Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

MIKE TAGG 1960 and 70's Top Youth/Junior/Senior (August 2012)

MIKE TAGG is not a name many people would possibly remember as being a ' Great' runner but I assure you he certainly was. I last spoke to Mike Tagg for an interview for the 'Old' Athletics Arena magazine in 1965. That was 38 years ago! He had run the Youth National at Parliament Hill Fields, with a horrendous stitch and came in second to David Atkin of Airdale & Spen (3rd was Colin Moxsom and Mel Batty won the Senior race that day) but Norfolk Gazelle,Tagg, did win the English Schools. As a Junior on the track in 1965 he ran 4:07.0 seconds for the mile at the Inter-Counties, on cinders at the White City. That was the seventh fastest in the World by a junior that year and third fastest ever by a British junior at the time. He also won the AAA's Junior mile of 1965 in 4:12.0 from Peter Stewart who ran 4:12.4.
 It was after I spoke to him for the first time and, before we talked in Wymondham, Norfolk this May that Mike Tagg had gone on to win the National Junior cross country in 1966 and ' 67. The International (World) Junior Championships in 1966 and the senior International' World' Championships in Vichy in 1970. (England won from Belgium and Tunisia with USA 13th!)
   Mike and his sister Mary Green (nee Tagg) ran for Great Britain in the Olympics of 1968 in Mexico City.
Mike's parents surprised them both by also coming out to watch them " My Mother  had cancer so I did not think she would travel. They could not really afford the trip to Mexico to watch but the Bank Manager lent them the money to go. Things were different in those days with banks! Mike Tagg was 13th of 36 in the 10,000 in 30:18.0, behind the winner Naftali Temu of Kenya, who ran 29:27.4. Tagg ran to a steady pace all the way and felt completely fresh afterwards and even ran back to his hotel. It stuck in his mind in the race the advice by the National coaches to run it that way!. He thought afterwards he could have done quite a bit better by being less conservative. Mary Green was fifth fastest in the 400m Semi-Final in a personal best time of 53.6. Mary's husband Andy Green, often trained with Mike Tagg and won the AAA's  mile at the White City in 1967 with a Championship record of 4:00.6, ahead of Olympic 1500 men Alan Simpson and John Whetton. Andy was unlucky, for one reason or another, to not to have been selected for Mexico. To add to the family pattern Mike's son Neil (Born 13/4/80) showed great promise as a miler before he even went to Primary school and came 60th in the English schools cross country but contracted measles and then glandular fever which curtailed his athletics career and his other son John Tagg (Born 31/8/78) was, as a young man, a committed club runner and footballer.
   Back to our subject Mike Tagg, he was never beaten as a senior over 10 miles on the road in the UK, as far as he could remember and a very important fact was that he came second in the European Games 10, 000 in Athens in 1969.He ran his fastest 10k on the track in Helsinki in 1971. His time for that was 28:14.65 and a PB of 13:41.4 that year for 5k in Munich (3rd behind Ben Jipjo and Ian Stewart. Mike Tagg thought, if the pace had have been faster earlier he would have done around 13:33.)
He also ran his fastest 2 miles that year when he was 4th in the Edinburgh Highland Games. in 8:28.2,(In front of Lachie Stewart and Peter Stewart. (1 Emiel Puttemans 8:17.8 - A World Record; 2 Brendan Foster 8:24.8; 3 Ian Stewart 8:25.0). Even though Mike Tagg raced for 20 years, missing hardly any training over that period, It was really after University in 1971 he concentrated 'Year by Year' more and more on his career outside of running.After he left Reading and his Loughborough course. He worked for Adidas and eventually became a Managing Director of Nike UK. He went on to found his own company Mr Shoes in 1978 and his wife Christine, who he married on 1/11/69, and both his sons work at Mr Shoes as well as their Father Mike Tagg of course.
    It was a bitter blow for Mike to contract Leukaemia seven years ago but it is under control, having had the treatment and he said, with optimism 'Just another hurdle to get across' but his athletics of course takes a back seat now.He still likes the challenges work presents him on a day to day basis.
