MANCHESTER – BLACKPOOL WINNERS 1908 – 2008

Enormous thanks to Roy Gunnett and Dave Evans for pulling together this roster of Blackpool victors. As for the photo of Bobby Bridge found by David Lamb to be seen below. It shows allegedly Bobby passing through Chorley on his way to Blackpool on July 1st, 1928. However, this does not tally with the fact that the 1928 race was held on October 6th and that Bobby lost a leg in a motor-bike accident in 1926!! More detective work is clearly required. In the meantime, I couldn’t resist putting up the wonderful image!

Donato Pavesi, winner in 1922 following his victory in the 1921 London-Brighton – found by Ron Wallwork in Brian Ficken’s archives
Joe Hopkins, the club’s single winner in 1926
Hughie Neilson
John Paddick and Guy Goodair – both winners
John Eddershaw
Ken Harding – 5x winner
Martin Fisher – 4x winner of the Manchester-Blackpool race; 3x the 50 miles track race
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The Alison Trophy beckons in the Spring

A smashing photo taken by Greg of all-comers to the race . Moving to see Eric and Louise present outside St Peters. Good to see too David Lamb, son of Leyland legend, George.

Dave Evans reports and takes photos of the action

Spring had arrived and there was certainly a spring in the step of the 12 competitors who set out on a glorious day of pleasant sunshine if you ignored a coolish wind!

To ensure that most walkers were home within a relatively short threshold they were set off in two groups with the “likely faster” aspirants setting off 2 minutes in arrear. This course has always been a test of grit and determination and all stepped up the plate.

The two Martins lead Tony Bell

At the end of the opening mile Martin Fisher, Martin Payne and Tony Bell were together clocking a solid 10 minutes 26 not too far behind the main group who they eased past on the first of the three 2.4 mile circuits. The “early start” brigade kept in close proximity with each other until they entered the second of the demanding loop whereafter the fitter members stretched away.

Glyn trying to drop Ian on a long climb

The speedy threesome comprising the two Martins and Tony B arrived at the 5.8-mile point with only a second between in 60 minutes. Ian Hilditch and Glyn Jones kept pace with each other passing the same point in 67 minutes 11 as the rest of the field battled the mixed gradients a further 2 or 3 minutes behind.

Sailash out on his own

Given the distance between all of the walkers at this point it was necessary for Eric Horwill and I to return to the start to ensure complete times for all of the competitors. In the intervening period, positions changed and some quite dramatically.

Greg – well wrapped up

As the field completed their 15k it was clear a few had suffered in the latter stages suggesting the course was particularly demanding on this occasion. Andrea Lennon, our 80-year-old, was walking wonderfully well – like a woman half her age – and although deciding beforehand to do only two of the circuits, approached the finish looking fresh and purposeful. Glyn Jones looked very good when we left him at 5.8 miles but a previous back problem caught up with him in the last couple of miles and he looked quite distraught as he strolled into the finish. Martin Fisher accompanied his same start rivals for 6 miles then reduced his pace and helped other walkers complete the course, hence his less than normal time.

Andrea – the epitome of smooth relaxation

Martin Payne retained the handicap trophy for this event and was a worthy winner.  Our host for the event was Eric Crompton who very sadly lost his dear wife very recently and we owe him our very grateful thanks for providing the facility, ably supported by Louise.

Scratch

Martin Payne retains the Alison Trophy, Ta to Greg for the pic.

1. Martin Payne 95 mins 36
2. Tony Bell 99 mins 36
3. Martin Fisher 101 mins 54
4. Ian Hilditch 105 mins 08
5. Glyn Jones 107 mins 43
6. Phil McCullagh 109 mins 21
7. Sailash Shah 111 mins 53
8. Steve Wilde 113 mins 00
9. Joe Hardy 114 mins 20
10. Greg Smith 117 mins 00
11. Roy Gunnett 118 mins 49

Andrea Lennon (6.8 miles)104 mins 20

Handicap

1. Martin Payne 90 mins 06
2. Tony Bell 94 mins 36
3. Ian Hilditch 94 mins 38
4. Glyn Jones 94 mins 43
5. Phil McCullagh 95 mins 21
6. Steve Wilde 97 mins 30
7. Sailash Shah 98 mins 53
8. Martin Fisher 100mins 24
9. Joe Hardy 101 mins 20
10. Roy Gunnett 102mins 19
11. Greg Smith 107 mins 30

