Ian Ross: A Short Look At His Career in Athletics

If it is true that the definition of a good club man is the fact that he does what his club needs him to do is correct, then Ian Ross is an exemplar.   In fact the definition could be stretched to a good man for athletics is one who does what his sport needs him to do, then you still come up with him as a role model.   

* As a runner, he started his career as a runner and, joining Edinburgh Southern Harriers club in 1927, he ran in the National cross-country championships seven times between 1928 and 1939.   Hie also ran in the Edinburgh to Glasgow in 1931 when he was sixth on the first stage for the team that finished 10th of 17 competing, and he ran the first leg in 1931, finishing seventh of 20 teams with Edinburgh Southern being seventh.   He ran track, road and cross country for the club, and in summer ran on the track.   His performances are detailed on the previous page along with a good photograph of just some of the ‘glittering prizes’ that he won in his career.

*As an administrator, he worked his way up through the cross-country committees f club and District to join the ranks of the NCCU to become President  in season 1959-60.   The Cross-Country Union has a system where club representatives are nominated to the District Committees and then those Committees elect their representatives to the National Union.   He served his time there and deserved the Presidency when it came.   The SAAA had a different system and the members of the District Committees were elected at the AGM and then were all part of the National Association after serving their time effectively on various sub-committees and in a variety of capacities.   He became President of the SAAA in 1966.   Both associations also employed him as a team manager for district and for Scottish representative teams.

*As an official, Ian was a Grade 1 official on the track, in the Throws events and in the Jumps events.   It was unusual for all three to be maintained at Grade 1.   These also qualified him to act as a referee at sports meetings and championships.

*As a coach, Ian was Senior Coach for Middle Distance running, Senior Coach being the highest level that a coach could attain.   

Part of a Generation of officials that included such able men as Willie Carmichael, Neil Campbell, Fred Graham, Joe Walker and others he was a man who did more than his share for the sport in Scotland.   


Alex Jackson, a well-known, popular official and statistician, wrote:

Ian Ross in 4 photos. 1st one as an athlete in the 1930s. 2nd one as an Edinburgh Southern official with athletes in the 1950s. 3rd one at a club presentation night in the 1970s. 4th one some of the prizes he won as an athlete. I knew Ian as an SCCU official but not very well, yet I feel through his scrapbook I’m getting to really know him. He did a lifetime of service for Edinburgh Southern, He died in 1990 during the SCCU centenary season.”

There is a short, complementary account of Ian’s involvement in the sport at this link.

Colin Youngson (who, wearing ESH colours, won the 1975 Scottish Marathon Championship) remembers, “When I was fortunate to race for ESH between 1974 and 1981, the club was extremely successful: not only in Track and Field; but also in Cross-Country and Road Running (with Allister Hutton and John Robson often starring). Glory years! I remember Ian Ross as a well-liked, respected, kindly official and, since Alex Jackson and Ron Morrison (SCCU President from 1985-86; then SAF President; and now SAL President) have sent me photographs of Ian’s Athletics Scrapbook, it is a privilege to select several for this website and to add some comments. Ian Ross had every right to be very proud of his long association with Scottish Athletics.” 

                                                                           Ian Ross, wearing spectacles, second from left

                  Hamish Robertson, future ESH Club Secretary and, between 1972-75 and 1984-86, ESH President, in athletics kit, standing on the far right of the photo.         

Ian Ross standing in the middle, suit and spectacles

      1975, when ESH was one of the top Clubs in the UK. Standing, far left, is a very young Allister Hutton (Future London Marathon winner). On the far right, Ian Ross.

                                                                                         Some of Ian Ross’s running trophies



                                                                   Ian Ross, President of the Scottish Cross-Country Union from 1959-60

                                                         Ian Ross, President of the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association in 1966



                                                                                                                          ESH History

                                                                                                         ESH history continued

                                                                     Ian Ross, President of Edinburgh Southern Harriers from 1960-63

                                                                     Jimmy Smart, a real gentleman, was ESH President from 1971-72


Ian McKenzie, an excellent team manager, was ESH President from 1975-77. Ian Clifton, a very popular Scottish official, was ESH President from 1978-80, SCCU President from 1977-78 and SAAA President in 1986. Martin Craven, a GB and Scottish International runner, and a great team man, was ESH President from 1980-82. George Brown, another fine runner and invaluable team man, was ESH President from 1982-84. 

          Season 1978-1979: the Grand Slam (or Clean Sweep) of Autumn and Winter Scottish Cross-Country and Road Relay trophies

Ian Ross’s good friend, and fellow ESH enthusiast Ian McKenzie wrote the following tribute:

“I first got to know Ian Ross back in the early 1950s, when ESH were constructing the clubhouse at Fernieside. As a qualified carpenter/joiner, Ian was Clerk of Works on the build and was part of the team of club members involved every weekend in the construction. He was very much the driving force behind the completion by 1955.

Edinburgh Southern Harriers and Athletics played a major part in his life, initially as a good class middle distance runner and then later as an official for club and governing bodies, He attended the 1966 Commonwealth Games in Jamaica as Head of the Scottish Athletics team, and later played a part in getting the Games to Edinburgh in 1970, where he was Technical Manager.

His enthusiasm for the sport was unparalleled and remained so. Towards the end of his life, he was Honorary President of ESH, a position he greatly treasured, and he continued to attend every monthly meeting, where his knowledge and wisdom was invaluable.

Personally, I benefited greatly from his grasp of the sport. Outside of Athletics, he owned a very successful joinery business and enjoyed visits to the pub for a beer and a nip of whisky. However, Athletics was his overwhelming passion and even most of the pub visits were to meet those with a similar interest. This is only a brief insight into the person I knew and held in high esteem.”

William S Legge

William S Legge

Cheshire Tally-ho and Clydesdale Harriers

In March 1886 WS Legge ran for Clydesdale Harriers in the first Scottish Cross-Country Championships but was not selected, only ran to ‘make up numbers’ and didn’t properly finish the course coming in last of the 14 finishers. He is still recorded as the 6th counter for the Clydesdale team.

The archive searches are somewhat vague but he appears to have been born in Salford in January, 1860 to Alfred and Martha Legge. Alfred is listed as an author from Fakenham in Norfolk. They were resident in Barton Upon Irwell in 1871 and had 1 step daughter and 4 children including William and a servant. Martha was some 11 years older than Alfred. William was still living in Barton in 1881 with his parents aged 21 and is listed as a General Manger/Warehouseman. It is possible that his middle name was Stowell.

His athletic career appears to start around 1882/83 when he would have been 22/23 years old but It probably would have been earlier (further work needed here). He appeared for the Boxing Day run on 26th December 1883 with the Cheshire Tally-ho Hares and Hounds over a 16-mile course and ran 66th in the Northern Championships at Manchester Racecourse on 23rd February, 1884. He followed this up with 38th in the National at Sutton Coldfield as 3rd counter.  Later in 1884 he was 3rd in the club steeple-chase handicap off 2mins on 29th November at Bowden. He served on the Cheshire Tally-ho Committee for the season 1884-1885.

He then disappears from view. It appears that he had moved to Scotland for a while, something noted in the Cheshire Tally-ho history of 1893 ‘… who had been residing in Glasgow where he had assisted in the formation of the Clydesdale Harriers, now the leading Scotch club …’. (p67). While there is as yet no evidence that he was one of the group who founded Clydesdale Harriers at their meeting in May of 1885, he did take part in their opening run on Saturday 24th October from the Black Bull, Milngavie. The course was over 12-13 miles over the estate of the Duke of Montrose with WS Legge acting as pace-maker. However, The Athletic News has the Clydesdale Harriers running at Shandon near Helensburgh on Saturday 17th October near to where the brothers Vallance used to reside but there is no mention of Legge on this run. Attention now turns to a run on the 21st November at Bridge of Weir by the Lanarkshire Bicycle Club Harriers section which was whipped by Legge over 8 miles. JF Fergus, Captain of the LBC Harriers acted as pace and in the run in over 1 mile, Legge won.

The first Clydesdale Harriers – Edinburgh Harriers inter-club run took place on 28th November at Coltbridge with 27 from EH and 8 from CH. The course was over 8-10 miles and Legge took part listed as one of the CH team. Legge also acted as pace for the pack at the CH meeting at Half-Way House, Ibrox on Saturday 26th December coming 3rd in the run in.

