Tales of a middle distance runner, an interview with Roy Taylor

May 13, 2008

Getting posted to Truleigh Hill

(In the RAF)I was retrained on a navigational aid and we were dispersed to radar stations that had this navigational aid round the coast. We were asked to state a preference as to where to go. I wanted one near an athletic club. Truleigh Hill near Shoreham was clearly a possibility because I had been reading the AW(Athletics Weekly) avidly and I knew all about Brighton and all about their star distance runners and I felt it would be quite good to be part of that set up. So I put down Truleigh Hill and when the posting came up I was allocated Sennen Cove which is about 2 miles from Lands End and nobody else got what they had asked for so we actually revolted. The sergeant who had organised the course, we actually lobbied him to go back to the CO and sort this out because they had not got anything they had asked for. And to his credit he did and I was allocated Truleigh Hill.


My first training run with Brighton AC

I thought I had got to be pretty fit if I am going over there and so I ran 54 miles in 10 days and then went over to Moulescoomb and when I got there all of their stars were out. They used to meet at a community centre at Moulescoomb and every week the run was the same. They went up to the outer reaches of the Coldean Estate and back. It was relatively easy for about 3 miles and then an absolute tear up three miles back. I thought as we went out for the first 3 miles åThis is easyπ but as we got to the back of Coldean together, they even waited for the back markers to catch up, but coming back was like a 3 mile race. And really I just hung on for grim death. Paul Abrahams, who was a 4 mins8 university runner, sat in the changing rooms afterwards and said åYouπre pretty fitπ. I was pleased. All of their stars were there on the first night and I managed to hold on. That was the start.

The stars of Brighton AC

Hugh Foord was the main star. He was ranked 4th or 5th in the country at cross country and 6 miles on the track. There was Bert Foster who in 1954 had run 30 23 for 6 miles and 9 23 for steeple chase. There was Paul Abrahams who at that time had run 4mins 8 for a mile, there was Bruce Theurer who ran for many years for Brighton and who was probably under 31 minutes for 6 miles. There was Dick Newington who was much the same, Gordan Barnard who at that time would run about 1min 57 for 880 yards. So theyπd got a fair sprinkling of decent athletes. In the mid to late 1950πs they were a very good cross country club.

Why I joined Brighton AC

Brighton AC hadnπt yet amalgamated with Hove. It was just Brighton. And there were separate mens and womens clubs as well at that time. Hove werenπt Hove at the time, they were Southdown AC they were small. I thought to myself I could have been a star at Southdown or I could have been one of the numbers at Brighton but I would have got better races and stood a better chance of improving and I fancied being part of the bigger set up and mixing with a few stars.

Hugh Foord was the inspiration

In 1959 I ran 4 22.7 for a mile. That was 6th best in the county. I did 31 03 for 6 miles and actually got ion the national rankings. I was 93rd in the national rankings. Hugh Foord was the inspiration. We trained on Tuesday night. Hugh took Tuesday night as his easy night and we were doing6x 880 in 2 14 with 880 recovery. We were doing 12x 400 inside 70. Hugh was quite enlightened. We were doing ½ lap rest but occasionally we were doing it with 100m jog in between. That was the main session in the week but we also ran as a group on Sunday morning and we probably ran 8-10 miles. We met at Withdean and it was straight out up towards the Dyke and just in the area around the Dyke. When Hugh retired I succeeded him as the club 3 mile champion. I got down to 14 46. I had a good season in 1963 but after that it went pear shaped. I got injured and had other commitments.

On the London to Brighton relay

One year we were 8th. I still hold the club record for the 4th leg which will never be broken. That particular year I stood at Purley waiting for Hugh to arrive because Hugh did the long leg from Mitcham to Purley. I donπt think we had run too well on the first two legs but Hugh ran a blinder. You stood there waiting to take over and the course came round a right handed corner and you couldnπt see anybody until he was 100 yds away from you, and Hugh came round the corner in 3rd place. So I took over from Hugh in 3rd place and managed to get the 5 miles to Merstam with only dropping one place. That was a club record in 26 41. The Reigate Relay was just getting started. We won the first one and itπs been a top event ever since. We won the first one and I didnπt make the team, (two years later I was only in the B team) I was only just behind Ray Roseman and Tim Briault, 10th fastest lap in the Reigate relay was probably one of my better races.

My coaching successes

My biggest success was Dan Fleming who was runner up in the 1500 AAAπs youths 1500 steeplechase. Dan Fleming was a pole-vaulter and one day he came to me and said åI fancy being a steeplechaser.π He was absolutely brilliant. He trained hard, phoned me several times a week. He did everything I set him to do and he won the Southern AAAπs and he won various County schools.

This was in the 1970πs. Heπs still 2nd on the youths ranking list from that time. Another major success was Steve Skinner who was in Ovettπs time. Steve Skinner and Steve Ovett were in the same County cross country schools team together. Steve Skinner beat Steve Ovett in the Sussex schools. They then went to the National Schools and we were hoping for a place for Steve Skinner in the first three but Steve had a bad day and came 33rd. Steve Ovett came 2nd and I believe that was the only time, one of the few times that Steve Ovett and Seb Coe actually clashed together on British soil. And the only British guy who has ever beaten Ovett and Coe in the same race was a 16 year called Kirk Dumpleton who ran for my old club, Welwyn and was coached by Harry Wilson, who later went on to coach Steve Ovett.

Now I encourage newcomers to run

Now I run with a jogging group. I donπt coach but I assist, I encourage and help new people to running and when we get new people to turn up to the jogging club I tend to commit myself to try and make sure they carry on and get the benefit of regular running. That is Portslade Hedgehoppers who run in the West Sussex Fun Run League, and Iπm there every Tuesday. I run with the slower groups and encourage the newcomers to continue to run.