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ALISON TROPHY 15K, MARCH 5 – another race tinged with sadness

Our club races at Chorley are indelibly associated with the Crompton family, staunch supporters of our sport across the decades. Sadly we lost the much-loved Dave back in 2018 and now Marion, Eric’s wife has passed away unexpectedly. I have very fond memories of Marion on the roadside at many events in the 1970s. I know that Dave Evans has sent a heartfelt message to Eric from the club and it’s only right that I reiterate our sincerest condolences here on the club’s website. Marion Crompton RIP.

And there’s a goodly chance Marion was watching Eric take over from David Lamb racing for Leyland Motors in the Blackpool to Stockport Relay – any info re the race gratefully received.

POSTSCRIPT ADDITION

In my rush to do this post, I’m remiss in not underlining Eric’s significant contribution to the exploits of the Leyland Motors A.C. [Walking Section], of which David was also a member. In the near future, I hope to explore the history of the Leyland club.

As it is the Alison Trophy will take place on Saturday, March 5 in Chorley. The new changing facility is to be found at St Peter’s Church Hall on Harpers Lane, PR6 0HP. It is only a stone’s throw from our old stomping ground, the St Peter’s Social Club. Indeed the race will start at 1.00 p.m. from the usual place and will use the traditional out and back to the three laps of the reservoir. As ever it will be tough!

https://www.achurchnearyou.com/church/11484/find-us/

See the above map and directions to the Church Hall.

I must apologise for my silence in the last week or so. I’ve got some great historical material to post. Our satellite internet connection crashed in time with the onset of the Ukraine crisis and is still not fixed – presently using wi-fi hotspot. In addition, I had every intention of being with you on Saturday – flights and accommodation booked, However, I crashed on my bike last Thursday, shaken not broken but with a very sore back. It means that I can hardly move at the moment so no chance of getting on a plane. I’m ‘proper’ fed up.


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John Dowling RIP – Ireland and Sheffield’s Legendary Race Walker

The year was 1963. My first encounter with John came, sponge and drink in hand, at the Halfway House, Chorley, living up to its name on the road from Manchester to Blackpool. ‘Paddy’, as he was affectionately but problematically labelled in those days, eyes twinkling, thanked me graciously for my trouble as I chased up the road to rescue the precious sponge. In the surreal surroundings of Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, he sought me out to offer his thanks afresh, stressing the importance of roadside support in long-distance races. I took this to heart and rarely missed playing this role over the ensuing decades of the North’s Blue Riband event.

The start of the 1965 TT Walk. courtesy of Guy Goodair, who is already up the road on his way to victory. John [11] is flanked by Albert Johnson and Norman Hopkinson with John Eddershaw [10] close behind. I’m the tall figure in white with a mop of black hair on the right.

Two years later, just turned 18, I found myself racing in John’s company the Isle of Man TT Open Walk, 37.75 miles in length. Having coaxed me along John broke away on the long climb up to the Bungalow [1360 ft] but I held him to about four minutes as we finished just over 7 hours. Post-race he was sure I had a future in the longer events. He could not have been more mistaken. The TT Walk remains the longest I ever completed. in the ensuing years, he chided me on that account, mixed in with dressing room banter about the superiority over all-comers of his beloved Sheffield United Harriers.

Thanks again to Guy Goodair. John in the hooped SUH shirt leads out a Wakefield 6 miles race in 1961.

As the years passed I followed John’s exploits with awe from afar but didn’t expect to see him again. Then, in 2016. our paths crossed unexpectedly. Trevor McDermot had invited him to be guest of honour at Yorkshire Race Walking Club’s Festival of Walking held in the picturesque village of Kirkby Fleetham. By chance, I was back in England on one of my occasional trips from Crete, racing, as you might glean, the 10 rather than the 50 kilometres. John didn’t hold it against me. As I wrote at the time,

It was a joy to see him again, humble and humorous as ever, and swap tales about the great tussles in the past between our club and Sheffield United Harriers, now sadly, only a proud name in the history of our sport. And to remember again, John’s amazing long-distance feats. For example, he once raced four 200 plus kilometre European events on successive weekends – utterly magnificent, utterly bonkers!