   Originally he was coached by Tom Park locally at the Great Yarmouth club.That was a help for the mental side but then went on to mainly coach himself.. Park was important to begin with because Mike Tagg felt racing is 90% the mental bit, getting yourself prepared for competition and 10% training and also the most vital thing to race well was to have that rest period the week before the race.That is where a lot of athletes go wrong by not having that
   One of the things he felt strongly about was the disbanding of the Home countries for the World Cross country Championships --England, Scotland and Wales etc, as separate teams.which is now the case with a full GB team. The passion for cross-country was then lost, particularly as it is all under one body with some of the board not that interested in cross-country! After all it was hard enough to make the England team in his day with so many quality athletes about and there were also runners like Ian Stewart, Ian Macafferty & Lachie Stewart, running for Scotland.
He felt that there should be separate bodies who were enthusiastic about cross-country, a separate road running set up and one for track athletics, not all under one roof.
Another thing was that In his day people had to choose a career, as they were under Britain's stringent amateur rules where as some foreign athletes would be paid to come across and compete.
Something else Mike Tagg thought was that 'Great 400 Man of the 1960's'  Robbie Brightwell, who he thought was the best ever British Team Manager, should have been or be utilized by the powers that be and asked to do a job for them!
                Mike Tagg was born on a farm at East Ruston on November 13th 1946 " I grew up on the farm then when my sister Mary was about 10 and I was 7 My Father did his own thing and bought a little nursery of six acres. We stayed in Norfolk but moved nearer Norwich. We both worked at that tender age for our parents, who were trying to make a life which was a tough life. There were times when we did not know where the next penny was going to come from. I was helping my Dad when I was 8 or 9 and dong that in the Summer holidays for a 40 to 50 hour week. That was my character building.
 ' I used to go down to the club when I was 10, just to accompany Mary who was already running in the English Schools. My coach was Tom Park, who was the only coach in Norfolk who had ever coached an Olympic athlete.Two of those good runners he coached were Anne Pashley and Ted Buswell."
   It all started at Thorpe Grammar School where Mike Tagg got the opportunity to run in the football periods as he did not feel he would be so good at football as others.
  " I qualified for the English Schools cross country in Peterborough.That was the day I realised that I was the best in England because I had only qualified as the 8th athlete for Norfolk and just made the team. I was a long way behind the guy who won that.'
   ' When you lined up in he English schools cross country you line up in pens. I was the 8th athlete in the pen and knowing a little bit about track running, when the gun goes you go but if you get a second gun you stop.
In that cross-country race the gun went again so I stopped. I found I was on my own, the last kid to start in the playing field, right at the very back. All 200 had gone. The race was won in 10 minutes and I could not believe it. I just kept going past people and I was 12th and the guy who won it was only about 30 metres ahead of me. I know I ran the fastest. That gave me unbelievable confidence. People thought I had run 'Great but I ran better than 'Great'. First Norfolk athlete home and all those guys I ran against in the Norfolk team never beat me again."  He went on to achieve and English Schools junior boys (Under 14) record of 4:32.0.(64.0; 2:14.0; slow lap then about 62.00 last lap)
    Now for choosing some interesting accounts of some of Mike Tagg's victories
   The Junior National of 1966:- " I beat  Dave Atkin in Yorkshire. I only learnt years later that there were a few bookies on the course. Dave Atkin, had won the Youth title at Parliament Hill . Atkin was odds on favourite to win the junior race. My Dad got 'Odds' on me at 5 to 1; We were not that wealthy but he had £5 or £10  on me.
I won it by a street then I went on to win the International Junior at Rabat (Roy Young of England was 2nd and Eddie Knox of Scotland, who won the following year was 3rd). I defended my National title the year after and because I was too old to run the junior I ran the senior. I finished about 14th at Barry and in the scoring." (England Won).