Legge then made it back to England to take part in a run on 2nd January, 1886 with his Cheshire club mates but is listed interestingly as a member of Clydesdale Harriers.

Entering 1886, CH ran in a snow storm on Saturday 16th January at Chryston with Legge acting as pace over 6 miles but there was a some issue of the paper becoming obscured in the snow and the pack being unable to follow the hares. There were two members of the Lanarkshire Bicycle Club Harriers (Fisken and Sanderson) also running. On 29th January at the inter club with Edinburgh Harriers and the Lanarkshire Bicycle Club Harriers, Legge was in the ’quick pack’. There was tea at the Langholm Hotel and arrangements were made for the National at Lanark Racecourse. Legge ran again on 13th February at Rutherglen with CH.

In The Athletic News on 9th March, Legge is not named in the Clydesdale Harriers team for the inaugural Scottish Cross-Country Championships. This may have been down to the fact that as an ‘Anglo’ and as a member of another club as well as the rules being somewhat vague, only Scots and ‘first claim’ members were eligible. After the postponement of the original date of the Championships on 13th March due to snow, it eventually took place in pouring rain on Saturday 27th March. It didn’t go well. It was unfortunately rescheduled on the 27th against an International football match at Hampden and also against a backdrop of rumour and counter rumour of it having been postponed until 3rd April. This limited the potential to attract spectators. It didn’t however fail to attract bookmakers (despite the later protestations of DS Duncan). The bookies however had a lean day as few spectators turned up. While Edinburgh Harriers turned up with 11 of those originally named, Clydesdale could not muster a team, with only 5 turning up out of the original 12 plus 3 reserves.  This would have put paid to the team race. However, an ‘elegant’ solution was at hand in the shape of William S Legge. The Athletic News reported that Legge, who had only turned up to act as a judge, volunteered to run to make up the team for Clydesdale. One can only imagine the discussions that ensued while this was debated. But given that Edinburgh had a ‘Anglo’ in John WL Beck (who it must be remembered had competed only in August for Blackburn Harriers) and weighing up the potential for this ‘scratch’ team of Clydesdale to win the team race, Edinburgh clearly (graciously?) allowed Legge to run in order that Clydesdale could finish a team. Running attire was somehow cobbled together and Legge ran in order simply to finish, which he did in last place (14th). 3 failed to finish the course.  Although ……. he didn’t quite finish. When the last four ‘entered the course for the home run, seeing that any effort on their part would not affect the result of the contest, did not finish but entered to the dressing rooms by the wrong course.’ So, Clydesdale did not in fact finish a team but by general ‘acclaim’ Legge was allowed the accolade of counting team member and, one assumes, the runners up medal. There are at least 3 accounts of the race with The Glasgow Herald the most detailed, The Athletic News adding context and The Sporting Life adding some further detail (not all of it accurate). The teams dined afterwards.

It is not able to be determined for how long William Legge was in Scotland, but after the championships in March 1886 he seems to disappear until the cross country season of 1887-1888 when he was once again elected on to the committee of Cheshire Tally-ho Hares and Hounds and ran in a club race at Chelford near Alderley on 4th November, 1887. There were a few more runs including one at Norbury on 28th January. He ran in the club championships at Bowden on 4th February and finished 13th and then was selected for the Team for the National Championships on 3rd March at Manchester Racecourse. This was not to be sadly.

The Athletic News 13 March 1888


The very day that the Alderley and Wilmslow Advertiser announced the Cheshire Tally-ho Hares and Hounds team on the 2nd March for the race the next day, William Legge passed away in his 28th year.


By Hamish McD Telfer 19 Jan 2021

William Mabson Gabriel

William Mabson Gabriel
Edinburgh Harriers

William Gabriel had a short but impressive athletic career. Born in what is now Cumbria, he was a medical student at the University of Edinburgh in the very early 1880s. He ran for both Edinburgh University (his first choice on track) and Edinburgh Harriers and in addition to setting a Scottish record for 3 miles, he was also a ‘counter’ in both the Edinburgh Harriers Teams of 1886 and 1887 that won the Scottish Cross-Country Championships narrowly missing out on an individual medal by placing 4th in both races. He served as both Captain of the Club and as Club President.
William was born in Cumbria to Edward and Mary Gabriel in early January 1861 (birth registered in January). His father, originally from Bristol, was a ‘Perpetual Curate of the Church of England’ at St George’s Church, Kendal although living at Rockcliffe near Carlisle. There is some indication that his mother may have had a sight impairment from the census of 1881. He had a sister Fanny aged 3 in 1861 and a brother Ernest aged 2 in the same census year, while William is listed as 4 months (thus very early January 1861 as a birth month). They employed one nurse and two servants. Later in the 1881 census there is no longer a record of Ernest but there is a sister Ruth aged 17 in 1881 and William is listed as a Medical Student aged 20. This is in line with other records where he is listed as a doctor. There is, as yet, no record of when he matriculated at the University of Edinburgh, but the indication is that it is likely that he was in and around Edinburgh 1880 and 1881. There has been no research as yet within the university archives as to when he enrolled and when he graduated but there are records of him competing until 1887. There are no records of where he went to school. The first of his athletics experiences are recorded in 1881 aged 21 running in the One mile flat handicap and winning at the Ulster Cricket Club Athletic Sports. He also ran in the 2 miles against the legendary Snook. This would indicate some experience of athletics while still at school and also indicate a life style that allowed him to travel for meetings. 1881 would probably have been at the end of his first year as an undergraduate. His athletic career is summarised at the end of this piece. He appeared to return home at the end of July each year and played cricket.
WMG had his most productive period athletically from 1885 to 1887 as a founding member of Edinburgh Harriers in 1885, 1st captain of the club and running as part of the winning EH team at the first Scottish Cross-Country Championships in 1886. During the next cross-country season, he was again a counting member of the winning team at the second cross-country championships in 1887 and also set a Scottish 3 mile record on the track in May, 1887 at the Edinburgh Harriers Sports. He was President of the club in 1886-1887 and remained on the committee for season 1887-1888 despite not appearing to take any further practical interest in the club.
His only and perhaps peculiar contribution politically (apart from his presence on the Cross-country Championship Organising Committee for 1887) was his intervention as President of EH at what can only be described as stereotypically bad behaviour of the medical students of the club, when they disrupted a theatre performance at the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh in a fit of pique:

After leaving Edinburgh around 1887/1888, William took up residence near Carlisle where he married Mary Collinson Tully from Kirkandrews-on-Eden (only a few miles from Rockcliffe) aged 30 in July, 1889. Mary’s father was a Sea Captain so was brought up mainly by her mother.

