Monday, 6 May 2013


A section of SALFORD HARRIERS' newsletter is dedicated to an interview with a non club member.  They have featured  some of the very best GB athletes, LIZ McCOLGAN, ANDY VERNON,   for example  so I must confess to being a bit surprised when I received an email asking if I would similarly do the questionnaire.  I'm far from being a well known UK international, after all; but flattered none the less.  Here's how it went.....

     880 yards (2.00mins)(Stretford 1967)
     MILE 4.26 (grass track barefeet)(Wigan 1966)
     2K steeplechase 5.59.2 (AAA champs 3rd)(Liverpool 1967)
     5K track  15.18.6  (Leeds Carnegie) (1986)
     10K road  31.30    (Toronto) (1983)
     10M road  51.14    (York) (1983)
     1/2 Marathon 67.55 (York) (1986)
     Marathon  2.25.36  London) (1983)

Q2.What do you regard as your biggest achievement?

   Difficult! Torn between the 2:25:36 marathon PB, the 2 marathons I actually won, a 3rd in a National championship (steeplechase) the 3:13 in the 3 Peaks. In terms of performance running 34.58 at the age of 50 in your own SALFORD 10K might well be my best performance as it equates  to 30.20 on age graded tables. In terms of longevity 114 10ks under 40 minutes.

Q3. After such a long and distinguished career, what is it about running and competing that keeps you motivated?
  I think old guys like me who refuse to stop running and racing are  “sticking to fingers up” to Father Time. We’re saying, “OK, we’re getting older but hey we can still do what we did as a teenager ,just a bit slower!”  We’re helped by the great numbers of novice runners taking up the sport,  as in races we’re still relatively high up in the field. But the key to it all is simply building enough variety into training that it remains enjoyable.

Q4.You have had your fair share of injuries and illnesses, was there ever a time when you felt like just packing it in?
  I have suffered setbacks, but there are countless years over the last few decades when I haven’t missed a day’s running (but I’m not obsessive about it.) I tend to deal with niggles a.s.a.p.myself rather rushing off to a physio.
 But,yes, the series of lung collapses I suffered at the age of 18/19 when I was just making my mark in senior competition were traumatic.
 I recall drinking a pint of Boddingtons Best in the Halfway House Pub at the corner of Cheetham Hill and feeling air coming out of the lung into my back. 10 minutes later I was in Crumpsall A.& E.
  The Morton’s Neuroma was very unpleasant to endure. It’s a very painful growth in the forefoot which I had to have cut out in 2002. Paula Radcliffe suffered similarly. Once it was diagnosed, I just wanted to sort the problem out and start running again.
 The asthma was more difficult to detect and before being prescribed the inhalers I did say I wouldn’t race again as performance deteriorated. But again it was overcome.
 A lot of runners, who have run much faster times than me, have stopped racing at their best. They have not wished to continue competing and record slower times. I’ve just accepted the inevitable; that, except for the late starters, we will slow with age. But I still enjoy competing, trying to beat the guys and gals I’m shoulder to shoulder with after the first mile!

Q5. What do you regard as the best period in your running career and what was so special about that time?
   Running is essentially an individual pursuit but I think when you’re part of a successful team and performing well individually at the same time it’s special.  I experienced that with SALE HARRIERS in the 1960s. We continually won the Manchester League, East Lancs Champs, the Northern and won the National Cross Country. Having said I still trained in Higher Blackley largely by myself. Being isolated I needed to develop SELF MOTIVATION and that hasn’t changed throughout my career. If a runner relies too much on group training it’s fine until the group breaks up.
   As a senior runner, my best period was the mid 1980s when I was aged
33 to 38 I would say. 