   Mike Tagg pointed out that with the Senior 'National' in those days you always had the best in the country competing from 800 upwards. Athletes like Ron Hill and Jim Alder would never miss it.  So even with all the World's big Championships he did well in, it was the ' National' Mike Tagg prized most.
In 1969 Mike won it on March the 1st at Parliament Hill Fields over the 9 mile, three lap course. His time 47:47, The race had 1046 starters. 2nd was Dick Taylor (Coventry Godiva; who won in 1967, 48:27; 3rd Trevor Wright (Hallamshire Harriers) 48:46;and 4th Mike Turner (Liverpool harriers) 48:58;, 5th Bob Richardson (Blackheath Harriers) 49.12; 6 Mike Baxter (Leeds City AC) 49:20; Gerry North was 10th, and Mike Beevor who Mike stayed with several times when he came down to London was 12th.
   " I was at Reading University (Before he did a course at Loughborough and he then ran for Derby AC).- I had not got a lot of money. I hitched up from Reading to London on the Friday afternoon. I met Chris (His future wife) that I had known from school.
We went to Hatton Garden after meeting in London. She bought her engagement ring because I had not got the money to pay for it. We stayed at her Grand Parents in Eltham and we went to Parliament Hill and that was the greatest run of my life.
   The second of the three laps he was in front with Dick Taylor following.
' There were the guys watching from Coventry Godiva who said ' He is absolutely knackered Dick, it is time to go!'.. I just pushed a little as I felt absolutely Great'  
   'I found I had increased my lead by 50 to 70  yards and I was able to absolutely jog the last lap and felt I could have won by another minute. Dick was  not so good in the mud .Even the Ethiopians would not have beaten me that day.It was one of those days everything is dead right.
'That night Christine and I went to see my Mother who was in hospital and showed her the ring--A Big weekend. We killed two birds with one stone, so to speek."
  European Championships:- 16th of September 1969 Athens
First Six 1 Jurgen Hase (EG); 28:41.6; 2 MIKE T AGG (GB) 28:43.6; 3 Nikolay Sviridov (SU) 28:45.8; 4 Drago Zutar (YUG) 28:46.0; 5 Gaston Roelants (BEL) 28:49.8; 6 Mike Freary (GB) 28:49.8
   " I ran the last 400 meres faster than Hase. He got the jump on me before the bell. I held him every inch of the way. At the end of the day, once again, I was not that satisfied with my result--If I had run to the total maximum ability I would have won that race but that is life. He won it ' Whether he won it fairly and squarely is another matter'
   Dick Taylor also ran in that race but suffered in the heat. Dick Taylor had beaten Ron Clarke over 10,000m in 28:01.6 at Crystal Palace  which made him the hot favourite with the Press. Mike Tagg had finished well behind him due to being drained from his exams at Reading University so there was no pressure on him. Dick also warmed up in the very humid atmosphere but Mike did just a couple of strides, making sure his fluid intake was good too. However Dick Taylor did go on to gain  bronze in the Commonwealth 10,000 in Edinburgh the following year.
   1970:- International (World CC) at  Vichy. Result of the first four home 1 Mike Tagg 36:39.8; 2 Gaston Roelants 36:41.8; 3 Trevor Wright 36:44; 4 Dick Taylor 36:50.8. Roelants shoe came off and he complained to the officials afterwards about a collision with Mike when he cut in.
Mike Tagg said " He was a 'Great winner but a poor loser!
   ' I got on well with Dick and he said beforehand 'It  was my sort of course and him saying that gave me a massive boost.
' We had to hurdle. I thought Roelants would have a massive advantage with the barriers. I never did a steeplchechase in my life because I could never do it. When I took the barriers with Roelants and came out level with him and once ahead of him. I could see that  this was my day and as the race went on the more I felt confident and kicked quite easily. I thought I won by six to ten yards."
   Mike Tagg would run 100 miles a week with quality work within that but did say
       " If I had my time again I would do less mileage and more quality. There is no substitute for quality. If you want to race fast you have got to train fast."

Alastair Aitken

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