Dale Greig: Archive Selection

Dale Greig was one of Scotland’s best ever all round endurance runners but also one of the quietest and most modest.   When she died in 2019 she left a large archive of material dealing not just with her own career but with Scottish women’s athletics generally.   Colin Youngson has had access to this material and his first selections from it are below.

Dale was inducted into the Scottish Athletics Hall of Fame in 2018. Here is the citation from the induction:.

Dale Greig (1937-2019) is best known as a pioneering woman distance runner, who became one of the first women to run a marathon, and set the inaugural recognised IAAF women’s world best for the distance. Her first competition over the standard marathon distance of 26 miles 385 yards came during her annual holiday in the Isle of Wight in May 1964, where sympathetic officials allowed her to run a time-trial on the day of the race, starting 4 minutes ahead of the male competitors. Despite the hilly terrain, and being shadowed by an ambulance throughout the race at the insistence of the athletics authorities, she had no qualms about completing the distance. Her finishing time of 3 hours 27 minutes 45 seconds was remarkable, being recorded as an IAAF inaugural world best. (After this record marathon, Dale danced until midnight and rose early for a swim before travelling home.)

She went on to compete in the Isle of Man 40 miles race in 1971, finishing in 6:48:00. In hill running, she was the first woman to compete in and finish the Ben Nevis 10 miles mountain marathon race in Fort William. She ran in the classic London to Brighton 53 miles race, completing the arduous event in 8:30:04. She continued to compete on the track in mile races and won her 4th and final Scottish cross-country title in 1968. In 1974, she recorded her most notable international marathon success when winning the women’s World Veteran Championships in Paris in 3:45:21.

Her pioneering efforts opened the way for women throughout the world to be admitted to marathon races having ventured into unchartered territory at a time when some respected authorities still believed that running such long distances was harmful for a woman.”

In 1975, how did Dale sum up her own running career?

Dale S. Greig, Paisley, over 35 age-group category.

Has been on the run for 20 years! Four times winner of the Scottish Women’s cross-country title. Founder member of the SWCCU. First President of the Women’s International Cross-Country Union. U.K. best performance at the marathon (3 hrs 27 mins 25 secs) which was then a world record, set at Isle of Wight 1964. In 1971, ran the Isle of Man famous TT course (40 miles) a fortnight after running a marathon. In 1972, was the first woman ever to complete the ultra long distance classic London to Brighton race on the same day that Scotland’s Alastair Wood broke the course record. Winner of the first Women’s World Veteran Marathon Championship in Paris 1974.

Dale Greig’s paper archive has been kept by her neighbours (and close friends) Rosemary Kidd and her daughter Niki. I was lucky enough to visit and search for additional information about Dale. On the website Scottish Distance Running History, under ‘Elite Endurance’ is her profile. Under ‘The Veterans’, click on ‘The Scottish Veteran Harriers Club: The Beginnings, the 1970s’. Dale’s contribution is emphasised.

Brian McAusland, the SDRH webmaster, says about Dale, “She was a very good person. I liked her and, just like everyone else, got on well with her.”

I never met Dale but we exchanged several emails: her personality shone through. No wonder she achieved so much and was so popular. Here is the  Selection from her own Archive..

Colin Youngson, June 2022.

The above article (from the Paisley Daily Express on 5th July 1971) praises Dale’s recent painful marathon on the Isle of Wight and, only two weeks later, completing the tough 40 miles race on the Isle of Man. (Her 1964 inaugural Women’s World Record over the Isle of Wight course is also emphasised, as well as her invaluable committee work with the SWCCU.)

(Two interesting facts about Dale as a youngster are that: at school, she showed promise as a sprinter; and, in 1956, she won the Scottish Universities quarter mile title.)

(Very unluckily, in 1982 Dale jumped into the shallow end of a swimming pool. “They were changing the water and it was shallower than it might have been. I hit my heels on the bottom, and suffered cracked bones in my feet. I was never quite the same again.”)

In 1997, Dale remembers the experience of being the first Woman to run the London to Brighton ultramarathon in 1972 (seven years before female athletes were permitted to take part officially). She must have smiled modestly at her description above as ‘the first lady of British distance running’.

SWCCU Christmas card

A letter from the SWAAA secretary, replying to Dale about the proposed formation of the Scottish Women’s Cross Country Union. Below is Dale’s thoughtful, enthusiastic, polite reply.

 

 

 

 

Dale was SWCCU champion four times: 1960, 1962, 1964 and 1968. Her durability as an athlete was obvious: she ran for Scotland in the ICCU International event in 1957 and in 1968.  The 1968 International was held in Tunis. England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland took part as well as the United States of America. 30 athletes participated and the Scottish team did well to finish third, beating Ireland and Wales. Doreen King, who had been the 1961 SAAA One Mile champion, was first Scot in 12th, with Margaret MacSherry 13th and Scottish champion Dale Greig 14th. Good packing! Leslie Watson was fourth counter in 16th, Rosemary Stirling 17th and Sheena Fitzmaurice 19th.

Below, note that Dale Greig served the SWCCU extremely well as Committee Member, Secretary, Treasurer, President and Life Vice-President. Her Wikipedia page says: “Dale Greig’s life was dedicated to athletics, particularly to women’s running and later, veteran’s running.”

 

Note that the SWCCU has added Road Running to Cross Country. Wonder who might have pushed for that inclusion?

Dale (left) with Aileen Lusk.

Isle of Man newspapers remarked:

“A surprise entry in the 26 starters was Scots girl Dale Greig. She managed to finish the gruelling 40 miles as ‘tail-ender’ in a time of 6 hours 48 minutes. This is a remarkable achievement for the first-ever girl to compete in the Tourist Trophy circuit marathon.

