Early notice of the impending arrival of more beasts from the east met the 9 hardy individuals and although there was the usual raw enthusiasm it met its match in the wind chill!
The course included a combination of roller coaster roads leaving the performers with insufficient time to recover from one ascent before being hit with another. Passing the first time keeping point at 1 mile it was clear that Martin Payne had put down his marker clocking a swift 11 minutes 01 almost 40 seconds clear of Tony Bell and Roy Gunnett. Having passed this first checkpoint the real work begins with a continuous climb of roughly half a mile but it feels further. The next section offers those tired legs a reprieve akin to a ski jump after which the terrain switches to more regular variations. While most would accept these testing surfaces with good grace the prospect of 3 circuits is mentally debilitating. As the leading performers at roughly 3 1/2 miles cruised past the voluble Eric Horwill the positions were changing and the demands of the cold weather and the tough climbs and descents had an effect. At 5.8 miles the times reflected an acceptable 10k clocking and there was still 5k to go. Pat Evans was “protecting” a recent knee problem so stood down at this point and Greg Smith, who provides most of the club action photos, did a short 4K walk and added more action sequences for current use and the future.
As the walkers crested the final hill a number of aspirants had picked up while others had lost a little ground. A hot cup of tea and light refreshments met the field back at the changing facility and the soon-to-be nonagenarian, Eric Horwill, provided some very well-received chocolate cake.
Club colleagues were very pleased to see John Payn attending today who is also attaining his 90th year soon. Following last month’s double booking with La Bamba at the changing rooms and have-a-go drummer Sailash, our erstwhile comedic commentator John Crahan has rechristened him as Ringo Shah.
Results(1 mile/3.4 miles/5.8 miles/Finish
1. Martin Payne(11:01,25:42,61:05) 97 mins 26 2. Tony Bell(11:38,40:25,68:20) 108 mins 38 3. Roy Gunnett(11:40,40:50,71:33) 114 mins 31 4. Joe Hardy(12:38,43:37,73:41) 114 mins 40 5. Ian Hilditch(12:02,41:24,71:46) 115 mins 15 6. Sailash Shah(11:56, 41:11, 71:25) 117 mins 29 7. Phil McCullagh(13:00,43:28,73:17) 118 mins 39 8. Pat Evans(13:00,43:44,74:36) 9. Greg Smith 4K in 33:04
1. Roy Gunnett 92 mins 31 2. Joe Hardy 94 mins 40 3. Martin Payne 94 mins 56 4. Sailash Shah 99mins 29 5. Tony Bell 102 mins 38 6. Phil McCullagh 102 mins 39 7. Ian Hilditch 103 mins 05 8. Pat Evans 9. Greg Smith
Grateful thanks to Greg Smith for some great images
We are back at Chorley on Saturday, March 4th for the Alison Trophy 15-kilometre event, starting at 1.00 p.m. As is usual it would be really helpful if you could let Dave Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org know if you are attending and in what capacity. We cannot promise this time the pleasure of post-race entertainment from La Bamba at St Peter’s Church Hall, Harpers Lane, PR6 0HP.
The asterisks against Simister indicate a slight doubt as to whether the venue will be available due to extensive rewiring of the Lady Wilton Hall. However we are confident that all will be well by July. Given our harmonious relationship with the Hall and its committee we have made a good will donation of 100 pounds to the cost of the works.
In the week leading up to Ray Middleton’s funeral, I couldn’t resist posting this moving and delightful photo of Ron and Ray relaxing in the pool the day after the 1966 Commonwealth Games 20 miles race in Jamaica, in which they finished first and second respectively. Wonderful memories indeed.
Meanwhile here are the scratch and handicap results from our January 5-kilometres event. Thanks to everyone, who participated in a cold and unwelcoming month. It is especially pleasing to see former GB international, Chris Harvey back on the road after long-term illness.
Tony Bell 32:02
Marco Bernatzki(G) 34:22
Joe Hardy 34:28
Greg Smith 34:55
Martin Payne 35:39
John Crahan 36:11
Dave Evans 36:33
Roy Gunnett 37:05
Steven Wilde 38:08
Andrea Lennon 40:05
Pat Evans 40:14
Phil McCullagh 42:22
Chris Harvey 48:56
Tony Taylor DNF – retired at 3 km injured.
John Crahan. 28:41
Greg Smith. 29:15
Steven Wilde 29:21
Marco Bernatzki (G) 29:22
Joe Hardy. 29:28
Tony Bell. 29:32
Andrea Lennon. 29:50
Roy Gunnett. 31:05
Martin Payne. 31:39
Dave Evans. 31:48
Pat Evans. 33:59
Chris Harvey. 35:06
Phil McCullagh. 35:37
Returning to the much-missed Ray Middleton one more engaging photo showing him with Paul Nihill and Don Thompson – a golden period in British race walking.
