Roy Langford - Article No.8 (07/05/2012)

Travelling to Halesowen's Manor Abbey Sports Ground on Tuesday 4th August 1959, this was my third visit to this Inter-Club meeting for the 'Sir Harry Vincent Memorial Trophy'. This had become one my favourite venues because of the atmosphere it produced which the great crowd that supported this annual fixture. My own running prowess hadn't yet shone through to the best of my ability at this meeting, would it happen today – I'll will have to wait and see.

Birchfield Harriers have won this trophy for the past two years 1957 and 1958 but this year face tough opposition from the likes of a strong Nottingham A.C., North Staffs and Stone, Lozells, Tipton, Smethwick, Small Heath, Bromsgrove, Wolverhampton and host club Halesowen A.C. who were fielding a well balanced team. Birchfield Harriers were in great all round form at Aldersley Stadium, Wolverhampton, yesterday but would their athletes be in prime form today, only time would tell and could they pull off a hat trick of wins at this meeting.

The first event on the track at 2 pm was the opening heats of the Men's 100 yards Flat Scratch Races, which was my only individual race of the afternoon. I was competing in the last of three heats, my fellow Tipton Harrier contesting heat two of this race was Peter Griffiths and looking through the names listed in those heats in the programme, Peter and myself were going to find it tough going with only two from each heat qualifying for the final at 2.40 pm but we could only do our best.

After changing into our running gear, our next priority was to report our presence at this meeting to our club representative Len Myerscough, then collect our vest numbers from the competitors steward Mr J Price, and with those numbers securely safety pinned to our vests it was time then for Peter and myself to get in serious mode and prepare ourselves for the 10 years race. We both made our way down to the track, for our warm up sessions, which included some sprint and starting block practice runs, we both felt in great form but them again so did our fellow competitors who were training alongside of us.

It surprising the mental anguish your mind goes through you need a lot of self belief and confidence when you are competing in these short sprint races.

At 2 pm the starter for Mr S H Smith fired his pistol to get the first heat of the Men's 100 yards race underway. Race won by John Robinson (Small Heath) second Terry Gibson (Birchfield) time 10.9 seconds.

Peter Griffiths (Tipton) in heat two, he had no chance against Halesowen's brilliant sprinter Jack Cole, second John Morbey (Birchfield). Peter finished in third place. Winning time 10 seconds dead a remarkable time on this grass track.

Heat three it was now my moment of truth could I fare any better than Peter, as I got down on my blocks I felt like a coil ready to unwind, the pistol fired I had a great start and held my form through out the 100 yards race, but those last few yards to the winning line was my undoing again lost by inches to P Walsh (Notts AC) and W Wray (Small Heath) winning time 10.4 seconds

After my 100 yards failure, I had three hours before my next event the One Mile Medley Relay Race, so I had the chance to witness the trials and tribulations of my fellow athletes.

Which takes me to the Final of the 100 yards Flat Scratch Race, the winner which was a foregone conclusion was Jack Cole (Halesowen) in 10.2 seconds, second John Robinson (Small Heath) who was their technical spring coach) third John Morbey (Birchfield).

Halesowen Open 16 miles team and Individual Road Race (actual distance 16 miles 1080 yards)

Event no 3 a 2.30 pm was the 16 mile road race to a sprinter like myself the prospect of enduring 16 miles running, beggars belief, it would put the fear of hell into me. But these seasoned road runners were made of sturdier stuff, men of determination, guts and an iron will.

30 runners lined up on the Halesowen track ready to come under the starter's orders of Mr S H Smith with one circuit of the track they left the stadium like a herd of stampeding horses. This was the last we would see of them for almost 1½ hours, the two lap course would take them to the borders of Quinton, Blackheath, Old Hill, Cradley and Halesowen. The race would be run at jus over 5 minutes per mile pace with lat year's winner Colin Kemple (Wolverhampton Harriers) and his team mate B H Shaw entering the stadium together, with just one lap to complete the race, but these two great colleagues wouldn't be separated and linked arms as they crossed the winning line together.

But the redoubtable Colin Kemble was given the verdict. Winning time 1 hour 27 minutes 51 seconds, his mate was clocked at 1 hour 27 minutes 53 seconds.

Wolverhampton Harriers the winning team won the 'County Express Trophy' for the second year running. Presented with the trophy by Mr E G H Moody of the 'County Express'.

Peter's Great Run

The next track race of interest to Tipton Harriers was the Men's 440 yards Flat Scratch Race. In which Peter Griffiths (Tipton) contested the first of 4 heats, he came out of his shell to show his true worth by winning his heat from A Stringer (Lozell Harriers) in 52.6 seconds.

The final of the 440 yards was a classic encounter in which Jack Cole (Halesowen) Peter Griffiths and Mike Farrell (Birchfield) where stretched almost to their limits, but the indomitable Jack Cole wouldn't be beaten and won my 6 yards from Peter in 50.7 seconds.

Star Studied 880 yards Race

This race could have been for the 880 yards Championship of the Midlands with the 20 top athletes contesting the race. With the narrow 6 lane track the starter Mr Smith had to line them up in two rows on the starting line before he got them away, pushing and shoving one another to gain a good position in the race, it was a case of the fittest and strongest surviving on those first few bends, until 4 athletes broke away from the pack on the last bend. Then the speed of Ron Tutin (Notts AC) and Colin Simpson (Small heath) came into play and pulled them away from the third and fourth placed runners, as they matched stride for stride down the home straight with Colin Simpson having to concede victory by a couple of feet to Ron Tutin, with our own Tipton Harrier Ken Rickhuss in third place winning time 1 minute 54.3 seconds.

Tipton's Brilliant Relay Run

My long afternoon's wait since my 100 yards race was at last over. It was time for the Mile Medley Relay Race and with 6 teams contesting the final, I thought here we go again, with teams like Halesowen, Small Heath, Notts AC, Birchfield, Lozells it was on the cards that we would finish last, with our track record over the last few Medley Relays but we had nothing to lose, only the race.

Len Myerscough picked our somewhat changed team line up, which was Ray Thorpe 880 yards, Brian Boyce and Roy Langford 220 years each and in form anchor leg man Peter Griffiths. When the pistol fired for the start of this race, what happened to our team on this day was inspirational, against all the odds, each leg of the relay say us in close contention with the leaders and with Peter on the last leg he was the ace in the pack passing Birchfield and Small Heath on the sprint to the finishing line with only Notts AC stopping us from a sensational win, our team had come of age today and this self confidence would spread into my individual performances at my two remaining athletic meetings over the next few weeks.

The Inter-Club meeting for the 'Sir Harry Vincent Memorial Trophy' was won my Nottingham AC.

My next meeting is 15th August 1959 at the 'Kempston Show', Bedford

Yours in sport

Roy Langford, Tividale