Its been a few weeks since I’ve published any old photograghs but as I’m about to wrap up the London Marathon coverage I thought it might be a good time to publish some of the photos I took the first time I attended the London Marathon in 1983 and tell you the stories behind them. I had been competing in a 50km walking race at York the day before but had booked an overnight train to London so that I could support my friends Chris Richard, Martin Caley and Tony Conway who in the previous two years had been moved out their seats in the now demolished lounge of the Bowling Green Hotel and converted into decent runners. It remains a highlight for me that the three of the above and I won the Millennium Way Relay in 1982 before it was handicapped.
After retiring at 43km in the 50km walk (I only ever did one more), only getting a couple of hours sleep on the train and then having to wander the streets of London for a few hours from arrival at about 5 am, I thought I had made a big mistake. Then suddenly everything changed. I was walking past Charing Cross Station and the road was full of hundreds of runners converging on the station (top left). After meeting with my sister Margaid who lives in London, we travelled over to the Tower Hotel where my friends were staying and where we met Chris’s partner (now wife) Sylvia (red hair, top right). I watched the race from there at a time when they had to go round some very tight bends to cross a small swing bridge (long before they cut out the Tower section altogether they moved the run to a wider bridge slightly in from the River Thames). The atmosphere was electric even though it was cold and damp and the crowd was much smaller than now.
I think the picture on the left of the middle is of the leaders. I would guess it was Gerry Helme and Mike Gratton but I’m sure someone like Robbie Lambie or Chris Quine will correct me if I am wrong! On the right is the women’s winner Greta Waitz surrounded by male pacemakers. I think that the picture on the bottom left is of no one in particular but as there is someone in colours that look like those of Boundary Harriers, perhaps I clicked too soon (in the days when I only took photos very sparingly!). Bottom right is definitely Chris Richard with the red shorts.
No electronic timing in those days or mobile phones to convey the results and I’ll always remember the delight when Chris walked into the hotel lobby and announced that he had completed the course in 2.51. A few minutes later Martin Caley, who used to scive PE at school, arrived to tell us he had run 2.56.
Keith Callister also ran 2.56, Phil Cain and Steve Parkinson 2.59, Ian Callister 3.05, (old) Robbie Callister 3.10, Tony Conway 3.12 and Alan Poslethwaite 3.13. What is noticeable about the profile of the fastest Manx runners in 1983 was that the fastest six were all in their mid 20s. And when you consider that Chris and Martin had been running for a fairly short time it makes you think that there must be quite a few 20 somethings in the pubs of Douglas now who could run a sub 3 hour marathon if only we could persuade them – and provided they were equally motivated.
Interesting to note that Phil Cain had been the fastest Manxman the previous year with a pretty impressive 2.49.32 on the old Ballasalla course. John Comaish (London) was next fastest with 2.53.48 followed by Colin Halsall (Ballasalla) in 2.54.02. It had been a disappointing year for the two long distance runners who who dominated for several years with Steve Kelly finishing London in 2.59.13 (32 minutes outside his best) and Dave Newton, who also had a sub 2.30 PB, recording 3.11.00 in Liverpool. Graham Davies was clocked at 3.54 in Liverpool.