An interview with Chris Carter in conversation with Peter Crowhurst

May 13, 2008

On getting involved in athletics

It was through school that I took up athletics., joining Steyning Athletic Club and by joining Steyning got to know other people in the sport and through a chap called John Harmes, who was regularly beating me over 800m, joined Hove AC which in those days had just taken over the Greyhound stadium track because in 55 Withdean opened and the Brighton Athletic Club moved to Withdean.

Early success

At Steyning Grammar School I was quite good at cross country and in my very first year, the cross country race which was a handicap race, I was off first because I was only 10 ½, and I finished 4th and I thought this is brilliant. I quite like this. The following year , I was a little bit further back. I first ran in the inter schools championships for the school in 1956, 57 and got interested in running, in middle distance. I was encouraged by sports master, Bob Webster (and) it was through Bob saying if you want to carry on running, you must join the services or the police, and as I had already been turned down by the RAF because my eyesight wasnπt good enough to fly and I didnπt really want to sit around on the ground, that got me thinking. and it was only about two months before I actually finished school in 1960 that I actually applied to join the police.

Hove AC

By that time (1960) I had run a couple of times in the national schools championships, for Sussex and had run quite well in the county championships and had joined Hove AC. Hove AC was one athletic club, men and women whereas it was Brighton AC and Brighton ladies AC- two separate clubs. It wasnπt until 1966 that we amalgamated to form again two clubs because it wasnπt actually Brighton and Hove AC-it was Brighton and Hove Ladies AC and Brighton and Hove AC. It was very soon after that that they joined together.

Training by the book

For a couple of seasons I was at the Withdean coaching course at Easter where you learnt some of the rudiments about how you wanted to get on. I had a book which was the Oxford book of athletics that had loads of schedules in it. It was through that that I got to do the new fangled interval training and repetition running. I really didnπt have a coach as such. I would be advised by Bob Webster or whoever would be at the track and at Hove AC there was no specific coach that was mine. I still trained at Steyning on the grass track on the playing field at Steyning. It wasnπt really until 1963 when I was in the international team that I asked someone to coach me. That was quite an anomaly that would never happen these days. I learnt to look after myself.

A fiver for a 2 minute half mile

I left school in 1960 and for about 9 months worked in a laundry in Shoreham, and I was able to do quite a few cross country races. I had parentsπ encouragement but not the ability to take me anywhere so I got used to catching trains and doing things with other people in the club. I broke 2 mins for the first time in 1958 and I was always looking up to people like Peter Standen who had won the National Schools Championships, and used to run behind him as a junior. I ran2.05 in the Sussex Schools in 1959 and I went to the National Schools where in the heats I broke 2 mins. I remember my grandfather gave me a fiver because I broke 2 mins for the first time. In the final I came 3rd and at that stage was invited to go on a week long course at Lilleshall. That was tremendous. You were being coached by people like Geoff Dyson, and I think John Le Mesurier was there as well. That helped to crystallise the way I wanted to go.

To training on a Vespa

It was a very amateur sport, even when I was running internationally in the 1960πs. No paid athletes at all. In 1962 I was the Sussex champion, and at the end of that season, the Commonwealth Games were being held in Perth. Brighton having a newish track, there was a match, the final meeting before most of the athletes went out to Australia, and because I was Sussex Champion I got a run in the 800m and I came last, and the 5 people in front of me all went to the Common wealth Games. I wasnπt a long way last but I was last. I remember thinking to myself I am going to be as fast as you next year. That was 1962 and in fact in 1963, I not only beat them all but I ended up in the last three international matches for GB. So there was this tremendous move, I think, from 1962 when I just joined the police and ran 1 51 something. The following season I finished the season in 1 48. That was the big jump. I had just joined the police and (now) I had a Vespa, So I wasnπt cycling everywhere.

Early training schedules and partners

I never kept a training diary until I got into the international team, and thought it was a good idea and that was in 1963. I was still using one or two old books I had(for training) using that sort of principle-Interval training-which carried through When I look a back at some of my training diaries in the 60πs itπs quite frightening. You go down the track now and tell them to run 4x400m in 52 secs with a minutes recovery, they laugh at you, because they canπt run 400 m under 56 secs once. I was a big lad. I was running at about 12 stone 10. I was quite big. I was quite tall. People did not knock me about too much and I never ran much mile races. I did cross country and road races in the winter but not tremendous distances. The longest I used to train in that period in the mid 60πs was probably 7, 8 or 9 miles but it would be fairly quick. I would train on the track probably five times a week. It was all track work. It would vary from running 600πs 400πs 200πs whatever, mostly by myself although there were one or two like Ian Wilson who was a lad who came down from Scotland who was quite good and was capable of running 1 51. Lionel Barnden was another. My brother, 5 years younger than me would come over and train as well.

