Hope my American friends knew this first one..........
FRANK SHORTER. Wearing the U.S.A. vest...yes, you can blame it all on him! When Frank Shorter won the 1972 Olympic marathon in Munich (leading the pack here) in 2: 12:19 he inspired thousands of Americans to take up "jogging" with the 26.2 trip as their major goal. An activity no longer just the province of elite runners. The U.S. running boom had started.....think then New York marathon....think Chris Brasher copying the idea.....and hey presto....the London Marathon is launched in 1981. Of course, with clear foresight and amazing prudence (!) Pat and I opened THE COMPLETE RUNNER in 1981 and started to develop the FASTRAX club kit business. So thanks Frank! Couldn't have done without you.
IAN THOMPSON. Ian came to study at Trinity and All Saints Colleges in Horsforth, Leeds in 1973. Unfortunately, I had just finished 4 years for my degree there and so only shared the odd run with him. We had run shoulder to shoulder in 1967 in the English Schools cross country champs: my 18th to his 23rd.
Ian had never raced more than 10 miles before when he tackled his debut marathon, the A.A.A. which he won in 2:12:40!
He went on to become Commonwealth Champion (Christchurch) 2:09:12 then European Champion in 2:13:19 in Rome. In less than a year he had risen from "novice" marathoner to the world's no. 1.
Obviously the fine Yorkshire air suited him!
What a shame our time at TASC in Leeds didn't overlap!
(see previous blogs) but this Ethiopian took running without shoes to the ultimate level when he skipped through the streets of Rome in 1960 to win Olympic Gold in 2:15:16. A victory which perhaps opened the doors for African athletes and served to inspire a country and a continent. Four of the first 8 in that 1960 race were occupied by " unknown" African runners.
Bikile became the first marathon champion to retain the Olympic title in 1964, pictured here, wearing shoes this time, in world PB 2:12:11 in Tokyo. He started his taper 5 weeks before the games by having his appendix taken out!
RON HILL. He was a great local hero to us Lancashire teenagers in the '60s as we used to see him running local senior races when we were youths and then we'd see him representing Great Britain in major Championships. Olympian in Tokyo 1964, Mexico 1968, and Munich 1972. UK cross country champion 1966 and 1968, European marathon champion Athens 1969. Still 10th on the UK all time list with 2:09:28 and despite all he's achieved Ron is still happy to compete in races in the north at over 70. Nowadays he checks how many places he is from the back rather than the front! A living legend.
JOYCE SMITH. Confession time! The John Benson who ran 2:29:46, 3 seconds behind Joyce Smith when she broke the UK record in London in 1982 was actually me. Honest. She had had a dstinguished track career and didn't run her first marathon until the age of 41. Following a fair amount of TV coverage,
I received plenty of ribbing for using a lady to pace me to under 2:30 but the best was to come the following year.........
GRETE WEITZ. London marathon 1983. 5 minutes to the off and I am in a side street just in front of the start line ,complete with black bin liner covering my race kit. The plan is to be on the front row at the start and try to receive television coverage for the FASTRAX brand. It works and the start line officials have no where else to put me. Only problem now .... the pace. We go through the first mile in 4:52....the second in 5:15. I'm desperately trying to slow down but still runners are coming past me in droves. The pace settles and I think job done! At about 16 mile I go off the road for toilet stop. When I emerge back on the course
a large cohort of "good club runners" are coming through towing along Grete Weitz at world record pace. I join them.
One by one the men go off the back off until by Westminster Bridge there's just the two of us. She is ushered away to the womens finish, clocking 2:25:29 to my 2:25:35. The picture shows us practising synchronised running on Birdcage Walk. Note the adidas shoes.
KEITH CLUDERAY TRACEY MORRIS STEVE O'CALLAGHAN. Two Valley striders (Leeds) stalwarts, Keith and Steve assisted Tracey to improve her marathon time from 3:39 in 1999 to 2:33 (!) in London in 2004. Famously, she went on to represent Great Britain in the Olympics in Athens that year clocking 2:41 for 29th of 81 starters where this shot was taken. Keith and Steve along with half a dozen other Valley Striders had already enjoyed marathon wins themselves. Keith Cluderay winning the Leeds in 1987 in 2:25:17. Steve O'C at over 13 stones defied all the rules about marathon running. He always maintained he carbo loaded on lager. He stopped me winning for a second time at Selby in 1985. I'd won the year before but had to settle for second as he won in 2:26:59 to my 2:27:49. He said afterwards that he didn't think he'd beat me that day........as he'd run the Sheffield marathon the week before!!! How's that for a speedy recovery.
RICHARD NERURKAR. I first came across Richard when he was a Bradford Grammar school pupil. One of many excellent young runners produced by Tony Kingham and Selby Brock. He was the same age as my runners at St.Mary's Menston and several of them were on a par with Richard. But the Menston athlete went on to greater things, particularly in the marathon; his 2:08:33 still ranking as 3rd in the UK alltime lists from London in 1997. Check out his book....marathon running, from beginning to elite.
Richard would probably readily admit that he wasn't even the best member of his school team. Another example of a runner with good natural ability adding a good deal of hard work to make it to the top, ably assisted by guru Bruce Tulloh.
PAULA RADCLIFFE. How's that for glamour! What a great photograph.
A portrait from a fashion shoot she did in Los Angeles having run Chicago in October 2002. Her achievements don't need listing here. All I would say is that her great performances have inspired thousands of women throughout the world to start running and many to run marathons in much the same way as Frank Shorter did in the 1970s. It will be interesting to see how many GB men run faster this year than she did in London time, 2:15:25, in 2003.
And finally, my dear wife, PAT LONERGAN
finishing her London Marathon in 1984. A fine example of those without any athletics background from when at school (she says she used to hide in the toilets avoiding P.E. lessons)
but come to embrace the marathon dream despite knowing it will require months of dedication and resolve. A task she set out to complete as she does all things in her life and as such was rewarded with a time well under 4 hours. She says that it was her jaws which hurt most...from smiling all the way around ,she enjoyed it that much!
........but she never ran another one.
So that's it,folks, just some of the landmarks in my marathon memories and their significance for me.