June 1961.  Because we learnt next day down the Tipton club house that John Brimble had gained two bronze medals in the Staffordshire Championships at Aldersley Stadium.  Coming third in both 220 yards and 440 yards races, and believe it or not he had failed like me and Andy to gain a place in the 100 yards race final, making it quite a unique afternoon at the County Championships with three training mates getting these placings at those championships.

Andy Fereday (Junior)             1st 220 yards                1st 440 yards

Roy Langford (Senior)              2nd 220 yards               2nd 440 yards

John Brimble (Junior)                 3rd 220 yarsd              3rd 440 yards