William and his wife appear in the census of 1891 as living in Keighley aged 40 with one servant and described as a Physician and Surgeon. Mary dies in 1902 and William remarries in 1903 and then all record of him is lost until the death of a WM Gabriel, is reported in Kent in January, 1940 aged 79. It may well be that he emigrated for a period of time, but it is also clear that there is no further record of him connected to the sport after 1888. In the same way that he suddenly appears as an athlete at 21 without seemingly any athletic record, he steps away just as abruptly at 28. It appears that he had no children by either wife.
Athletics career summary
William Mabson Gabriel and the Formation of Edinburgh Harriers and Cross-Country Season 1885-1886
David Scott Duncan called a meeting n the 29th of September, 1885 to form a harrier club for Edinburgh. However, St Georges’s FC had also called a meeting for the 30th at the Richmond Hotel, Edinburgh so at the meeting of the 29th it was decided to attend the meeting of the 30th. Attendance at the meeting of the 29th was essentially between University men and other interested parties while the one on the 30th was from the football club plus those of the 29th. Both parties came together on the 30th with a decision to form the Edinburgh Harriers. William M Gabriel was one of those present. At a further meeting on Monday 5th October, office bearers were appointed and WM Gabriel was appointed the first Captain of the club. Some 100 plus names had been enrolled.
The first run was on the 17th October from the Harp Hotel, Corstorphine with WMG acting as ‘pace’ over 6miles with a half mile run in with WMG coming 2nd in the run in to DSD. Their second run was from the Morningside Volunteer Arms over 8mls (72mins) with WMG in the pack. The 3rd run was diverted from Musselburgh to Mrs Crosbie’s Inn, Levenhall, soon to be a favourite, with 13 runners and WMG in the ‘fast pack’ (Fowside Castle, Tranent to Haddington), 7.5mls. The following week (4th run) was from The Sheep head at Duddingston with 33 runners and WMG as one of the hares. An account records that one of the hares had ‘fallen lame’ and was caught half a mile from home ‘but the other just saved his skin by half a minute’. The 5th run was from Justinlees Inn at Eskbank with 14 members over 8mls and was through the grounds of the Marquis of Lothian’s Estate.
By now the club felt confident enough to have a ‘competition’ and on 21st November there was a 2 mile handicap at the Royal Gymnasium. There is no record of Gabriel in the first three so if he was present it is likely he was ‘handicapped out of it’.
The first inter-club run between two Scottish Harriers clubs was on Saturday 28th November at Corstorphine, 8 from Clydesdale Harriers and 22 from Edinburgh over 10 miles. It was on a ‘hares and hounds’ basis with ‘jumps’ but the trail was lost. A further run on 12th December from the Railway Inn at Colinton was followed by the club cross-country handicap at Musselburgh on 19th with HH Almond of Loretto as judge. WMG along with DSD were off scratch so effectively handicapped out. The final run on 26th December was poorly attended with a note that ‘the bulk of the members are out of town’.
1886 started with a ‘smoker’ at ‘headquarters’ at which 60 were present and a run from Mrs Clark’s Inn, Coltbridge on the 9th of January, but no mention of WMG. Although entered for the Club’s 5 miles cross-country handicap and given 30 secs, only 17 out of the 24 entrants turned out and no mention of WMG although he may have run if entered as a captain’s duty. WMG turned out for the run from Mrs Crosbie’s at Levenhall on the 23rd of January.
It is also likely that he ran in the return inter-club at Ibrox with Clydesdale Harriers from the Northern Cricket Club Pavillion, Ibrox but again, no mention. 14 runners from Clydesdale and 13 from Edinburgh ran plus 5 from Lanarkshire Bicycle Club Harriers over 7.5mls. There is no further mention of WMG at the run from the Sheep Head, Duddingston on 6th February or of any run on the 13th February. However, the club 10 mile championship was run on 20th February at Musselburgh. On the day, 8 competitors out of just over 20 lost the course so the race was declared void and while WMG ran, he seemed to have been handicapped out again. The team for the Scottish Championships was announced and WMG was part of that team. In the re-run on 27th February, WMG placed 6th after the handicap was applied in 1hr, 1min and 43secs.
The Scottish Cross-Country Championships were held at Lanark on 27th March after a postponement due to weather (snow) from the 13th. WMG came in 4th and was third counter behind Duncan and Jack in the Edinburgh winning team. He was almost 3 minutes behind Finlay the winner and 1minute, 30 secs behind Jack in 3rd place.
Gabriel turned out for some 13-15 runs over the cross-country season of 1885- 1886 for Edinburgh Harriers, placed 4th in the National championship and was a counter in the winning team.
Cross-Country Season 1886-1887
Edinburgh Harriers has some 21 cross-country fixtures for the season commencing on Saturday 23rd October, 1886. It is unclear whether WMG took part in either the first one at Coltbridge or the second run mid-week at Corstorphine on Thursday 28th. He was not named in any further calendar run until 26th February, 1887 when he was listed as having a 2min handicap for the club’s 10 mile cross country championship but WMG was unplaced. Prior to this however WMG was asked to serve on the Committee of Management regarding the cross-country championships for 1887. This committee was elected at a meeting immediately following the inter club with CH on December 11th at a meal at the Bridge Street Railway Hotel following the run. It is unclear whether WMG was present or had allowed his name to go forward. This was the meeting that decided on 3 qualifying runs by members in order to be selected for the championships (controversially CH would later visit Ayr with one member and declare it a CH run in order to be able to select Ayr runners).
Following his appearance at the club 10 mile cross-country champs in February 1887, WMG again appeared in a club run from Granton on 12th March while being named in the EH team for the Scottish Championships which took place on Saturday, 19th March at Hampden Park. His runs immediately prior to the championships seemingly an attempt to get his 3 counting runs in order to be eligible for selection. WMG came in 4th in the championships and was second counter for the EH team that retained the team championship. It would appear from his absence during the cross-country season that he had either graduated and was working elsewhere or that he had incurred an injury and couldn’t run, but if the latter was the case then his run in the Scottish Championships was extraordinary. He had also given up the Captaincy of the club to take on the Presidency for season 1886/1887, a role which would indicate less onerous attendance. Out of all the runs of the season he managed about 3-4 appearances but had clearly maintained a degree of fitness. At the club AGM in October, 1887, he stepped down from the Presidency of the club and allowed his name to be put forward for the committee for 1887-1888 but there are no further reports of him.

Athletics career summary – Track
Ulster Cricket Club Athletic Sports, 18th April, 1881: One mile flat h’cap, 1st winning a gilt oxidised jug. Also competed against Snook in the 2 miles off 180yds.
West of Scotland Sports Hamilton Crescent, 16th April, 1881: 880 yds collided with a competitor when ‘going well’.
Queens College Athletic Sports, 14th May, 1881: 880yds flat open h’cap – unplaced off 15yds
Edinburgh Royal High School Sports, 21st May, 1881: 880 h’cap for recognised clubs, 2nd off 15yds EUAC.
Arthurlie Sports at Barrhead, 25th June, 1881: One mile – going well but mistook the number of laps.
Edinburgh University Athletic Club Sports at Corstorphine, 2nd July, 1881: Two miles Open h’cap – 1st off 110yds. 11mins
Edinburgh Football Association Sports at Tynecastle, 11th July, 1881: 1st – 880 yds and 1st – One mile.
Buccleuch Cricket Club Sports at Granton, 16th July, 1881: 1st One mile h’cap beating David Scott Duncan.
Played cricket mid-August, 1881, Burgh v Silloth
Heart of Midlothian Sports, Edinburgh, 6th May, 1882: 880 yds Open. 1st
Watsonians Sports at Myreside, 13th May, 1882: 880yds h’cap – not placed off 7yds. ‘Not in good form’.
Edinburgh Institute Games at Warriston Park, 17th June, 1882: Open 880 yds WMG off 12yds – not placed.
Edinburgh University Bicycle Club Sports at Powderhall, 24th June, 1882: 880yds h’cap Open. 2nd off 20yds
Edinburgh University Athletic Club Sports, at Corstorphine 1st July, 1882: One Mile flat, 2nd beating David Scott Duncan into 3rd and 2 mile, Flat, h’cap, Open – 3rd (thronged with young ladies!)
Glasgow Academicals Sports at Kelvinside, 5th May, 1883: 2nd Steeplechase, Open
Scottish Amateur Athletic Association Champs. at Powderhall, 23rd June, 1883: One Mile, 2nd to DS Duncan
Edinburgh University Athletic Club Sports at Powderhall, 7th July, 1883: One Mile Flat, 2nd to DS Duncan. Time $mins 30 4/5.
St Andrews University Sports at St Andrews, 29th March, 1884: 2nd – 880yds (Universities).
Scottish Amateur Athletic Association Champs. at Powderhall, 28th June, 1884: Unplaced in both 880yds and One mile (dropped out).
Edinburgh University Cycling Club Sports at University Cricket club, 5th July, 1884: 2nd One Mile h’cap off 15yds
Edinburgh University Athletic Club Sports at Powderhall, 12th July, 1884: 2nd off scratch, 2mls h’cap, Open. WMG time for 1st mile was 4. 58. He threw up at the finish!
Scottish Amateur Athletic Association Champs. at St Mirren FC, Paisley, 27th June, 1885: Entered mile but didn’t run. 5,000 spectators
No further indication of him on the track under EUAC and didn’t compete in the EUAC Sports – left University?
Edinburgh Harriers/Liverpool Harriers Inter-club Track Meeting at Powderhall, 1st May, 1886: 2nd in the One mile, started 4mls but dropped out
Vale of Leven Sports at Alexandria, 8th May, 1886: 880yds Open h’cap – 2nd off scratch; One mile Open h’cap – 1st off scratch
Trial Races for International Cycle Tournament at Powderhall, 12th May 1886: 2nd – 880yds off 18yds (one foot race on programme)
Edinburgh Northern Bicycle Club Annual Sports at Powderhall, 15th May, 1886: 2nd – One Mile h’cap off scratch to WM Jack off 75yds.
Edinburgh Institution Games at Warriston, 21st May, 1886: 1st – 880yds Open h’cap off 16yds. Time of 2mins 8secs
1st Edinburgh Harriers Annual Sports at Powderhall, 29th May, 1886: One Mile – scratched, 1st 4mls Invitation race & winner of the McKay, Cunningham & Co Cup. 5min first lap, 10min 28secs, 16mins 2 secs and 21mins 16 3/5ths. Cup worth 15 guineas. Beat AP Finlay. Cup a tankard with figures in relief, oxidised and gilt. WMG described as ‘dead beat when finished’.
Dunfermline Cricket & Football Club Sports at Lady’s Mill Park, 5th June, 1886: 1st – 880 yds off scratch in 2mins 10secs; 2nd – One mile h’cap off scratch to winner off 60yds
Hull Athletic Club Sports at Botanic Gardens, 14th June, 1886: 880yds DNF off scratch; 3rd – One mile h’cap off scratch
Scottish Amateur Athletic Association Championships at Powderhall, 26th & 28th June, 1886: 2nd One mile (only2 entrants) and dropped out of 10 miles after 4.5 mls.
WMG seemed to return home in July and August as he is reported as playing cricket. He turned out for a select XI (Mr Blakes Team XI) against Scotby and was bowled for 5.
The Ulster Cricket Club Sports, 8th April, 1887: 1st in the 2 miles h’cap off 220 yards.
Edinburgh Northern Cycle Club Sports at Powderhall, 14th May, 1887: 5th One mile open h’cap off 30yds
Edinburgh Harriers 2nd Annual Sports at Powderhall, 28th May, 1887: 1st – Invitation 3mile flat race. 1st – 15mins. 37 2/5th secs. 6 runners. Scottish 3 mile Record (ratified in February, 1888)
Scottish Amateur Athletic Association Championships at Hampden Park, 25th June, 1887: 3rd in 4mls, unplaced/did not run in 10 miles
St George’s FC Sports at Powderhall, 30th June, 1887: One mile h’cap off 65 yds
St Bernard’s FC Athletic Sports, 16th July, 1887: 1st One mile flat h’cap – no record of him running (off 45yds)
Templepatrick Amateur Athletic Meeting, Ireland, 23rd July, 1887: 880yds Open flat race h’cap unplaced off 20yds; One mile open flat race h’cap – unplaced off 50yds
Edinburgh Harriers Prize list for 1887: Gabriel: 1st – 3; 2nd – 1 and 3rd – 2.
There is no further record of WMG either in athletics or in cricket


