Roy Langford - Article No.16 (07/01/2013)

The Final Meeting of the Stourbridge and Wordsley District Track League took place on Tuesday 26th July 1960 at Aldersley Stadium, Wolverhampton. Meeting started at 7 pm.

Going into this fifth and final track league meeting of the Stourbridge and Wordsley District Track League, I was in somewhat a rather reflective mood as I set foot inside Aldersley Stadium. My mind dwelt back to 16 days ago when I competed at the West Bromwich Transport Meeting and at the profound disappointment of pulling out of the Men's 100 yards handicap race with a leg muscle strain because I didn't want to aggravate the injury. But luckily my leg was only sore and uncomfortable for a few days before it felt ok to start some light training sessions on my own because I was wise enough not the risk training with Andy Fereday and John Brimble because we were very competitive in our training sessions against one another. That's why my sprinting power had developed so well during these past few months, so it was really like a breath of fresh air to train alone (well almost) and ease myself back to fitness on my local park (Buffery Park) which was only a stone's throw away from my home in Fairfield Road, Dudley and really doing my best not to attract any attention to myself. By my green track suit with Tipton Harriers emblazoned on the back was like waving a red flag at a bull and should have known better, I was like the Pied Piper of Hamlin on those few evenings training sessions as the local young children thought it was great joining in my carefree training sessions. They would endeavour to tag alongside me trying to imitate my running style and doing their utmost to keep up with me and showing so much determination and vigour until they tailed off one by one only to eagerly rejoin me yet again in another light sprint session around the park and the children were forever being inquisitive and asking questions such as 'Are you famous?' 'Have you won many races?' 'How fast can you really run?' and son and to top this I also had to run the gauntlet of my old local footballing mates who regularly turned out to play soccer on the Buffery Park be it winter or summer.

Those few days away from serious training had been very therapeutic and helped me to recharge my energy batteries from a very demanding but successful track season and the icing on the cake was I had become something of a local celebrity for those local school children who took part in my training workouts. But I was still glad when those training sessions came to an end but the fact I hadn't tested my pulled leg muscle flat out was of real concern and I know now as I entered the changing room lockers at Aldersley Stadium my reflective day dreaming was over and back in the world of reality as I was met by the smiling faces of my Tipton team mates, and the first leading question on all their lips and club officials Jim Bedford and Len Myerscough was 'Great to see you again Roy, are you fit to run tonight' with my fingers crossed my bluffing answer was 'never felt fitter' I just hoped against hope I wouldn't let the team down.

Because going into this last track meeting we had an almost unassailable lead of 38 points from our nearest rivals Bilston Town AC and if some of our track starts had shown up all seasons for these fixtures we would have already been home and dry but like other people going about their daily lives we had other commitments outside athletics and our livelihood must come first and with this thought in mind there are two notable absentees missing the line up for tonight's match. They are Bert Harbach and Andy Fereday who are holiday vacating in various parts of the British Isles and their running shoes will be had to fill this evening.

The Final

A large knowledgeable crown had assembled at Aldersley Stadium on this cool summer's evening to witness the last in a series of 5 track league contests and doing battle this evening were host club: Wolverhampton Harriers, Bilston, Halesowen, Smethwick, Stourbridge and Wordsley Harriers and Tipton Harriers.

There was also a sense of expectation in the air from my Tipton team mates that we would pull off a great victory this evening and with it the championship trophy.

This busy evening fixture got underway at 7 pm with the opening event the (A) race of the Men's 100 yards dash, and I was contesting this first race and taking all the pressure of gaining the first pints on the score sheet this evening for Tipton Harriers. My warm up session sprinting alongside John Brimble had gone well, I felt no reaction from my leg injury but this 100 yards spring would really test me out. As the starter Sid Hodson calls us to the starting line, six athletes take up their positions ready for the race. I felt again like being on a knife edge as I settled into my blocks to face two of my greatest club rivals Jack Cole (Halesowen) and John Purslow (Bilston) could I beat them? I knew anything was possible but that nagging feeling of not being in prime condition with only a few days training behind me but I was here to perform to the best of my ability and it was all in the lap of the gods when Mr Hudson gets us under starters order. He doesn't keep us hanging around as in one echoing pistol fire we all set off like bats out of hell down the 100 yards track, not looking left or right I stride out testing my pulled muscle to its maximum limits, it then all one mad hazy dash to the finishing line with Cole and Purslow just going ahead of me in the last 10 yards to the winning line with the long striding Jack Cole winning by the narrowest margins from John Purslow with myself in third place and somewhat relieved to have crossed the finishing line with no adverse reactions from my leg injury. This feeling was almost as good as it I had won the race, winning time for Jack Cole 10.3 seconds my third place gained my team 4 points and a congratulary hand shake from my club captain Ken Rickhuss. It was at this point I confided in him about my fitness level through injury but smiling Ken put my mind right at ease when he said 'I've know you long enough to know you wouldn't let the team down and in any case a ¾ fit Roy is better than not turning up so go out again and do your best in your 220 yards race'. With that load off my shoulders I could enjoy the rest of a great evening's athletics.

