Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

Stan Eldon

Stan Eldon, was one of the 'Great' distance runners of the 1950's but surprisingly, when at his peak, was working as a policeman on duty at various local Berkshire venues. That gave the Press a field day with zany headlines like 'Eldon-Fair Cop'.
Even though he achieved a great deal on the track & country, road running was his first love. He was the first winner of the Nos Galan Midnight race, organised by Bernard Baldwin, when Frank Salvat was second. He was also the mystery runner twice. He
ran locally in the Maidenhead 10' (10 miles 700 yards with a long hill in it) and came 3rd, 2nd, 1st, 1st, 1st and 1st in that order.
   His times on the track in the 1950's were excellent on the cinders. He ran a junior World best of 14.19 for 3 miles and 29:48.3 for 6 miles in 1956. However, his breakthrough came as a senior when, he started his aggressive front running tactics, that would worked well for him.
   I can remember as a teenager I saw my first major cross-country Championships, near my home at the time. It was the Southern Senior cross country Championships at Parliament Hill Fields. I noticed, as they came up the first 'Big' hill in there senior race Stan Eldon was racing clear of the men who finished second and third Mick Firth and Frank Sando. The latter two thought Stan would pay for it later in the race and come back but he never did. In fact he won by over a minute.
   Stan Eldon comes in "I learnt about that when I came second to Nat Fisher in the youth race of 1954. I had a fall in that one. I thought after that, on that course, there was only one way for me to run it, get away from the field and really plough on. When you run up the hill fast and then fast down the other side, they are still climbing up the hill.'
   His biggest cross-country win was undoubtedly the International (Old World) cross country Championships that year when he won in 46.29 from two of the greatest cross-country runners of the 50's Alain Mimoun (46:30-Olympic Marathon Champion 1956 and silver 5/10k in 1952) and Frank Sando ( 46:38-Double International winner)
   'I did my usual tactics and went to the front. Mimoun doggedly followed me. There were about thirty seven or so brushwood horse steeplechase fences to negotiate and some hurdles too. I took the lead and every time I got to one of the obstacles Mimoun caught me up. He thought he could outkick me at the finish. He just got in front with 300 to go on the bend of the finishing straight. I then sprinted at the finish and left him for dead. Frank came through to take third place. We had all our England team in the first 10!'
   He added 'I had got married to Marion in October of 1957 and it was around that time I had decided to train 365 days 'every day'. I was on 100 miles a week that Winter but of course less in the Summer.' Stan Eldon was police cross-country champion many times and also their record holder for a mile and 3 miles on the track, after he had done his National service in the Military Police but made an interesting observation ' I must admit I don't think I was a good cross-country runner, more akin to Gordon Pirie, we both won races because of our ability as runners.
I can remember when I was 18 in I beat Gordon Pirie over very rutted ground in very cold weather and Ken Norris won the race I was in. Gerry North and Bas Heatley were better in the mud. Gerry was so light he flew over the mud.'
   Although Stan Eldon considers his best year as 1959 he achieved a lot in 1958. On the 28th of June he won the AAA's 6 miles and on the 12th of July the AAA' 3 miles. The 6 miles he said had some really good runners in it like Mick Firth, Hugh Foord, Bas Heatley, Johnny Wild, Peter Driver, Mel Batty, George Knight, Tony Redrup and Martin Hyman.
'I took the lead  in that one and ended up with 28:05 beating Ken Norris' British record of 28:12. Harold Abrahams wrote to me and said 'You were silly going off so fast and then slowing in the middle' but that was the way I liked to run. He thought if I ran more evenly I would have broken the World record. Anyway, Stan Eldon was awarded the Harvey Memorial Gold Cup for the best Champion of the Championships.
     The Commonwealth Games in Cardiff was a disaster for Stan Eldon in the 6 miles. It was about 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the stadium and like Hugh Foord and Alistair Wood he suffered greatly in the heat and Eldon was lapped by the winner Dave Power, only doing around 32 minutes for the race. However, he pointed out that he found it extremely difficult to operate in races where the temperature over 70 degrees Fahrenheit so, it was another matter in the European Games which were held in Stockholm that year on August 19th. The first six in the European 10,000m were 1 Zdzislaw Krzyszkowiak (Pol) 28:56.0; 2 Yevgeniy Zhukov (SU) 28:58.6, 3 Nikolay Pudov (SU) 29:02.2; 4 Stan Eldon (GB) 29:02.8; 5 Slanislaw Ozog (Pol) 29:03.2; 6 John Merriman (GB) 29:03.8. It was a British record time for Stan Eldon:- " It was a good and enjoyable race. I led by 80 metres at one stage and was in the lead and on World record schedule of 14 minutes at 5k, apparently but in those days there was no clock or screen to see how you were doing. At the finish there was not much distance between the winner and John Merriman who came sixth.'
     In 1959 Stan Eldon was third behind Basil Heatley in the 'National',  won the AAA's 6 mile and the very next day was 3rd in the AAA's 3 miles. He won all his races abroad and some of those Bruce Tulloh, who was starting his international career, was second to him. Eldon was past his best when he took up the marathon and perhaps was not suited to it like he was with shorter distances where he had stage road relay records. He did get his time for the marathon down to 2:34 though.
   A couple of things he said stood out as unlikely things to happen these days.
           "On one occasion, before  the Rochester 5' when I was to run against Eric Shirley and Mel Batty, I had worked to 3'o'clock in the morning because someone had died on my patch of unusual circumstances and I did not get to bed till 4' o'clock and then had two hours sleep before getting ready to run in the Rochester race."
      Another one was when Stan Eldon remarked "I was at Ascot races doing point duty till 1'o'clock in the afternoon and then dashing off to Brighton to run the Southern Counties 3 miles where I set a junior 6 miles record of 29 minutes odd.'
He added 'I would do an early shift one day till 2'o'clock, catch a plane from Heathrow to a race abroad and be back on duty the next day at 2'o'clock 24 hours later.'
   Stanley Edward Eldon was born in the Royal Borough of Windsor on the 1st of May 1936. His Father William Frank Eldon had been a British Army boxing Champion in India. Stan Eldon was fired up to run after seeing a film on the 1948 Olympic Games and joined Eton AC, now Windsor Slough Eton & Hounslow and as a young man was a chorister and keen on amateur theatricals.
   He was the first athlete to start a retail sports business under his own name, introducing the first specialist road running shoes to this country.
   He set up the first Reading half-marathon in 1983 and organised other road races and he then became particularly interested in  disability sport and after introducing wheelchair road racing to the Reading race 'London' took up the idea. He is Chairman of Disability Sport in the South and District Governor of Rotary International. He has raised large amounts of money for charities and for a running club. Stan Eldon has five children and six grandchildren. One of his children Jonathan ran 2:40 for the marathon a couple of times and Marion his wife and Stan Eldon celebrate their golden wedding in October this year.
Despite now being a diabetic and having a pacemaker to control his heart beat he is still very active with organising and  athletics reporter for the Reading Post. For those who look back at all those great athletes of the past they may remember Stan Eldon will with his fearless approach to his races in the 1950's.

Alastair Aitken

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