William Miller Carment



Edinburgh Harriers and Dollar Institution

Medallist Scottish Cross-Country Championships 1891, 1892, 1893

 Secretary Edinburgh Harriers 1892-1897

Secretary Scottish Cross-Country Union 1892-1897

 President Scottish Amateur Athletic Association 1910-1911

William Miller Carment (Bill) was born in India on 11th June 1868. The Carment family came from India to Dollar with their mother, who was widowed at some point after 1874. There were 9 children, who all attended Dollar Academy, the oldest starting in 1878. Bill’s name appears in fees and marks books for Dollar Academy (at that time Dollar Institution). He seems to have started in 1879 and took the usual subjects, including Latin. Unfortunately, the registers for this period are not complete.

There is no record of Bill as a sportsman at school and it was too early for rugby and cricket photos and neither could his name be found in any early edition of the school magazine for 1881-3 (there were reports of rugby and cricket matches and results of athletic sports). He would have been around 14/15 years of age in 1883 so perhaps not of age for a senior team. In his writing in 1902 in the later school magazine, The Dollar Magazine (founded 1902), he refers to his schooldays:

“Paper-chasing was a great favourite with us during the winter months. I know of no form of athletic exercise where the weak and the strong meet on more even terms than in paper-chasing. When neither matches nor sides are on, this fills the void and in addition tends to lessen loafing and patronising of tuckshops, of which there is a great deal too much.”

Although he claims never to have participated in school sports, he clearly enjoyed and took part in ‘paper-chasing’ which may have been something in which the boys indulged in their spare time with the tacit acceptance of the staff. This had left its mark as he joined Edinburgh Harriers in October 1888 age 20 as he worked and lived in Edinburgh prior to joining Edinburgh Harriers in 1888.

His occupation in the 1891 census is listed as Insurance Clerk (age 22) and his address is 24 Moston Terrace, Newington living with older brother David (aged 27 in 1891) and his mother (51) and 6 other siblings (Mary aged 25, Margaret 21, Joseph 20, Caroline 19, Andrew 18 and Jane 16) and one servant. It would appear therefore that William lived in Newington for his athletic career as a runner. He competed regularly, mainly in cross-country and was in the vanguard of the sport as clubs were formed. He was selected for and competed in five Scottish Cross-Country Championships for Edinburgh Harriers, achieving bronze in three successive years. His track record was less impressive except for his Ten Mile Championship run in 1892 placing second to Andrew Hannah who set a new Scottish record. He tended to compete ‘locally’ around Edinburgh rather than appear at sports meetings further afield such as Glasgow and Dundee. It was during season 1892-1893 that Bill Carment took on the dual role of Secretary of Edinburgh Harriers as well as Secretary and Treasurer of the Scottish Cross-Country Union in addition to his own running and his occupation working in insurance. This seemed to lead to health issue which came to the fore in early 1893. While there are conflicting reports of either ‘over-work’ or ‘heart strain’, the events of the 1893 Scottish Cross-Country Championship perhaps had a direct impact on him. The report of the race (below) indicates that may have been badly injured and yet still finished 3rd.

(Scottish Referee, 13 March,1893)                                                                                                                

His name doesn’t appear again until a press report in May, 1893 indicates that he had decided to take a break from running on medical grounds. He seemed to be able to step back until the following cross-country season of 1894 but then appeared to suffer one set back after another and in 1894/95 it was variously reported that he had a ‘strained tendon’, influenza and then a fall which broke a bone in his hand (he also fell in the Scottish Cross-Country Championships of 1890). He did try a comeback for the Championships of 1896 but in the event, Edinburgh only completed 5 men and he was not named in the team. This was a short (just over 5 years) but reasonably successful athletic career as a runner. By about 1893 ‘Bill’ had developed an active interest as an athletics administrator and this seemed a suitable substitute for his running. He was evidently well thought of (and connected) and he served as both secretary (1892/93, 1894-97) of Edinburgh Harriers (still living at 24 Moston Terrace, Edinburgh) and also as committee member (1894/95), his tenure with roles with Edinburgh Harriers finishing in the autumn of 1897. He was also secretary and treasurer of the Scottish Cross-Country Union from 1892 until 1897 and acted as Clerk of Course for the Scottish Junior Cross-Country Championships in 1897. He did not stand for any position after 1897 but the Scottish Cross- Country Union held a testimonial for him after the Scottish Cross-Country Championships of March 1898 where he was presented with a ‘presentational marble clock and side ornaments’ at the official function at the West End Café, Edinburgh following the race.   

In the period immediately after 1898 it is not clear what Bill Carment did in his athletic career. It is likely he maintained his interest and influence since in 1910-1911 he became President of the SAAA by then residing in Morningside. His involvement over the intervening period of 12 years is not clear however. He was also a keen former pupil and was elected President of the Dollar Academy Club in 1904.


Dollar Magazine 1910 pp40-41

WE have pleasure in noting W. M. Carment’s promotion to the Presidency

of the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association. No more loyal F.P. exists

than ” Bill” Carment, whose services to the School for many years, especially

in athletics and in the management of the Edinburgh Dollar Academy Club,

of which he is at present Secretary, have been as ungrudging as they have

been valuable and valued. The Evening Dispatch says :—


“There are few better known men in Edinburgh athletic circles than

Mr W. M. Carment, of Dollar Academy, who was on Wednesday elected

President of the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association. And he is popular

with all and highly respected. No one has an ill word to say of Mr Carment.

He has represented his old School on the Association Committee since 1902,

and all his days has been a keen follower of the running pastime. Though

there are no championships standing to his credit in the books of the S. A.A.A.

or N.C.C.U., he was, nevertheless, a very capable runner in his day, both on

the track and over country, and he was especially reliable in the latter respect.

