Colin Young – one of the great Race Walking characters, never to be forgotten [1935 – 2019]

Colin Young’s reputation and influence crossed all borders, regional, national and international. Certainly he was held in great affection by all those members of Lancashire Walking Club, who knew him and were motivated by him. If Colin happened to be a spectator few walkers passed him by without a insightful word of advice or stirring encouragement. One great mystery, given his long-distance exploits, is why he never competed in our club’s classic Manchester-Blackpool? However, thanks to Steve Uttley and John Cannell, the mystery is rendered less than mysterious. It is not the case. Colin did in fact compete in the 1968 edition of the Blackpool. I was a bit thrown as across the 1960s I prided myself on supporting the race, sponge and bucket in hand. Ironically, according to my training diary, I was elsewhere on the day,. Find below the first 10 in the 1968 race – a veritable who’s who of long distance exponents of the time.

MANCHESTER – BLACKPOOL, JUNE 29, 1968

  1. Pat Duncan [Belgrave Harriers] 7:57;01
  2. Guy Goodair [Wakefield Harriers] 8:04:39
  3. George Barrass [Wakefield Harriers] 8:14:52
  4. Derek Harding [Royal Sutton Coldfield AC] 8:16:30
  5. Karl Abolins [Royal Sutton Coldfield] 8:19:41
  6. Ray Manning [Wakefield Harriers] 8:35:15
  7. Roy Thorpe [Wakefield Harriers] 8:35:15
  8. COLIN YOUNG [Essex Beagles] 8:37:07
  9. John Dowling [Sheffield United AC] 8:48:08
  10. Albert Johnson [Sheffield United AC] 8:48;08
Guy Goodair informs us : Colin [203] in full flow in National 20 miles at Sheffield (others in pic are Ken Mason, John Moullin, Dickie Green, Bob Farley, me and John Eddershaw

Len Ruddock – Allez Jung! – My tribute to Colin Young.

I joined Ilford A.C. in 1969 as an aspiring mile runner and soon switched to race walking due to the enthusiasm and encouragement of this particular select band of athletes in the club and this opened up the wider vibrant world of Race Walking.
I didn’t know Colin in these early days as my main competition was in the Youth and Junior ranks but I always enjoyed the open races for all-comers and that’s where I would’ve seen Colin in action. I became aware of his reputation and incredible distance credentials through the pages of, Athletics Weekly’ and ‘The Essex Walker’ and listening to others in the sport. Competing abroad was to me something that others did but here was Colin not only doing so but also winning, amongst others, 100km and 24 hour races. Then came the staggering feats of the Strasbourg to Paris 512km (or thereabouts) race.
In 1971, my club-mate, coach and mentor, Roger Mills organised a trip to Mantes in Normandy. En-route, we were able to catch the early stages of the Rouen 28 Hours with Colin at the head of the bunch, which included Brighton & Hove’s Dave Boxall and our club-mate, Steve King. That first racing trip to France for me revealed the greater enthusiastic support that there is in their sporting culture. The appreciation that ‘Les Marcheurs’ were athletes above all. It was the first time that I heard the shout, “Allez Jung!”
In 1972, I was honoured to be invited to join the support team for Colin for the Strasbourg-Paris. My co-‘soigneurs’, Reg Wells and team-mate, Tony Perkins had been with Colin for the previous year’s event when he finished a close 3rd to the great Josy Simon of Luxembourg. It had come with a physical cost in the blazing heat but had enhanced his reputation as a gutsy competitor particularly in France which I was about to discover in ’72. It was an amazing week and the 3 1/2 days of the race, for this 19 year old left an indelible impression. ‘Fandom’ is a modern definition of what I experienced. As the race progressed, we were joined by increasing numbers who just wanted to be part of Colin’s entourage, even during those long nights.
Colin liked his jazz music and was a great cycling fan which rubbed off on me and those intricacies of, ‘Le Tour’ was explained. He had the knack of ‘reading the runes.’ Give him a race result and even better with time-splits, he would paint a verbal picture of the event putting flesh onto the bones. He was an avid reader, so maybe from N.U.T.S. colleagues and possibly L’Equipe and La Gazzetta dello Sport provided the leads. With this information, he would always be popping up with some interesting result or tracking the form of certain athletes or cyclist. I remember that he picked out the rise of a certain Said Aouita way before he became a great middle distance champion. An inspirational motivator was Colin. On a British Race Walkers’ Club weekend, he had an ongoing audience by reading snippets during the weekend from Ron Hill’s memoir about the day of his Olympic marathon.
To train with Colin was great. He knew how to push you and when to encourage. Occasionally, on those tiring longer distance sessions, his ‘race commentary’ would run like, ‘The lights of the Olympic stadium are on…only a few kilometres to go…as he looks behind, ‘…’ can see Pamich/Hohne/Golubnichy (take your pick) trying to close the gap’….etc,etc……
Colin was a long-term contributor to the well respected, ‘Athletics Weekly’ and this period was of course, well before the digital age. He was always dedicated in getting his reports in by the copy deadline. This often resulted in late Sunday trips to central London to catch the last post. During his era, I believe Race Walking owed a debt of gratitude to his journalistic skills which raised RW’s profile and respect from amongst the wider athletic community.
Apart from once beating Roger Mills in a game of squash, my next best feat of my modest sporting career, was passing Colin at 43km in the 1975 National 50Km Champs., which we both acknowledged with a nod. He often would refer to Paul Nihill as, ‘The Guv’nor’ but to me this slight man with a big heart was often entitled to be called, ‘The Master.’

