In advance of our own memories of Ron Wallwork on the eve of his 80th birthday it is revealing to post this tribute paid to him by Dave Ainsworth. It is to be found in the Essex Walker and illustrates the length and width of Ron’s enduring contribution to our sport. He is much loved and respected. Thanks Dave.
THE BIRTHDAY BOY – 80 NOT OUT
Coming up soon is yet another milestone birthday, this time for “good egg” Ron Wallwork MBE as he’ll celebrate his 80th on Wednesday 26th May. Ron’s been an active athletics participant since the 1950s, when becoming a double-champion on the same afternoon at the Lancashire County AA Track & Field Championships. First of all he won his County Junior discus title, then broke the tape in the County junior walk. We’re fortunate he decided to stick with race walking as opposed to the discus circle! Back in 1959 Ron was 3rd in the AAA Junior Mile at Watford clocking 7:13.4 in a race won by Southend’s Peter Marlow in 7.05.4 with clubmate Alec Banyard 4th in 7:36.8. A year later at Hurlingham Ron won in 6.59.1 with Peter 2nd in 7:03.2. The next 3 positions were filled by Maurice Fullager (Surrey AC), Alec Banyard & Dave Delaney (London Vidarians) who respectively were timed at 7:28.3, 7:32.1 & 7:44.0. The aforementioned medals were won as a Bolton United Harrier. Also in 1960 Ron won our Race Walking Association (RWA) Youths 5 Miles’ Championship at Mitcham, so claiming the ‘SidneySchofield Shield‘ in 39.02, this time on the programme as a Lancashire Walking Club member.
Of course Ron’s most famous victory was when winning the inaugural 20 Miles’ Walk in Jamaica at the 1966 British Empire and Commonwealth Games (note its title in such times) in 2:44.42.8 leading home Ray Middleton, Norman Read and Don Thompson who recorded 2:45.19.0, 2:46.28.2 & 2:46.30.0 respectively in high heat. The following year Ron won an RWA National Championship double, at 10 Miles in his home town of Bolton with 75.06 on the stopwatch and at Ewell in the 20K in 97.21. 1970 saw him back in British Commonwealth Games (now called) action at Edinburgh where he made a determined bid, in poor weather, to retain his title by making a worthy attempt to keep up with pacemaking Australian duo Noel Freeman and Bob Gardiner who were to cross the line 2:33.33 & 2:35.55 claiming gold & silver medals respectively. Three well-known names filled 3rd/4th/5th positions : Bill Sutherland bronze in 2:37.24 – Scotland’s first athletics medal of those Games), Bob Dobson (2:39.55 who’d led them out of Meadowbank Stadium on his International debut) and Ron, 5th in 2:40.10.
Another of Ron’s major moments came on July 3rd at Blackburn’s sodden track in blustery conditions when he set a new UK 2 hours record of 16 miles 315 yards – which was to be a long standing achievement. He beat the previous record of 15 miles 1,556 yards (set by the late Ken Matthews) by a large margin of 519 yards. 2nd/3rd that day were fellow Lancastrians Tony Taylor (Lancs WC 14.755) & Eric Crompton (Leyland Motors 13.765). Acknowledgement is given to Tony for his wonderful and detailed account as published in the Race Walking Record (September ’71 edition) which is well worth fishing out of your the attic for a full read or go to https://lancswalkingclub.com/2016/09/06/45-years-on-celebrating-ron-wallworks-uk-2-hour-record/
Ron was an Olympic trialist in 1968 and was one of those under consideration by selectors in the “smoke filled room” come 1972. He was equally content to appear on both roads and tracks and supported all our National Championships and many ‘Classic’ and open races – such as the Bradford 50K, Leicester Mercury and all the famous London 7 Opens during times when so many “big names” were always there on race days. He’s on the esteemed list of those who’ve recorded the fastest times in the very long running, but sadly now defunct London Postal Region Open 9K yacht handicap races at hilly Blackheath Park – his qualifying performance was in a midweek race in the colours Essex Police (one of his previous Clubs).
To list all his successes would indeed take up much space. Needless to say he’s worn International vests on many occasions, and was appointed Team Manager for a long distance International event at Bar-le-Duc. He’s also Suffolk County AA Honorary Walking Secretary. On his list of achievements is staging successful National Championships for seniors and veterans/masters. When the Northern Area held a wonderful Diamond Jubilee Celebration in Bolton – they asked Ron to be their guest-of-honour for that weekend, which proved a wise choice. Ron has also served as a Race Walking Association Vice President.
