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“Runners these days aren’t strong enough. They break down too quickly,” he says. “I am a firm believer in strength,” he adds. Gerry puts his own strength down to an active childhood. “We walked and ran everywhere as children. We did more PE and after school we would play in the streets, so when we got into our teens our bodies were already very strong.”

Highs and lows

In 1962 Gerry triumphed in the Senior National Championships in his home town of Blackpool. “Winning the National was the highlight of my career,” he tells me. Bruce Tulloh was tipped to win, having just run a sub-four minute mile. Gerry had won the Inter-counties in Leicester, although he had been beaten in the Northern. “With 600m to go Bruce and I were together, he went and I went with him and with 200m to go I sprinted – Bruce never forgave me for that.” Sadly, in the International Cross Country at Sheffield, Gerry slipped as he rounded a corner, fell on his stomach and winded himself. When he got up to go again, he got the dreaded stitch and ended up finishing eighth in a race in which he had hoped to win. “This was my biggest disappointment.” Gerry still holds the record for the eighth stage in the famous London to Brighton road relay. “I won more domestic titles than any other athlete. On the road I ran 48 minutes for 10 miles and 1.42.11 for 20 miles. I was best on the road and cross country, but ran 29.06 for 10k on the track and 10 miles in 48.38.02 on a cinder track in the AAA’s Championships.” In 1986, with both his marriages behind him, Gerry had a

Runners these days aren’t strong enough. They break down too

quickly. We walked and ran every- where as children, so when we got to our teens our bodies were strong

found a flat, and then a job that fitted in with my training. It was with a print firm. I had a certain amount of deliveries a day and when they were all done I could finish work and train.” Gerry organised himself so that he was always finished by lunchtime. “I then made my way to the Duke of York’s track at the Chelsea Barracks for a track session, or I ran around Battersea Park. I would have already trained in the morning before work and sometimes I would train three times in a day.” But no amount of training could help him with the stitch that

he was plagued with, and in his first national championships as a senior he had to drop out. “I went off with the leaders and went too hard.” However, all was not lost, and in his second national he came 12th, which was, he says, “a good run.”

Single-minded and strong

But Gerry carried on. He recognised that to be a class athlete it took determination – and selfishness: “My running came first. It cost me two marriages. In my day we didn’t marry runners like they do now. Maybe that’s what I should have done!” Gerry’s lifelong love of running has meant he’s witnessed

trends come and go. At one point he sold Tiger shoes, for his old services pal, Stan Eldon. The shoes had very thin soles, not dissimilar to the barefoot shoes on the market today. But Gerry thinks that runners today would struggle with the shoes:


great finale to competing, winning the National Masters Championships (over 50s). “I’m the only person to have won a National Championships in three different age groups,” he says

Gerry the coach

Stopping competing didn’t stop Gerry being passionate about the sport. He has managed teams at all levels from club to international, and he has recently been deservedly nominated for an England Athletics award for services to athletics. So, I ask: What makes someone a great runner? “You have got to be determined and be prepared to sacrifice, find the time to train hard and get into a routine,” he says, then tapping his head, he adds: “But you’ve got to have it up there. That’s what really makes the difference.”


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