Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and


Ron Roddan of Thames Valley Harriers is one of the most respected sprint coaches in the World, despite not being a person, specially selected as a paid coach by the powers that be. You will always find him at the Middlesex Track & Field Championships in May of each year, surrounded by true athletics enthusiasts. The Championships in 2012 were on May 12th at Mile End Stadium and that was where I talked to Ron. He is listed in UKA McCain Power of 10' as coach of sixteen athletes but there are very many more he advised or advises, of that there is no doubt. Modest, 81 year old Ron, received the London Performance Coach of the Year Award on the 11th of February 2012. That shows how much he is regarded amongst the London athletic clubs.

Alastair talks to Ron

How many years have you been coaching for now
"Since 1964"
Of the athletes you have coached which one's would stand out to you over the years
" I would say Linford, Wendy Hoyte, Trevor Hoyte, Les Hoyte, Kermitt Bentham.In later years working with Linford quite well with Kathleen Merry, Darren Campbell and people like that."
     As you coached Linford Christie, who was 100m Olympic Sprint Champion in Barcelona in 1992, been World Champion in 1993, several times a European and Commonwealth Champion what were his qualities?
   " Once he made his mind up he was going to do it properly he was very focused. He knew what he wanted to do. He wanted to be the best in Britain, then the best in Europe,and then the best in the World. He made his mind up and just put his mind to it, that was it.'
   When he was younger he was learning
  " He played around a lot. He was a young man and he just enjoyed life but at about 23 to 24 he suddenly got told that if he put his mind to it he could become really good and as I say he buckled down to it.He made his mind up he was going to do it and he did it!"
   He had a strong mind in competition
" That was one of the reasons he lasted so long. Because once he made his mind up at 24 he then made a breakthrough at 25/26 and that was when he started training properly. That was when he went full time and that was why he lasted so long. Olympic Champion at 32 and he still ran for another two to three years"
 He inspired a lot of people around the Shepherds Bush area to take up sprinting.
Do you think that the Powers that be utilise enough of him these days in athletics.

 " I don't think so. We have got some good coaches in this country but they are not being used. A lot of good club coaches all round the country that are doing a good job but they are not being used. It just seems to be a very limited close company and you have to be a friend of a friend of a friend to be part of it I think. That is part of the problem nowadays."
   What brought you into athletics originally Ron
  "I did it at school for the last two years and in my last year one of the  boys at my school was a member of Thames Valley and he introduced me to Thames Valley in 1947 and I have been a member of Thames Valley ever since.'
   You must get a lot of pleasure out of coaching at Thames Valley, not just internationals
 " I have coached English Schools winners, Country Champions, Southern and international champions so it's all sorts. It is all part of it. If you take a young person and help them to improve, not necessarily to international level but as long as they improve, that is satisfaction but nowadays it seems to be people saying 'Oh No' I'll take you on when you are an international, if you not international calibre I am not interested!.  To coach someone you have to take someone who is a roar talent and make something of them.'
      Which is what you have done?
        'Time and Time again'
    You mention Kermit Bentham, who as a young man was running 46 odd for the 400 as an international and is still a veteran/Masters champion many years later. A nice man with a great  sense of humour and a flashing gold tooth. He has lasted a tremendously long time
        " He has lasted a long time. I work in West London and Kermitt comes from East London..I dread to think sometimes of the miles he has covered driving over.He has been doing that since 1980 when he first came over'
   He is a Masters Champion in his age category too
   .He still enjoys it. He has a foot problem which he is trying to get right but he still wants to come back and run, so you can' t stop them. IF THEY ENJOY IT THEY WILL DO IT but a lot of people these days are doing it for the wrong reasons. Trying to make a living out of it, can you make money from it? That is the wrong reason. You have got to do it because you want to do it.'
   You have not really gained financially out of athletics as much as gained satisfaction out of coaching so many people over so many years.
   " I have never been paid for anything that I have done. That is for the club, for the County or for the National.
I would not take money from athletes anyway.Athletes don't get that much money. Some cases now days take it from where they can but again, that is the wrong reason.'
   A lot of people come to you for train. What do you require from them?
   " As long as anyone comes training and comes regular I'll help them.Whether they go beyond club level or stay at club level. As long as they come down and enjoy what they are doing I'll keep working with them'
   'What we do training-wise I have found generally helps them in their normal working life as well. Other people come back years after they have finished and say 'Thanks' for what you gave me' because it helps them in their normal life.
  That gives you satisfaction
      ' It gives me a lot of satisfaction.'
   Which Olympics have you been to
" First one was Wembley in 1948. I went to Rome in 1960 and watched that.The last one I went to was probably Barcelona.' (Where Linford won his Gold)
   You must have noticed the change between the 1948 Olympics and now have feelings about the sport with the Olympics being in London again in 2012
   "The overall standard has vastly improved because, everything has improved anyway BUT I don't like the attitude of some people now.It's gone too far mercenary-wise. It is sad to see but frankly I am still involved club-wise so you still get club athletics which is a bit more like the old style.
   However athletes who win gold medals will be no better or worse than the 'Great athletes of 1948.
  It was a very good 100m Final won by Harrison Dillard on cinders. They were just as good for their day as the great one's are now for today?

   "  In 1948. I think for most of that week, despite the track being on ciders, it rained most of the week when there were some fantastic performances because they were virtually normal people. In this country it was the first time a lot of people had seen black athletes and good black athletes from America the Caribbean and all over the place and, the first time people had seen Eastern European distance runners. Zatopek and people like that and it was a whole new ball game the '48 Games'. Nowadays you get more and more people, loads more nations doing it now'
   ' I think there was more fun in those days. I think everybody seemed to have fun, everyone was smiling. Nowadays hardly anyone smiles, too serious and too much money involved as well'
  You must have seen Mal Whitfield and Arthur Wint perform
  'Arthur Wint I met at the Middlesex Championships and McDonald Bailey at the Middlesex Championships too. I ran against Arthur Wint in the 400 in the Middlesex Championships. It might have been at Imber Court when they used to have the Middlesex Championships on grass.Even Roger Banniser ran the 400 there as well.'
' I got down to 50.2 in the 400 which was my PB. I was quite pleased with that. I was a good club runner. The best I got was 2nd or 3rd one year in the Middlesex.That was probably my peak.
   'In those days you had heats and semi Final and Finals in a proper County Championship.
    'I think nowadays too many people are ducking and diving. Coaches say 'You don't need to race yet'
To my mind you have to get used to racing. You can train and train but that doses not simulate a race. The only way you get used to racing is race. I remember one time years ago, one year in particular, everyone was saying Linford's racing too much. I said half of his races are training. He is not racing too much and in a Championship he proved it.'
  Usain Bolt you said he is enjoying his athletics'
'When ever you see him, whether he is training, warming up getting ready for big Championships he has got a smile on his face. That is a genuine smile. He is having fun. He is enjoying it. Angelo Taylor is another. A lot of those older one's you can look at them and see them having a laugh and joke when they are getting ready, enjoying it because it is a pass time. It is a full time job but they do enjoy doing it. To do it properly I think you have got to enjoy doing it otherwise why do it."

Alastair Aitken

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