Thanks to Trevor McDermot for this wonderfully atmospheric photo of John

In addition, for the first time, I learned of John’s musical talents, his love of the Celtic tradition and I shared my affection for Cretan folk music and song. We joked that I must visit Sheffield for the ‘crack’ and in return, we would venture together into the Cretan mountains to ‘dance’ to the sound of the lyra

Returning to the roads I am grateful to Tim Erickson. the Australian historian of our sport, for permission to reproduce his brilliant piece on John’s outstanding career. He leans on the beautiful and moving podcast created by John’s niece, Madge O’Callaghan, which can still be listened to here.

MY UNCLE JACK

Brian Eley [18] leads John [89] at the start of what we think is the 1969 London -Brighton race, Thanks to Ron Wallwork for the Jim Comber photo.
John with Mick Hague at the Bradord 50 km Centenary. Ta to Ron Wallwork

Guy Goodair – I can remember John telling me that he never finished a Strasbourg to Paris because he was on a ‘wing and prayer’ with only one attendant and by the time he got to the Champagne region the offers of champagne refreshment were too good to resist!

Kath Crilley – So many good memories of Paddy. I only met Paddy in the early 1990s and I stand in awe of his many achievements. I am also gathering tributes toads to “Paddy’s page” on the Centurions Worldwide website. I will link to other websites to give a full picture of Paddy’s life.

Peter Fawkes – It’s worth reading the article on Paddy penned by Tim Erikson to understand fully what a great man he was. R.I.P.

Bob Dobson – One of the ALL-TIME GREATS. Happy memories.

Ray Flynn – R.I.P. John. Was a teammate on the Irish Race Walking team. He was so proud to represent the country of his birth. Proud Waterford man.

Trevor McDermot – Sad news. Such a legendary walker and personality. Our thoughts and condolences to the family. RIP John 🙁

Rob Elliott – Rest in Peace, John

Edwin Bowlah – My deepest condolences 🙏🙏to the family and friends from Trinidad.

Jim Sheehan – A great long-distance Walker and a true Gentleman may he rest in peace.

Patrick Furey – RIP John, I had the honour of accompanying him To France 🇫🇷 on many occasions back in the 1970s to participate in village race walking events As we always stayed with guest family’s he made sure he had his harmonica with him and a good time was had by all – not forgetting a bottle of POWERS for the family. He held icon status in France 🇫🇷 and was loved by all.

Thanks to Helen Elleker for this cutting from the Sheffield Star, December 24, 1996

Nathan Adams – I remember this article, it really inspired me at the time, and now. Really sad news.

Dave Turner – Saddened, to hear the news. Always, Will Remember suddenly finding myself in his company. Helping John up 30+ STEEP stairs at the entrance to Roubaix Town Hall for the presentation. Just a few hours after athletes had finished the famous gruelling international Ultra-Distance event. [I kid you not, ask any, who have been this way] I will always recall him telling me not to call him ‘Pa….’ When I asked him his thoughts about that. ‘LABEL’ – that occasionally attributed to him in reports and comments. Had met the guy at many previous Yorkshire/ Northern events so was in awe of his pedigree. He will always be remembered as a quality ultra-distance specialist – from a club that produced many Olympians/Internationals at all levels. Great, likeable guy to be in the company of and talk to. I forget the year. I was there for the experience as a ‘feeder’. Well worth doing if you get the chance or indeed at any National 100 miles event. Rest in Peace, John.

Martin Payne – I never actually met John although we chatted on the phone before my Centurion in 2015. He was very encouraging and although I knew he’d done “some long distance stuff” I had no idea just how much. He was so modest. I recall from the LWC website something that he wrote following the death of Colin Young : “May his God hold him in the hollow of his hand”. That seems entirely appropriate for John too.

Roger Mills – . Gentle on the outside,hard as nails inside! A privilege to have benefitted from his smile! Great man.

