Hugh Answers the BMC Questionnaire

Hugh was a British Milers Club member – not only that, he was club member number one!    He still gets his membership card every year, and the number on it is significant.   Frank Horwill always had a soft spot for Hugh, partly because of his readiness to join up to the club’s ideals right at the start, but partly also because of his whole-hearted approach to racing.   The questionnaire below was completed recently as part of a comparison with one of the current crop of young BMC members.

DoB: 12-9-44

Started running at 13 (but never remember when I didn’t run)

Clubs; Victoria Park AAC , Wallasey AC, Belgrave Harriers , Sale Harriers

Personal Best Times

100yds 10.6,          220 yds 24.0,         440 yds 51.0,           880 yds 1 50.3,         ¾ mile 3 0.5,         1500m 3.45.4,          1 mile 4m 1.0,          2000 metres 5m 16.6,         2miles 8m 51.4,         3 miles 13m 52.8


Scottish Boys CC Champion 1960

Scottish Youths 880 yds Champion 1960 1961

Scottish Junior 880 yds Champion 1962 1963

Scottish Schools Mile Champion 1960 1961 1962

AAA Junior 880 yds Runner up 1962

AAA Junior 1 Mile Champion 1963

British Schools 1mile 1961 1962

Scottish 1 mile Championship runner up 1965 1967

Scottish 1500metre Championship runner up 1969

Coaches:   John Stirling Victoria Park ,John Anderson, Eddie Powell Sale Harriers

 Brief explanation how the BMC came to be?      1963 British miling at a low ebb following the Bannister/.Hewson/Ibbotson era-Frank Horwill wrote to various athletics journals and there was a response from 35 athletes and the club was born.It is detailed in Frank’s book-Obsession for Running

In 1963 can you remember what you did in your leisure time both at home and outside of the home (include exercise and anything that related to relaxing i.e. cinema, bowling etc.)?

I was always interested in sport in general and at that time I was still playing rugby a sport that I am still involved with today.   We also went to the cinema and in the prehistoric days before even discos we went to beat group dances

Can you describe what running gear you wore in those days from racing wear to training wear and footwear (no goretex, digital watches etc, costs etc)?  

This was the very early days of adidas and Puma fighting it out for the running show market before that it was just Fosters who then became Reebok who invented the ripple sole(for ross country) which predated the Nike waffle sole.   My own club Victoria Park at that time dominated in Scotland and also could take on the top English clubs (they had even won the English Cross Country team tile the first time it had left England) and they even  had a cobbler who would come down and take measurements for hand made spikes.    Trendy tracksuits were in their infancy with such makes as Copdale,Umbro and Bukta -Ron Hill was strating out to experiment with string running vests and cutaway shorts

What sort of training were you doing at Zofia’s age (17) and what frequency per week?

It was always quality before quantity trained 6 days per week  twice a day Mon-Fri.     Interval work-hill reps and steady runs-mileage probably about 50 per week even did some weights

Were you a cross country man or a track man or were you happy on either surface?

I did track road and cross country preferred track/road but did a lot of cross country –and then cross country trails were just that barbed wire fences etc .The only time I remember a cross country race being called off was during a foot and mouth epidemic

Availability of transport was not as it is today or the road infrastructure as accessible as it is at present, so how did you travel to races which were over 100 miles and more away?  

Strange but public transport was probably better in some ways  travelled to races by train or bus never really encountered any problems.   Then some clubs members got cars and we shared costs drove to races in England on a regular basis

The world records were 1-46, 3-35 for men and 2-01, 4-12 for women in 1963, did you think they would be where they are today and where do you think they will be in say, 20 years time?

Irrespective of how good you are there is always somebody coming down that road behind you who will do better-its just the way it is–not really suprised by the improvements especially with the influence of the Africans -Kenyans-Ethiopians and north Africans.   I assume that progress will continue but may well slow down

Let’s compare facilities in 1963 and now. Did they hinder you or make you more determined to succeed no matter what it took. Obviously you accepted what you had and made the best of it. Are facilities necessary for middle and long distance. (Tartan tracks etc.)?  

I don’t think not having tartan tracks hindered us in fact it may even have prevented some of the stress injuries–not sure if sophisticated facilities are required for runners -running is a natural activity and as long as you have roads, paths ,grass and hills just get on with it.   OK,  you do need to measure progress but sometimes lack of facilities is a spur to drive you on–many great sportsmen succeeded because they had to overcome this and it helped mould them

Do you think youngsters are being developed the way they should? Are we too hard or too easy in our training methods? What about present leisure time pursuits of youngsters (computers, music etc.)?

 I dont’ like the approach of “it was always better in our day” the older you get the better the sportsman you were it is easy to look back and be selective about what you remember

Its a different era now and different challenges face our young athletes–ok in athletics the watch has stopped and the unforgiving minute has been read and recorded so times tell their own story and there does seem to little progress from the Cram/Coe/Ovett era but that was a special time -a purple patch that type thing only happens every so often in sport

Probably we were naturally fitter in some respects by being used to walking/running or cycling more in your day to day activities and that gave you a base of general fitness to build on but we should not knock young people there are those who still want to succeed and we should encourage them.

What piece of advice would you give to youngsters today, firstly to those wanting to succeed and also to those who may drift away from the sport altogether? 


Were you a mileage man or a speed man or a bit of both?

A bit of both but never really a high mileage man

Did you have an athletic hero who inspired you around 1963 (could be from a past era e.g. Nurmi, Zatopek etc.)?

  No contest-Herb Elliott

Is there any special race you can remember that inspired you (either yourself or someone else)?

Rome 1960 -1500 metres –he totally destroyed the field winning by about 3 seconds also his double 880/1 mile at the 1958 Empire Games in Cardiff

Do you think you reached your athletic limit (i.e. got the best out of yourself)?

No– I set a World Age (group for a 16 year old) best for the 1 mile at Santry Stadium Dublin in 1961 4m 10.9 s and that became a bit of an albatross for me.I did reach 4m 1.0 but I had always wanted to be the first Scot to break 4 mins

You can always find excuses–injuries etc but I just didn’t reach the goal I had set myself – end of message

Did you go to university and how did that affect your athletic progress?

No I didn’t go at that point but did go later when I attended teacher training at Didsbury College Manchester. when I ran for Sale Harriers 1967-70

If you went into work (industry, office) how did that affect your athletic progress?

I started work in an insurance office and trained during my lunch hour it had to be quality work there was no time for anything else

Who do you admire today in athletics?

Paula Radcliffe

What about the state of athletics in this country. Is there any hope and what have we got to do?

There is always hope we have done it in the past  Bannister/Chataway/Ibbotson era and the Ovett/Coe/Cram/Elliot/Williamson period -the same talent is out there somewhere

What do you think about the state of the BMC at the moment. It still has the same values, but does much more now than it ever did?

  I am not really qualified to comment on that as I am no longer actively involved in the club–although I did help organise training weekends with Frank Horwill about 10 years ago and the spirit was still burning then