Q6.How would you explain/describe the differences/changes in the running community over the years?
   When I started running/racing in 1963 you could count the number of male runners on one hand and one finger for the lady who ran! Clubs recruited members largely by approaching the best kids in the schools cross country races. So the clubs were largely made up of quality runners. Very few senior runners would run over 60 minutes for 10 miles, for example. Marathons would have less than 100 in them.
 But with the growth in popularity of the marathon from the early 1980s we now see thousands upon thousands of people running and racing. A whole spectrum of ability, all shapes and sizes and of course a massive increase in the number of ladies! It’s tremendous.
 What puzzles my generation is that with so many more people participating it could be expected that distance performances would improve as well. But sadly this is not the case. My 2;25;36 would have placed me 28th in this year’s London but was only good enough for 200th place in 1983!
 That year 1983 103 UK runners broke 2:20. In 2012 it was down to 11!
But ultimately it has to be good that thousands are now enjoying an activity which we have derived so much pleasure from for all these years.

Q7. What would you say was the secret to churning out continuous great times on the road over numerous distances and over so many years.
  Self motivation. I’ve guided all my training and racing as a senior athlete. Have realistic aims based on your work and family commitments and build in a variety of training to achieve those aims.  Target a few KEY races throughout the year which REALLY matter interspersed with “tune up races” on the way.
  Don’t overdo road work, don’t overdo track training, don’t overdo hill training, build in recovery days of gentle jogging. Variety is the key. Don’t be afraid to say “no that sessions not right for ME tonight”

Q8.If there was one race you would recommend everyone do, what would it be and why?
  The mass participation races do have a real “buzz” about them and that inner glow on a Sunday night having run a marathon is very memorable. But I wouldn’t recommend doing say the London or Manchester marathon if your other responsibilities inhibit the training. Those completing marathons in well over 5 hours are not having fun nor are they generally running!
 I would rather recommend an improving runner focuses on running an even paced 10K than completing a marathon with a massive positive split. But it’s the marathon which is the “party” every new runner wants to go to whatever their weight, lifestyle or existing fitness level.
 Specifically, I would recommend a club trip to Amsterdam. There’s several races on offer. Go early Friday, come back Monday evening. A great weekend.

 Q9. Is there a race that you have fond memories of and which no longer exists and you wish would re-establish itself? Why?
  Not really. But sad we’ve lost the SALE 10 having already seen the Sale 15 go some years ago.

Q10. Who LOCALLY do you regard as the best runner Past/present that you have seen?
  It’s comes back to achievements and longevity really and who can rival what RON HILL has achieved on the track, on the road and on the country. A 2.09 marathon and winning the national xc, hard to beat.
Q11. A local runner yourself who ran for a number of clubs, was there never a point you came close to joining Salford Harriers?
 When I finished 7th in the Manchester Schools XC Champs it seemed everyone was saying I should join this and that club including SALFORD.
But ALAN ROBERTSHAW was very proactive in his recruiting of runners from both south and north Manchester and so I joined SALE HARRIERS, running with them for 10 years until I came to Yorkshire.
 Returning to the club in 2009 was largely based on nostalgia but it has been put to me, quite rightly, that SALFORD’S vets section would have been a better bet!

Q12. Lastly, please tell us everything you know about Salford Harriers and their runners Past/Present.
  How long have you got? I have 50 years of knowledge and have the book describing the history of the club! JOHN TARRANT , the “ghost runner” and all that! Every Salford member should know his running story.
 I’ve seen SALFORD HARRIERS develop into one of the top harrier clubs in the country. A force to be reckoned with and may it continue!
 Personalities?   I never felt any real resentment that living in Higher Blackley I should really have joined SALFORD. GEOFF DOGGETT and JOE LANCASTER always had a kind word for me. I got on well with STAN CURRAN, STAN CLEGG, ALAN SLADEN, GODFREY CLAFF and of course one of your most successful runners ever ARTHUR WALSHAM.
  I hope younger members of SALFORD respect and perhaps learn from the great success that STAN CURRAN and ARTHUR WALSHAM have had in their long careers. Tremendous.
Q13. What are your future aims and aspirations?
  Essentially  to enjoy running  WISELY  on a DAILY basis in order to keep competing in 15/20 races per year. I managed 114 10Ks under 40 minutes and so now the current aim is to try to do 150 10ks under 44 minutes.
 But it’s not going to be easy! Might give the Boggart Chase a miss this year as that would be one I certainly wouldn’t go under 44 mins on!

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