Chris Bolton – I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of Paddy Dowling. There was a close affinity between Paddy and myself. In the 1962 100 miles event Paddy and I finished together in the same time and so Paddy is Centurion 331 and I am 332. Such a bond could never be broken. I had the greatest respect and affection for Paddy; he was true sportsman. I recall that we were stride for stride at 15 miles in a Northern 20 miles Championship one year when his attendant asked if he needed a drink. I was starting to flag and asked Paddy if his attendant could find a drink for me. His answer was typical of him “there’ll be big trouble if he won’t” Paddy knew that without the drink he would beat me. After nearly sixty years I have never forgotten that moment. Incidentally, I was his attendant on the Strasbourg to Paris event. Happy memories but tinged with sadness of a truly great sportsman.

If anyone wishes to add a memory and/or photo, send to tonymtaylor@gmail.com

—————————————————————————————————————–

A TRIBUTE PAGE has been opened at johndowling.muchloved.com.

Here you can leave thoughts, images and make a donation to St. Luke’s Hospice, Sheffield.

You will also find details of a link to a live webcast of the funeral if you are not able to be there in person,

The Funeral service is at Hutcliffe Wood Crematorium on Friday 11th March 2022 at 11am

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Sam Shoebottom results plus Captain’s honour for Greg

The special Club Captain’s badge unearthed by Chris Harvey

Dave Evans reports:

Wet, wet, wet. Another race with no respite and rain throughout. The Lancashire walking club aquanauts are now used to this weather so did what they always do and that’s get stuck in and race.


Quite a few club members were unavailable with a wide assortment of difficulties including colds, COVID, family celebrations, warm weather training(!)and injury. Despite this, we had a great day including a surprise entry in the form of Martin Fisher(Redcar), one of the country’s elite centurions with many 100’s under his belt. Nice to see his wife Judy, who for many years has been a valuable supporter at walking events.

Martin Fisher a few years back at Kirkby Fleetham

To ensure a relatively short afternoon’s officiating the 11 strong field was split into two with the faster group giving the main body of 7 walkers a 4-minute start. It was no real surprise to see Martin Fisher powering up the finishing straight at the end of the first of the two out and back sections with his very efficient cadence honed through many years of practice. Martin passed the timekeeper, Eric Horwill, in 31 mins 23 some two minutes clear of Tony Bell and Martin Payne. The remaining walkers were through almost together with 5 clocking 36 minutes and some seconds. At the 5k point, Pat Evans and Andrea Lennon decided to “retire” with times of 36 minutes 47 and 44 minutes 10 respectively having given notice of their intention before the off.

The second half of the race saw Martin Fisher extend his lead followed home by Tony Bell and Martin Payne who were in a close competition right up the finishing line. The rest of the walkers were content with their times given the damp conditions and will no doubt look forward to the day when they do not finish with wet feet and everything else.

Results(10k) with 5k splits

  1. Martin Fisher 61 mins 59 (31 23/31 36)
  2. Tony Bell 65 mins 38 (33 36/32 02)
  3. Martin Payne 65 mins 53 (33 37/32 16)
  4. Phil McCullagh 71 mins 24 (36 15/35 09)
  5. Sailash Shah 72 mins 23 (36 02/36 21)
  6. Steve Wilde 72 mins 40 (36 13/36 27)
  7. Joe Hardy 72 mins 42 (36 46/35 56)
  8. Greg Smith 73 mins 53 (39 08/34 45)
  9. Roy Gunnett 74 mins 33 (36 14/38 19)

Results(5k)

  1. Pat Evans 36 mins 47
  2. Andrea Lennon 44 mins 10

Handicap results(10k)

  1. Tony Bell 59 mins 38
  2. Steve Wilde 60 mins 55
  3. Phil McCullagh 61 mins 24
  4. Sailash Shah 61 mins 38
  5. Martin Fisher 61 mins 59
  6. Martin Payne 62 mins 23
  7. Joe Hardy 62 mins 42
  8. Roy Gunnett 64 mins 03
  9. Greg Smith 65 mins 23

Chris Harvey, a former GB international, and hopefully returning to the fray, has found a rather special badge at home in his sporting war chest which was awarded many years ago to the Captain of the Lancashire Walking Club. It appears to be a one-off and Chris has asked if this could be awarded to Greg Smith this year and presented to a different individual each year thereafter. The audience at today’s event fully supported the nomination.

