Excerpts from a letter Martin Thompson sent home in 1976. This is a recount of the 100 mile event. Maybe one of the greatest 100 miles of that era.
It started at 6.00am in the dark, misty and cold morning of the 25th October at the Tipton Harriers cinder track, outskirts of Birmingham in the Midlands. Entry was by invitation and restricted to twenty runners – my own selection was primarily based on my run in the London to Brighton – other than that I was the least experienced in the field. The programme did mention that I’d run only 39 long distance races (i.e. marathons or beyond).
As expected Cavin Woodward raced into the lead setting a blistering pace, covering the first mile in 5min 19sec and reaching 10 miles in 56:27. I was surprised to find myself in second place with Ron Bentley’s brother, Gordon, although a mile or so behind the leader. Woodward passed through 15 miles in 1:25:20 and 20 miles in 1:54:25. I was still in second place at 20 miles in 2:10:37 with Derek Funnell (48 years) third in 2:13:51 and Tom Reilly 4th in 2:14:40. Daybreak saw Woodward fly through the marathon in 2:31:10, 30 miles, 2:53:50, 40 miles in 3:56:18 and record a world record for 50 miles – 4:58:53.
I had shoe troubles between 20 miles and 50 miles, changing my shoes three times and finally remodelling a pair of ‘Tiger Montreal’ with a pair of scissors to allow for swelling feet. Also made a necessary pit stop to shed some ballast — consequently I was very pleased with my time at 50 miles – 5:45:20. I’d slipped to 3rd place with Alan Richards and Bill Carr both of Tipton Harriers close behind in 5:48:08. Tom O’Reilly had moved into 2nd place, 5:32:49 at 50 miles. Ron Bentley wasn’t having a good day and I later found out that he had been troubled by a groin injury before the race. His brother sustained a calf injury and was forced to retire.
I drank “Accolade” (a drink similar to Staminade) in the early stages and then switched to “Dynamo” (a glucose syrup drink) after about 35 miles. Had a few mouthfuls of creamed rice from the tin at 55 miles I sucked away on (Glucose) barley sugar. I finally ended up drinking strong hot coffee. The day was cool (around 9°C) and overcast for most of the time with a misty atmosphere in the morning.
The organisation was superb with times called and recorded for every lap (400) for all competitors. As the day progressed the spectators grew in number and in the final stages the encouragement from the crowd was terrific. Dr. John Brotherhood of the Medical Research Council had a tent set up on the infield for testing urine samples and generally kept a check on all the runners.
Cavin Woodward went on to break the World 100km best with a time of 6:25:28 and the 100 miles record was a definite possibility provided he didn’t cave in from the scorching first 50 miles. Meantime I had lost another place with Tom O’Reilly in second place and moving well and followed by Alan Richards. I remember nearing 75 miles and thinking that I felt pretty good and there was only a marathon to go. Another 10 miles and I moved into third place and actually started to pull back a few laps on the leader. Woodward was starting to battle and had to put on tracksuit pants to keep warm. At 90 miles I thought I might be able to hang on for 3rd place but a couple of miles later I started to run into a rough patch – completely drained physically and psychologically. By 93 miles I was shuffling and just didn’t want to run. I took my first and only walk – 150 yards – which brought me around to where the bulk of the spectators were.
It’s hard to explain – but somehow with all the yelling and encouragement I started off again at a painful shuffle – I had to keep going now and my second – John Offley was urging me on. He, his girlfriend Beryl and my wife had done a great job throughout the day and now we were so close to the finish. To me it seemed the finish was getting further away with every step. It is very difficult to get across the extreme mental determination that it took to keep moving in the final stages yet somehow I had managed to get to 90 miles before the tough battle began. The crowd really moved me – 12,000 miles from home and hundreds of people yelling out my number and Christian name. Just 4 miles from the finish I said goodbye to the bronze medal as Bill Carr came past – I was not particularly disappointed – struggling on to 4th place I recorded 12:42:50 – 8th fastest in the world and an Australian best (according to RRC) – also my 50 miles time ranks somewhere in the top 20 so I was deeply satisfied with the run. Cavin Woodward had a great day to end up with four world records – 50 miles in 4:58:53; 100k in 6:25:28; 150k in 10:44:55; 100 miles in 11:38:54.