Grey clouds greeted a field of 8 aspirants keen to test their fitness in a live race following two virtual months of solo activity. Thanks to the goodwill and personal intervention of Eric Crompton we were able to hold the race from our Chorley headquarters. Sent on their way by a rock band who were sharing the changing facilities, a number of our squad were sorely tempted to stay behind such was the quality of the ageing quartet, some distance into their veteranhood !
Despite the coolish conditions our hardy compadres set off in good heart and after the initial rollercoaster opening mile passed Eric Horwill, our chief timekeeper, in very creditable times as follows:- Roy Gunnett 11:05, Martin Payne 11:07, Greg Smith 11:38, Sailash Shah 11:41, Glyn Jones 11:45, Joe Hardy 11:03, Pat Evans 12:33 and Andrea Lennon 13:44.At this point the course heads for the sky for nearly half a mile and as the walkers then descended downward, positions started to establish themselves and the race proper had begun.
At the 5k turnaround, Martin had snatched the lead and recorded a fairly steady 35:09. In his wake Roy had hung on to the second slot with a steady 36:31. Exactly one minute later the slight figure of octogenarian, Glyn Jones, swept past Eric Horwill recording 37:31. On his tail was Greg Smith with 37:47, Sailash Shah 38:02 and Joe Hardy 38:50. A little while later Pat Evans on 40:13 reached halfway but having declared in advance that she would only do 5k stepped off the course.
The return journey for our walkers was exactly the reverse of their outward sojourn with more down than up, an incentive for sure. Andrea Lennon, our super 80-year-old, had set out in the race but missed the final out and back section nevertheless maintained a decent rhythm but fell short of the full 10k distance.
At the finish, the timekeepers were somewhat surprised to see Martin Payne coming home within 69 minutes but obviously helped by the better balance of ups and downs. The second-place battle was very close with comparative youngster Roy Gunnett just pipping Glyn Jones by 5 seconds. Joe Hardy and Sailash had a mini battle with the former getting his nose in front. Greg Smith lost “his action” at 6k but nevertheless completed the course thinking about his handicap points.
The post-celebrations were accompanied by a very talented group of musicians who were practising while we were on duty and would not have been out of place at a pop concert. Once a good musician, always a good musician. Thank you, gentlemen.
Martin Payne 68:03
Roy Gunnett 73:20
Glyn Jones 73:25
Joe Hardy 76:05
Sailash Shah 76:37
Greg Smith 88:48
Andrea Lennon 64:28(4.4 miles)
Pat Evans 40:13 [5k]
Glyn Jones 65:25
Martin Payne 65:23
Roy Gunnett 65:50
Joe Hardy 66:05
Sailash Shah 67:37
Greg Smith 74:48
Andrea Lennon (4.40 miles walked)
Pat Evans (5k walked)
The post-race meeting flagged up a number of issues including the Centurions 100 mile at Middlesbrough on August 19/20th and the BMAF champs which would look to be held in Bolton on 18 June 2023. While the 100 has been booked the BMAF champs are still being negotiated.
Thanks to Greg Smith for the unusual post-race images.
Many members will have had trouble finding an ice-less road on which to do their January Virtual 5 kilometres. However, Dave Evans tells me the snow is disappearing from the Lakes so all should now be well. Forward your clockings to me at email@example.com by midnight, Tuesday, January 31st. Remember this virtual race counts in the annual handicap competition.
Hot on the heels of this deadline we will be meeting and competing in the flesh at Chorley for the rearranged Sam Shoebottom 10-kilometres race on Saturday, February 4th. The event will start at 1.00 p.m. As usual it will be very helpful if you could let Dave Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org. if you are coming and in what capacity. With a bit of luck and an unexpectedly cheap flight I might make it
In recent weeks we have paid tribute on our site to two stalwarts of our sport, Ray Middleton and Dave Boxall, Both our posts now contain new material. Graham Young from the Isle of Man offers a fascinating glimpse into the past world of European and British Postal race walking, whilst there is more detail on Dave Boxall’s 100 miles achievements.
Whilst I was in the middle of putting together the tribute to Ray Middleton news came through that the redoubtable Dave Boxall [Brighton and Hove AC] had died. At that moment I hurriedly inserted an acknowledgement of this sad loss into the piece on Ray. In retrospect, it now feels more appropriate to devote a separate post to Dave’s achievements.
