Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

Pam Davies

PAM DAVIES is or was one of the most remarkable people in athletics I have ever interviewed writes Alastair Aitken

       When I met her for the first time, serving teas in Belgrave Hall, Wimbledon, after the South of Thames cross country Championships on the 16th of December last year, I realised, except for some of the Belgrave Harriers present, very few indeed would have known they were in the presence of such a great athlete of the past.
       Pam Davies has the unique distinction of being the only woman to be placed seven times in the Women' National' cross country championships (1963-69 inclusive) and sometime, after she had retired from the sharp end of athletics, she took up marathon running which included a W50 win in the London Marathon in 3:10.
       In the seven years she was in the frame in the National she had two sons and worked full time as a 'Head of Science' teacher. One might add, out of three International (old World ccc) she obtained a third place in 1968 behind Doris Brown and Vicki Foltz both from the USA.
       About her first 'National' win in 1965, when Rita Lincoln was second and Joyce Smith third, she remarked
       "That week I was in bed with flu. I had gone back to work for a couple of days and on the day prior to the 'National' I ran a fast 3 mile lap, which took me over Chelsea and Albert bridges. I did a very good time for that. I had had a week off running before that and each year I would do that, have a week off running and test myself over the three miles the day before the 'National'.It seemed to work for me.'
       About her first win "In the race I was lying fourth or fifth. I thought this is my chance and ran like hell and overtook them all and won. That gave me confidence for my other National races.'
       She won 4 times and that was followed by Rita Lincoln winning 4 times.
       Pam Davies who ran 5.2 for a mile on the track felt she was purely a cross-country runner and in fact, when she ran on the track her great friend Gordon Pirie said 'You run on the track like a chicken!'
       Chicken or not, she won the WAAA mile in 5:10.8 in 1963 on the sodden cinders of the White City Stadium, where water was lying heavily on the track.
       'It was more like a cross-country which suited me. Several good runners decided not to compete. I took off with 600 yards to go. They thought I would come back but I didn't. The following year I was third'
       In those days women only ran up to the mile and not beyond on the track and Pam had to do the longest events offered. She did not enjoy the  800  but did it like the 1500/mile.
       In the 1970's she still continued to run and in 1981 started to do the marathon, with the initial encouragement from Lesley Watson, and did virtually one a month, totalling 50 marathons in all. Pam Davies had changed from the school she was teaching at in Battersea, to one in Stepney and used to run home after work from Stepney, through St Catherine's Dock in the Summer and in the Winter beside the Regents Canal, up to the Angel and do lap of Victoria Park on her way home.
       She did suffer from Achilles tendon trouble from time to time in her career but got over that. In 1995/96 she got sciatica and in 1998 she had a very bad stroke.'They thought I was going to  die!' she recalled. However, Pam Davies is made of sterner stuff. She first of all walked with a frame and then progressed to normal walking and although, she sometimes has problems with her balance, she is walking a lot but not running anymore .She leads a pretty full life these days, looking after grandchildren quite often of whom she adores, she officiates, takes the minutes of Surrey County AAA and also is studying geology at Birbeck University.
       How did it all begin for Pam Davies, born on the 30th of May 1934. Strangely enough her husband John, was born in 1931, also  at the same small nursing home at 18a Cedars Road, Clapham and, they both have the same midwifes-signature on their birth certificates! Pam Davies  started her running around at Holy Innocents youth club at Norwood but her main education was taking maths and physics at University College Leicester University). She first met her husband John Davies at Tooting Bec track in November 1959 and got married in October 1960. Before that John Davies was several times Middlesex 880 yards Champion and even paced Chris Chataway. He obtained invitations to compete abroad and, was often used as a good pacemaker. He retired from the sport after he got married, he took more interest in Pam's athletics along with his studies and was able to help her  with pace judgement.
       Looking back now Pam Davies admired several runners. Having met Emil Zatopek she found he was a very likeable and engaging  character. Gordon Pirie was always kind enough to be interested in her running. She had great admiration for Phyllis Perkins who she reckoned was good from 220 right up to long distance and Joyce Smith with her great versatility over the years and the fact that she even runs now.
       At the height of her powers as a cross-country runner Pam Davies always used public transport to get about and looks at athletics at the top for middle and long distance, particularly with the men in mind.
       'For athletes these days life is too soft that is the truth of the matter. They drive to things by car. If you have been sitting in a car it is not very good for you to suddenly jump out and start running around'
       'We used to have to fit in running with everything else'
       'I did it but it was not the most important thing in my life. My children and my career were two of the most important things in my life. As a teacher I had other peoples' children to consider. It had to be my priority really. You are responsible for them. you have to be dedicated.'
       Then an observation she makes about professional athletes ' With athletes these days it appears to become too big a centre for their lives, just thinking about the next session or the little pain in the leg.'

Alastair Aitken

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