Roy Langford - Article No.20 (06/05/2013)

My last track race outdoors for the 1960 season was at Kempston in Bedfordshire on 13 August 1960. This finished with me on a high note, with my brilliant run in the 220 yards handicap race beaten by a hairs breath by giant athlete Roger Slaughter (Bedford and County A.C.) in my fantastic time of 21.1 seconds off my handicap mark of 14 yards, an that last race heralded the onset of Autumn and those long dart dismal winter evenings. Last year I had the football season to look forward to playing for the Vono Sports football team but that was now part of my sporting past life.

Now trying to scale the dizzy heights of athletic stardom was now one almighty dedicated hard task but I had the will power and under to succeed my chosen sport.

A typical exampled of our Tuesday and Thursday winter training sessions with my fellow Tipton colleagues Bill Carr, Eric Silk, John Brimble and Andy Fereday would be something like a 5 to 8 mile road run to build up our stamina with intermittent sprint races of between 80 yards and 400 yards at ¾ pace, thrown in to spice up the run, and what a sight it must have been to behold on those Tipton and Dudley roads of yesteryear.

Every Sunday winter morning was mapped out for extra hard training sessions which would last up to two hours and would take place on the Vono Sports ground or Tipton's Victoria Park and each training session would vary from Sunday to Sunday and to give one such example of our joint training sessions would be to start off with 15 minutes of loosening up exercises, followed by 2 to 4 laps warming up around the park or track, then they real spade work of our winter training sessions by which we pushed our bodies to the limits, with a series of leg sapping runs of something like 7 x 330 yards races at ¾ speed with 5 minutes rest and light jog. Between each race and to finish off the mornings hard work perhaps 6 x 80 yard races again at ¾ pace, these tough regular work outs were specifically aimed at getting us in tip top form for the 1960/61 winter indoor running session at RAF Cosford which aloud us two months to prepare for the first of these meetings pencilled in for Tuesday 1st November 1960.

These ground breaking meetings had been drafted into the athletic calendar way back in 1954, and it was only through John Brimble's vision that we both competed at our first meeting there in February (1960) this year after John read about the meeting in the 'Athletic Weekly' magazine, both of us ran well at that meeting, that is why we had set ourselves the challenge to compete here again and these meetings would give us a more clear indication to how our winter training was progressing and help to some degree stop the boredom of winter training setting in.

Those two months of blood, sweat and heartache for the countdown for the opening up meeting of the indoor season on 1 November seemed like an eternity, but during that time another three names had been added to the list who wanted to compete at Cosford those Tipton Harriers being Dave Denton, Ray Thorpe and Stuart Williams, but missing from that list was our regular training partner and mate Andy Fereday, his path had gone down another route by competing for the Harriers in competitive cross country races, but still of course sharing in our weekly training sessions.

A couple of weeks or so before the meeting John Brimble was at the helm in posting off our respective joint race details entry forms to series organiser Mr Bill Marlow, the Midlands A.A.A. honorary secretary (he was also the coach of many top Midland athletes including Peter Radford) by return post Mr Marlow confirmed our entry.

On that 1st November day it was two determined young athletes who make the trolleybus journey to Wolverhampton, out meeting point at 6 pm was on the corner of Temple Street just on the border of the town centre off Snow Hill. A group of about 40 athletes were already standing about waiting for the specially laid on coach which would transport us on the 8 mile or so journey through the Shropshire countryside to where the Royal Air Force base at Cosford was situated. Like our last visit to the base our coach was guided straight into the base by Military Police and escorted from the coach by RAF personnel to a large steel and brick building which was the massive gymnasium which I had already had the honour of competing in.

A five line oval athletic track was marked out in the centre of the wooden floored gym, with one lap of the track covering about 160 yards, and with which John Brimble, Ray Thorpe, Stuart Williams and myself entered for the 330 yards races this meant running almost two laps of the track with 7 tight bends to negotiate which form my last run here defied the laws of gravity and centrifugal force when trying to negotiate those bends at speed, but by quickly adapting my running style to short chopping strides I found it ideal for this indoor track, and was really looking forward to test myself again on this unique track.

During the time at arriving at the base we had linked up with the rest of our small band of Tipton colleagues, all eager to try our their running skills around this track and compete against some great Midland athletes who were competing in races ranging from 60 yards to one mile events, in all over one hundred athletes had made the journey to Cosford and on tonight's bill of top stars was the Olympic athletes from Rome, Robbie Brightwell and Barry Jackson, who along with Malcolm Yardley and John Wrighton had finished 5th in the 4 X 400 metres relay final. Also ready to take his position on the starting line this evening was Peter Radford in the Men's 60 Yards dash. Peter won two bronze medals at the Rome Olympic Games one in the 100 metres sprint final the other in the 4 X 100 metres relay final.

Our small band of Tipton Harriers next important undertaking was to report our presence at tonight's meeting to the track stewards and collect our vest numbers and check what time our events were scheduled for.

With that small task taken are of, we all made our way to the large changing room complex along with the rest of the competitors.

Meeting gets underway at 7 pm

A cold damp winter's evening was brought to life as the meeting was set into motion at 7 pm with the first of 3 good class one mile races which meant the mile runners completing 11 laps of the track to complete the mile race. The opening mile race (A) was won by the great Sparkhill Harrier Neil Duggan after a well judged tactical race by 6 yards from J Ashdown (Loughborough College) and Biston track legend Wilf Ashton, winning time 4 minutes 28.5 seconds. The atmosphere for this race and the rest of the evening was unbelievable mainly due to the closeness of the crowd to track side, and it was almost a sure bet the athletes could feel hot breath of the crowd down the back of their necks as they were cheered on by their respective team mates and friends.

