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29 June 2007

Not quite 65! In fact he was not even 55 when John Watterson took this picture of Alan Postlethwaite in the 2002 Castletown to Peel run but he is 60 today.

"Can to better than this with more effort". That was what Alan wrote on my school report in 1971 but nobody doubts Alan’s efforts over the years.


I hope there will be many of you  raising a glass or two to Alan Postlethwaite today as he hits an important milestone in age.   No he won’t be 50,  which is probably the age he could pass for,  but instead the age which will qualify him for a free ride on the bus,  plus a 10% discount on goods at B&Q.   With his slim figure,  youthful looks and full head of hair (blonde at that),  it is hard to believe he really will be this age. It is even more surprising considering the way he is running these days.   He is very much alive and kicking! 

Apologies for producing a rather lengthy tribute but you have to appreciate that given Alan’s age,  it would hardly be a short affair (ouch!).  Besides he’s a special athlete who deserves to be lauded. 

Running-wise I have always respected and admired Alan for his fantastic ability.   He has become the godfather of Manx athletics for middle distance running,  much in the same way that Allan Callow has in race walking over the years.   He is an inspiration to younger runners in every sense.   Since he became 40 the Northern Athletic man has set so many Veterans record on the track and road it is impossible to itemise them in one article.   He is the bench mark for fellow veteran athletes.   Match his age performances or even come close to them,  then you are running well. 

I think his better marks during his veteran years have probably involved his period in the M45 and M50 category.   Track times such as 16.40 for 5km,  34.48 for 10km and 9.54 for 3km are pretty impressive M45 times.  

I well remember racing against him just prior to his 48th birthday over that 3,000 metres at the NSC in a veterans race.   In typical Alan fashion he casually told me before the start of the race that he would be running for second place and that he wasn’t fit.   I soon discovered that this was a lie – and on a par with ‘cheque’s in the post’.   He was fit alright!  He took the pace on from the gun and I was dying a thousand deaths to just keep within 10 metres of him.   From somewhere I managed to summon up something on the last lap to outsprint him in the finishing straight to record 9.52 to his 9.54.  I was pleased with my run,   but of course I was in the younger category i.e. M40.  Alan incidentally still holds the 3km record in the M50 of 10.05.  Also he holds the 5 and 10km marks.   Some of these records still stand today. 

However, it will be on the road where he will be best known.  Trawling through his Peel to Douglas runs on the database  makes for some interesting reading.   Alan has completed the event 16 times.  He’s recorded on several occasions,  times round the 65/66 minutes and he nearly always finished in the top 6 (during the 90’s),  despite being in his mid 40’s.    I would say had Alan been 20 years younger at the time,  then he would have won this race several times.   His best time over this distance is 64.14 in 1993 (nearly 46) which is worth about 56 for 10 miles.   How good is that?   The same year he ran 57.11 in the Northern 10.  In fact he recorded 62.26 for this year’s event (only 10 miles) which was a fantastic effort when you consider he’d been out of action for months with a back injury.   He was still showing guys half his age a clean pair of heels in that race.  He has also set impressive records for the half marathon.  In the M45 age group his best time is 76.58 and for the M50 group he posted a time of 80.25.   I would venture to suggest that during this period i.e. the mid 90’s,  Alan Postlethwaite was one of the best Manx runners around, pound for pound.  

So what remains his best achievement on his running cv?   I think a trip down memory lane is required and all the way back to 1965 at that.  His pride of joy could perhaps be the fact that he was the Inter School Island Cross Country Champion as a school boy when he was in sixth form (year 13, aged 17) when he represented Ramsey Grammar.  He was also the Inter School mile champion (before metric) and could break 4.40 for the mile on grass.  This was in the days when school boys rarely trained at all.  Pretty impressive but even more so when you consider in those days he could beat the one and only Dave Cowell.  But for those who don’t know or have never met Dave then let me enlighten you. 

Dave still holds the Senior Manx records for 3, 5 and 10,000 metres and the marathon.  These records have stayed intact since 1974 and perhaps earlier,  so they have obviously stood the test of time and are good records.   However,   Possie had the measure of Dave as a teenager which illustrates how good he was as a junior.   Naturally this begs the question of how good he could have been,  had he chosen to go down that path of hard training and sacrifices etc.   Certainly the potential was all there. 

After leaving Ramsey Grammar he went to University to study Biology.   He never really kept his running going to any great extent and decided to stick with football. 

When he returned to the Island in about 1969 he began teaching Biology at St Ninians High School.   Naturally in those days he went under the name of Sir!  He played in the first team for Ayre United during the 70’s and early early 80’s before he decided to get back into the local running scene again.   It wasn’t long before he started to make an impact but by then of course he was in his late 30’s and had missed out on his best years. 

Alan like a lot of athletes has suffered with injuries over the years but he has many other interests which are quite diverse in nature and would occupy most people,  let alone runners.   Such interests and hobbies include shooting (beating in preparation for shooting),  model yachting,  making model yachts,  fishing and bird watching (the feathered variety).   Along with his wife Linda,  he also enjoys hill walking and rambling over the countryside.    He was also the treasurer of the IOM Vets for many years and was the master mind behind the Vets Newsletter in the 90’s.   The Newsletter of course has subsequently been taken over by Sarah Goldsmith – and a good job she’s doing as well.   After all it was a hard act to follow.  So you see there’s much more to Alan than meets the eye and he clearly has other talents other than running. 

An example of his laid back approach to athletics was when I recall doing a Park run up Ramsey once.   I noticed Possie alongside the lakeside with a model yacht –  I think he was in a competition.   Clearly that evening he was not interested in running (unless he was injured,  but I don’t think so) and was totally focused on the job in hand.   I don’t think there are many runners around who could resist not having an occasional glance up at the runners going by but he obviously was able to detach himself from the running and concentrate on the job in hand. 

As competitive as Alan obviously is,  he still seems to give the impression that running was just a way of keeping fit and having fun,  rather than anything too serious.   He’s achieved some splendid performances over the last 20 years and mainly on a modest diet of 3 runs a week and very rarely more than 30 miles a week and very little speed work at that.   When you compare this to some of his counterparts in the UK then you realise that his training is quite moderate.   Nevertheless his times compare well globally with runners in his age group and it would have been interesting to have seen him compete in one or two National Vets competitions for instance over the years in the 10km and half marathon distances.  However, he’s achieved a lot doing it his way and has been fairly lucky staying away from injury and that is probably why he’s still in the sport today.   Less is more sometimes.  But for someone who insists he has no track speed or can’t sprint for toffee,  he’s prod!!

uced some super times in his veteran years,  even on the track.  

So Happy Birthday Alan –  ‘Cheers to a very fine athlete and a very talented individual’.   

PS.  Please don’t make those M60 standards too high for the rest of us,  will you?

London 2004 (ML)



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