Richard and Sandra Brown have unearthed the following insight into Dave’s exploits. Much appreciated.
Dave Boxall C464 RIP
Dave Boxall was one of our great Centurions. He completed 12 UK Centurion events over more than 30 years 1971 – 2005, winning 6 of these.
He qualified as C464 at Ewhurst 1971 in 18h 26min.33sec [4th in race]
He won 6 times in 1972, 1973,1974,1975, 1979 and 1980.
His best time was 1979 Ewhurst, 17h 24min 00 – and this we think is the 10th best men’s time for UK Centurion completions
His completions were all sub 20 hours except the last, Kings Lynn 2005 in 22h11min 10sec. We think he was 72 years of age when he achieved this completion.
In the 1970s, Dave competed in France in a number of qualifying races for the Paris-Strasbourg ultra-distance classic. He won the following and may have completed others:
1973 Rouen 200kms, 22h 12min
1974, Rouen 24 hrs, 206kms
1976, Conflans 200kms, 23h 09min
1977, Chateau-Thierry, 200kms, 23h 26min
1978, Conflans, 200kms, 22h 04min (this may be the 2nd fastest 200kms recorded by a UK walker).
He never seems to have entered the Paris-Strasbourg (despite clearly qualifying), leaving that to his compatriots Colin Young and John (Paddy) Dowling. He subsequently said he never had the funds to put together a team to compete.
In later life, he gave generously to the Centurions before succumbing to ill health.
Alan Buchanan muses.
A sad ending for a popular runner and Walker we have known for 60 years and was with me in Hove when the first flakes of snow fell on Boxing Day 1962 preceding that terrible winter. RIP Dave
Dave Ainsworth comments.
When I qualified as a Centurion it was in 1974 (Leicester-to-Skegness) – Dave Boxall was the race winner. Dave won 4 consecutive 100 Miles races in the ’70s and when he won such events, it was always in the 17 hours’ time bracket. Nowadays they’re won in 19 hours or something – even 20 hours on occasions. Dave was a true all-time great.
Mike Parker [New Zealand] adds.
Really sad to receive the news about the death of an old club mate Dave Boxall. Occasionally Dave & I would pass each other at some un-Godly hour on a Sunday morning along the Coast Road between Brighton & Peacehaven. Dave heading towards Brighton me going the other direction, occasionally we might walk a couple of K’s together, usually it was just a high. He was a character that’s for sure, I thought I used to pack the miles in, but it was nothing compared to what Dave would do in his preparation for those ultra-long races. Sometimes he would walk all through the night, I suppose training himself for sleep deprivation. Every year at Xmas time Dave would walk from Peacehaven to Portsmouth where his mother-in-law lived. Dave’s wife was the sensible one she drove there. I used to think he was crazy, but really, he was just a great character. R.I.P Dave
Gerrit de Jong [C456] has supplied the additional information below, for which we are extremely grateful
Dave Boxall’s Hundreds
All-Time List 100 miles
Kathy Crilley C933 has come up with this further much-appreciated information about Dave’s career.
Dave competed in the 1972 race and covered 302km and was placed 16th. There were 20 walkers in the race and 10 covered over 420km in this 513km race.
1973: Dave covered 213km and was 16th. 27 participants – 10 completed over 444km or more. Race distance 494km.
1976: Dave covered 212km and placed 20th. 26 participants – 10 covered over 470km in this 533km race
1977: Dave covered 114km placing 27th out of 28 walkers. 13 classified with over 400km
1981: Dave covered 216km placing 25th out of 34 walkers. 14 walkers covered more than 400km (race distance 513.5km)
It takes courage to enter these races and the fact that Dave never completed them doesn’t take away his achievements!
In remembering the late Ray Middleton, an outstanding competitor and engaging character what better way to begin than with these thoughts from his great friend, Ron Wallwork. Their athletic careers were closely intertwined.
Ray Middleton RIP
My first recollected meeting with Ray was at Southgate in 1962 when we were among the 213 walkers who faced the starter in the National 10 miles championships. Ken Matthews won in 76.10. Although I knew of him this was the race that started our relationship. We were caught up in a great scrap as shown by the result; Paul Nihill 5th/79.09, Ray 6th/7918, Rudy Haluza 7th/79.18, myself 8th/79.42, John Edgington 9th/79.49 and Peter Stableford 10th/79.51. It was the first time that I heard that loud, deep husky voice with the cockney accent and if memory serves, it wasn’t enquiring about the race we were in, but what had won the Grand National which was being staged 200 miles away in Liverpool and he was more concerned about the horse he had drawn in a sweep-stake!