Ron successfully completed the 1992 Leicester WC 100 Miles on a tough Hungarton Course in 22:26.07 becoming Centurion No.893. Fellow Moulton villager and Lancashire Walking Club member Ian Garmston completed the distance, in 23:16.24, to become Centurion No. 899 – they’d spent many hours training together in preparation for their arduous task. This was a race that, you could say, took 2 months – as it started in July and finished in August (31 July/1 August). it was also that race which saw Richard & Sandra Brown cross the line together, holding hands, for a 18:50.29 victory. Recorders gave it to Sandra who’d led all the way. The other lady finisher was London Vidarian Jill Green who qualified as Centurion 898 in 23:13.59. Jill has a major milestone birthday coming up later this year – in October, though we’ll mention no more without her permission.
Ron became a key organiser, with well supported 10K events at Newmarket’s Rowley Mile racecourse (allowed us use of the Jockeys’ weighting room for changing) before it moved to nearby Moulton village and later on was reduced to 5 miles. Large fields assembled, including on occasions, overseas touring race walkers of note. As fields began falling in number, Ron’s annual Moulton kept its success going to become the South’s best supported domestic race for year-after-year. So many wanted to make a journey to the delightful Suffolk countryside for traditional Saturday afternoon race walking on the Queen’s highway. A feature was always Ron’s desire to book a personage of note to be our Starter and make presentations. Two great epic distance events stand out : The 2000 ‘Captain Barclay Millenniunm Challenge’ (4 races in one : 50 miles/100 kilometres/100 miles/1000 furlongs – to those unfamiliar with the turf it’s 125 miles). In additional was an allcomers’ 10K race + a mass fun walk for the town’s local folk on Sunday morning, in which protagonists of the horse racing game turned out. Before the action had been a memorable evening reception at Newmarket Town hall attended by the Mayor and Town’s MP. In 2009 Ron promoted the ‘Captain Barclay Bicentenary Challenge’ which saw famous jockey Richard Dunwoody MBE emulate Captain Barclay’s feat of 1,000 miles in 1,000 hours. The day after this wonderful achievement, which was attended by so many Essex Walker readers during its 42 days’ duration as well as rich Middle East racehorse owners and also Honeysuckle Weeks (Private Sam the driver in Foyle’s War) a 100 miles race commenced at the Rowley Mile. Among finishers were Canvey Islander Steve Kemp (now Centurions’ Social Secretary) who, at the stroke of midnight celebrated his birthday – as supporters put up banners and held a surprise birthday party as he completed another circuit just after midnight. Steve got there is 23:21.20 to claim number C1075. Another notable was Ilford’s Micky Sutton who became C1078 in 23:45.18 – for while racing was also on show in London, as a nude model in top photographer Rankin’s London exhibition. After Richard Dunwoody’s triumph Ron organised an annual social walk and reunion, followed by lunch at the 4* Bedford Lodge Hotel & Spa, which had been the centre of operations for this successful project. Ron had much involvement with The Centurions, serving on their Committee and producing the “Wallwork Report” which recommended reducing such races to every other year (as opposed to annually). We now have a situation where it will be 3 successive years without a 100 miles race on the UK mainland, though matters are somewhat beyond our control on that aspect of athletics.
Ron had horse racing industry connections as he managed Newmarket’s New Astley Club in the town centre, which is a welfare organisation for those in the racing game. It became a centre for race walking functions and after our races, visits were organised to local “yards” where trainers would give hot tips straight from the proverbial horse’s mouth. When Ron retired the horse racing community staged a special race in his honour at a packed evening meeting : “The Thank You Ron Wallwork Stakes“.
We must praise Ron for taking over from visionary Martin Oliver as Enfield Walking League top man, as it’s gone from strength to strength with it’s friendly ‘B’ race shorter distance format. Let’s face it, race walking in the South would be nearly extinct but for races at Donkey Lane, Lee Valley and Moulton village. Ron is assisted by long serving committed helpers. Twice when Ron submitted RWA AGM resolutions to extend his successful format to most other races, it certainly boosted attendance figures! – yet another feather in Ron’s cap. Our athletics discipline is a family affair and wife Joan and their family are among our keenest supporters.
Yes he’s 80 and still contributes to our chosen athletics discipline in many ways, including participating in ‘virtual’ races (now how the Enfield League keeps going in these uncertain times).
If wanting to send birthday greetings, he resides at : “Woodview”, 35A Newmarket Road, Moulton, NEWMARKET. Suffolk. CB8 8QP. firstname.lastname@example.org