Before Xmas Greg Smith announced that on Friday 1st January 2016 he would be celebrating 50 years since his first walking race. It was the Essex Beagles Boys 1⅞ Miles Walk, organised by Phil Everard at Chigwell Row, Essex on 1st January 1966. Recently Greg discovered the result, describing it as an inauspicious beginning in the sport. Racing for his school he finished 20th out of 21 starters. Nevertheless to mark the 50th anniversary he planned to race walk the 5km of Bolton Parkrun on New Year’s Day, 2016. He expressed his delight if anyone would join him.
In the event the elements conspired to undo the best of plans, forcing Greg to forward the following note and photo.
Many thanks to Adrian, John C., John P., and Roy who joined me on New Year’s Day to celebrate my 50 years in race walking at Bolton 5k Parkrun. Alas, entirely against the run of weather recently, the course was frozen! The race was cancelled but the five us very gingerly made our way around Leverhulme Park recollecting past glories...
Intrigued by Greg’s half-century I’ve started to see if I could trace something of his history via the on-line Race Walking Records. At this point one result stands out as illustrating Greg’s potential just 3 years later. In the Metropolitan WC 7 miles Open on January 11th, 1969 at Imber Court, racing as a Junior for Basildon, he clocked 56 :49, finishing only 40 seconds down on Phil Embleton, shortly to become the hottest property in UK Race Walking, whilst beating comfortably the future GB International, Steve Gower . Sadly both Phil, at a tragically early age, and Steve, much more recently, are no longer with us. Interestingly Greg was only just behind Lancashire’s Julian Hopkins. Our club must have been hoping to finish a team as I was 11th in 52:57, something of a breakthrough, and Chris Bolton finished in 61:42. What happened to our fourth counter? Did he miss the train or was he even dq’ed? For the record the race was won by Paul Nihill in 50:46, 209 started and 193 finished.