The next mile race to have our utmost attention was race (C) with our scholastic friend and Tipton colleague Dave Denton trying his luck in this one mile race, at the start of the race Dave was just content in following the leading three runners at this own steady pace, partly because this race wasn't really his cup of team and to mine own memory the first time I had known him tackle a competitive mile race. His main forte was road and cross country running but this one mile race would help spice up his winter training sessions but I'm sorry to say Dave never had a change of winning the race and after those long drawn out 11 laps the victor was J Mills (Sparkhill Harriers) some 15 yards back was Dave he had to be content with third place, in a time he wasn't to happy about of 4 minutes 44.2 seconds. But there is no way I could have been judgemental on his performance, when I only had to run two laps around the track to complete my 330 yards race.

Peter Radford's 6.3 seconds for 60 yards dash

One of the early highlights of the meeting was watching the legend of the Cosford track Peter Radford dazzle the crowd with yet another brilliant performance in the Men's 60 yards sprint race, he fled down the track to equal his own unofficial British indoor record of 6.3 seconds. This believe it or not was the 15th occasion he had recorded this time on the Cosford track, in doing so he beat fellow Olympic athletes Robbie Brightwell by one yard and Barry Jackson (Lazell Harriers) by 3 yards in that blistering time of 6.3 seconds.

A Feast of Great 330 Yards Races

This meeting during the evening was interlaced with many great races which were both nerve racking, but at the same time very exciting to watch and it was now the Men's 330 Yards races which myself and my Tipton colleagues had entered which would not hold the crowd spellbound with some cracking duels as the first of the four races came under the starters orders in Race (A) this would be another clash of Olympic athlete personalities with their egos at stake and the very competitive spirit brought back from competing in the Olympics into this race and I must point out it was impossible to run these 330 yards races in lanes by the nature of the tight track bends. So when the starter fired his pistol for the first race (A) it was one mad dash by Barry Jackson and Robbie Brightwell to take the inside lane route, which made the race a free for all with bodies coming into contact in the four man race, which each in turn trying to out manovere one another, but it was the determination and strength of Robbie Brightwell (Birchfield Harriers) who won this nail biting race by one yard from Barry Jackson in the new outstanding track record time of 37.9 seconds, some twenty yards back in third place was A Gower (Nottingham University) with a time of 39.8 seconds.

This race had really set a high standard for these 330 yards races.

John Brimble's Great 330 Yards Race

With that nerve tingling race out of the ay it was now time for young 17 years old John Brimble to take centre stage on the track in Race (B) of the 330 yards event, we had trained hard for these races so I expected a great race from John, but he had a tough task ahead of him and was like a cat on hot bricks before he settled won on the starting line (no starting blocks used in these races) when the starter fired his pistol to send them on their way. John was up for the challenge as he blazed around those tight bends sharing the lead with Michael Pountney (Nottingham University) as they raced neck and neck to be first past the winning line and to John's dismay it was Michael who snatched victory by nearly two yards in the great time of 39.8 seconds. This would be John's best ever race around this Cosford track and was timed at 40 seconds dead.

Race (C) of the 330 yards race series featured my fellow Tipton Harrier mates Ray Thorpe and Stuart Williams who had unluckily been matched in opposition to one another, but this was a great race which proved to be a real cliff hanger with Ray just losing the race by two yards from T Southall (Achilles A.C.) with Stuart Williams some 20 yards back in third place winning time 41.8 seconds.

My Greatest Ever Race! So Far

I had been waiting so patiently at track side while those three races unfolded themselves. The atmosphere inside the gymnasium was intoxicating with the crowd's enthusiastic support for each and every race this evening. This made me even more keyed up and I was really looking forward to some of my share of the action in Race (D) in the last of the 330 yards series of races.

With my warm up procedure taken care of I stepped forward to take my place on the starting line, turning to my three opponents I gave them in turn the usual courtesy hand shake gesture and tongue in cheek best of luck wish, with this preliminary taken care of I then turned my attention to the serious race before me.

No messing about by the starter as he calls us to get set on our starting mark, but within those few split seconds in getting down on my knee, I suddenly felt like an unleashed animal who had been locked up for weeks on end and now about to face its freedom of movement from captivity again and that's about sums up how much this race meant to me after not competing in any competitive races during that period of time and our race was the centre of focus with all the eyes of the crowd on us in the last of the 330 yards races of the evening, with tow exhilarating laps of the Cosford track to negotiate.

My moment of destiny is now placed firmly in my hands, the starter fires his pistol which automatically sends four young determined athletes into a headlong spring down the track with each hoping to get the inside lane, but with some aggressive running I take the lead around the bend with my rivals in hot pursuit from then on I threw all caution to the wind and was on an adrenalin high as I took those tight track bends at break neck speed, causing the faces of the crowd at track side to become a distorted blur. Heading for the last lap I still ran like a man possessed with my rivals still in my wake and I knew now nothing on earth was going to stop me from winning this race and so it was as I crossed the finishing line to the deafening cheers from the crowd. I had won the race in devastating style by about 20 yards from Gerald Turner (Wolverhampton Harriers) and Dave Barrington (Stoke A.C.) in the magnificent time of 38.1 seconds the third fastest ever time recorded for the 330 yards race in the 6 years history of athletic meetings on this indoor Cosford track, and to my credit it was only the present two Olympic athletes Robbie Brightwell 37.9 seconds and Barry Jackson 38 seconds who had run the race faster than me. My four Tipton teammates were almost dumbfounded by my great run and for me this race goes down as the 'Greatest of My Athletic Career!' so far. I left that RAF Cosford base on cloud number nine, feeling ten feet tall, this moment in time had been worth all those hard weeks of winter training for just those 38.1 seconds of sheer magic and was now very much looking forward to the next meeting here on the 29th November.