Colin in a long-distance track race. Where? When?

Chris Maddock – RIP Colin Young, British ultra-distance walks legend 1935-2019. Utmost respect for this inspirational man. Grabbing me by the shoulders as was his want whenever we met, if he talked, I listened. Believe it was at the 2012 Olympic luncheon when, in his opinion he said I ranked 5th all-time of British race walkers; Paul Nihill was his No 1. I nodded an appreciative smile; what more could I do? He also asked me to guess what he considered was my best race. After a few wrong attempts, he said, “New York Marathon 1989″…mostly because of the great walkers I beat that day. Colin had an encyclopedic knowledge for sports names. Another fond memory was his words during and after the 1983 World Cup 50kms. During the race his tough shouting inspired me to finish 9th with a new GB record of 4.02.37. Afterwards he said I should’ve gone sub 4. He was right of course. RIP Colin. Proud to have been a friend.

Rob Lambie – RIP Colin Young . I was first introduced to Colin on my early visits to England from Guernsey when racing in the late 1970s . He told me about my fellow Guernsey walkers that had made a name for themselves in England, even talking about other island athletes from other disciplines. I was fortunate, amongst others, to be in his company at Mezidon in 1999 for the World race walking event. I took away many stories of his long distance exploits. One meal time he started talking about the weekends races and came out with recent times from around the world, scribbled on bits of paper, which in those days would have been harder to find than now with the internet.
He confidently predicted a 50 Kms win for Korepanov. He was right. Walking around the course watching , he seemed to draw the attention of many, young and old and from various countries, talking with them like long lost friends and sometimes in their language. I can picture Colin now, back in the 70s early 80 at National Championships, training , going in reverse direction , shouting encouragement to all.

Steve Uttley -Very sad news. I lived in Ilford, less than a mile from Colin from 1980 for around 25 years and trained with Colin a couple of times a week, including many 2 hour plus Sunday spins. I was just about to call him before Christmas when I heard the news. I shall miss him as will many others I’m sure. His enthusiasm was contagious and his knowledge second to none.

Francisco Reis – The loss of Colin is very sad and painful but the loss of a friend like Colin is even harder. Colin was a great supporter of myself since I arrived in this country in 1984. He gave me the motivation to restart racing again as a master athlete. Every time when we met Colin always had to whisper in my ear ( race harder and harder ). I will never forget the great man and great athlete Colin Young.
Thanks for everything, rest in peace,

Alan Buchanan – Colin was Race Walking in England . He knew everyone when our event was at its most popular and was much respected as an ultra distance walker and scribe whose knowledge was second to none. RIP

Oliver Caviglioli – I remember, as a youngster, going to Colin’s house for a training session followed by tea. The training session was fun as I witnessed Colin slalom, race walking style, through the evening commuters as they left the local tube stations. He was also so very encouraging. Although my race walking career only lasted my teenage years, I retained a lasting sense of the values of Colin and fellow Beagle—my coach—Phil Everard. Their integrity and sense of fairness have remained with me ever since. Furthermore, Colin’s undiminished enthusiasm has inspired me throughout my own non-athletics career. I should mention another aspect some of you might not know about Colin. For a short while, he worked with Phil Everard, the manager, of an Adult Training Centre for people with learning difficulties. At a time when such people were excluded pretty much from society, those who worked in this field were more caring than most. I witnessed Colin relating to all in the same respectful and friendly fashion.

John ‘Paddy’ Dowling – Colin was a trail blazer he was more continental than the French, and they loved him, and I did. May his God hold him in the hollow of His Hand. Colin and Amos Seddon helped me out in the 1970 Strasbourg/Paris, when my feet were lacerated. Colin finished a gutsy third, tho I could see him fading.

