Jim Alder

M2 JA 1

Jim Alder is one of the most successful Scottish endurance runners ever.   In the Commonwealth Games in Jamaica Jim Alder was third in the 10000m  and then followed up with marathon gold after one of the most dramatic finishes imaginable.   Leading Jim Alder to the Stadium he found that the stewards outside the arena had gone inside to have a look at the Duke of Edinburgh and as a result he over ran the entrance, Bill Adcocks who was following went in the right entrance and was ahead of Jim.   Dunky Wright shouted to Jim and got him into the stadium while Bill was on the track and Jim managed to catch him and move off to win.  Dunky Wright’s version of the finish is reported in the Minutes of the Scottish Marathon Club: “Mr Wright referred to the great confusion at the finish of the marathon in Kingston and thought that he should give his views to the Committee.   The start was at 5:30 am and that was in confusion.   The course had earlier been marked off in 5-10-15-20 miles and at the finish.   Alder, who had already run in the Six Miles and finished well, was sure that he had a good chance in the marathon.   At 21 miles he was in the lead and and on reaching the stadium he was confused  as Prince Philip arrived at about the same time and there was a security check.   Alder turned in a door too soon  and down a flight of steps.   Wright stopped him and put him on the correct trail and he re-caught Adcocks on the track.   Officially Alder covered the correct trail and Adcocks cut the trail”

As with Joe McGhee in 1954, “As all members knew Jim Alder had won for Scotland in the Empire Games Marathon and this was the third time this event had been won by this country.   As soon as the news reached here a cablegram had been sent to Jim on behalf of the Committee advising him that his victory had made him an Honorary Life Member in company with the two other winners, Duncan Wright and Joe McGhee.”

Four years later he was then second in the next Commonwealth Games  Edinburgh in 1970 in one of the fastest marathon races in history.   However you can see Jim’s story below.   I will have a resume of his career, quote from another website and then speak a bit about his biography ‘Marathon and Chips’.

“Commonwealth Games: 1966, Kingston, Jamaica.    Marathon – 11th August:   For the first time a major Games was held in the Caribbean and Jamaica had the honour of staging them.   Due to the intense heat the marathon started at 5:30 am but already it was very hot and humid.   From 20 miles the British pair of Jim Alder (Sco) and Bill Adcocks (Eng) began to draw away from the field and on the approaches to the stadium Alder opened up a lead.   Having been mis-directed, Alder found himself to be behind Adcocks  on the stadium track but luckily had enough in reserve to regain the lead and deservedly take the gold medal.”

  1. Jim Alder (Sco)   2:22:07.8;   2.   Bill Adcocks (Eng)   2:22:13;   3.   Mike Ryan   (NZ)  2:27:59

“The International Games”   The full story is on a separate page titled ‘Jim in Jamaica’


Before we start a little resume of Jim’s racing career might be in order.

1966:   Commonwealth Games:  Marathon:  first    Six Miles:  third                        1970 Commonwealth Games: Marathon: second     1969:   European Games: Marathon:  third

He set World Records for 30,000 metres in 1964 and again in 1970; in 1964 he set a World best time for two hours and in 1970 set a British Record for the two hours.

He has held every British record from 10000 metres to the Marathon.

Domestically he won the AAA’s 10 Mile Championship in 1964, Marathon in 1967 and third in the AAA’s 10000 metres in 1968.   Between 1959 and 1980 he won the 3000 metres steeplechase, 5000 metres, 10000 metres, 20 Miles and Marathon.    In Scotland he won the Cross country Championship in 1961, 1969, 1970 and 1971 and also competed in the International Cross Country Championships in 1962, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971 and 1972 (10 times in all).

And that’s just the major honours in his career!