From Inter-club races to the Commonwealth Games

There were no leagues. It was all trophy meetings or interclub matches. Evening graded races. Club championships were an important part of the set up. We got into the pilot league of the National League in 1969. In 1965 I ran more for GB than for Hove AC. They were very proud of me. I had a lot of backing from the police. Because of the standard at which I was running I did not have any difficulty in getting time off. Whether they thought it was going to be a short term thing of a couple of years, I donπt know. I do remember that if I were to get my annual holiday, summer holiday in July, I was going to finish up using it for athletics. I used to swop it so I got two weeks off in May and then ask for time off. They would give it to me. I was always referred to as Brighton po0liceman although I ran for Hove. They like that. In 1966 with the Commonwealth Games in Jamaica and the European Champ in Budapest, I worked 11 days in 2 months. That was when I ran my fastest ever mile. That was at Withdean. The 1966 one was the only time that a 4 min mile has been run at Withdean.It was won by a chap from Rotherham called Alan Simpson I donπt know how much he got for coming down to this match but I got a fiver for coming from Hollingdean. I thought, åI hope nobody finds this out.π

A knackering run against the Czechs

I had run 1 48.7 in 1963. In 1964, I brought that down to 1 48.2. This wasnπt too bad. I think I was 2nd, 3rd fastest in the country again. Through my competition record I was still able to run international races because I had won the right races. In 1965 I ran in London in a match between England and Czechoslovakia, and I got no help from my compatriot at all and it was bloody hard work, it was very hot, and I think I came 3rd, and the first two were two Czech athletes. They both ran about 1 50 and I ran 1 51. and I was absolutely drained after that race.It was quite a hot day and It was knackering. I had to do all the work.

Second fastest in the world and a share of the British record

About 4/5 days later I went off to run for England in this match against East Germany, in East Berlin.

We had quite a good time. The team was quite good. In fact we beat the East Germans. Thatπs just to show how bad the East Germans were in the mid 60πs and how good the England team was. n this event there was a German called Jurgen May. This guy had run some very fast times. In fact it was thought he was going for the world record. The race started, it was quite a nice day, in a very small stadium in East Berlin and the East German no 2 went off like a long dog, very fast and I was hanging on at the back. When we went through the bell, the time was called out in German. I hadnπt got a clue what it was. I just kept going, kept going, and suddenly the no 2 East German started to come back and he was overtaken by Jurgen May and John Boulter. I carried on running behind these two guys and as we came round with 150 metres to go, I was catching John Boulter, and I passes John Boulter and I went down the home straight and I overtook May and beat him. I think I ran 1 46.6 .and May ran 1 46.8. This equalled Derek Johnsonπs British record. Not bad I thought. It turned out that the leader had gone through in 4, 49.8 and when Boulter went through, he spoke German, he heard him say 50.5. It really upset him because he thought it was a bit too fast. I thought how bad I felt in this type of race. I didnπt know what I was doing. I was just hanging on at the back. So that was the biggest breakthrough and that time that I ran, 1 46.6, was the second fastest time in the world that year.

My most satisfying race

My most satisfying race was winning the inter-counties championship for the 3rd time in 1968 and breaking the European record for 880yards. I knew I was in pretty good shape and it worked well. The interesting thing there is that somewhere I have a film of the last part of that race and itπs quite interesting. I finished the race and one of the track judges who was standing there was Dickie Webb who was one of the doyen of Sussed athletics along with Vic Bratley in the 1960πs. He was a track judge and in this video I finished the race and sort of collapsed in his arms 20 metres past the line.

Reporting athletics then

One of the things about athletics in the 60πs at national level and also at local level there was a tremendous amount of publicity. The local papers would have full results. There were lots of pictures Articles in papers like the Brighton and Hove Herald. And of course the other paper, The Brighton Gazette.It was a whole page of athletics. Reg Hook used to write most of it. Jack Davies used to write it back in the early 60πs. This gave athletics quite an important part of the set up in the town. Now of course you have pages and pages of the Albion and pages and pages of the Sunday league football, cricket gets a reasonable amount but there are so many other sports, and they all demand that little bit of space.

A great camaraderie in those days

There was a great camaraderie in those days. They were picked up from schools athletics and carried on into the club whereas now you can pick up people from schools athletics but if they donπt enjoy it they donπt stick with it. There was a great social side to it as well. We would raise money through jumble sales and dances. With grants and a reasonable sum from our road races there is not the need for the social fund raising which went on in those days. We used St Peters, St Martins along the Lewes Rd. There was an enjoyment there because there werenπt too many other things to do.