The following year he went out of his way along with Harold Whitlock and Charlie Fogg to reassure me after a disappointing 6th out of six in my international debut in the Lugano Cup qualifying match against France. With the likes of Ken Matthews, and Ray winning their respective events, my below-par performance didn’t prevent GB from qualifying for the final. In the final Ray finished a splendid runner-up in the 50km and with Ken and Paul one-two-ing in the 20km the Lugano trophy was retained.
Over the ensuing years I met and spent time with Ray bi-annually on four occasions as we continued to gain selection for the Lugano Cup. Ray eventually notched up six appearances in this championship. Peter Matthew’s overview of Ray’s career and the tribute by Tim Ericson show just what a great walker for more than a decade that he was at a time when the strength of the event in Britain was so great. Ray’s wife Jean was like Ray, a character and anyone attending races in which Ray was competing was aware of her presence. I enjoyed their hospitality several times when needing overnight accommodation if I was racing in London.
Of course, the most memorable time was the three and half weeks we room-shared at the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica for the eight Commonwealth and Empire Games in 1966. He was still looking out for me then and it was great that he was able to share the podium with me. We had another cross-the-Atlantic stay together on the occasion of the USA vs. the British Commonwealth in 1967. Sadly, Ray didn’t get to race, but we had a great time in the six days we were in LA.
Over the years we met up several times at the Belgrave Seven and one memorable occasion was in the mid-’70s when Norman Read the 1956 Olympic 50km champion and Kingston Bronze medalist joined us.
In more recent times, he was a regular visitor to the Moulton 5 and over the years gave away some of his GB vest badges to young walkers in the race who he thought outstanding. He wasn’t a bad judge! Callum Wilkinson was a recipient, who in 2021 joined Ray as a Tokyo Olympian and another was Jonathan Hobbs, the 2022 100 miles winner and National Long Distance champion.
The wonderfully atmospheric picture above was taken by Jim Coomber at the 1967 National 20 miles at Swindon. The winner wasn’t one of the three Kingston participants shown here. – myself, Ray and Don Thompson. The race was won by the Reverend Roy Lodge with Don taking second ahead of me. Also in the event that day was Johnny Todd at 2.55.26, Mike Hatton at 2.57.37 and Julian Hopkins at 3.05.38. Lancs WC and Trowbridge tied on 52pts. However, Trowbridge’s fourth scorer finished one place ahead of Julian and so they took the National Team title.
In his piece, Ron mentions the contributions of Peter Matthews and Tim Erickson in remembering Ray’s exploits and achievements.
From the treasure trove of information collated by Peter Matthews, Editor of Athletics International & International Athletics Annual.
Raymond Christopher MIDDLETON (GBR) (b, 9 Aug 1936 Marylebone, London) died on January 8 aged 86. One of Britain’s greatest walkers, he had 17 internationals 1961-73, mostly at 50k, at which he had a fine record in the Lugano/World Cup: 1961-63-65-67-70-73: 4/2/7/8/11/19. Also 13th 1964 Olympics, dnf 1962, 5th 1966 & 1969 Europeans.
RWA 50k champion 1963 & 1965 (2nd 1961-2, 1964, 1966-7, 1970). At 20 miles he was 2nd at the 1966 Commonwealth Games and 2nd RWA 1965-6 (3rd 1961 & 1963), 3rd RWA 20k 1967, 3jrd AAA 7 miles 1962.
He set world walks bests at 50M 7:31:06 & 8hr 85.618m in 1974;
Within its pages, Tim draws our attention to a highlight of Ray’s career
Excerpts from the Athletics Weekly report (October 12, 1974) – dug out by Rob Elliott, Sarnia RWC.
Five World Bests for Ray
In a race which produced sterling performances in plenty, constant fluctuations in fortune, courage, endurance and fortitude, the most satisfying aspect of the Accolade 8 Hours track walk was the involvement of everyone present. Organiser Bill Sutherland did a fantastic job and was rewarded with a record-breaking day in all ways…everyone had a great day, but no one more than Ray Middleton.
The epitome of the walker’s walker, Ray had his finest race in a career already lasting almost two decades in the sport. Never experiencing a rough period, Ray says he was lifted by the encouragement and excitement of the crowds as he got amongst the records held by Harold Whitlock since 1935. Harold was there, very happy indeed to present the very cup he had received 39 years ago to Ray, who in turn was proud to have beaten the very fine records set by a man who has been an inspiration to all British walkers for the past four decades.
From the start, Ray made it clear he meant business by setting the pace, tracked by John Lees and Dave Boxall, the latter dropping away after 5 miles or so.
