REMINISCENCES 3 ; Tony Bell looks back

Many thanks to Tony for the third in our series of reminiscences.

Tony, safe as houses, in the 2019 AGM 5k

What prompted you to take up race walking? When and where was your first race?

I have been a runner since 1983, my running “style” has always been a marathon shuffle with a short stride never getting that far off the ground. Running clubmates would make jokes that I was “lifting” as I ran along. 

When I went up to Cambridge in 1995 I met my future wife Shelley, who is also a runner. Shelley was a good masters middle distance track runner for her age group, good enough to win age group medals in national championships. I would accompany her to masters championships where I saw racewalking. Shelley’s middle distance events were too short for me as a marathon runner.

In 2001 there was an open track and field meeting in Bury St. Edmunds which included a 1000m race walk, organised by Mick Graham (coach of Callum Wilkinson). Shelley ran 800m and I did 7.37 for 1000m off hardly any training. For many years I had a 1000m pb at a slower pace than my 50km pb, until I walked 5.32 for 1000m in 2018.

What’s your favourite race and why?

When I turned 40 in 2003 I was then old enough to compete with Shelley in masters competitions. I then started to do more racewalking in training to go with my running, as I was still living in Cambridge I would go down to London every month to do the Enfield League (organised by our friend Ron Wallwork). I learned a lot about racewalking at Enfield, I would go every month until I moved back home to Cheshire in 2005. I still miss the Enfield League, I was last there for the Friendship Walk during the London 2017 World Championships.

Which performance has given you the greatest satisfaction?

In 2011, even though I was living in Germany, I returned home to take part in the test event for the London 2012 Olympics. I did 20km, mostly in pouring rain, up and down The Mall past Buckingham Palace. I was used to walking on quiet country lanes or round parks, walking in the centre of London was somewhat surreal. I set my lifetime pb of 2h03.11, just about avoiding the cut off time of 1h50 at 18km.

Attached photo shows me on The Mall (number 24) with Cath Duhig (58) and Colin Vesty (27).

1 year later I was back on the Olympic course as a spectator.

Tony Bell

Scientist. runner, race walker and cat-lover

Sheffield, UK


Adrian Edwards informs us of the inevitable.

I hope you’re all surviving the current situation, managing to stay well, and maintain a degree of fitness.I’m contacting everyone i have e-mail addresses for regarding the 5K masters road walk. As some of you may have seen on their website the Horwich festival of racing has been cancelled; it will hopefully take place next year 2021.

There were a couple of options available; finding an alternative venue, or a new date. An alternative venue could still leave us having to cancel at short notice; and a lot of the people we need to contact regarding permissions etc. are not currently working. Unfortunately every event cancelled over the last few months is looking for a new date; it will be impossible to avoid a clash, and officials will be over worked when athletics does start up again.

Horwich is a particularly magical event which will be impossible to recreate elsewhere; the decision has therefore been made to cancel the 5K road walk this year; but we hope to return as part of the Horwich festival on Sunday 20th June 2021.There are a few people who always enter by post, that I don’t have e-mail addresses for, so if you see friends please spread the word.

Sorry! Hope to see as many as possible in 2021.

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