Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

SHAUN LIGHTMAN (September 2013)

SHAUN LIGHTMAN who was 70 on April 15th 2013, was top of the UK rankings for M60, 65 and, currently top of the Over 70 group UK rankings for the 3000m Walk.
We talked at the Millennium Stadium, Battersea, after he had won the Veterans Athletic Club 'Over 70' medal in 17:17.79 from Peter Hannell (19:08.43) and that was the day after the Blackheath & Bromley Harrier, Lightman, finished 12th of 25 finishers, in the London Inter Club Challenge at Hendon over 5000m walk, which he did in 29:53.10.
He is still as enthusiastic about his Race Walking as he ever was "I absolutely love race walking and, I am afraid I don't have much time for the administration. I can't stand committees but put me in a race I still get a lot out of it, like to-day's 3000 walk (at the Millennium Stadium) and to an extent, it is your own will power and training.
He added 'I love the camaraderie. The whole gamut of athletics."
His other passion is for religious education and, as a retired school teacher he is a Chaplin at Southwark Cathedral and, at the 2012 London Olympics he was one of 12 Chaplains, selected to be at the Faith Room in  the Media Centre.
When did his love of race walking start?
"My first race was in 1954. We did it at school. I had a choice between doing the half mile and quarter mile running races. I knew I could not win either of those but, I had a very good chance in the half. The other long distance event for my age was the Half mile walk and, I went in that and won it by a metre from a chap called Mike Alders. Running and race walking from that point were more or less equal for me.'
'I was a member of Thames Valley Harriers and then, round about 1958-59 I took the decision that I would do walking, rather than running because, in running I was second or third to Rod Hutchings and Tim Simpson but with walking I was normally in front. I was training at the time with Don Thompson (The Olympic Champion 50k in 1960) under the auspices of Harold Whitlock (Olympic 50k Champion 1936). Then I went to St David's College Lampeter. I got the record for the Junior one mile in 1962. But when I went to college, everything went caput. My coach Tom Misson said 'If you want to be an International, now is your chance!' Between us we decided 50k would be better than 20k, as I had not got quite the speed for 20k and, people can come out of nowhere but at 50k, you know people are there for a long time. I went for 50k and came ninth in the World Championships of 1967.
   1968 The Mexico Olympic Games was at very high altitude, Shaun Lightman walked for GB in the 50k. He did manage to finish in the gruelling conditions in 4:52.20 (18th of the 36 starters). Brian Eley was the first UK walker 7th in 4:37.22.2 .The winner was East German Christoff Hone in 4:20.13.6.
About the Mexico walk Shaun Lightman had this to say
'Outside the track really wonderful. I really enjoyed it. On the track we were not at all prepared, because it was 50k. It was at about 7000 feet and the temperature was 100 Degrees Fahrenheit. Brian Eley and I decided we would start fairly slowly and, then come through and Paul Nihill was to go off fast. In the event Paul dropped out (after 40k). I collapsed at the viaduct round about 40k.  It was only because I saw Agapov, the World record  holder, getting into an ambulance, I thought 'I can pass him'. I finished on the track firmly convinced I was last then, there was Bob Gardiner of Australia (19th) breathing down my neck.'
He then mentioned how well the East Germans were prepared for Mexico and they had the individual winner.
"It is about the recovery. On the continent you have got a lot of back up. I noticed it when racing in the Olympic Games. The East Germans in Mexico. They had been out at least twice to Mexico beforehand, They had thoroughly researched their kit. Having specially built hats for the event, physios, dieticians, People doing blood analysis. They had all that back-up. At the time we did not have that at all. Only now are the very top people getting that treatment.'
'When I first started as an international the World record for 50k was 4 hours 8 and I thought that is attainable. When I finished I was doing 4:15 and the World Record was 3:39; a tremendous improvement.'
'I continued with 50k till 1969 and, changed to 20k in 1970. I did the Lugano Cup, for the second time for 20k in Eschborn. Then I changed back to 50k and I did not make the Olympic Games of 1972 in Munich, which was a huge disappointment. The Trial was on a very hot day and I can't take the heat, otherwise I would have been there. I went to the World Championships--The Lugano Cup in Lugano in 1973 and I did my best ever time 4:15 and I finished 16th in the World, Then, after that, I did other things and the motivation was not quite there to do the amount of training required for the top flight. I could still churn out the first 4 in the National Championships and I really retired from International athletics in 1979."
  Shaun Lightman was a teacher at Winton House School first of all.' I had a really good set up there teaching PE and RE and loved that combination'. Then before retiring he went to Royal Russell School which he also enjoyed being at.

Alastair Aitken

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