10 km splits Middleton 53:04, Lees 53:05, Boxall 53:39, Lawton 54:32, Selby 55:02, Markham 55:27, Fogg 55:50, Michell 55:53, Holmes and Harrison 55:55, Harding 56:17, Young and Dowling 56:18, Casey 58:23, Vos 58:36, Moulinet 58:37.
John Lees then took over and proceeded to blaze the trail in no uncertain manner before being overhauled by Middleton at 26 miles. The 20 Mile splits were as follows
20 mile splits: Lees 2:50:59,Middleton 2:53:02, Selby 2:56:13, Lawton 2:56:17, Fogg 2:58:55, Harding 3:00:37, Markham 3:01:23, Boxall 3:02:37, Harrison 3:03:05, Holmes 3:03:10, Moulinet 3:03:17, Michel 3:04:29, Young 3:05:27, Dowling 3:15:30, Vos 3:16:23, Casey 3:18:23.
Ray’s judgement and experience now paid off as Lees felt his great effort. Charley Fogg, walking a stormer, came into third with Harding, looking better and better, close behind.
50 km splits: Middleton 4:34:04, Lees 4:36:30 (personal best!), Fogg 4:39: 26, Selby 4:40:15, Moulinet 4:44:50, Selby 4:47:51, Holmes 4:50:01, Michel 4:50:44, Lawton 4:51:38, Markham 4:52:02, Harrison 4:53:48, Boxall 4:55:52, Young 4:57:17.
With the records at his mercy, Ray went on relentlessly. Moulinet had roared through to such effect that he had virtually caught Lees at 40M and was to have a battle royal with John and Ken Harding for second as the latter closed up. First Lees recovered and dropped his rivals but finally it was super-vet Harding who finished strongest of all. Colin Young now was making inroads after having to make several pit stops early on.
40M: Middleton 5:56:29, Lees 6:04:04, Moulinet 6:04:22, Harding 6:0449, Selby 6:13:25, Fogg 6:14:10, Michel 6:19:52, Young 6:23:07, Holmes 6:23:43, Boxall 6:23:57, Harrison 6:24:05
And so to the last gruelling miles. Ray swept on inspired, Ken never faltered, finally John Lees and Alain Moulinet slowed and Charley Fogg went berserk in a final effort and thought he had nailed third, only to discover he had to find another lap to get Lees. Closing strongly, Colin Young overtook Michell despite the latter’s last-minute burst.
The generally cold weather with a strong breeze was responsible for the many short pit stops taken by several walkers, while some ultra-fast laps were put in when certain walkers heard their chosen favourite records played over the loudspeaker system! Organiser Bill Sutherland had “The Sun Won’t Shine Any More” played just before the finish – the signal for a torrential downpour. All in all, a memorable day for everyone who was present.
Results (15 finishers from 16 starters)
1. Ray Middleton
53M 352Y / 85.618 km
2. Ken Harding
52M 645Y / 82.277 km
3. John Lees
51M 1353Y / 83.314 km
4. Charley Fogg
51M 1042Y / 83.029 km
5. Alain Moulinet
51M 817Y / 82.824 km
6. Peter Selby
51M 158Y / 82.223 km
7. Colin Young
50M 89Y / 80.550 km
8. R Michell
49M 1491Y / 80.221 km
9. D. Harrison
49M 950Y / 79.741 km
10. Dave Boxall
49M 221Y / 79.052 km
11. M Holmes
48M 1448Y / 78.573 km
12. Peter Markham
48M 1214Y / 78.360 km
13. J Vos
47M 486Y / 74.796 km
14. T Casey
44M 1456Y / 70.855 km
15. John Dowling
43M 693Y / 69.418 km
50 Mile splits for the top contenders: Middleton 7:31:06 Harding 7:40:45; Lees 7:42:33, Moulinet 7:46:44, Fogg 7:48:13, Selby 7:49:55, Young 7:57:17
Our Club Secretary, Roy Gunnett was present at the 8 Hours race and comments:
I remember the Accolade 8-hour race in 1974 as an enthralling and exciting race to watch.
It was brilliantly organised by Bill Sutherland with sponsorship from Accolade (a very popular sports drink sadly no longer available).
John Lees took an early lead but by around 25 miles Ray Middleton took command for the rest of the race – walking with a powerful fluid style churning out the miles. He broke not only the long-standing 8-hour world record of Harold Whitlocks but other distance/time records en route. It was a truly inspiring performance by Ray. He finished the race with the crowd watching cheering and clapping him home enthusiastically.