Chris Harvey presents the Captain’s badge to Greg Smith

The next club event is due to be held at Chorley on the 5th March. Whilst the course will be the usual one, the new changing facility will be at a local church hall, a short distance from the St Peter’s club. A notice of the race will be issued in due course with directions to the new ‘clubhouse’. Many thanks to Eric Crompton for arranging this alternative venue.

Members are reminded about the Centurions 100 at Middlesborough in August(20/21) so if you are intending to enter or support, please let us know.

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January Virtual 5 Kilometres Handicap: A Result to Make You Smile

You’ve got a 6-minute handicap. You must be jokin’! Is the flippin’ handicapper related?

That tower of strength, our respected club handicapper, Dave Evans won’t live this down in a long time. He’s pipped Greg Smith by three seconds to win January’s Virtual Handicap! Bravo, Dave!

JANUARY VIRTUAL 5 Kilometres HANDICAP

The result shows the Handicap Time, the Allowance and the Actual Time in that order.

  1. Dave Evans 27:57; 5:30; 33:27
  2. Greg Smith 28:00; 4:15; 32:15
  3. Tony Bell 28:45; 4:00; 32:45
  4. Martin Payne 29:28; 3:25; 32:53
  5. Roy Gunnett 29:38; 7:45; 37:23
  6. Pat Evans 30:19; 7:00; 37:19
  7. Tony Taylor 30:27; 0:00; 30:27
  8. Phil McCullagh 33:10; 6:30; 39:40
  9. Ian Hilditch 33:25 4:00; 37:25
  10. Stephen Wilde 33:31; 7:00; 40:31
  11. Chris Harvey 35:17; 12:45; 48:02
  12. John Pouncy 39:44; 10:00; 49:44

Marcos Bernatzki [Guest] 34:24 Actual time

Remember this is the sort of Lakeland course Dave would have been walking on

Apologies from Tony Malone and Stephen Walker struggling with illness, Glyn Jones sunning himself in Florida and a very special mention for Chris Harvey, our fastest ever 20 kilometres performer- 88:26 in 1979. Magnificent. It’s wonderful to see him out on the road after many trials and tribulations with his health.

Chris Harvey

And, a reminder that Saturday’s Sam Shoebottom 10 kilometres starts at 1.00 p.m.

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Looking Back’ards and For’ards with Sadness and Optimism

There are two elements to this post. The first part looks to the past in remembering one of the great characters of Northern race walking and athletics. Guy Goodair takes up the story.

Ken Bingley passed away last Thursday after a short illness He was 89 years old.

He was a legend at the Pontefract Park run, always manning the same spot. It became known as Ken’s Corner. He volunteered a grand total of 262 times, 228 times at Pontefract, 32 at Frickley and 2 at Nostell. He ran a total of 112 park runs, all at Pontefract.

Ken’s best race walking times were 7 miles: 60.01, 10 miles: 85.15, 20miles: 3.12.59, 20km:113.47 and 50km: 5.24.41. He was a member of Wakefield’s winning team in both the 1966 and 1967 IOM TT Walks and won medals in the Northern 10 miles from1962 to 1966, the Northern 20 miles in 1964 and 1967 and the Northern 50km in 1962.

1962 NARWA 10 miles championship

Ken was also an accomplished road and fell runner ( Three Peaks, Three Towers and numerous short fell races. Rest In Peace, Ken.

Given our club’s proud Centurions’ history, it is fitting also to include this poem scribed by the lately departed Ray Platt of Southend AC, C939. I suspect its contents resonate with all of the hardy souls, who have attempted and completed the Hundred. Deep respect to all. Thanks to Dave Ainsworth for the link.

A CENTURION STORY
By Ray Platt

The sun shone proudly from cloudless skies
Hats, sweat and sunglasses protect our eyes
We check our watches as the time nears one
For we know we walk and dare not run

One hundred miles or more or less
My legs will venture with some distress
Remember the training, remember the pain
Each strike of the foot again and again

The hours pass and my legs are strong
Lonely thoughts, lonely time are helped by song
My back held straight, tired arms are swinging
To the gentle song my head is singing

Great shock as I peer at my swollen hands
Blood congealed and congested like swollen glands
The torture and pain one suffers for glory
Will open the pages of life’s full story

The sun has gone, the moon appears
Long hours have passed since starting cheers
My thoughts travel briefly of forthcoming night
Long shadows, dark trees cast daunting a sight

Dawn, sunrise appears once again
My body sways with onslaught of pain
My lips are dry, I search for water
Without such fluid my body will falter

My legs recover by body strong
The speed increases, I march along
I search for reasons of knowing why
One hundred miles do or die.

