Tuesday, 20 September 2011


 In running as in many sports  it isn't always those who excel as teenagers who go on to excel as senior athletes representing their nation in the world's major championships.  So it was interesting to look down the full results of the WARRINGTON CROSS COUNTRY RELAYS from April 4th 1964 which MALCOM WARBURTON gave to me on Sunday  and  see  how  many of the young runners listed fared later in their running lives. 
 I already had the Athletics Weekly mag clipping for the race but it only gave the names of runners and times for the first 3 teams; so this  sheet is very interesting.  Thanks Malcolm.
 There was an "BOYS" U/15 event  and a "YOUTHS" U/17 event. Both  4 legs of 1 MILE each.  I was in the SALE "A" team, pulling back hosts Warrington to equal first on leg 2.  We lead by  3 seconds after leg 3 but were blown away by their last runner DAVE BRENNAN on leg 4.
 Probably 15 by this date BRENNAN  ran  10 seconds faster than anyone else recording 4.56 for the grassland course.  He continued to excel nationally for several more years but to my knowledge did not "make it" as a senior.
  My 5.17 was 10th fastest; a time shared with 5 others. Including one B. FOSTER

 On the first leg for Gateshead who finished 7th it can have been no other than BRENDAN FORSTER . He is ultimately responsible for the initiation of THE GREAT NORTH RUN back in 1981 which has grown and grown. This year saw 54,000 people cover the 13.1 miles from Newcastle to South Shields. 
 But of course my generation remember him for his great feats representing  Gateshead senior teams, England and Great Britain.  A bronze at the '76 Olympics,  a gold at the '74 Europeans, a 3K world record 7:35 and even a 2:15 marathon, no doubt without much preparation.  
  Somewhat heavier nowadays but Brendan often refers to runs with fellow commentator Steve Cram on the TV so he is still at least  fitting some running into his busy life.
  Another young runner  a tad off the pace that day was one ANDY HOLDEN.  He ran on the Preston Harriers team that day  recording 5.25.  It wasn't long before he improved to be one of the country's leading cross country runners e.g. 3rd in the National of '66.  He continued to excel as a senior with Tipton Harriers representing GB as a steeplechaser (best 8.26). Ran 2:15 for the marathon and in 1984 ran 28:59 as the fastest UK  35 year old.
  Looking at the youths' results,  the SALE "A" team was first and the SALE "B" second.  They went on to win the National cross country.  STEVE EDMUNDS only made the "B" team that day but he did run 4.59, faster than 2 on the "A" team.  Our coach liked to even teams out so both would do well. It certainly worked that day.  Steve won international honours with his 2:16 marathon which is still our club record today.   He  sadly doesn't race anymore but is an ever present at events on marshall duty.
 In the Sale "A" team was STEWART GRACE.   He ran the fastest time of anyone in 4:52.(Sale H. "A").    "Diz" (think about it!) as we called him was part of a very talented hardworking youths/juniors squad who dominated UK cross country championships in the '60s winning county, regional and national titles with very low scores.   But having had glandular fever Stewart wasn't immediately able to get back to former fitness levels and   drifted away from the club.   But the spark  rekindled with neighbours Altrincham and he had several good years with them as a vet.
We share a common "highlight" in that we both won the "Autumn Leaves Half Marathon.  He was 41 when he won the race.   He rarely races nowadays but did turn out in last Sunday's GNR recording 99.08 at 66.  5th in the M65 category off moderate training. The talent is still there after
nearly 50 years.  He may well join his son in the colours of Salford Harriers soon.

Further down the list in 10th place, running leg 3 for SALFORD HARRIERS was STAN CURRAN.  He "only" ran 5.22 that day but unlike many of our Sale runners went on to have a very successful career as a senior with international honours based on a 2:14 marathon.  He is still a very familiar face on the northern running scene.   He ran 39:41 in this year's Gt
Machester Run 10K.  A great club stalwart he can be seen marshalling on the video from Sunday.
  Last leg on the Bradford ASVAC team which finished 16th was one Dave Atkin.  Recorded 5.00 in this event 
he was already shows promise for the next few years to come in which he became almost unbeatable on the country in the north.  He was 5th in the World XC running for England.  
  I have no recollections of him coming through as a Senior. 
 In contrast the career of ERIC RANICAR has been long and successful.  He ran just 5.37 in this event, first leg on a Leigh Harriers team which finished last.   This year he is shown to have run 5:36 for 1500 metres!  A "slow down" of just 2 metres per year over  50 years.  Also 10 miles in 64 minutes at 64. Testament to his incredible longevity.   In the intervening years he has been a constant, if not frequent,  racer on the roads and country in the colours of Bolton United Harriers often  with a number 1 by his name in the vets category.
  Whilst I'm sure many youngsters in these results are still running recreationally, I'm also sure that many, perhaps the fastest,  tasted success in their teenage years but found the transition to senior competition hard to cope with or as was often the accusation against our Sale teams..... we were just "burnt out".
  The results perhaps reinforce the message that should go out to aspiring youngsters,  that success may not come for them in the short term as it does for others.  .  There are numerous examples of  late developers in athletics as we witness in all aspects of life.
  Many succeed at a younger age due to natural ability but natural ability alone is as we know not enough.   It has to be  backed up by hard work, perseverance  and  often great resilience.   Life tends to  put hurdles out in front of us.  Some walk off the track  after  clearing a couple of hurdles well.  Others  knock a few over, get up and go again.  
   I had my lung surgery a few years after this event and looking at the results compared with others who knows what I might have achieved in my early '20s but "c'est la vie!" as they say.
I'm thankful for the bit of success I've had and pleased to still be competing as Stewart Grace, Stan Curran and Eric Ranicar are , 47 years after this relay event.
 And finally,  it would appear Sale still want me to run relays......looks like I'll be on the "D" team at the Northern 6 stage relays on Saturday.   I don't think  I'll 10th equal fastest; no doubt one of the 10th slowest overall; but at least I'll (hopefully) be participating.




  1. Re: Dave Brennan. As a boy he was unbeatable over the country - good run, win by a minute; bad run, win by 5 seconds. Not much satisfaction there, so at 17 he drifted into motorbikes and other things. Then, after he married his wife saw his collection of awards. He started again to show her what he was like (and I recall seeing him pass my parent's house on what must have been at least a 10 mile run, accompanied by his wife on a bike). On the track he ran 3:44.3 2nd in a BMC 1500m at Stretford in June 72 (ranking 14 in UK), but then won plenty road races (Parbold Hill more than once, I think). His daughter was a Cheshire champion (including senior, I think), and he is sometimes at Stretford Tuuesday meetings.
    He had started at Warrington in summer 61, then came back a few months later for a schools cc race. He was 10th, I was 11th, and he got into regular club racing. My thinking was "I'll have him next week...", but it didn't happen till August 66! For me an exceptional run was to be 2nd counter, a disappointing run was outside the count. So I could gauge every result and know whether I had done well or not.
    Malcolm W

  2. Re Dave Atkin:

    He ran second in the East Hull 20 Miles in Sept 68, in 1:45:38, 48 secs behind Dennis Quinlan, to rank 20th in UK that year... MW

  3. Re Eric Ranicar
    A career with GM Fire Service meant picking races on suitable dates was easy, but peaking for championships was not.
    Rolling shifts of 2 days (9am to 6pm including maintenance), 2 nights (6pm to 9am with scope for rest and relaxation when not on a call), and then 4 days off - a intelligent athlete like Eric (or you) could cope with that. MW