In the last hour of the race, they played music to the competitors of their prior choice to motivate them. I remember Charlie Fogg (who was one of the competitors) saying after the race that those who took part might be great race walkers but their taste in music was dreadful!
In Tim Erickson’s splendid bio,he includes a fascinating glimpse into the tradition of race walking in the Post Office. Wonderfully he includesa link to this film of Ray winning the 1970 European Postal Walking Championship contested by walkers from thirteen countries.
Graham Young reminiscences with particular reference to the Postal dimension of Ray’s career
I first met Ray when we were competing in a selection race at the London Postal Region Recreation Grounds at Swakeleys, Middlesex in 1965. Not unexpectedly, he went on to win the 15 k trial convincingly, and later that year we were both part of the team representing the GPO in the UISPTT Uniform Race Walking Championships in Munich. However, that was not the first time I was aware of his outstanding prowess. On the Pathe Newsreel shown at the Strand Cinema Douglas in 1961, there was a brief account of him winning the inaugural Postmen’s’ Uniform Race around the Old Roman Walls in the City Of London.
In 1966, Ray was staying in the same hotel as the Boundary Harriers contingent prior to the Annual Bradford Whit Monday 50 km. I can still picture him coming down to breakfast wearing his tracksuit in a hotel where the dress code applied! Fortunately for the staff, no one challenged him!! This was the first instance I experienced sportswear being accepted as casual dress, now regarded as being perfectly normal. How things have changed! Ray won the race from the nine times previous winner, my own coach at that time, Albert Johnson, on what was my twenty-first birthday.
We were again part of the National six-man Team which this time included John Cannell for the next race in the series of European Uniform Championships held in Bremen, Germany in 1968. The event was dominated by the team from Romania, which had appeared unexpectedly the night before the event without their uniforms with the story that “Security Reasons|” prevented them from taking the kit out of the country. Quite unfairly, they were permitted to race in trackster bottoms and vests. Not everyone was convinced that any of them had ever delivered a letter. Might it just have been a coincidence that they were all members of their Olympic Squad!?
The 1970 event was hosted by London Postal Region, starting on the newly laid, all-weather Tartan Track at Crystal Palace. Then after a lap of the Motor Racing Circuit, we headed around the surrounding London streets. However, this time justice was done and Ray was the individual victor. He was later interviewed on the Blue Peter programme, which was then at its zenith.
Also there is coverage of the 1968 LPR race out there but I haven’t been able to find a film of the 1962 race recently.
One of my most treasured possessions is an official poster that Ray gave me after he returned from the 1969 European Championships in Athens, in which he finished fifth in the 50k, with a time of 4:27.00.
The details escape me, but I recollect that Ray’s home City honoured his sporting achievements by including him in the Annual Lord Mayor’s Parade dressed in period uniform.
Ray ploughed a lot back into sport, and was at one time manager of the LPR Sports Ground at Hillingdon. He was ever willing to give advice, and encouragement, particularly to newcomers. The news of his demise came as a great shock to me. I admit to having been quite tearful. My sincere condolences go to his family, and many friends. RIP Big Man!
.Guy Goodair recollects:
My memory of Ray was that he was the rock of Belgrave Harriers, always at the forefront of their very strong team. Usually, I was miles behind Ray but the nearest I got to him was in the National 10 miles at Bolton which was won by Ron Wallwork (75.06) and Ray finished 10th in 78.16 with me 3 seconds behind in 11th spot. The team race was won by Met WC with Belgrave second and Wakefield Harriers just pipping Lancs WC for 3rd spot (162 finished that day)
Rob Elliott remembers:
Rest in Peace Ray Middleton. Ray was one of the first race walkers outside of Guernsey that I had heard of when I started racing in 1970. Through the connections of Sarnia Walking Club and Belgrave Harriers via Len Duquemin and John Moullin, I heard of him racing in Guernsey in 1967 in the tough West Show 20 miles walk in 2.43.35. First got introduced to him in one of my early races in England. Always described to me as one of the hard tough men of racewalking. Pleased to be seated at the same table as Ray at the Commonwealth Reunion dinner some years ago. Chatted about Guernsey and he remembered the race and the finish, going through a field into the show arena for the finish.
John Cannell – Terrible news, a real hard man in racing terms. Never gave up. The races when Ray and Don Thompson were involved in were legendary.
Chris Maddocks – When I was new to race walking I recall the Belgrave Harrier at 6’2″ as big in stature and character.