For three years in succession in the early nineties, he ran third in the Scottish

Cross-Country Championship, and twice, in 1892 and 1893, he was club

champion of the Edinburgh Harriers. He was a miler of no mean ability.

On one occasion he was runner-up to Mr Andrew Hannah in the ten miles

flat championship, and in accepting office Mr Carment jocularly remarked

upon the fact that he was once more following in the footsteps of Mr Hannah,

though not then so far behind as he sometimes had been in years gone by.

Mr Carment was Secretary of the Cross-Country Union for a number of years,

and also of the Edinburgh Harriers’ Club. He has served a good apprenticeship,

having done splendid service to athletics in an official capacity, and will

make an excellent President.”

    By 1901 (age 32) he had moved to 23 W. Maitland Street, Haymarket as a lodger with his younger brother Joseph. In 1910, William (age 41) married Mary Alice Pearce (age 44) on 25th March. Her address is given as Joppa Road, Portobello and she appears to have been an only child looking after her widowed father Joseph who was also an Insurance Clerk. She was originally from Hatch End in Middlesex.  William’s father is listed as a Civil Engineer on the marriage certificate. At the time of his marriage William had moved again and was living at 27 Thistlestone Road, Morningside. In the 1911 census he is listed as living at 169 Dalkeith Road, Edinburgh with Mary and occupation still as an Insurance Clerk.

William died on 28th October, 1923 from ‘General Paralysis’, likely a ‘stroke’, which he appeared to have had some 2.5 years before. They were still living in Dalkeith Road. Mary died some years later on 21st March, 1931 from a cerebral haemorrhage aged 64.

Bill’s athletic career is summarised below.

Key achievements:

1891 Scottish Cross-Country Championships – 3rd individual and winning team (Edinburgh Harriers)

1891 Scottish Ten miles Track Championship -2nd

1892 Club Cross-Country Champion (Edinburgh Harriers)

1892 Scottish Cross-Country Championships – 3rd Individual and 2nd Team (Edinburgh Harriers)

1893 Club Cross-Country Champion (Edinburgh Harriers)

1893 Scottish Cross-Country Championships – 3rd Individual and 3rd team (Edinburgh Harriers)

1892- 1897 Secretary and Committee member of Edinburgh Harriers (except 1893-1894)

1892-1897 Secretary and Treasurer of the Scottish Cross- Country Union

1910-1911 President of the Scottish Amateur Athletic Association

Appendix 1 Cross-Country

Cross-Country Season 1888-1889

There is no clear record of William running over the country prior to 1888. While William may have joined Edinburgh Harriers in October, 1888, the first mention of WMC running comes on a run at Dalkeith on 10th November. He may well have appeared at the club 2 mile handicap on 24th November, but again there is no mention of him. WMC then runs from Granton over 8miles on Saturday 1st December acting as whip a fact that probably means that his credentials were established as a runner. Thereafter WMC appears in quick succession at Coltbridge on the 8th and at Musselburgh on the 15th with WMC in the fast pack in a 4 miles handicap with 2mins 45secs, coming 12th. There is no further mention of him until February 23rd 1889 although he may well have been in pack runs in the intervening 9 club runs and he may have been involved in the infamous ‘cabbage field run’ at Portobello on 2nd February. WMC ran in the club 10 mile championships (handicap) at Musselburgh on the 23rd coming 3rd and then again the week after at Craiglockhart with WMC running as pace over an 8 mile course.

William was then selected for the EH team for the Scottish Cross-Country Championships which was delayed until 23rd March and finished 19th, 7th counter for EH in a time of 60mins and 8secs just over 5 minutes behind the winner (McCann, CH). Edinburgh Harriers were 2nd Team. His season appears to have finished with this race. Some 7 runs with the club but possibly more.

 Cross-Country Season 1889-1890

As with the previous season, there are incomplete records relating to Edinburgh Harriers in the press who were reliant on club secretaries sending information. There is no record of WMC at the AGM of Edinburgh Harriers on Monday 7th October, 1889 but in all likelihood he would have attended. Neither is there a record of him at the club run from Musselburgh on 26th October. WMC acted as hare at the novice prize event at Currie on 2nd November, the course being over 6mls.  Thereafter there is no mention of him at any of the runs at Falkirk (9th), or on the 16th (no venue found); the Sheepshead, Duddingston on the 23rd; the run from Dalkeith on the 30th or a run from Pitt St Baths on 7th December (46 attended). It is unlikely he would have missed 5 consecutive runs, so the absence of his name perhaps indicates a lack of detailed information in reporting. For the club’s 4 mile handicap at Musselburgh on 14th December he was given 1min 30secs and he came in 8th with a time of 23mins and 55 1/5secs but an actual time of 25mins and 25 1/5secs, a time which placed WMC in 4TH place overall.

The first runs of 1890 saw WMC run in the Loretto Cup meeting on 4th January but only in the ‘other’ race where he came in 3rd of 12 runners. There is no mention of him the following week (11th) at Eskbank with Dalkeith Harriers but he runs at Duddingston on 18th January in the club 5mls. Handicap which started using the ‘yacht principle’ (all at once). WMC came in 7th in 28mins but with his 1min 40secs handicap, his time was 26mins and 20secs.  There is no mention of him on the 25th January at the inter-club; 1st February at Coltbridge (41 runners); 8th February at Musselburgh (first six named for the Scottish Championships named but not listed) or on 15th at the Sheepshead, Duddingston (thus again no name found for 4 runs). WMC appears again on 22nd February at the club’s 10mile handicap at Musselburgh, coming 1st in the race (getting fastest time medal) and 2nd in the handicap. Better runners competing at the SHU championships that day! This result seems to have run him into selection for the team for the Nationals. WMC runs the following week (1stMarch) at Tynecastle before the Scottish Cross-Country Championships the following week 8th March) also at Tynecastle. WMC placed 14th coming in 8th Edinburgh Harrier (although he could have placed higher as he fell) with Edinburgh coming in 2nd team. In total, WMC put in at least 7 runs out of a total of 18 known runs but again, probably competed more often.

 Cross-Country Season 1890-1891

No mention of WMC at the AGM of 7th October. 1st run was on 11th October from Portobello Pier (41 runners) in which WMC acted as whip and on the 18th from Musselburgh (Mrs Crosbie’s Inn, Levenhall) (38 runners) but no mention of WMC at either. The run on the 25th from Currie and mentions WMC running strongly in the fast pack. The run on 1st November from Duddingston (Sheepshead) attracted 51 runners but no mention of WMC. There is no mention again of WMC at the interclub on 8th November from Logie Green which involved EH, Clydesdale Harr, Edinburgh Northern Harr and Edinburgh University Hares & Hounds, 107 runners. WMC is given a handicap of 60yds for the 2 mile handicap at Powderhall on the 15th but fails to end up in the top results. The EH then meet at Craiglockhart on the 22nd where WMC acted as whip and pace and came in 2nd in the run in. At Eskbank (Annfield Inn) on the 29th for an inter-club with Edinburgh Northern and Dalkeith in which WMC ran and placed 2nd. EH then ran at Duddingston on 6th December (50 runners) and then their annual 4 mile handicap from Musselburgh on the 13th in which WMC placed 16th off 20secs. His handicap time was 25mns 45secs and actual time 25mins 5secs. The club ran from Coltbridge (Clark’s Inn) on the 20th but again no mention of WMC. The final run on the 27th was ‘open’ from Duddingston (Sheepshead Inn) 8 turned up. It is clear there is under reporting as given his handicap, WMC is clearly fit so must have been training and running relatively regularly to receive low handicaps (2 off scratch and 3 off 20secs). 5 runs in which he can be found out of 12 scheduled.

The second half of the season opened at Levenhall, Musselburgh on 3rd January. WMC acts as whip on the 10th at Dalkeith. At the club 5mls handicap on the 17th at Duddingston WMC is unplaced. Thereafter there is no mention of WMC that can be traced for the next 4 runs until 21st February at the club 10 mile handicap where WMC was off 1min 30secs indicating good fitness. He was unplaced. No mention in the following two runs and then he runs in the Scottish Cross-country Championships on 14th March at Cathkin Park. WMC runs exceptionally and comes in 3rd individual place, 2nd counter for Edinburgh who win the team championship. He was 45secs behind Hannah the winner. This appears to finish his season although there are two remaining Saturdays. It is unlikely that WMC only ran in 4 club and championship runs therefore the total runs for the cross-country season are an underestimation. 