The second part focuses on our activities on the ground over the next few weeks.

Firstly it’s not long before we reach the deadline of January 31st for submitting your times for the Virtual 5 Kilometres Handicap. The decision to include this in the Annual Handicap competition was made at the AGM. As an incentive to be involved I attach Dave’s handicap allowances. As the old saying goes, ‘can you beat the handicapper?’ This thought takes me back to an era when there were many more Open events and the need to send your entry form in advance. The form asked always for your most recent time at the distance involved. Armed with this information and having their nose to the ground the handicapper would draw up their list of allowances. Almost always handwritten this subjective but considered opinion was pinned to the door of the dressing room on the day of the race. On arrival competitors would crowd around to see how much of an allowance they had been granted – a signal for much pre-race banter!

JANUARY VIRTUAL 5 KILOMETRES HANDICAP

Tony Bell 04 00
Chris Bolton 11 15
John Crahan 07 00
Peter Crahan 08 15
Eric Crompton 14 15
Stuart Edgar 04 00
Adrian Edwards 02 00
Dave Evans 05 30
Pat Evans 07 00
Guy Goodair 11 15
Roy Gunnett 07 45
Joe Hardy 06 15
Ian Hilditch 04 00
Andrea Lennon 13 45
Dan Maskell 05 15
Tony Malone 02 30
Phil McCullagh 06 30
John Payn 14 15
Martin Payne 03 25
Irene Pike 06 45
John Pouncy 10 00
Jane Pouncy 13 00
Steve Sargent 07 15
Sailash Shah 06 55
Alf Short 07 45
Greg Smith 04 15
Tony Taylor 00 00
Ron Wallwork 16 15
Steve Walker 02 00
Stephen Wilde 07 00
Glyn Jones 06 25

Your 5km clockings to Tony at tonymtaylor@gmail.com by January 31st

SAM SHOEBOTTOM TROPHY

The Sam Shoebotton 2020. Will this finish ever be excelled?

Secondly, to much relief and anticipation, the Sam Shoebottom Trophy 10 kilometres race will go ahead on Saturday, February 5th at Simister. Roy Gunnett is to be thanked for making all the necessary arrangements. There is one very important departure from the normal. As decided at the AGM this year’s races will start at 1.00 p.m. There is some concern that members using public transport might be effected adversely by this decision. Thus latecomers will be allowed to start and will be included in the handicap results.

As ever I wish I could be with you but travel abroad has been fraught with issues, although the situation may be improving. As it is getting around on Crete is hazardous. Snow is sweeping across the landscape.The South of the island is cut off from the North. So much for warm weather training!

Crossing fingers the weather in Simister will be mild and calm with personal bests abounding.

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Remembering stalwarts of our sport, the latest is the compassionate Geoff Hunwicks

Just over a year ago we were mourning the loss of Paul Nihill, a giant of our sport. In 2021 we witnessed the deaths of other major figures, Bernard Kannenberg and Gerhard Weidner from West Germany, Vladimir Golubnichy and, easily missed, Rudy Haluza of the Essex Beagles and the USA, who finished 4th in the 1968 Olympics.

We witnessed the passing of too many stalwarts closer to home. Thanks to Dave Ainsworth for much of this information.

Mary Worth [Steyning AC]

Derek Appleton C868 [Folkestone AC]

John Barraclough C382 [Yorkshire RWC]

Fred Baker C266 [Highgate Harriers]

Fred Baker, who completed 19 Hundreds, Ta to Tim Erikson

Graham Peddle C605 [Surrey WC]

John Price C214 [Birmingham WC]

Peter Goodchild C471 [Surrey WC]

George Towers [Leicester WC]

Wally Emery [TrowbridgeAC]

Philip Prashner [Loughton AC]

Bill Garrett [Ilford AC]

John Brock [Southend AC]

Dave Stevens [Steyning AC]

Jim Ellis [Yorkshire RWC]

Andrew Fraser [Yorkshire RWC and Scotia RWC]

Andrew in the lead

Mick Elliott [Sarnia RWC]

Mick Elliott

Jack Clifton [Met Police WC]

Len Armstrong ]Redcar WC]

Derek Hayward [English Schools]

And as 2022 dawns we hear that Geoff Hunwicks has recently died.

