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AN OLD SCHOOL RUNNER


Gerry North, 74, has been a tour de force in athletics for over 50 years, and his career has seen him win the national championships in three different age categories.


Interview by Julia Armstrong G In 1958, Gerry came out of the army and that season won the


erry North was born with a love for sport and competing. A good footballer in his youth, he started running races when he was 16. “I was winning easily and I found the individual event satisfying,” he says. In 1956 he joined the services and became more serious about his running. Stan Eldon and Basil Heatley were also in the army, and Derek Ibbotson was in the RAF (for those not in the know, all three were to go on to have successful running careers in the 1950s and 1960s), so there were some strong contenders, and the forces supported their athletes, giving them the chance to train and make the best of their talents. Whilst Gerry was in the army he finished fourth in the National Junior Cross Country Championships. “That was the first sign I was good. I upped my training to twice a day while I was in the army. After eight weeks of basic training they put me straight into managing the bar in the officer’s mess, this meant I had no duties as long as I was there to serve them at lunch and dinner. It caused some jealousy, but I didn’t mind as I could then train 70 to 80 miles a week.”


Hard training is a formula for success 42 n RUNNING FREE


Gerry is a great believer in training hard to get the results. “I was a fanatic in those days, people would say to me ‘Och, you’re doing too much,’ but I was winning races.”


Northern Championships, the West Lancs, the Lancashire champs, and he won the Junior National by 63 seconds, with great runners such as Stan Eldon, Eddie Strong and Laurie Reed trailing in his wake. “I was unbeatable as a junior, (the junior age group then was up to 21 years-old),” he says. “I was a front runner; I liked to go to the front and put the boot in,” and he laments, “There are no front runners now.” Frustratingly for Gerry, that was the last year that they didn’t automatically pick the winner of the Junior National for the senior international cross country team. “I was running so well” he says, a little wistfully.


Work to train


After leaving the army Gerry worked for his father in the family restaurant. His Dad was a huge supporter of his son’s running, and his younger brother Geoff was also a class athlete and ran for GB on the track. His father gave him time to train and work so he was able to continue the pattern from his army days, and his dad went to all his races, too. At the beginning of 1962, a rumour that Gerry was thinking


of moving to London led to him being contacted by Clive Shippan from Belgrave Harriers, who invited him down for a weekend. “I ran in an inter-club race that I won easily and my wife and I made an instant decision to move to London. We


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