Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and
Reports

Mel Batty (August 2011)

After hearing recently(August 24/8/2011) about the tragic accident of Mel Batty, who had his life support machine withdrawn, I realised we were losing one of the 'Greatest Characters' in Athletics. 'A Larger than Life Person' That would easily be substantiated by all those in athletics that knew him.
   Not only was he a successful coach to Eamonn Martin and Adam Hickey but as a 'Gutsy runner' who won the National in 1964-65 and held the World 10 mile track record with 47:26:8 but, those were not the most satisfying performances for him. It was a race that he was 'Officially' second in. The International 'World' cross country Championships of 1965 (Jean Fayolle (France) 36:48, 2 Mel Batty (England) 36:48 and 3 Mohamed Gammoudi (Tunisia) 37:00.--Pathe News of the race showed he appeared to dip on the line a few inches ahead of Fayolle)
   He told me "I would say the most satisfying and gave me the most pleasure was the 'World' International cross country of 1965 when I led most of the way and I ran into the ground 'Great' runners like Michel Bernard, Gaston
Roelants and Mohammed Gammoudi. Although I was judged second I think I won the race. If not it should have been a tie. That race gave me great satisfaction. It was very difficult to say but it was a great race. The record for 10 miles was very satisfying but In that cross-country race, with such World Class opposition I beat them all, as well as all the English guys around that time. All great runners Ron Hill, Basil  Heatley, Bruce Tulloh so that International was probably the most satisfying run. Being a front runner I led most of the way."
 What other races gave him particular satisfaction
" Being considered 'King of the Road' , winning the Rochester '5'  and winning the Hogs Back race three times in a row. Also one year I went up North to run the Waterloo ' 6' in Liverpool and all the Northern runners were at their best--Ron Hill , Mike Turner, and all those--and I beat them all. That gave me a lot of satisfaction."
   What were his National memories when he first won.
" I always remember the first one because for the first two miles. I was neck and neck with Ron Hill. I was fast away but Ron was there; then I got away from him after the first lap and just ran away. Winning the National was a magnificent feeling and I will never forget it -- because that's a 'runners race'. That is why we should not devalue the National: because everybody can start on the same line as the Crams and  the Ovetts' of this World and be in the same race. There is a lot of correspondence about trying to cut the fields down but we should make sure we find a particular venue which is suitable to handle the organisation, I.e. the tremendous fields, and keep it there. They should not start to cut the fields down, because everybody should have the opportunity to run the National"
How did Mel get into athletics?
" I was not much good at school but what I did have was endurance. I must have been born with a large heart! We used to have races round the block where I lived, about a mile, and I used to do quite well. I joined Thurrock Harriers when I was 13, through my eldest brother Ken, who was secretary, so that was how I got into athletics really."

Alastair Aitken

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