 Cross-Country season 1891-1892

Of the 12 Saturday runs of the first half of this cross-country season, there is only one record of him running and that is the 17th October, 1891 at Levenhall, Musselburgh where he came in 1st out of 32 runners.  He will have competed more often but may well have found himself ‘handicapped out’. Out of potentially 13 runs for the second half of the season, WMC appears in reports of the 27th January at the Club 5mls handicap at Duddingston where he is 1st man in and is awarded the fastest time medal (doesn’t appear in the handicap) and then only in the Scottish Cross-Country Championships at Tynecastle on 12th March where WMC places 3rd again, narrowly losing out on silver by 1 second. The Edinburgh Harriers Team come in second in the team race and WMC is 1st counting runner. By now with more clubs and more runners it is difficult to pick up individual detail of runners.

 Cross-Country Season 1892-1893

In 13th outings up to the end of 1892, WMC is picked up in only 2 runs. The first is on 12th November at Powderhall at Edinburgh Harriers 2 miles handicap and WMC is off scratch and doesn’t make the listings. The next run is on 26th November at an inter-club with Dalkeith Harriers and WMC acts as pace and whip. In the second half of the season form January to March he runs on the first two outings of the year at Eskbank at New Year coming 2nd and then the following week at Edinburgh Harriers 5 mile handicap on the 14th where WMC led at half way but came in unplaced.  WMC then ran on 11th February at Duddingston over 7mls followed by the Edinburgh Harriers Club 10mls cross-country handicap at Musselburgh. WMC came in 1st on actual time winning the fastest time medal for a second time 58mins 46secs. His next outing at the Scottish Cross-Country Championships on 11th March was something of an ordeal. WMC, for the 3rd successive year, placed 3rd and 1st counter for the 3rd placed Edinburgh team but at some cost.

 Appendix 2 Track

Track Season 1889

WMC raced infrequently over the season and it is likely that even though he may have raced more then the detail below, his performances were relatively modest. Immediately following the end of the cross-country season WMC raced at an Edinburgh Harriers evening meeting on Monday 8th April in a 2 mile Novice Handicap off 30yds  coming 3rd (1st and 2nd were off scratch). May was productive. He ran at Watson’s College Sports on 4th May over 880yds off 32yds but did not finish probably due to Carment cut out the running at a fast pace for 600yds at a great pace’. On 11th May at Stewarts’s College Sports WMC again dropped out in a One Mile Open Handicap (off 120yds). 10 started but only 2 finished. The same again on 18th May at The Edinburgh Harriers Sports at Powderhall in a One Mile Open Handicap. ‘Carment cut out the running at a fast pace for half a mile’ off 125yds. The 3 non finishes may have contributed to his absence in June but on 4th July at the Royal High School Cricket Club Sports at Holyrood Cricket Field, WMC placed 2nd off 95 yards in a One Mile Open Handicap. WMC followed this up with 3rd at the St Bernard’s Sports on 13th July placing 3rd off 115yds after a ‘game struggle for 3rd. He disappears from reporting for the remainder of the season. It may well be that competed elsewhere as 3 finishes out of 6 races seems paltry.

Track Season 1890

There was significant under reporting for WMC this year but it may be that he competed sparingly as in the previous year. It seems that he stayed ‘local’ to Edinburgh. WMC came 2nd in the Edinburgh Harriers Sports in the One Mile Handicap on 17th May (off 80yds – 4mins 29secs) and then WMC was 1st at the Stewarts College Sports on 23rd May in the One Mile handicap off 50yds in 4mind 48secs

Track Season 1891

WMC started his track season on 2nd April, 1891 by placing 2nd in the Scottish Ten Mile Track Championship at Hampden Park. Hannah set a new Scottish record of 54mins and 18 4/5ths to Carment’s 58mins 12 4/5ths. After this date, while he may well have competed in annual sports, there is not further mention of him which probably supports the notion that he wasn’t really a track athlete.

Track Season 1892

Just 2 outings are recorded. One on 14th May at Stewarts College Sports where WMC runs off scratch in the One Mile handicap and comes 4th. The second is on 14th June at Edinburgh Harriers Sports with WMC running in a 3 mile Invitation Scratch race coming 3rd. There will have been more but reporting is minimal.


he help and assistance of the Archivist for Dollar Academy, Janet Carolan is gratefully acknowledged.




Races and Training

Arthur Newton was an amazing man altogether: having taken up running to gain publicity for a political campaign that he was involved in, he became one of the greatest ultra long distance runners in the world.  He kept on writing about the sport and training for it, many of his notions have been discredited but by no means all of them.   After the War he contributed articles on training and racing to many publications including the ‘Scots Athlete’ magazine published by Walter Ross.   The story of Newton and his training and racing partner Pete  Gavuzzi is an absorbing story of an age of running that is gone.   “Running For Their Lives: The Extraordinary Story of Britain’s Greatest Ever Distance Runners”  by Mark Whitaker is well worth a read.   We have here one of his books – Races and Training (pub. 1949) – which was scanned in by Alex Wilson.  The first half of the book is all about his racing career while the second half contains his training theories.   For instance he has sections on Marathon training, on the best age to tackle the event, on the cult of speed, on diet, on tactics and many other aspects.   Some chapters are quite short, a couple of pages, some are much longer and they can be accessed from the table of contents below.

Chapter 1 My first big race Chapter 2 My first Record Chapter 3 Ten Miles cross-country
Chapter 4 Man versus horse Chapter 5 Extending the Distance Chapter 6 Running up a mountain
Chapter 7 I ran in Scotland Chapter 8 When everything comes unstuck Chapter 9 A cheap record
Chapter 10 I earned my defeat Chapter 11 Horses versus men Chapter 12 An indoor marathon race
Chapter 13 My longest run Chapter 14 My last race Chapter 15 The way to start
Chapter 16 Mere Empty Theory or …? Chapter 17 Wha is the best athletic age? Chapter 18 Long Walks – No
Chapter 19 Genuine breathing exercises Chapter 20 Training by thermometer Chapter 21: When are you at your best?
Chapter 22 Tactics Chapter 23 Food or Fads Chapter 24 Marathon Merchants
Chapter 25 Age and the Marathon Chapter 26 All Work and no play Chapter 27 The cult of speed
Chapter 28 South Africa led the way


Races and Training: Chapter Twenty Eight



IF their governing bodies won’t do it, the athletes themselves must, like everyone else nowadays, alter their outlook and methods, for you can’t have progress without change. I learnt that lesson long ago, but our English authorities resent anything in the nature of radical change and do what they can to prevent it.

As you know, athletics suffered considerably from the war, though long-distance running came out better than most sports. Perhaps that’s because war training doesn’t need sheer sprinting ability as a rule so much as stamina and dogged endurance ; but anyway, cross-country and distance work battled through the ordeal better than many of us expected.

Ever since 1922 South Africa has been teaching athletes a lesson, yet owing to the disinclination of the authorities to accept changes, we have hardly begun to realise the value of it. There was a spate of controversy in the local press when Vic. Clapham started the Comrades’ Marathon in 1921, the 54-miles road-race across mountainous country between Maritzburg and Durban in Natal. Those who had never had actual experience of this kind of thing were apt to condemn it outright because, as they thought, it was altogether too strenuous ; but Clapham knew what he was about and stuck to his guns. After a lot of time had been wasted in useless controversy his Club told him he might organise it under their auspices provided he guaranteed that it didn’t cost them a penny and, chancing whether he lost heavily or not, he promoted the race which was destined to become famous throughout the athletic world.

It was quite unlike other races in more ways than one. In the first place the majority of competitors—yes, actually the very great majority—entered without a thought of winning or even being placed ; they knew well enough that where they were up against such a tough job honours were not overlikely to come their way.


But that didn’t matter. Everything in their experience told them that much more than average stamina was needed to cover such a distance in twelve hours, and they sent in their names with no other object than to prove to themselves (and maybe to their friends) that they were no less able than others to achieve the task set them.

