Over recent years, when back for the occasional Northern event, I’ve often wondered if the people present knew that the the softly-spoken, unassuming bloke sat quietly in the corner is one of the great all-rounders in British Race Walking. His name is Denis Jackson, a product of the fascinating world of working class enthusiam for race walking to be found in the city of York and the great tradition of Postman Pedestrianism. These memories from Denis might well open a few eyes. Thanks to Graham, his son, for prodding Denis into making this contribution.
What prompted you to take up race walking? When and where was your first race?
I first starting walking when joining the Post Office, where there were other employees interested in race walking. My first race was over 5 miles in the local Working Men’s club event. I heard there was a national Post Office championship walk so I decided to enter. The distance was 15 kilometres and I finished second to Denis Vale in either 1972 or 73. I’m not sure of the year, but it was held down south in Middlesex. After which I was hooked and the York Postal Race Walking Club was born,
What’s your favourite race and why?
I didn’t have a favourite race, but 20 miles was the distance I liked most. Then I moved up to 50 kilometres. Nevertheless 20 miles was my favourite training session. Although I should mention the 1986 National 20 kilometres held in York where I broke 90 minutes for the first time. And that was after I had my shoe kicked off only 5 minutess into the race!
Which performance has given you the greatest satisfactio
Reaching the sea front in the 1975 London to Brighton classic is still in my memory. I finished second in the 1980 National 50 kilometres at Basildon behind the Australian, Tim Erikson, thus earning my first international vest in Paris in a match against France Spain and Switzerland. I broke the British record at 30k and 35k on the track in 1981. Being selected for the European Athletic Championships in 1986 was a highlight, along with my last international in the 1993 World Cup in Monterray, Mexico as a 48 year old!
My biggest disappointments were not being selected for the 1984 Olympics – I was nominated for a place with the ‘B’ standard but overlooked – and not breaking 4 hours for 50 kilometres in 1986 when I was in the form of my life. I thought that 1986 was going to be my year.
Lugano Trophy/ World Cup
1981 Valencia, Spain – semi final and final
1983 Bergen, Sweden- semi final and final
1985 Isle of Man – final
1987 New York, USA – final
1989 Retired – only a spectator.
1991 San Jose, USA – final
1993 Monterey, Mexico – final
1986 Stuttgart, West Germany
Denis is one of the quietist and unassuming athletes I have ever known, and a very successful one at that. I had the honour of racing with him in the York Postal Team prior to his international breakthrough and can confirm that he was one of the hardest men to shake off during a race such was his determination and mindset and I thank him for it as it brought the best out of me during my short time as a competitor. An athlete everyone should look up to and admire!
How do you follow reminiscences from Marion and Dennis?? Have you lined up Jefferson Perez?
Whatever Dennis achieved in his career I bet he was never as pleased as when he watched Graham complete the hundred! Fantastic athlete and a great dad!
I did seven out; and then back this morning. I’ll wear my Greek vest in memory of Dave tomorrow.
Proud to have had Denis as a team mate back in my York Postal days. Someone I looked up to and had a few enjoyable but hard training sessions with during my holidays in York. Keep going Denis.
A great friend and rival over many years.The most modest walker I’ve ever come across.Through sheer hard work and endeavour he achieved great results.Well done Denis.
As a trainer of Jacky lord 3 times winner of the RWA National Junior 5 Miles I know he always admired and enjoyed the competition and friendship he had with Denis Jackson in his early race walking days. Happy retirement!