Steve Till – RIP Ray. On my very first race – Surrey 10,000m at Battersea Park track in 1976, I was a bit overawed by those around me, but afterwards, Ray came up to me and said, “You walked well, lad.” That meant the world to me
Tony Geal – A great man, always cheerful at walks, always willing to extract the ‘michael’, always hard to beat, fond memories of Ray and the friendly rivalry between Steyning and Belgrave RIP Ray
Frank Clark – A great walker. Nice to have known him. R. I. P. Ray
Tony Malone – Great Walker hard as nails when competing. Great Cockney wit. Great shame. Condolences to all family and friends.
Don Cox – Ray always said “It’s a matter of hanging on. “
Steve Barry – R I P. RAY. ONE OF THE GREATS
Bob and Olive Dobson – An inspiration to Bob in his early days. Shocked to hear this news.
Bob Gutteridge – Rest in Peace Ray, many great memories. Bob Gutteridge Met WC
Brian Adams – When I first got involved in the sport in the early 60s Ray had such a high profile and therefore such a big influence on me, even before I got to know him.
Tony Taylor – For my part I witnessed Ray in the flesh at the 1965 National 50 kilometres championship held in Bolton. As best I remember the race took place over an undulating 10 kilometres lap, around which I slowly made my way. Don Thompson and Ray were locked together the number of times I observed their progress and I missed seeing Ray’s winning move. In my naivete, I could hardly believe Don had been soundly beaten.
Four years later I found myself in the midst of a race-long scrap involving up to ten athletes at any one time with Ray often taking up the lead. In the end, five of us finished within 12 seconds of each other – Phil Thorn, Bill Sutherland, myself, Roger Mills and Ray. I was just chuffed to be in such company.
Two years later I finished again just one place ahead of Ray in the National 20 kilometres championship, 11th and 12th respectively, separated by a mere 11 seconds. As a result, Lancashire WC pipped Belgrave Harriers to win our first national team title. Ray’s post-race comment to me in the mist-filled dressing room, delivered with a wry smile, was something like “never again, Tony, never again”.
A number of people have indicated that they might submit anecdotes and memories and I will post as appropriate.
Thanks to Rob Elliott we’ve been able to resurrect this fascinating portrait of Ray published in the Race Walking Record, March 1965.
PORTRAIT OF A STAR
RAY MIDDLETON (Belgrave Harriers)
Ray was born in London on the 9th of August 1936. At school, he competed in the high jump and the 880 yards. Not being too successful at these sports he tried his hand at race walking and liked it straight away. His first race was in 1951 when he finished third out of three in a one-mile novice walk.
Progress was slow but steady for Ray. In the R.W.A. Junior 5 Miles Championship in 1956 he finished sixth with a time of 41m.21s. The following year he began to win club championships and in 1959 at Wembley he won his first major race, the Southern “Garnet”. He gained his county vest the same year. In 1961, ten years after taking up the sport, Ray established himself as a force to be reckoned with over the long distances. He finished third in the National “20” behind D. Thompson and J. Edgington with a time of 2h.51m.02s., second in the Leicester Mercury Walk and second in the National 50 Kilos when he split the two Thompson brothers, Don and Nigel by clocking 4h.29m.47s. He gained his first International vest that year when he represented Great Britain in the Lugano Cup Competition over 50 Kilos. A year later he won all the Surrey County titles at 2 miles and 7 miles on the track and 10 miles on the road. For the second successive year, he finished second to Don Thompson in the National 50 Kilos with a time of 4h.30m.59s.
At Baddesley in 1963 Ray gave the best walking performance of his career to date when on the third try he won the National 50 Kilos with a world-class time of 4h. 16m.43s. Later in the year when representing his country over 50 Kilos in the Lugano Cup Competition he finished first in the Zone Match against France and second in the final. Nineteen sixty-four began well for Ray with a third place in the National “20” and a second in the National 50 Kilos (won by P. Nihill). Unfortunately at the Olympic Games in the autumn things did not go well for him in the 50 Kilos where he finished 13th in 4h.25m.49.2s. just outside the previous Olympic Record.
His favourite races are an odd mixture; any race on the track and 20 miles to 50 Kilos on the road. Winning the 1963 National 50 Kilos after finishing second two years running is the performance which gave him the most satisfaction. Ray, a very popular member of his club, has had advice and help on all aspects of walking from many Belgravians and from Colin Young (Essex Beagles). His training programme is moderate compared to that of his rivals for 50 Kilos honours. In the winter he does very little stripped work, only strolls on Sunday mornings. About mid-February, he starts doing “stripped” training twice a week, races on Saturdays and continues the Sunday strolls. By the end of March, he feels fit enough to step up his fast work, now transferred to the track, usually two outings per week with a strip spin over 12 miles on the road on another evening and strolls on Tuesdays and Sundays. Prior to important races he trains hard and gets plenty of good food and sleep.
