It’s probably fair to say that Wells City Harriers came into being as a consequence of the first London Marathon in 1981. Sunday’s cancelled race would have been the 40th edition of the classic 26.2 mile race around the Capital City and we feel for those who had been in training for the main event. Also our sympathies to those juniors who have missed out on running in the Mini-Marathon. This week’s round up looks back on how the Club came about and previous London Marathons including a shout out for who we think is the fastest Harrier at London ever. Plus links to some great tips on how to keep motivated and training during lock down from Athletics Weekly. Anyone for lifting 65kg weights?
Richard Angel, the late Arthur Vernoum & Berni Mundy after one of the early 1980's London Marathons
The early 1980s saw a running boom take place. Chris Brasher & John Disley (fellow TeamGB Olympians) were behind the first London Marathon after seeing how successful the New York Marathon had become after its inception in 1970. One local runner living in Wells, then running for Bath AC, was inspired by the idea of running the very first London. Berni Mundy ran the race and was pictured in the local newspaper the following week.
“1981 was not an era of photos and snapshots so I have very few. The one of me was at the finish of the first London and eventually led to the late Kevin Sheppard seeing it, visiting me to ask if he could train with me, and the seeds of the club were born. We both ran for Bath for some time, but eventually we got the Wells club off the ground and in no time had many of our early members turning up outside The Crown (in Wells Market Place) and of course never looked back. London became a big event in the early years for a group of us to go and run. Obviously I should have been doing the 40th this past weekend, but that’s life. Whenever it goes ahead it will still be the 40th.”
Berni, one of our Honorary Life Members, ran the race in a similar time to Angela Thomas, whilst up ahead was Clive Thomas. Clive & Angela moved to Somerset a year after that London Marathon and are well known to many of us for having been the backbone of the club for many years covering various positions on the committee but principally as Chairman and Membership Secretary during the 1990’s. Clive was also the Club’s principal coach and mentor to many of today’s Harrier coaches, as well as having been the instigator of the Street 5k Series and the Gerry Murray races that attracted top GB runners to Wells.
Clive told some of us about when he ran for Thames Valley Harriers at that London race. It was his first Marathon and he made a late decision to run it. He was a former international athlete who had run on at least three occasions at the World XC Championships in the early 1970’s so he obviously wouldn’t have been overawed by the event. By the 22 mile mark, though, just coming through the Tower of London, he was caught by the first woman Joyce Smith, who by this year was a 43 year old mother of two, but with a great pedigree of having run 1500m at the Munich Olympics of 1972 and having competed at some of the same World XC Championships as Clive. Clive had never been beaten by a woman before, so he did what many of us do, and tried to keep ahead of her – it's remarkable that he managed to keep pace with her as she was having a great run and was the first GB woman athlete to run under 2.30, with Clive finishing a stride behind. This still from the BBC coverage shows Clive, in hat, on Joyce’s shoulder as they approach the finishing line.
You can catch up with the 45 Minute highlight package of the BBC coverage of that first London Marathon 1981 on the BBC iPlayer - it’s well worth watching for any that like Marathons, but also as a time capsule from the days of funny old cars, and runners wearing some very low-tec clothing!
So, who do we think is the fastest Wells City Harrier to compete at the London Marathon? We reckon its former TeamGB athlete Adrian Marriott, now residing in Switzerland, who had an excellent run back in 2006 when he finished in 2.20.30. On the back of that performance, and others, he was selected for the GB team at the Toronto Marathon in 2007 where he achieved his pb of 2.18.57. That's some running!
We should also remember that the London Marathon day is also an opportunity for juniors from across the UK to run the London Mini-Marathon, covering the final 3 miles of the course, In its early days there used to be County teams, but nowadays there are regional teams competing against a team from each of the London Boroughs. This photo is of the 2011 South West team that included Matthew Dickinson and Oliver Fox from the Harriers (both on far right in this picture). Emily Smith also ran that year in the girls team.
Many, probably the overwhelming majority of those taking part at London are running not just to complete it, and for a time, but also to raise money for charity. Given how difficult it is to actually get into the race via the main ballot for places in fact, many runners now run using one of the Charity places and guarantee to raise huge amounts for that charity. I’m sure that many of us realise that the fundraising is actually harder in some respects than actually running the race! Club Treasurer Sharon Bowles was poised to run this year’s event, and ran a few years ago (2018) for St Johns Ambulance along with our Street 5k Race Director and fellow coach Lynne Elstob – well done to both for raising the money as well as having a great day out at London.
Whether you were trying to run sub-3, sub-4 or sub-5 everyone who takes part and completes the classic distance has months, if not years, of training behind them and for sure, running with a Club and learning from each other is a certain way to achieve your potential. Long Sunday runs are obviously a key component and I always respected the guys or girls who could run strongly over long distances even if they weren't the quickest over 5k. Former Harriers Tony Williams and the late Tony White were 2 great examples of guys who came close to 3 hours in their early 60s, whilst Terry Kingham had the ability to run at tempo to get close to that time even though he didn't often go sub-20 for 5k. In the old days those of us who ran used to gather up at the ‘W’ Tree after the race and swap stories. Good old days! (As no one else sent me a photo of the finishing line in, then you have to cope with one of me)
Now, to bring us back to the present day there’s been some interesting items on the Athletics Weekly website of late – I enjoyed watching the Jaz Sawyers interview about how she is currently training. Jaz went to Millfield School in the 6th form and was often training on the track just before our Monday junior sessions started. She’s such a lively jumper but just check out what weights she is lifting!
The Laura Muir & Jo Pavey articles are good too – lots of inspiration there for us to keep on training! And the discussion piece about the likelihood of post Covid-19 lockdown races returning as individual time trials is interesting. Maybe the Running For Time Mile races could be re-formatted to cope with social distancing?
Talking of which we hear that the Millfield track has now been re-laid! As and when we can get to train on it is another question - let's wait and see but in the meantime our senior Tuesday coach Jon James has come up with another schedule of Tuesday sessions for us over the next two months – why not try to do this quality session on your own? Click on the training tab - bottom of that webpage. Please train sensibly on your own or with family members only until the lockdown restrictions are eased.
STOP PRESS: We have updated the previous Butleigh report here to include Pete Wright's memories of the early days - take a look....