Great Double Win for Tipton Athlete

It was almost unthinkable that we could replace vice-captain Bert Harbach in his absence from this meeting with anyone else to match class in the middle distance events, but fate dealt us a kind hand in the form of Doug Fownes a more than useful up and coming young prodigy of the Tipton Harriers school of great athletes and tonight his brilliant 1 mile track win was something very special. When he defeated two great athletes Wilf Aston and Brian Cook in the fast time of 4 min 20.7 seconds, and not just content with that leg sapping race he later on ran in the 2 mile race, again beating super athlete Wilf Aston into second place with another fantastic time of 9 min 24 seconds and those two wins boosted the Tipton score tally by another 12 points.

Jack Cole (Halesowen) wins 220 yards Race

I between those two great races taking centre stage on the track, my own little drama had been played out to the full in my next event the Men's 220 yards (A) race, the line up for this race was a carbon copy of the 100 yards race with my two noted opponents John Purslow and Jack Cole being the main contenders for this race but taking in our captain's reassuring words to heart I had felt more relaxed in my built up for this race. But now my moment of destiny was at hand again as Mr Hodson called us to get on our marks on our staggered positions on the curve of the furlong cinder track with each athletes mind trying to blot out all negative feeling because it's a lonely place on those starting blocks. Waiting in anticipation for the gun to fire suddenly we are away six rampant bodies are unleashed from their blocks in unison and go hurtling around the curved bend of the track. The cheers form the crowd seem to obliterate all the nervous tension in my boy as I sense I'm losing this race yet again as we entered the home straight with Jack Cole and John Purslow having a good two yard lead over me. I'm almost in a panic as I try to increase my speed to catch them up but there's no more gas in the tank so it's left to Jack Cole and John Purslow to sprint out the race to a thrilling climax with the indomitable Jack Cole (Halesowen) getting the upper hand and tasting victory for a second time this evening, beating the disappointed young John Purslow by two yards with myself trailing in another couple of yards in arrears, winning tome 23.3 seconds.

I was really happy with my two performances this evening which was all about gaining pints towards winning the league title and I had put another few points into the already bubbling over boiling pot and from a physical point of view my leg had taken the strain of these two demanding races this evening which was a good sign I could resume full training over the next few days.

Some other Highlights of the Track League Meeting

Another sterling performance was by Geoff Reynolds of Wolverhampton Harriers who had led the youth's half mile race from start to finish to register a new personal best time of 1 minute 59.9 seconds.

Highlight of the women's section track league events was the runaway victory by Brenda Cook (Bilston) from Tipton's Glynnis Gray in the Ladies 880 yards race, winning time 2 min 20 seconds and to cap all that another outstanding performance once again by Bilston's young junior ladies spring star Janice Llewellyn who won the 100 yards and 150 yards events.

Tipton Win Track League Title

Long before the final curtain call descended on this brilliant night's athletics, we already knew we had won the track league title but it was just a question of by how may points as those few remaining events drew to a conclusion and counted, it turned out to be an amazing runaway victory by 50 points and it was with great pride that our captain Ken Rickhuss stepped forward under the canopy of the grandstand to collect the Stourbridge and Wordsley District Track League Championship Trophy from league officials. He then raised the trophy head high to the delight and resounding cheers from the crowd and the jubilant band of Tipton Harriers who had made this moment possible. This evening was the sort your never wanted to end but dusk was falling and had so little time to soak up the atmosphere and celebrate before leaving the stadium to get my bus back home and with it the memories of another great moment in my athletic career.