“An unexpected runner was a lady, 34 years old Dale Greig from Paisley, who commenced the circuit one hour before the start of the race, and completed the course, undistressed, in 6 hrs 48 mins.” (Women were not allowed to race this event officially until 1982.)

(Another pioneering effort by Dale Greig was in September 1971, when she became the first Woman to complete (unofficially) in the gruelling uphill and downhill ten miles Ben Nevis Race on Britain’s highest mountain. An Aberdeen newspaper reported that “174 men and one girl” took part. 140 men finished; and Dale’s time indicates that she was faster than nine of them.)

Dale finished first Woman in the inaugural World Veteran Marathon Championships in May 1974. The course was hilly and rough underfoot and the weather was uncomfortably hot. Scotsman Alastair Wood (Aberdeen AAC) won the Men’s title. (When, in 1972, Dale became the first Woman to complete the London to Brighton 53 miles ultra-marathon, Alastair Wood won the Men’s race and broke the course record.)

As a Veteran, Dale went on to compete in ten IGAL Championships and three European Championships. For example, in 1976 she competed in the World Veterans Marathon in Coventry and finished tenth woman in 3.39.44. (IGAL stands for a German phrase which translates as ‘The Partnership of Older Long Distance Runners’ – this organisation was formed in 1968.)

 

1974-5 on 2nd March at Dalkeith:  Norma Campbell (Blaydon H) 22.12, Noreen O’Boyle (Victoria Park AAC) 23.21, Dale Greig (Paisley H 25.51), Aileen Lusk (West) 27.06, M Steel (Paisley) 27.45, R Docherty (Greenock) 28.39. (Norma Campbell was actually 46 years old.)

This 1975 race was the inaugural Scottish Women Veteran Runners Association Championship, organised by that well-known marathon and cross-country runner Dale Greig. In 1976 and 1977, this event was held at the same venue and day as the Scottish Veterans XC Championships, but over a shorter course than the men ran.)

1975-6 No SWVRA result has been found, but first Veteran in the SWCCU championships was Dale Greig, closely followed by Noreen O’Boyle.

1976-7 on 5th March at Coatbridge: Pearl Meldrum (Grangemouth) 21.15, Norma Campbell Berwick AC, 22.38 Dale Greig Paisley H 23.53, Aileen Lusk (Bishop) 24.29, E Steedman (Edin) 24.36. (The second and last result found for the SWVRA championships.) In the previously held SWCCU event on 19th February at Dumbarton, Pearl Meldrum was first Vet (and part of the winning Glasgow AC Senior team); with Dale Greig second Vet.

Not until 1984 did the SWCCU Championships include an official W35 category.

 Jack MacLean wrote, “One of the unsung pillars of the Scottish Veteran Harriers Club was Dale GreigShe worked  in Glasgow for Walter Ross in his printing  and publishing business and, as well as typing the newsletters, she did a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes. 

Along with Walter Ross, Greig was a member of the Organising Executive when the IGAL Veterans World Championships came to Glasgow in 1980. The event was supported by the city council and was a huge success with hundreds of runners from 26 countries running in the 10k and marathon races. Greig served as IGAL Assistant Secretary from 1982 to 1987.

When Walter died in April 1993, Dale wrote this eloquent, heart-felt tribute.

The Great Enthusiast

 For the first time in years, I know my telephone will not ring late tonight, previously a frequent feature of my evenings, for although I saw Walter at work every day, there would often be a late night call, an encore, an epilogue to the day’s activities; some business to discuss or just some piece of news or ‘tittle-tattle’ to impart.   The silent bell, as the day ends, speaks volumes.   More than anything it brings home to me the realisation that Walter J Ross, my long-time friend and colleague is gone, and that his voice will be heard no more.

Yet whilst mourning his death, those of us who knew him well will not lose sight of the important thing – that he did live, a life of struggle in many ways, but a life full of meaning.   He has left all who know him and associated with him the memory of a true friend for whom service was more important than success and the joy and purpose of life.   He was just 27 years old when he first published ‘The Scots Athlete’, regarded now as a great historical reference for the sport.   Just as that publication was the articulation of the young man’s vision, so the founding of the SVHC in 1970 shows he still had the same vision and vigour when he had passed his 50th birthday.   He had stayed the distance.

 Walter was one of those mortals who never grows old.   He retained that youthful enthusiasm, competitive spirit and robustness of purpose that was an inspiration to us all.   His running activities took him all over the world, and when he wasn’t competing in races he was ‘running’ them (!), the most notable being the World IGAL championships (10K and Marathon) which he brought to Glasgow in 1980.

 “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm” (Emerson) was a bye-line that ‘The Scots Athlete’ carried for many years, Walter was enthusiasm personified in everything he tackled.   He was a great champion too of women’s struggle for advancement, particularly in sport.  

 When I helped found the Women’s Cross-Country Union in 1960, this too was Walter in the background with another of his ‘marvellous’ ideas!

 I did not expect his life to end suddenly in the way it did.   Unfortunately, death is no respecter of persons or age.   As Omar says: ‘The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on’.   It is, knowing him, a happy thought that his courage, determination and mental vigour remained undiminished to the end.   I last saw him some 36 hours before he died, when, ever the optimist, he asked me to make travel arrangements so that he could have a holiday when released from hospital!   And so, at last, farewell, dear friend.   But not to forget .. only a kind of chastened au revoir.   In spirit you are with us always!”

 

Another great enthusiast, Dale Greig, should also be remembered with admiration and affection.

          Dale is holding a small Scottish Athletics plaque, inscribed “Hall of Fame Inductee, 2018”