Dave Ainsworth writes:

Race walking is mourning the loss of one of their leading members from past decades. While a hospital patient after a lengthy period of illness, Geoff Hunwicks passed away at the age of 71.


In Ilford’s colours he was part of their team – along with Roger Mills and Brian Armstrong, who won the 1968 National Junior 5 Miles Championship at Little Hulton in Salford. Geoff’s success saw him awarded a GB International vest at junior level. Success followed success and in 1975 at Southwick, Geoff was part of Ilford’s team which won the Club’s first ever Senior Walking Championship, over 10 miles, the other members being Roger Mills and late athletes Steve Gower and Lew Mockett. He was a regular competitor in Essex representative teams winning the Essex 50 Kilometres’ Championship twice in succession – 1976/77. He served as the Club’s Hon.Press Officer for a spell in the ’70s, submitting many reports to the Ilford Recorder and the long since defunct Ilford Pictorial. He participated in both running and race walking events and was active on the Club’s social scene.

Geoff leads Shaun Lightman, Ian Richards and Bob Dobson. Ta to Tony Perkins

When leaving Ilford he relocated to Weymouth where he turned out for Weymouth St.Paul’s Harriers, and held Club offices.. He was also an organiser as, along with the late Harry Callow, staged well supported races along the town’s seafront. He then emigrated to The Gambia to run “The Gambian Home For Children With Learning Difficulties”, a managerial position he held until his sad demise.

He was involved in many sports and activities. He enjoyed success as a chess player, reaching County standard and was involved in competitive league skittles, which he took most seriously, to a high level and could always hold his own at the snooker table. He also stepped out into the ballroom on a number of occasions.

Geoff goes back a long way and is fondly remembered up in Lancashire. Indeed our paths first crossed when I was spectating at the 1968 National Junior and Youth Championships, held in Little Hulton. Manchester. In the Junior 5 Roger Mills was victorious and led Ilford to the team victory, backed up by Brian Armstrong and Geoff.

The story of his work in Gambia is remarkable and moving.

Hart House, a home for children with learning difficulties and disabilities, is a “purpose built” 2 storey building (25 by 14 metres) which was completed around the summer of 2002, financed by its English C.E.O. Mr. Geoff Hunwicks, who sold his family home to move to The Gambia to live there and set up the project (which was partly financed by him for sustainability and development in the difficult years). The home is the first and only one of its kind in The Gambia, situated 20 km from the capital of Banjul and 6 km from the airport.

Geoff had over 30 years experience in this area with all ages and types of learning difficulties especially the severe/profound as well as practicing holistic massage therapy. He worked as a volunteer in Bethlehem for 2 years in a similar home.

As things stand, following Geoff’s tragic death, the home has been forced to close and it’s not clear if it will reopen.

See https://www.harthouse.net/ to keep up with further information.

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2022 FIXTURES – Living with COVID?

I know he’s from across the Pennines but here’s New Year’s inspiration from 70 years ago – the great Roland Hardy

It’s difficult, even absurd to look forward to the New Year without mentioning COVID.

Almost two years of draconian, damaging restrictions on normal life and relentless propaganda have not stopped the spread. The vaccines, it is agreed, do not prevent infection and transmission. Blaming the unvaccinated is increasingly hollow. Yet there is a sliver of hope. OMICRON is, as is the rule with virus variants, more infectious but milder. If the incredibly expensive and pointless mass testing of the healthy ceases. If the emphasis shifts to treating those, who are seriously ill for all manner of reasons. If society takes a deep breath and calms down, then there’s a goodly chance that Sam Shoebottom can be remembered in style.