As far as training is concerned he was a big mileage man.   He is quoted on the website www.runnerslife.co.uk as follows:

“I ran plenty of easy runs particularly the long Sunday run which consisted of 20 – 30 miles when I considered that time on your legs more important than how far you had run.   Easy runs to my mind are very important and I know that National Coaches in my day and even today refer to easy runs as ‘junk mileages’ but none of them have trained champion marathon runners!!!   I did two to three steady runs a week between March and September when in the morning I would do ten miles at between 51 and 54 minutes on an undulating course.   In comparison my best race time for 10 miles was 47:06.   As far as heart rate was concerned, all I can do is guess that it would have been around 150 – 160.   Who cares?   I was not flat out, it was simply a burn up and you have to be fit to do them without killing yourself.  

Because I worked as a bricklayer at a mental hospital 5 miles outside Morpeth my speed training was done on the roads and woodland  fields from April through to October (light nights).   The only time I was on the track was between 1964 and 1970 where I competed at least once a week including 1 x 400 metres race, 3 x 800 metres races, 3-4 x 1500 metres races and 2-3 x 2 Miles or 5000 metres races.   I never eased up for these races as I counted them as a , just a little breathless, no lasting pain or tiredness, and carried on with the hard training the next day.  

I only ever eased up for a couple of days before a major championships race.   An example of this was the 2 miles invitation race at the 1965 Gateshead Games, on ash not tartan, which I won in 8 minutes 45 seconds from Derek Ibbotson (World Record for the distance at that time was 8:32).   I had run 8 miles that morning and then worked as a bricklayer all day. 

My training changed and increased intensity from 1063 to 1969 from 100 mpw to 140 mpw (October through to March.   Then dropped to 100 – 110 mpw which seemed relatively like a piece of cake.  The week included fartlek sessions on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings over 10 or 12 miles on undulating roads  and two long runs of 15 – 17 miles.   The nearest track at that time was at Gateshead 18 miles away,  I could not drive and did not own a car until 1969.”  

This is only a small extract from a long first class article which is well written and contains real information.   I would urge you to read it in full but I will finish with a final quote from Jim:

“My view is that runners today do not race enough and they listen too much to their coaches.   They do not do Cross Country or short track races and only race to pay their bills.   Remember as I said none of us in the 1960’s had a coach and none of them, Radcliffe apart, do the mileage and hard work as we did.”

Some of my own comments written when I received copies of Jim’s biography and Ron Hill’s at the same time in late 1981, and printed in the SMC Magazine read as below.

When his biography – ‘Marathon and Chips’ by Arthur T Mckenzie – was published in 1981 it came out at the same time as the first part of Ron Hill’s story ‘The Long Hard Road’.   There were several differences but the main ones were that Jim’s life story was on sale at £1:95 for his entire life story while Ron’s was £12:50 for only half of his.   Ron’s was in hard back with lots of glossy pictures, Jim’s was paper back with eleven or twelve photographs.   These were the surface differences but Ron gave monthly mileage charts on an annual basis and at the end of the book were other details of his miles, races, training, etc while Jim did not give the readers this amount of useful detail.   Mind you, Ron gave us a lot of extraneous stuff that we weren’t basically interested in but I think that Jim sold his book too cheaply – and Ron had another – ‘To The Top And Beyond’ – out in time for Christmas the following year for another £12:50 or whatever.   Staying with Jim, his story is an inspirational read  with a lot of detail.   What follows are a couple of extracts from the penultimate chapter.


I will add to this one – I have said nothing about his major races yet.   Information so far has been collected from the internet, from Colin Shields’s history of the Scottish Cross Country Union ‘Whatever the Weather’, the centenary history of the SAAA by John Keddie, from the book “The International Games”  and from magazines such as the now defunct ‘Scotland’s Runner’ as well as the runnerslife website where the exact link for Jim is:   www.runnerslife.co.uk/Guest-Runners/Jim-Alder-MBE ..

“Training schedules are basically simple, these are basically as follows

WINTER:   Sunday 22 – 30 miles run.

                   Monday to Friday:   4.5 mile run to work in the morning and 12 miles run home at night.