|1||Cavin Woodward||Leamington C and A.C.||11h. 38m. 54s|
|2||Tom O’Reilly||Small Heath||12h, 02m, 32s.|
|3||Bill Carr||Tipton H.||12h. 34m, 51s|
|4||Martin Thompson||Traralgon H.||12h. 42m. 50s|
|5||Fred Howell||Wakefield||12h. 49m. 29s|
|6||Alan Richards||Tipton H.||12h. 59m. 48s|
|7||Ron Bentley||Tipton H.||13h. 29m. 56s|
|8||Siegfried Bauer||New Zealand||13h. 31m. 55s|
|9||Derek Funnell||Epsom and E.||13h. 49m. 24s|
|10||Bob Meadowcroft||Altrincham||14h. 42m. 30s|
|11||John Berry||Wakefield||14h, 55m, 38s|
|12||Ken Shaw||Cambridge H.||15h. 35m. 44s|
|13||Ron Jeans||Salisbury and Dist.||15h. 47m. 58s|
Cavin Woodward’s performance added to his already remarkable record of placing in 16 of 17 ultra-distance races since 1972. He ran his first marathon in 1969 clocking 2:47 and since then has run 26 marathons-(best 2:19:5(J) and 19 Ultra-marathons. He is 28 years of age, about 5 ft. 8 in tall and weighs 9 st4 lb, enjoys his running – training twice a day – 3 miles a.m. and 10 miles p.m. with the pace varying between 6 and 7 minutes a mile. He is a prolific racer with rarely a weekend away from competing – cross-country, road, track and a few cycling races thrown in when light on for running races. This year the RRC are sponsoring him to run in the Comrades Marathon. After the race and celebrations we set off for Cavin’s place and enjoyed their hospitality for a few days. His wife Carol is his number one supporter along with their three young children. Both of us moved a bit unsteadily on our feet the following day – I had a swollen lower right leg which was troubling me and ended up with it elevated for a couple of days. Cavin had delicate knees – otherwise both of us felt pretty good.
Four weeks later I ran the Barnsley Marathon – more as a social outing – some social outing! The course was very hilly and to make things tougher there was a thick fog which shrouded most of the course. Ice formed in my hair with the temperature – 3°C and I was satisfied to finish about 43/200 in 2:47:46 and at the same time amazed with the performance of the winner Mike Critchley of Cardiff AAC who ran 2:17. There was a women’s section in the same event which attracted six entries including Ian Thomson’s wife who had recently clocked 3:07 in Finland. The winner Hilary Mathews (22 years) recorded 3:13:27 after winning the Women’s C.C. Championship the day before. Second was Norma Campbell, 47 years old mother of three, who finished ahead of 31 men in 3:16:20. 3rd was Lesley Watson, ‘showed good form’ in 3:18:46 – a great advertisement for female marathoning. Now there is a move afoot to organise a Ladies Marathon on April 16th.
Since the Barnsley Marathon, I’ve gone into hibernation to stay alive during northern English winter. Managing to do enough to maintain fitness and my studies-have caused me to curtail extensive training plans so far this year. Nevertheless I’m eagerly looking forward to the first marathon in 1976 – the Cambridge Boundary run which is essentially a cross-country marathon in 8-9 weeks’ time. I finished the 1975 year with a total of 42 marathons/ultra-marathons – and hope to finish this year with 60 – so watch out Jimmy. Neil Ryan may be pleased to hear that a number of people have asked after him. Hope that Jimmy and Neil along with the rest of the marathon running fraternity are fit, well and no doubt looking forward to a good season. Maybe I’ll see one or two of the veterans over here for the Veteran’s Marathon Championship in Coventry – although judging from the 47 year old Woman’s performance they will have to sharpen up their spikes.
Well all the best for the New Year – Best wishes to all.
Martin Thompson – 1976