Saturday, 21 July 2012


  I can't really say that I was into the difference between slow and fast twitch fibres when I was 11. All I knew was that when I playing  for the under 11 school football team,  at the end of the game I was still running around  like Carlos Tevez on speed whilst most of the rest of the team were looking to the ref. to blow for the end of the game. I think today they would have called me "Duracell Boy"
  I also recall  that morning classes finished at 11.55 and even getting home for lunch was turned into a race even though I ran by myself.
Each day I would  dash out of the classroom,  down the stairs, across the playing fields and through the neighbouring valley, aiming to be through our back door before the "buzzer" sounded at noon at the local fabric mill.
  As I ran I would pretend to in a mile track  where the lead would change throughout my 5 minute effort.
Ibbotson,  Landy, Elliott,Bannister would all figure but everyday my hero Ireland's RONNIE DELANY would win with a last lap sprint as he had in the MELBOURNE  Olympic 1500 metres.  My affinity to Ireland largely down to my grandmother's reminders that we were of Irish descent. 

We went sent to school on St.Patrick's day with shamrock pinned to the lapel of our blazer, after all!
 I was 7 years old in 1956, when Ronnie Delaney became  the seventh runner to join the  sub 4 mins mile club. In the 1956 Summer Olympics held in Melbourne he  qualified for the Olympic 1500 m final but I remember the Australian  JOHN LANDY being the hot  favourite. Delany shadowed  Landy until the final lap, when he unleashed his final sprint, winning the race in a new Olympic Record.  I would pretend to replicate this finishing sprint each lunchtime as I ran home from school, leaving my imaginary rivals in my wake.  Delany had  become the first Irishman to win an Olympic title in athletics since  1932.
  But whilst Delany's Olympic gold medal for Ireland was inspiring it would be another 5 years before I test myself
over that kind of distance. For the time being football was king. 
 Unfortunately, there were no cross country leagues for primary schools as there are now, so any natural ability to run hard and long was never really discovered.  But when it came to sprinting  I was up against it.   
  I was only a reserve for the school under 11  4 x 110 yards relay team which was selected to compete in the Manchester Primary Schools.  I recall it was held on the speedway track at Belle Vue funnily enough.  This was the only competitive running we did at St.Clare's Primary School, North Manchester.
 My sprinting ability had not improved by the time I went to St. Bede's College across town after passing the 11+ exam. 
  Memories  of those times are naturally a bit  hazy I recently received from my older brother the results of his perusal of old school magazines of the 1960s.
It appears I  was entered for the 100 yards and 440 yards, the longest event,  in the school sports but as far as I can remember I failed to make the final of the 100 yards, certainly didn't win a medal.
 The 440 yards , however, was a different story and saw me coming through after a cautious start to see me grab the win.  The record shows the time as 69.2.  But there was no real future in it ; 440 yards was too short, however, I wish  I could run that now!
 The following year  I repeated that 440 win but felt far more comfortable running 2 laps.  A half mile (880 yards ) win in 2:28 on the school grass track.
 This opened up selection for what would be my first real open competition this time 50 years ago; the MANCHESTER SCHOOLS TRACK CHAMPIONSHIPS 1962.   A  satisfying 3rd place but no time recorded  and the distinct feeling that 2 laps around the grass track was not enough.
 But the opportunity to tackle RONNIE DELANY'S distance would have to wait for another year;  my twitch fibres were calling out for more, but they would just have to be patient!!

1 comment:

  1. By coincidence I was looking at the 1964 Lancashire Schools programme on Friday - at that time it was the biggest one day meeting in Europe - and realised you were in the Inter Boys' mile against me. Do you remember the Inter Milers being lined up for about an hour in the hot sun before the heats to form a guard of honour for the about-to-be Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, who was about to perform the official opening of Kirkby Stadium? You were third in heat 1 in 4:44.x and I was third in heat 3 in 4:49.1. In the final you were 4th and I was 7th behind John Calvert of Blackburn, though I did manage to beat him 3 months later.
    Who won a Lancashire Schools title that day and reached the Tokyo Olympics semi-final 4 months later?

    Malcolm W