By the way, two women, one a typist and the other a school-teacher, competed unofficially at different times, and both succeeded. Prizes, generously donated by the principal newspapers and other bodies, were not only on a lavish scale but were numerous, yet they were not the attraction they might have been in shorter events ; the only thing that really mattered was that a fellow should prove his ability to stand the gruelling and reach the tape as undismayed as others.

That was how nearly all of them carried on, at any rate for their first attempt. After that, many of them found that training had improved them so wonderfully that they could make a much better job of it next time without running themselves almost to a standstill, and they had another go.

Then there were a few, and I happened to be one of these, who entered intending to win, or at any rate get mighty close to it. These latter had to do even more in the way of preparation than the bulk of the field if they wanted to stand a sporting chance. You see, those who were only just sufficiently trained to ” make ” the distance in standard time (twelve hours) always arrived at the finish in considerable discomfort—if being most distressingly tired can be classed as discomfort ; anyway I know that was how I felt when still fifteen miles from the end of my first attempt. But the well-trained men were always capable of a bit more when they timed in, for they were not called upon to punish themselves so severely.

It was not only a case of building up muscles to stand the strain ; a fellow’s mind had to be developed at the same time to make sure his muscles acted according to plan ; otherwise he lost a good place or even a win solely through faulty judgment. There was one year when it was all but a dead heat between two at the finish. The second man had been creeping nearer the leader for mile after mile, but he had kept just a bit too much in hand and was finally unable to close the gap ; only a second or two more and he would have done it !

There was another occasion when the man in the lead at fifteen miles struck a bad patch, probably caused by running too fast immediately after a hearty breakfast, and one after another the second, third and fourth men went ahead and left him out of sight-behind. Although constantly losing more ground he knew time might enable him to get over his temporary trouble, and carried on for the next two hours buoyed up by this hope. Round about forty miles he began to pick up, and to such purpose that within the next ten miles he had overtaken all three ahead, finally winning


I could,, I daresay, tell you a lot about the various Comrades Marathons if I had the time, for I competed in six of them and should have run in many more had I not gone over to America for the Transcontinental Footraces. Amongst other things thev introduced a new method of training which almost at once°proved to be an advance on anything as yet tried. Men were told that for rnarathon work they should ignore speed almost entirely and do nothing more than train six days a week until thev had mastered the art of covering considerable distances every time they went out, no matter how slowly so long as they learnt to perfect their style while actually trotting. At the same time everv possible economy in action was stressed. Joe Binks and Colonel F. A. M. Webster quickly recognised this as a valuable advance, and didn’t hesitate to say so, but ” authority ” on the whole didn’t expect or want to be taught anything by outsiders, a position still maintained.

However, those who accepted these tips and incorporated them into their work did astonishingly well : more than half a dozen South Africans ran right up against, or well into, world records, and then men in other countries began to take notice. McNamara.. the Australian, put up new world’s indoor track records for everything between thirty and hundred miles ; Hardy Ballington followed with even better times on the road, and as recently as 1948, Stanley, another Australian, won the marathon in his continent in vastly better time than had ever before been recorded there. This last man was a member of Cerutty’s marathon club (Victoria) where marathon men were carefully coached on these lines by the founder, P. W. Cerutty : and in the championship event, which Gordon Stanley won, the next seven places went to two new South Wales men and five more marathon clubsters.

When South Africa sent Hardy Ballingtou over here to snaffle a few records for his homeland, he began by cutting the London-Brighton time by one second. The former mark was too fearsome to permit of any great margin, yet Ballington could almost certainly have bettered his attempt had he been able to stay another month or so and get on with his training. You see he had hardly acclimatised himself before he had to tackle the job, and a man can always do better when he has got accustomed to new conditions.

But Ballington had no time for another London-Bright on run just then, as he had come over with intention of having a slap at the hundred miles on the Bath road as well. D’you know, even now people hardly understand bis amazing time of 13 hours 21 minutes for this distance : just think, it beat the acknowledged world TRACK record by nearly three hours—by 15 per cent! Yet Ballington had to run up and down steep hills and long ones, as well as through tens of miles of heavy traffic. Surely it stands to reason that if he could do this his training methods MUST have been altogether ahead of anything previously practised.

Well, it made Englishmen, and even Americans, sit up and think. It was obvious there wasn’t a man in either country at the moment who had any sort of hope against him at his own distance—in the London- Bright on run his nearest rival, a Canadian, was an hour behind ! Among others, Pat Dengis, the American ex-marathon champion, took the lesson to heart and applied the new methods. He didn’t believe in them and openly said so, but his training in the usual way had proved such a strain that he was warned his running days were over. As a last resource, however, he decided to try the new tactics. Within a year he had won the Portchester rnarathon, and then the Pan-American championship, the latter with half a mile to spare. Unfortunately he was killed shortly afterwards in an air-crash.

In this country V. B. Sellars, realising that our men were hopelessly undertrained for marathon running, arranged with his club, the Finchley Harriers, to promote an annual 20-miler for a start; today the Finchley 20 ” is a classic. For some time he has had in mind an annual 50-miler, and it is greatly to be hoped that he will eventually be able to stage it.

Some years ago another club, this time the South London Harriers, at the suggestion of C. G. Herniman who provided a floating trophy, also put on a 20-mile event, and found the demand for distance so widespread that it was increased to thirty miles, which was what Herniman originally intended it to be. This, too, is now a very popular annual, and has on two occasions, first by Tom Richards and then by J. T. Holden, brought new world records for the distance. When Richards put up his record over the course Cote, the Canadian, was also inside the old time, and Cote had trained for years on the same lines as Richards, the professional Peter Gavuzzi having been his tutor.

Before the war there were half a dozen South Africans who, because of Comrades’ Marathon training, could probably have filled five out of the first six places in any English marathon race, but if our men now turn to these advanced methods, as some of them undoubtedly will, England will be in a very much better position to accept a challenge. Tom Richards, who trained on these principles, put up a much better performance in the 1948 Olympic Games than any other English runner, and, but for the lapse of attention at one spot, would almost certainly have won the marathon.

Practically all the men who indulged in events of this type served in the Forces in one capacity or another, among them Vic Clapham and his five sons. The encouragement given to cross-country running in this country has now brought in many a new man who is anxious to prove his worth, and it is up to these to study the methods I have suggested. Then there are the old stagers who still compete regularly with the object of keeping themselves in good trim and at the same time offering what assistance they can to the newcomers ; they too will do well to consider the matter.

Rationing with food has of course been one of the snags we have had to put up with, and there have been others as well. If food counts for a lot, so does rest ; and I’ve known men turn out for a race with altogether insufficient sleep beforehand. On one occasion I remember a man, whom I confidently expected to find among the leaders, arrive in exhausted condition in seventh place. Knowing him quite well I asked what was wrong. He told me that if he wanted to compete he had to cut into his sleeping time in order to travel. Acting as one of the officials in the same race was one of the organisers ; travel, combined with lack of sleep, had kept him out of it altogether. Another man, the Club secretary, started off with the bunch knowing his condition was hopeless, for he had only had an hour’s sleep the previous night ; before half the distance had been covered he had the sense to pack up.

We in England don’t seem as yet to have realised that distance running provides not only a more solid foundation for training purposes than sprinting, but is every bit as popular amongst the rank and file. The number of entries in notable cross-country events greatly outnumbers as a rule that of any hundred yards or quarter-mile race. Admitted the Army and Air Force know something about it—though to my mind not enough—and make many of their men, particularly in the Air Force, get thoroughly used to cross-country work.

Well, do you see where all this is leading to ? With peace conditions returning there are hundreds of thousands of young and young-middle-aged men in better physical trim than they have ever been in their lives. They’ll have to work off their exuberant physical energy somehow, and the cross-country clubs will find there’s a bigger field than ever to be catered for. That’s what happened after the 1914-18 war and this time the effect will be even greater because of the number of men engaged and the staffer training they have undergone. All this is to the good. Not only will there be an immense fillip to athletics, but the whole nation has benefitted by the training of its manhood. Taken all round, then, the outlook was never better, and it’s up to individuals as well as clubs to make hay while the sun shines. Perhaps we shall never get such another chance.



Races and Training: Chapter Twenty Seven



I’M going to give you a knotty little problem to worry out on your own, and it’ll need all the thought you can give it. You can understand that, having been a runner, I look at athletics largely from a runner’s point of view ; but what I’m about to tell you applies not only to running but just as surely to all forms of athletics.