                   Saturday:   Race (if a straightforward one he would run 4 miles in the morning)

SUMMER:   Sunday 22 – 30 miles run

                     Monday to Friday:   4.5 miles run to work in the morning  – but in the evening a separate schedule from the winter consisting of speed work at a different distance every day (see below)

                    Saturday: Race every distance from 400 yards upwards.

Monday to Friday Schedule:

Day One:   22 x 100 yards in 14 seconds with 15 seconds rest in between

Day Two:   Steady 12 Miles run through the woods

Day Three:   20 x 200 in 28 seconds with 200 yards in between.

Day Four: 3 Miles burn up on the roads (giving it the wellie!)

Day Five:  12 x 440 yards in 61 with half a mile jog recovery.

He would weigh himself daily and this remained constant, steady, at 9 stones 2 pounds.   Diet contained nothing fancy, anything edible and he still maintains an incredible diet.   Fluid intake was hefty and he would drink gallons of tea, on average thirty six spoonfuls of sugar every day. ”  

Jim Alder has been inducted into the Scottish Athletics Hall of Fame

Jim Alder – Marathon Career Record        

No Date Venue Position Time Winner (Club) Time
  1 22 June 1963 Glasgow (SAAA)         2 2:32:04 Ian Harris (Beith) 2:25:32
  2 30 March 1964 Beverley              5 2:23:12 Ron Hill (Bolton) 2:19:37
  3 13 June 1964 Windsor-Chiswick         4 2:17:46 Basil Heatley (Coventry Godiva) 2:13:55
  4 11 June 1966 Windsor-Chiswick         6 2:25:07 Graham Taylor (Cambridge) 2:19:04
  5 11 August 1966 Kingston (JAM-Comm)         1 2:22:08  
  6 02 October 1966 Kosice (SVK)         2 2:21:07 Gyula Toth (Hungary) 2:19:12
  7 26 August 1967 Nuneaton (AAA)         1 2:16:08  
  8 03 December 1967 Fukuoka (JAP)         5 2:14:45 Derek Clayton (Australia) 2:09:37 WR
  9 19 May 1968 Chemnitz (East Germany)         4 2:14:15 Bill Adcocks (Coventry Godiva) 2:15:32
10 27 July 1968 Cwmbran (AAA)         3 2:16:37 Tim Johnston (Portsmouth) 2:15:26
11 20 October 1968 Mexico City (Olympics)    DNF   Mamo Wolde (Ethiopia) 2:20:27
12 30 May 1969 Antwerp (BEL- ?distance)         3 2:16:35 Derek Clayton (Australia) 2:08:34
13 20 July 1969 Manchester Maxol         3 2:18:18 Ron Hill (Bolton) 2:13:42
14 21 September 1969 Athens (GRE – Euro)                                         3 2:19:06 Ron Hill (Great Britain) 2:16:48
15 16 May 1970 Edinburgh (SAAA)         1 2:17:11  
16 23 July 1970 Edinburgh (Comm)         2 2:12:04 Ron Hill (England) 2:09:28
17 13 June 1971 Manchester Maxol         6 2:15:43 Ron Hill (Bolton) 2:12:39
18 04 June 1972 Manchester Maxol    DNF   Lutz Philipp (West Germany) 2:12:50
19 05 November 1972 Blyth         1 2:19:04  
20 18 August 1973 Windsor       11 2:29:50 Bob Sercombe (Newport) 2:19:48
21 01 September 1973 Enschede (NED)         3 2:20:42 Ron Hill (Bolton) 2:18:07
22 27 October 1973 Harlow (AAA)    DNF   Ian Thompson (Luton) 2:12:40
23 15 June 1974 Chiswick       10 2:24:12 Akio Usami (Japan) 2:15:16
24 16 September 1979 Aberdeen       15 2:43:45 Graham Laing (Aberdeen) 2:21:40
25 18 October 1981 Manchester         8 2:24:32 Steve Kenyon (Salford) 2:11:54