A muddy, younger Tony Bell on the country welcoming the New Year in 2014

Find below the 2022 Fixture List

February 5 Sam Shoebottom 10k at Simister

March 5 Alison Trophy 15k at Chorley

April 2 Macclesfield Shield at Sutton Macclesfield

May 7 Dave Crompton Memorial Trophy 7 miles at Chorley

June 4 Dick and Zena Smith Trophy 5 & 10k at Bury AC Track

June 19 BMAF 5k at Horwich

July 2 Barnard Trophy 10k at Sutton Macclesfield

July 23 Fred Pearce Trophy Relay 3x5k at Simister

August 13 Goodwin Cup 10k at Chorley

September 3 Lambert Trophy One Hour at Bury AC Track

October 1 Albert Rigby Shield 10k at Sutton Macclesfield

November 5 LWC AGM 5k at Simister

December 3 Dick Maxwell and Xmas Handicap 5k at Simister

Hoping that the BMAF 5k at Horwich will go ahead this year

All the races are held under B category rules and start at 1.00 p.m. except the BMAF event, which is an A category championship, kicking off at 11.00 a.m. Please note the new starting time of 1.00 p.m. as agreed at the AGM

An Important Addition

As I understand the AGM agreed that a January Virtual 5k Time Trial should be added to the fixture list and this would be incorporated into the Annual Handicap Challenge,

Thus we are encouraging everyone to incorporate a 5k ‘bash’ into their January training programme and let Tony at tonymtaylor@gmail.com have your times by midnight, January 31 at the latest.

As ever Dave Evans will be the handicapper extraordinaire.

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New Year’s News – Faster Walkers have Healthier Minds!! Plus Some Blackpool Memories

In these doom-mongering times some research we can all agree with, even if we’re a touch biased! Last week I was laying the fire with some very old newspapers donated by a neighbour and at the last minute rescued this 2019 article. I wonder if our New Zealand friend, Mike Parker can shed any more light on the study, which was evidently carried out in Dunedin. Any road we can all puff out our chests, knowing we’re a clever lot! Or can we?

Harking back to our previous post, in which Ron Wallwork revisited the club’s exploits in 1957, young Chris Bolton has got in touch with this lovely anecdote.

A Happy New Year to you and thank you for the feature showing results from 1957.

It brought back many memories since it was the year I joined Lancashire Walking Club.

My first event is not featured but it was the Lancashire County One Mile Track Championship at White City. There were only two competitors, Fred Pearce and myself.   Fred won in about 8-27 and I was a minute adrift. As I crossed the line I was only partially comforted by the comment of the chief judge, Harold Willcox, “well done lad, I could see you weren’t trained.”

My next effort was the Manchester to Blackpool walk where Vic Murray’s sister was my attendant.  At Freckleton, I told her I was retiring and a lovely couple took me into their house to await my collection.  After providing me with a plate of sandwiches, a pot of tea and a bowl of hot water in which to bathe my feet it became apparent that I had been abandoned.  The only solution was to  put my shoes back on and walk the remaining twelve miles to Blackpool.  I struggled to finish in 11 hours 3 minutes, last again.

Therefore in my first two races, one at one mile and one at 51.75 miles, I finished last.  Quite a range of talent I’m sure you will agree!

Each following year, on the Blackpool Walk, a sandwich and a cup of tea awaited me at Freckleton as I passed through. Five years after my first adventure I finished fourth and on the way home I stopped at Freckleton to show my supporters the team trophy and to thank them and recognise their part in my survival.

Continuing the Blackpool theme here is a group of photos from the early 1950s. There are no details with the images so I’ve tried to make my best guess as to the dates. I think the first two are from 1952 with Percy Reading [Polytechnic Harriers] completing a hat-trick of wins with George Lamb [Lancashire WC] second. Just marvel at the crowds lining the approach to the finish at Blackpool Town Hall.

Percy Reading
George Lamb

The following two images are of the same two athletes finishing first and second respectively once more in the previous year 1951. How frustrating for George, trying I think to be the club’s first winner of this Classic event. I need to do some more homework as that sounds improbable. Certainly it looks as if George had walked himself to a standstill. Is he being given smelling salts whilst the St John’s Ambulance is at hand?!

Percy flanked by the crowds and a considerable police presence.
Georges is surrounded by all and sundry. I wonder if the attention was all that welcome?

I’ll be back next week with more odds and soda plus thoughts on the future. Have a beltin’ weekend, noisy or quiet.

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