To the beginner Ray offers this advice, “never attempt any distance race until old enough and don’t worry about going through the field, only training can enable you to do that”. In his experience, the main differences between racing at home and abroad are the International Judging rules, feeding and race presentation. He thinks that we should have the International Judging and feeding rules in SELECTION races, thus leaving most of our domestic programme untouched. On the question of race presentation, he says, “countries like Italy and Switzerland always have race sponsors so they are able to put plenty of money into their races. Only races like the Leicester Mercury and the Chippenham to Calne can match the foreign races at the moment”.
Ray sees no major difficulties for our walkers in next year’s Commonwealth Games for he is sure that the selectors will take into account the hot climate when making their selections. About the next Olympic Games (Mexico City 7,000 feet) he remarks, “I feel sure that our Olympic Committee will ensure that our runners and walkers get as much time as possible to get acclimatised; we did wonderful in Tokyo, why not in Mexico?”
The new R.W.A. Championship changes have, he thinks, led to a better spaced out racing programme although he personally would have liked to see the National 20 Kilos in late June. His aim for 1965 – to cause at least one major upset amongst National title favourites.
Ray is an elected member of the R.W.A. Southern Area Committee and he has definite views of his own on our sport, especially in the International sphere. He advocates better opportunities for the walker who is dedicated enough to reach the International standard to get his “vest”. On this point he comments, “there is plenty of International competition and we are always saying that we are on very good terms with the B.A.A.B. Well! let them show us walkers their goodwill by giving us a chance to get that England vest more often remembering that we won’t get invitations from other countries unless we invite their walkers to our country”.
In Tokyo, he found that the walking was very good and he was impressed by the fact that the walkers from other countries were a part of their country’s team. They trained with the runners and field events specialists. The weather varied from hot one day to very wet the next. He would have liked some heat for the 50 Kilos but it was not to be. His last word on the Tokyo Olympic Games is “fantastic”.
The interview with Ray and the write-up were the work of John F Keown, the Editor at the time.
In a bad week for British race walking, former international Chris Smith also died aged just 64. The Leicester athlete’s best performances included 1:28:34 for 20km and 4:31:52 for 50km and following his competitive period he became one of AW’s contributors, supplying news and results from the race walking world for several years.
Chris was in addition a towering and inspiring coach at the heart of Leicester’s remarkable tradition of encouraging race walking in schools.
Alan is one of the unsung heroes in the club’s long history. Although a loyal and steady performer at all distances up to fifty miles, it was at the ultra-distance that Alan showed his special talent.
He qualified as a Centurion at Leicester in 1968 in the magnificent time of 19 hours 20 minutes 52 seconds, earning him the honour of being the second fastest qualifier in the club’s history. Only Joe Barraclough has recorded a faster time in over 114 years.
Twelve months later at Bristol, he finished, together with Alan Day and Bill Cowley, in joint third place with a time of 19 hours 54 minutes 18 seconds. Again he was making history as the only club member with two sub twenty-hour performances.
Three weeks after his qualifying race I met Alan in Manchester. He was resplendent in a new blazer with a gleaming wire wound Centurion badge on the pocket. “My word I like that badge,” I said. “Yes” replied Alan “and you should see the one on my pyjamas”.
Alan was rightly proud of his Centurion performances and they should not be forgotten.
Ron Wallwork continues:
I remember Alan well along with his Prestonian colleagues, Bill McCloughin, Alan Day, not forgetting Eric Bretherton. Although not scoring in the national team successes of the late 60s and early 70s, they nevertheless played a huge part in a thriving Club and I think they put on fixtures at Preston.
In those days there wasn’t a National Long Distance championship otherwise they would indeed have collected medals. Finishing equal third [Hudson, Day and Cowley] they easily won the “Daily Dispatch” team trophy, so perhaps we should add them to the club’s Roll of Honour.
Both Alans were also two of seven Club members among the GB record number (for a walking race) of 257 starters in the 1967 Metropolitan Open 7.
RW 51.13, Mike Hatton 21st/54.48, Graham Abley 97th/60.07, Alan Day 129th/62.42 and Alan Hudson 159th/65.32. LWC 12th team. Julian was disqualified 30 yards from the finish and Bill McLoughlan suffered a similar fate 3/4s of a mile from the end. A cynic might have a view on how this affected the team race!
Sadly I can’f find any photos of Alan in action and, as of now, I’m unsure of his whereabouts.