Roy Langford - Article No.9 (04/06/2012)

'Kempston Show', Addison Howard Park, Kempston, Bedfordshire - Saturday 15th August 1959

This was my first of four successful visits to these 'Kempston Shows', on a fine sunny Saturday morning about 40 or so pioneering Tipton Harriers and friends set forth on the coach journey to Addison Howard Park, Kempston in Bedfordshire. The tree lined entrance to the park was like an oasis in the town centre of Kempston and I was surprised at the vast area the park covered, marquees, tents and side shows of all descriptions where scattered all over the park, where hundreds of local people had displayed their many talents with handicraft exhibitions, floral displays, canine obedience tests and many other exhibitions based on an horticultural theme. Because to all intents and purposes it as an 'Horticultural Show' with the added bonus of Athletic and Cycling events thrown in for good measure, but an integral part of the days entertainment.

The Kempston show society president was none other than 'His Grace the Duke of Bedford' who so to speak 'Graced us with his presence'.

Meeting gets underway

But for well over three hundred mean and women athletes the show didn't take effect until 2 pm with the opening heats of the Men's 100 yards Open Handicap heats.

My two chosen events were the 100 yards and 220 yards Handicap races and they had all the ingredients of being well contested races with over 30 athletic clubs taking part at this meeting.

Our changing room headquarters was one large marquee, which in all due respect was in no way big enough to accommodate the athletes taking part. How most of us round enough space to get changed into our running gear, defines belief but somehow we managed.

Only two Tipton Harrier sprinters made the Kempston trip, me and my great friend Joy Gray, needless to say we joined forces in our warm up preparations for our respective races. Joy was competing in the Ladies 100 years and 220 yards Handicap Races.

I was first to go under the starting orders with Mr W T Panter in heat 5 of the Men's 100 yards Handicap. I somehow lost my concentration as I settled into my starting blocks and was last away when the pistol fired and couldn't make up the lost ground on the two leaders and finished third, beaten my J Chapman (Norwich and Norfolk AC) and A Harrison (Coventry Godiva Harriers) time 9.9 seconds. I didn't make it to the final.

Now it was Joy's turn to come under starter's orders, she didn't make any mistakes in her 100 yards dash, Joy finished second in 11.3 seconds off her handicap mark of 10 yards, beaten by D Dowsett (Hampstead H).

One hour later she lined up for the final and ran an inspired race to finish second again beaten by A Stevens (Coventry Godiva H) time 10.9 seconds.

Ray Thorpe wins 880 yards Heat Race

In a well contested Men's 880 yards Handicap race, Tipton Harriers athlete and reigning Staffordshire junior cross country champion Ray Thorpe, off his handicap mark of 71 yards won his heat of the 880 yards Handicap race in 1 minute 51.9 seconds to reach the final where he finished third in a very close finish, winner B Cave (British Timken) time 1 minute 47.5 seconds

Joy Gray wins 220 yards heat

Joy Gray was in fine form again in the Ladies 220 yards Open Handicap Race, she easily won her heat of 19½ yards in 25.1 seconds from A Jenner (Welwyn AC). Joy gained herself another prize when she finished third in the final beaten by D Dowsett (Hampstead Harriers) winning time 23.8 seconds.

Now my moment of victory

My luck was to change dramatically in the 220 yards Open Handicap Race, it was a wake up call after my disappointing opening first race in the 100 yards dash, off my handicap mark of 17 yards. I won my heat one race in great style from B C Harvey (Welwyn AC) to record the fastest heat time of 21.9 seconds to make it to the final.

I thought with that time under my belt I stood a good chance in the final but I was up against another 11 top class sprinters but what an unbelievable race I had with the shouts and cheers of encouragement echoing in my ears from my friends at track side, this spurred me on to a devastating win, as I crossed the winning line, I felt like a man who had just conquered Mount Everest. I had won by 4 yards in 21.6 seconds my how sweet the taste of victory was.

Joy was the first on the scene to give me a congratulatory hug, but under the watchful eye of her boyfriend, Ray Chambers also a member of Tipton Harriers, he had competed in the Men's 880 yards handicap race, but without any success.

10 Mile Road Race

Another event to capture the interest of the crowd (Not that they say much of it) was the 10 mile road race which got underway at approximately 4 pm in which over 100 runners took part. Some preferring the 10 mile handicap event and a first prize worth £7 and 12 teams going for the glory of winning the 'Kempston Perpetual Challenge Cup' and the medals that go with it if your team finished in the first three.

Tipton had entered two teams but in the final analysis they would be out of luck on both counts. But there was one ray of sunshine amongst the gloom. It was the performance by Tipton's Peter Boxley who is a storeman at Revo Electric Ltd, Tipton who had recently had a blood upset and consequently was unable to put in very much training. Nevertheless with determination and courage he finished a creditable 51st out of 100 runners his time of 63 mins 9 seconds being a personal best time. Tony Fern in 35th place was the first Tipton Harrier to finish in 60 mins 1 second, other placings Roy Poultney 46th, Joe Gripton 49th, Geoff Carless 56th and Barrie Oseland 58th.

(A) team finished 11th and (B) team 12th and last. Some of these athletes had a bad day individually and team wish, but this was a rare fate to befall any Tipton Harrier road running team and like a rubber ball they would soon bounce back again to their true form.

Great Mile Win for Bert Harbach

The last track race of the afternoon was well worth waiting for with Bert Harbach (Tipton) at this best not to be outdone on this day by mere sprinters he ran a well judged race in the One Mile Handicap race on of the back markers off 130 yards. After threading his way through the field of about 40 runners he finished off the tale enders with a devastating burst of speed down the home straight to win the race in the fast time of 3 mins 57.8 seconds.

Time to collect my winning prize

With Bert's race over another memorable day duly came to a conclusion and with just pride I headed for the prize winning tent to collect my prize for winning the 220 yards handicap race. After much deliberation I chose a Timex 21 jewelled waterproof wrist watch to the value of £7. It was encased in a leather bound red box. I still have this now old and battered watch but which as long since stopped working, like me.