Guy Goodair – Sad News – First got to know Colin after I was 2nd to him on the inaugural IOM TT Walk. Then a memorable trip in 1968 with Colin, Pat Duncan (all 6’ 7” of him) my wife Judith and I – we flew to Zurich, hired a Fiat 500 and drove to Prague, for the Prague to Podebrady 50km race. We spent hours at the border crossing whilst the car was searched (both ways in fact, in case we were trying to smuggle someone in or out – fat chance in that car) We arrived in Prague hours after our anticipated time to find Ivo Domansky patiently waiting for us, and it was on this trip Colin first met Eva, his future wife.
We got out of Czechoslovakia just days before the Russian tanks came into Prague to overthrow Dubcek’s Spring Uprising.
Colin’s knowledge of the sport was phenomenal and he knew most people’s PBs
He always greeted me with ‘4hr 30min 57sec – only 19secs behind the great Harold’
(A reference to my 50km PB as against Olympic champion Harold Whitlock’s.

Geoff Hunwicks – He had ‘a hand’ in me getting a junior international against France in a full track ‘n field meet in 1969!

John Paddick – Race Walker Colin Young – An incredible individual and top man!

Dougie Corkill – Just to echo everyone’s warm words. Very sad. Eagerly awaiting AW in the post, then straight to Colin Young’s Walking Commentary. Superb. Was with Colin In Mezidon for World Cup. And up till about 5 years ago we had a monthly chat on the phone. Fabulous – made me feel very Special. l sent him a Christmas card this year with one of my BORING comments. I will never forget Colin. Great man and Inspiration.

Martin Young – Colin won the first three Isle of Man TT Open Walks. Adding on my father’s 6 wins (3 double wins), mine was the last Young to be added to the list. Although not related, having the same surname makes you sit up and notice as a kid. Colin was a legend, certainly in my eyes, and I was proud to add the Young name to that trophy back in ’92. RIP.

Graham Jackson – Really sad news. Good friend to our family, my dad, Denis learnt a lot from his advice. RIP Colin.

Emmanuel Tardi – So sad to hear. He was a great walker.
I remember that we walked together in European Road Masters championship in 2005 in Portugal. I was 35 … and he was 70! RIP Colin.

Greg Smith – Was sad to hear of Colin Young’s passing. He walked for Essex Beagles, as did Phil Everard, who coached me in the 1960s when I was a member of Basildon AC. In 1968  in the Essex Long Distance Walking Championship (a point-to-point race from Romford to Southend) I rode a bike behind Colin with a bucket and sponge and his drinks and salt tablets. He said I was to act as his “soigneur”, a new word to me. Turned out that Colin was also a cycling fan and followed the Tour de France through the pages of L’Equipe.
As someone said in Athletics Weekly, he had this extraordinary knowledge  — he was the Professor of Race Walking. About 10 years ago there was a gathering to mark the 500th (and last) Essex Walking League race. I went down to Lea Valley cycle track to do the race. Afterwards I chatted with Colin (it was about 25 years since we’d last met). He looked at me for a moment and said, “You must have been pleased to beat Tony Malone at Horwich last month”. I was staggered that he could call up that detail, especially as he had no idea I would be at Lea Valley that day. And he was right, I have raced against Tony Malone on and off since the 1960s and it was one of the very few times that I managed to beat him!

Dave Evans – Despite the fact that I never knew Colin’s Race Walking background I met him on a train in the London area many years ago after realising he was coaching one of my great running heroes Mel Batty, once world 10 mile record holder. A mild mannered gentlemen whose own performances were unknown to me was great company and now I wish I had known his standing in the race walking community. Another legend but pleased to have made his acquaintance.

Tony Taylor – I remember back in the late 60s crossing fingers that the AW with Colin’s colourful Race Walking column, exuding his love for and knowledge of the sport, would arrive to be devoured on a Friday evening in front of the fire. And then, as I began to travel South for races, I was always overwhelmed by the warmth of his welcome and the encouragement he gave to this young Lancashire lad of the time. Truly one of race walking’s greats.

SEE ALSO:

An excellent tribute to Colin by Tim Erickson is to be found in the December 2019 issue of the Australian ‘Heel and Toe newsletter

http://www.centurionsworldwide.org.uk/files/Tribute-to-Colin-Young-by-Tim-Erickson.pdf

Tim includes a fascinating report on the famous 1960 24 Hour Track Walk at Walton-on-Thames, where Colin finished a magnificent second with 131 miles 327 yards to Hughie Neilson’s remarkable world record of 133 miles 121 yards.

If you would like to add any comments to this page, please send them to Tony at tonymtaylor@gmail.com

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