The Ramblings of a an old Sefton Harrier Ken Davies Part one
I have worked in four countries, 12 cities, had over 30 jobs as a printer (never once sacked or made redundant). Not bad for a lad from Liverpool 8. It all started in 1960, when, after watching the Rome Olympics I got inspired to get fit. It was the Games of Murray Halberg, Peter Snell and Herb Elliot. One of my workmates knew a guy whose friend had a friend whose brother ran for Sefton Harriers. So it was off to the biscuit factory’s social club rooms near the Abbey Cinema. Tuesday and Thursday nights training runs with Norman Wilson, Brian McCann, Brendan Deary, John Mansley, Andy Byrne among others. From a teenager who couldn’t run a lap of Bootle Stadium in less than 70secs, to Sefton Harrier’s 1965 Marathon Champ and 800 metre winner (I took off at the start and the racers were breathing down my neck at the finish “too late”), it took five years of hard work and many, many miles of training. It was all great fun though, especially Sunday afternoons with the Pembroke guys from Bootle Stadium, Sammy McIver, Len Nicholson, Jackie Highton, George Olsen, Tom Beasley among others.
Then there were the Races, oh so many, The Waterloo 7, Pembroke 20, Sefton Park Relay, Windermere to Kendal. Derwentwater 10, (John Balmer and I battling the whole way for me to just get my nose in front at the end!). My first Marathon, the 1965 RRC Championship in Cheshire with John Evans. The Cross Country, from the Club Champs at West Derby, with Stan Lubbock and Mr. Rogers officiating. To the Nationals at Parliament Hill Fields in London and the mud filled, cold water, tin baths to clean off in. The hard work started to pay off, in my last Waterloo 7, catching up on Steve Rogers near the end only for Mr Rogers to call out “Look out Steve here comes Ken” The look on Steve’s face when he turned round and saw me on his heels was priceless, needless to say he was not having me beating him and he took off, putting a sub four miler between us at the finish. I got my own back and beat him in our next road race.
Then there was the social side, Weekends in the Lake District, Holidays on the Continent as a Sefton/Pembroke group. Camping in North Wales. The Wash House Folk Club, Folk Singing at Len Nick’s Labour Club Rooms, which was once televised. All of this leading to very itchy feet.
So in 1966 I paid my 10pound and set off on a five week cruise to Australia, passing through Perth, Melbourne, and Sydney, on my way to Brisbane. Best 10quid I ever spent! In Brisbane I ran for Toowong Harriers. Can you imagine running cross country in tropical sunshine and a temp of 80F, on the manicured grass of the local University’s playing fields. I used to get a ride to the races with a guy called Peter Moy, more of him later. So after 6 months in the sun of Brisbane I left for the mountains of Australia’s Capital City, Canberra.
Canberra is unusual as it is the only City in Aussie that isn’t near a beach. I worked on Australia’s only National News Paper “The Australian”. As this was a morning newspaper. I worked at night, sometimes until 1am, which left plenty of time for training during the day. My favourite training spot was Stromlo Forrest, an area of pines just outside the city. The main problem here was that on a sunny, warm day, the snakes were inclined to sun themselves on the track usually requiring, when coming around a corner, a somewhat frightened leap, a bit of a sprint, and a few minutes of jogging to get the heart rate back down to normal!
My next move was to Adelaide the Capital of South Australia. I joined Western District Athletic Club and over the next 18 months became their Secretary, as well as being the SA correspondent of The Australian Harrier Magazine. This job involved cooking on a Bar-B-Cue for Ron Clarke and Derek Clayton. I even, being a bit more settled here, managed do some training, hence my 4th place finish in the SA Marathon, in 2hr.40m on a hilly course, doing 4.10 for 1500, 14,30 for a 5k and 32min for 10k. Can you believe that during the track season if the temp had reached 90f before noon on track racing day they cut the 5k down to a 3k race! One of my races was a 1hr race on a cinder track at 9pm, chasing another ex scouser Amor Nowell, I managed 2nd place with 11miles and 350m. Adelaide was a great place for my social life. We would race track on the Saturday afternoon, go night clubbing until 2am, and be running through the Mount Lofty Ranges at 8am on the Sunday morning. My flat was the width of the road from the beach and in summer it was fantastic to go for a swim in the warm water before breakfast. On Sunday afternoon half the mixed club would turn up on the beach outside my place, and it was usually fish and chips for 20 for dinner! It was hard to leave this environment, but after 3 years in Aussie, and having done more than my allocated immigrant time, the itchy feet were calling me to the wilds of New Zealand.
The Ramblings of a Sefton Harrier Ken Davies Part two.
I arrived in Auckland in 1969. It is NZ’s largest city by far, and I was staying at the YHA for the first few days, one evening I got off the bus and was tapped on the shoulder from behind and turning around discovered my Aussie mate Peter Moy from Brisbane three years previously, standing there. I don’t know who was the most surprised, as we hadn’t had much contact. He was running for Owairaka Harriers. This club was started by Arthur Lydiard, and in its day had Murray Halberg and Peter Snell among its membership, not to mention a few other top class NZ runners. Lydiard, Halberg, Snell, myself and Tony Swindlehurst were part of the Owairaka team that set a 100x1mile relay track best time. It was with Owairaka that I ran a few Marathons. Lots of relay races and cross country events, being different to Brisbane, cross country was tough in NZ, usually hilly and with lots of fences and walls to get over. It was a very strong club, with quite a few Internationals among its membership. One of my claims to fame was scoring in the 10man team race for Owairaka. This event was over 10k in hilly parkland, with over 250 competitors, I managed to finish 35th and was Owairaka’s 8th counter, with a future Comm Games Marathoner behind me! I ran a few Rotorua Marathons, my first one had Jack Foster (ex Pembroke runner) in it. He was of course to become famous as a Veteran Runner, finishing 2nd in the 1974 Comm Games Marathon. Sadly he was killed while out riding his bike near Rotorua. After a year or so in Auckland I ventured to the South Island, choosing Dunedin as my home for a while. More Marathons and relay races before heading back to Auckland. It wasn’t long before the call of home was in my ears, and after six years of adventure I arrived back in Liverpool. Shortly after arriving back I took off for a solo visit to my favourite Lake District. It was in the Windermere YHA that I met my wife Elspeth who was a Kiwi and just happened to be from Auckland. So it was off to London for work and sharing a house with Tony Swindlehurst (ex Liverpool Boundary), and a few others runners. Here I joined Ranelagh Harriers, more cross country, road races and relays. I was part of their team that ran a record for the Offa’s Dyke Relay. My first leg was at dawn taking over from two guys who had just run over the Black Mountains in the dark, my second leg was in the middle somewhere and my final leg was on a sheep track above Llangollen! 1973 brought a return to Kiwiland with my wife Elspeth. More clubs, more marathons, around Rotorua again. My involvement with running came to a close with a knee operation, at this time I was living in Nelson and the father of three children, (the family has now grown to include six grandchildren). Being Secretary of Nelson Harriers with my final act as an Official as Race Referee of the National 10 man Road Relay. I am convinced all of this would never have happened had I not turned up to a Tuesday night training run with Sefton Harriers in 1960.
Ken Davies “Ramblings of a an Old Sefton Harrier”
The Ramblings of a an old Sefton Harrier Ken Davies Part one