Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

Tony Simmons an Underrated 'Star' Performer (September 2011)

TONY SIMMONS ran some impressive times in his youth. For the mile, as a 14 year old he ran 4:29.5 and as an 18 year old 4:03.1. Many years later In the Home Veteran International cross country championships, at Ampthill, when he entered his 40's, he came from well back in the field at half way to win, well ahead of such veteran 'Stars' like Mike Hager,and Andy Holden. So that is a huge span of time for Tony Simmons to be running well..
   In 1974 Ian Thompson from Tony's club Luton United AC, won the European and Commonwealth marathon's which appeared to overshadow Tony's sterling efforts on the track and road but Tony, a very easily likable character, was second to Dave Bedford when Bedford broke the World 10k record in 1973 at Crystal Palace.
  Brendan Foster, Ian Stewart and even Mick McLeod, to an extent, were noticed as high calibre performers and hit the headlines. However Simmons, was just as prolific a  winner in many road races. He set a World Half marathon Best at Welwyn Garden City on the 24th of June 1978 (62:47).
He won the AAA's marathon at Sandbach in 2:12:33. His best track 10k was back in 1977 when he ran 27:43.59 in Helsinki but one must remember he was also fourth in the Olympic 10,000m in Montreal in 1976 in 27:56:26 and won his heat in 28:01.82 .
   The most exciting track race of his that I saw live was, on a very hot still night in Rome in the European Championships of 1974, where he was considered, by some, to be the third British runner with any real possibilities in the race. Looking at the field one realised it was full of 'World Class' runners. Manfred Kuschmann (GDR) won in 28:25.8 with Tony Simmons, with his black hair flowing behind him and, his familiar 'Pitter Patter' short stride, matching the taller Kuschmann down the finishing straight and both were timed in 28:25.8. Only a photo separating them. Giuseppe Cindolo of Italy was 3rd in  28:27.2 and there was Bronislaw Malinowski 28:28.0 who was fourth and 7th  Lasse Viren (28:29.2), 8 Mariano Haro in the race too! David Black (28:36.6) was 9th and Bernie Ford 10th (28:37.4). 24 were timed in.
   "I went into that race scared stiff, thinking if I didn't do well it's just because I was not good enough, I was prepared  and I was very nervous because I knew everything should be going right if I ran a steady, normal race.
   The first mile was easy enough but when the pain really begins to hurt three or four miles you start thinking back to all the dedication and amount of work you have been putting in six months prior to the race. When the pain is really
on in the race you psychologally think back to some of your harder training sessions, much harder than the pain you are going though the motions of running.'
   ' I was prepared in my training and in the race to try to run very fast for the last five laps but it did not come off so I just sat in waiting for everybody. I had run a few races with very fast last quarters and so I did not think there was anyone in that race that I should be scared of over the last lap. With 200 to go I was pleased to have a silver medal, and then I realised with 150 that I could get a gold."
   Everyone who was anyone, amongst the top athletes in the UK did the 'National' particularly as selection for the International was taken from it in those days..
   'That was the race I dearly wanted to win to emulate such great runners as Mel Batty, Dick Taylor, Mike Tagg and Dave Bedford. As it turned out,  Bernie Ford gave me a very hard race for 7 miles, and then on the last lap at Stopsley Luton, I found it very easy and I just waited again for the last 100m to go before I put in the final effort. Wining that race has been one of my lifelong ambitions." First six were Tony Simmons 46:24, Bernie Ford 46:32, Grenville Tuck 47:08, Trevor Wright 47:20, Mike Beevor 47:27. 1053 finished the race. over 9 miles.
   Tony Simmons (Anthony Derrick Simmons)  was born 6 October 1948 at Maesteg, Bridgend. In current times in 2011, he is a successful coach in Luton and certainly up till recently was a Lecturer in  'Painting & Decorating '. He was advised by Steve Ovett's well known coach Harry Wison in the late 1970's . His favourite surface was cross-country. He was 2nd to Carlos Lopez in the International 'World' cross country of 1976 at Chepstow with Bernie Ford third..
  Regarding cross-country he concludes " You are more relaxed in your running, I think, and there is a more friendly atmosphere. Everybody is doing the same race and it is over much quicker. Usually in track races you get to tensed up and I don't like that very much. (Said in AW July 27/1975) Rest of the quotes were in my interview in July 1976 in the AW.)

Alastair Aitken

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