I’ve had many, some of them widely-known athletes, tell me that I am altogether wrong. They’re welcome to think so. It’s quite on the cards of course that I am mistaken, though that’s for you to judge after you’ve sifted the evidence, when I say that our practice at track, road and field athletics, not to mention other branches, has been based on a misconception right from the start of athletic history. Having got that off my chest you ought to be braced up for the shock, so I’ll proceed to deliver the goods. Here you are, then : I am convinced that it doesn’t help you in any way at any time to practise sheer speed, although that is what practically every athlete has been taught to do, and does ; actual racing in running, or all-out exertion in any other form of sport, should be confined solely to the competition for which you are training, and such events will be all the better if they are few and far between compared with what goes on nowadays.

Revolutionary ? Well, I suppose it is, particularly when you consider that it applies to EVERY form of sport, even sprinting.


But before you condemn it outright look into my reasons carefully and you will be in a better position to make a decision.

We’ve been brought up to regard speed as something which we lacked but which only needed practice to acquire ; a sort of “practice makes perfect ” affair ; and because the great bulk of our active exponents and teachers have been youthful—as soon as they ceased to be so they discontinued competitive athletics—no one has questioned it, and the teaching holds good today. But if you really pry into things quite a new field is opened up, so much so that an entirely different method of approach is indicated.

Man, as you’ve always understood, is a machine of sorts, no doubt a very complicated affair but he carries on like one all the same—you feed and repair a machine and it turns out energy. There may come a time when you want to work it at its utmost speed ; all that you ever learnt by experience and training has taught you that you will never get anywhere near that until you have removed every defect that is acting as a brake ; also, that to keep giving it speed trials is to keep on postponing its efficiency while consequent repairs and overhauls are undertaken. Apply all that in principle to your body and you’ve got precisely the picture I wanted to show you.

My idea of training for any form of athletics, and I followed it closely throughout my own career, is that first and foremost you should learn style ; learn at slow speed to acquire the necessary action without an atom of wasted movement so far as you can manage it, for good style and economy of action are one and the same thing. Unnecessary action is merely a persistent squandering of your abilities in so far as it consumes energy which could other­wise be used to promote speed. Which makes it evident that there’s no sense in attempting to go all out until you’ve removed such handicaps. When you’ve done so, or got anywhere near it, you will find the speed is there and doesn’t need practice ; it was there all the time but couldn’t be put into commission until every item of wasteful extravagance had been eliminated.

There’s another side to all this, too. Training at high pressure, which we seem to have thought was essential to success, must of necessity be strictly limited ; you can’t do very much of it or it’d make you stale. To guard against this trouble both books and coaches suggest a ” season,” after which you are advised to rest to give yourself a decent chance to recover. Because they encour­age you to swing too high on one side they must balance matters by curtailing exercise on the other. Both these extremes are unwise and unnecessary ; it would surely be more sensible to cut super-intensive practice down by 20 per cent, instead, and then you’d have a very different picture. If you did that you could indulge to an extent which would only be limited by the energy at your command and the time at your disposal. The mere fact that by adopting this method you can devote so much more time .and energy to preparation means that you may expect to reap a corresponding increase in ability during the same period and, the season being extended to the whole year, no loss is occasioned by the rest period.” Besides, work of this sort banishes the bugbear of staleness as well as greatly reducing any tendency to strain,’ thus adding still further to your possibilities of improvement.

Every man-jack of us, like every other animal, is born with all the speed (in embryo) he is likely to require ;  it has been built up-through all the countless centuries of our evolution.    It developed just as the body did, and always reached its maximum at full maturity.    In the case of mankind however, it has been so hampered and restricted by civilisation and its amenities—clothes, methods of travel, conditions of living and so on—that a good deal of learning is required to release even a part of what our prehistoric ancestors undoubtedly possessed.    That they were altogether faster than we are there can be no doubt, according to the Darwinian theory, for otherwise legs would not still constitute so large a part of our entire physique.

All muscles respond similarly to the same treatment and what is proved to be good practice for any one set must be good in principle for all. When you learnt to talk undue haste was always deprecated ; your teachers knew well enough that, until you had perfected the minor details, any attempt at speed was a complete waste of time. Well, that applied to the muscles of your tongue, , and of course all others act in the same way ; the sole purpose of training is that you should learn to perform detailed action in the most efficient and economical manner, whether it’s with your tongue or your limbs.

From what I’ve already said you can see that speed depends entirely on the method, efficiency and duration of training, NOT on its intensiveness, for there are no short cuts in Nature and it’s nonsense trying to look for them.

You can get a useful simile by comparing the energy deposited in your system with your assets at the bank.    In business, provided you’re constantly turning over your stock, adding a bit here and a trifle there as you go along, your bank will arrange for a considerable overdraft if a sudden demand makes it necessary.    When you’ve built up an extensive connection it will back you to any reasonable limit.    That’s what happens with your training and reserves of energy.    Steady work of the right sort will provide you with a decent margin should a call in the shape of a competition arise ;    while the man who has  unbroken  years  of such preparation to rely on can tackle with serene confidence a task which would be either highly dangerous or hopelessly impossible to a partly-trained rival.

Your aim throughout, therefore, should be to avoid all maximum effort while you work with one purpose only : a definite and sustained rise in the average pace at which you practice, for that is the whole secret of ultimate achievement. This enables you to build up considerable reserves and to add continually to them. Speed trials are worse than useless ; they merely squander all your carefully-built up vim in order to convince you that it really was there, and in so doing put the clock back for weeks with regard to your condition. Any serious competition will, for the time being, deplete your reserves and if you attempt another before they are fully restored you’ll only disappoint yourself and everyone else. Among others, Ballington, the South African, discovered this for himself with a little experimenting, and in consequence wisely refrained from entering a marathon which he might, and probably would, have won, because it came too soon after his London- Brighton record run.

You must have noticed many such mistakes in modern athletics, for competing at unduly short intervals has been thoughtlessly overdone time after time. On the other hand there are those few outstanding men who refused to be caught in the trap, and whose every appearance in public could be relied on to reach a high class of achievement. The ultimate in speed, like the limit in everything else, is abnormal, and should be resorted to only on abnormal occasions ; to over-indulge by even a trifle is to skim the cream off your condition and deprive you of the success your training has so hardly earned.

If you’ve absorbed all the above you will understand better why I decry such things as time trials ; I am convinced that they are nothing but senseless waste of time and energy. What good are they anyway ? They can’t teli you any more than the race itself could. But they can, and will, drain your reserves and do so exactly at the most inopportune time — just when you are getting ready to test your abilities in a competition. The fact that you take a test of this sort makes it look as though you knew you were working in the dark and wanted to make a trial to see that all was really going well ; as though you simply couldn’t be sure about it unless you had actual and indisputable proof. That might be good enough for children but it certainly isn’t for thinking men, for they’re expected to have developed an intellect they can rely on. If you knew you were not using the best possible methods there might be some excuse, but as you are already satisfied that your work is about as good as you can make it you’ll get exactly that result when you race — the best you are capable of with regard to your present standard of training. Time trials ! I reckon they’re one of the evil things we’ve got to learn to do without ; they’re merely a way of heaving overboard all your earnings (reserves) to bolster up your self buoyancy at the moment, stupidly squandering what you’ve saved up for racing.

Yes, I know we’ve been brought up and taught to believe in such things and in maximum speed work for practice too — in our father’s time they were recognised as well-considered and proper procedure. But our fathers had already learnt that the semi-raw meat and corrective medicines of their fathers could be improved upon, and it’s high time we learnt to improve upon what our forbears were able to teach us. There is always better to be found if we look for it ; even the ” advanced ” views I’ve stated above, as many of the old-timers would dub them, though I think they are the best obtainable at the moment, will be pruned, pared down and brought nearer perfection, and possibly you’ll be one of those who help to do it. You’ve got to realise that training, like everything else in life, never ” stays put ” ; it must always be changing with the advance of time, and it’s up to you to use your reason to learn what you can so that you may initiate such changes as you yourself progress.

I don’t expect you, or anyone, to digest all this at a single gulp ; new ideas are sometimes awkward to assimilate off-hand. But if you think these matters out on your own and apply reason and commonsense, you’re sure to find points that can be very useful in your work. Follow them up in your own way and they will lead to enhanced progress.