It’s fitting that Dave Evans, our indefatigible Chair, should be the first to share his memories in what we hope will be a series of revelations in the coming weeks, even months. Dave has been at the heart of holding the club together following the tragic loss of the much loved Fred Pearce.
Like many of my club colleagues I came into race walking from another branch of Athletics , namely Track and Field. I joined the Civil Service in 1966 and quickly became involved with my department’s Athletic club. When I eventually became Secretary of the club in 1979 I was both a competitive athlete and team selector. This role normally involved filling in when “vacancies” appeared in teams for the Civil Service championships. In the early 1990’s I had picked a squad for our race walking team from amongst our regular contingent only to find a shortage of bodies at the last minute.
I decided that being a strong runner I would fill the gap thinking the 7 mile race would be “easy” . My pride and confidence took a large knock when I finished the race almost last ! How could I, a sub 31 minute 10k performer, be beaten by around 20 walkers who between them , running in a relay team of six, would probably not have completed 10k before me. I came down to earth with a large bang and deservedly so.
My admiration for walkers began on that day and is still with me now even though my walking days are behind me. After realising that technique is the key aspect of the event I , along with Pat, decided to hunt down a club where we could learn and develop our “poor” walking style into something more “professional”. The Lancashire Walking club seemed to fit the bill and before too long we were heel toeing with the leading aspirants of the time. Dick Maxwell was the club administrator with Ronnie Marsden supported as judges by Albert Rigby and Derek, the pieman !
Being a new boy I did not understand the strategy employed by the club savants. You are lulled into a sense of security and given a lot of encouragement by the older walkers not realising that all of this was to prepare you for the Manchester to Blackpool ! I’ve done 4 or 5 including one around Stanley Park in Blackpool and reflect on these with some pride and pain.
Having managed to cope with my first venture into long distance walking it was inevitable that I would be tempted to join the illustrious list of Lancashire Walking club centurions. I was finally convinced I should give it a go after John Payn became the oldest ever debutante at 67. In 2003 I completed my one and only 100 in a steady 23 hours 40 mins and as they say that’s history.
Since my entry into the world of race walking I have been surprised by the times I’ve done given I am not very flexible . A sub 50 for 10k and a 5k time just under 24. Fred Pearce acted as a mentor in the latter years of my racing career but I finally concluded that walking with a questionable technique was not for me so helping him with the Admin side became my main function. My running is still my main activity and despite advancing years ran 43 16 for 10k when I was 69 and clocked a 21 09 for the parkrun shortly after reaching 70.
I really appreciate the camaraderie in our club and look forward to meeting up each time even if just to hear more of Sailash’s ideas about racing on the M6 or around the coast of Great Britain. A latter day Leonardo da Vinci ! Despite our ages the sense of achievement and brotherhood keeps us together and we all hold dear the club motto of Health the First Wealth. Fond memories of Fred, Dave Crompton and Dick Maxwell, three of our heroes.
Thanks to Dave for setting us off down Memory Lane. We’ve already got more waiting in the wings so please don’t be shy about coming forward with your memories.