Pleased and privileged to post these reminiscences from the greatest female race walker these islands have produced and her talented spouse. If you venture across the Pennines to race in the Northern Walking League of Trevor McDermot’s imagination you will find them still mucking in to support the sport they love.
What prompted you to take up race walking? When and where was your first race?
I only really entered Athletics after school and initially had some success at County level winning senior titles at 200m Hurdles, 800m, 1500m, 3000m and Cross Country . I also won a number of local road races and became the first woman to win the Blyth 10 mile. However, on the track a friend of mine did the walks and I always volunteered to join her in order to gain points for my club. I hasten to say I was always last!
After a few years I decided to take the walks more seriously, mainly because the coach at my club said I shouldn’t as at 4’10’’ with short legs I was too small. I love a challenge so ignored him and the rest is history. Within a few short years I became National Walks Champion and an International.
[Editor’s note – and World champion and World Record Holder!]
Like Marion, I came into athletics late although I did win county championships at long and triple jump whilst at school. Road running was my favourite on leaving school and I ended up breaking 50 minutes for 10 miles and 1hr 48 mins for 20 miles. However, I sustained a serious injury to my foot and whilst recovering and to keep fit I used to accompany Marion on her walks for a short distance until she forged ahead and left me. I enjoyed doing the walking but couldn’t master the style so to improve I entered my first race at the Civil Service championships at West London Stadium and initially was devastated as I was hopelessly left by the like of Bob Dobson, Peter Selby, John Hall, etc. However, I was very impressed and encouraged as the whole field waited for me at the finish line clapping me in and from that moment I was hooked by the camaraderie of these strange people.
What’s your favourite race and why?
I don’t have a favourite race really although I most enjoyed Internationals and my fondest memory is the week spent touring Scandinavia with the England team where, between Carol Tyson and myself we re-wrote the record books. It was the bond we all forged together as a team that was the best aspect of this trip rather than the success we achieved. This bond came to fruition during subsequent races as we finally overcame the dominant Swedish team at Eschborn in the first official globally recognised championship for women.
Like Marion, I don’t have a particular favourite race as I was in the sport for less than 3 years due to a subsequent injury halting my progress just as I was starting to understand the technique but I did enjoy my trips down to York to take part in the York Postal Sprint League very much.
Which performance has given you the greatest satisfaction?
A number spring to mind. Winning the Eschborn Cup was the pinnacle but also winning the EEC championships is high on my list as it now appears I could be the only British athlete, man or woman to hold that title. I also fondly remember my world records and Spanish wins at which I met many new friends and a mention must go to the 5000/10000 double I achieved at the Australian Masters 10 years after officially retiring. A win at the Geraldton (WA) half marathon in 1hr 26mins in 36 degrees of heat also compares favourably. All of these performances were very satisfying as I know they also made the late Charlie Fogg (my coach) proud.
Surprisingly finishing last in my first ever race gave me a lot of satisfaction as it introduced me to the wonderful, supportive nature of race walkers. Winning the Morecambe 20k and the Civil Service 3000m track also gave me pleasure but in general finishing any race and mingling with other walkers was always highly satisfying. I should also mention that remaining undefeated against Ian McCombie (he was only a boy at the time) is something I always remind him of.
None, I was always more serious than Peter.
Watching Marion in an 800m track championship at Durham. With only 200m to go she was 40m clear of the field and pulling away when suddenly she bent over double, left the track and sat down. We all rushed over anticipating a serious injury; but the truth was that the elastic had snapped in her shorts and she couldn’t go on. She still can’t live that one down!
Finally, Peter and I will be forever grateful to Betty Jenkins and Brian Armstrong who opened up their homes for us to stay on certain occasions when competing in the Midlands and the South, and also of course to Ron and Joan Wallwork for doing likewise when we attended the Moulton events.
A few days after the above was received Marion had second thoughts!
Marion has remembered a funny incident. One summer we both attended a training group at the CS Sportsground, me as a footballer and Marion as an athlete. However, we all went for a 3 mile run interspersed with exercises as part of the training but the group dwindled until one night there were only the two of us. We went out but it was dark and we ran down a road with no lights. Suddenly I was talking to myself and realized Marion was no longer with me. On investigating, I discovered she had fallen down a deep hole left by workmen and I had to pull her out. We had a good laugh about it and from then on we became friends, then a courting couple and we finally got married in 1972. Over 50 years later we are still together so fate certainly played its hand.
Above Marion recalls the remarkable week in 1979 when she and the also magnificent Carol Tyson took Scandinavia by storm, pushing each other to remarkable performances. Find below the series of races they undertook and in which they excelled.
June 30 – 5,000 metres track, Sweden
- Carol Tyson 23:11.2 [World Record]
- Marion Fawkes 23:19.2
- T. Gylder [Norway] 23:33
July 1 – 5,000 metres road, Sweden
- Marion Fawkes 23:58
- Carol Tyson 24:00
- E.Glasson [Sweden] 24:05
July 4 – 5,000 metres road
- equal Marion Fawkes/Carol Tyson 23:47
- E.Olsson [Sweden] 23:58
July 6 – 3,000 metres track, Sweden
- Carol Tyson 13:25.2 [World Record]
- A. Jansson [Sweden] 13:39.4
- T.Gylder [Norway] 13:41.4
[Marion was disqualified in the last 25 metres trying to pass Carol!!}
July 8 – 10,00 metres track, Sweden
- Marion Fawkes 48:11.0 [World Record]
- T,Gylder [Norway] 49:55
- Irene Bateman 50:40
[Carol Tyson contested and won a 5,000 metres track race in 23:53 at the same meeting]
1979 IAAF World Race Walking Cup, September 29-30, Eschborn, FDR
Womens 5,000 metres [held for the first time]
- Marion Fawkes GB 22:51 [World Best]
- Carol Tyson GB 22:59
- Thorill Gylder Norway 23:08
- Great Britain 85 pts
- Sweden 74 pts
- Norway 69 pts