Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

David Bedford Looks Back (May 2014)

Talking before the '10,000 Night of the PB's and British Championships on the 10th of May at Parliament Hill Fields.
All these years later, 41 years ago, you look back and remember breaking the World Record for 10,000 at Crystal Place on the 13th of July, 1973 and doing 27:30.8, faster than the previous World record done by Lasse Viren of 27:38.4 in the Olympic Final at Munich the year before. Do you have memories of that evening?

"Unfortunately it is a long time ago. The real sharp memories have faded. I know I felt good when the race started. I did not feel under pressure at all for the 25 laps and ran close on 60 seconds for the last lap, which was as fast as I could go and that got me well within the World record. I sort of knew with a lap and half to two laps to go. I was not sure till then. Bob (Parker his coach) was there shouting 'You can do it' It was only with 800 to go I knew I could do it.I remember it was one of the most enjoyable 800m I have ever run. Then it all goes a bit foggy then.'
    When you look back now and you know great runners like Seppo Tuominen of Finland, Tony Simmons (Olympic 4th in '76 and 2nd European of '74) and Bernie Ford were in the field and finishing behind you
"One thing I do remember is that at half way Tony Simmons (28: 01.8) was in front so, whilst everyone talks about it because there were no pacemakers and it appeared a solo effort, there was some good athletes in there. You had to be running well to beat them in the first place and with Tony there, at half way there was some competition but then I pulled away. I think Tony was the only one I did not lap in the whole field. I think I got the others. It was a good night. Not perfect conditions but not bad. You need a bit of luck with records. A night like to-night with all the wind it will be very difficult for anyone to get in the right frame of mind to do it."
    When you look back the biggest pleasures you got out of athletics. Things like the great friends you made were important to you probably and also some of the races. You won the Southern Senior and Junior Cross Country Championships at Parliament Hill-one after the other. It was more bravado than anything else' Oh well I'll go and do that one too!'
    'When you are young and good at sport you are entitled to have a bit of bravado around you but they were great times, being young and good at sport is about as good as life will ever get. I have had some 'Great Mates' I still see them form time to time. I see Mike Beevor (4 times in the England cross Country team) on a regular basis. We are starting to lose a few. We lost Andy Holden.'
  'It was sad as he was a 'Great' runner and a great rival for you. A hard man to beat.'
    ' Here at Parliament Hill he won the Junior National (Dave second). An incredibly tough competitor.
That was the point--The generation before as well - Gerry North, Mel Batty, Dick Taylor that kind of era. If you wanted to be the best in England you probably had to be the best in the World. I saw Mike Turner (He was Captain of the England cross country team at  one time and part of Cambridge Universities very strong international team of the early 60's) and we were talking and he said that he probably got more satisfaction out of making the team for the International cross country (Now called World CC) running for England than winning a AAA's title or representing GB in the Olympics so, they were good days."
    40 Years later from the time you broke the World  record, Ben Pochee (Highgate Harriers)  put on 'Night of the 10,000m PBs; it so caught the imagination because with a few exceptions there is a dearth of quality internationals doing well at the event. Except for about three we are well down the lists for top class performances?
    'Also there is so few often in the UK to run a 10k so, I think the concept is superb and needs to be applauded. He has been unlucky with the weather to-night.It will come back again, and it will make a difference to 10,000m running in the future."
    You did not get the opportunity to run much against a lot of Kenyans but I have a feeling that you would do very well against them with your mentality. Ian Stewart was one, when he beat Kip Keino at the Commonwealth 5k in 1970 and Steve Ovett beating Rono at Crystal Palace, which proved you can beat the Kenyans.
 'The Kenyans aren't unbeatable. You have got to be a very good quality to give yourself a chance to beat them and if you are 30 seconds down, with a lap to go, it does not matter how  much sprint you have got you are not going to win the race. I think sometimes some of the athletes at 10,000m have not got the basic fitness and strength.  It is easy to talk about the old days and that kind of thing.  But, even average club runners were running 80 to 100 miles a  week then and very few are doing anywhere near that these days so, mileage is one of the issues with it and the determination to do an event that does not capture the publics imagination anymore.'
    Ken Norris said to me one of the problems down Thames Valley Harriers now was you did not get everyone training together in a big group like in his day. Brendan Foster at Gateshead and you at Shaftesbury did that and the clubs had very strong runners because of that.
    "We also made the effort to go and run with people of a similar standard. I used to go over to Lauriston on a Sunday morning and they only ran 15 miles.I ran 15 miles with Gerry North and then another 5 miles afterwards.25 miles altogether. I used to go up to train with Ian (Stewart) in Birmingham and he used to come down and train in London.You need to be training with good runners.'
    Here we have a new concept which might take off.
  'I think it is a helpful concept. When we get a meeting here with good weather. If we then get a couple of decent times then people will think 'That is the place to go for a European or a World Championship trial etc.I think they have got to stick with it. A lot of athletes entered.It is a good night of entertainment for the runners because their performances are being recognised."
  'It must be difficult not to say that cross-country was interesting to do as you were so good at it. When you won the International (World) senior cross-country at San Sebastian it was a really exciting time with so many good runners on the team and perhaps difficult for you to turn round and say I enjoyed track more than cross-country with those times you had?
 ' Well, track running was really the technical side. The distance was always the same.The conditions, up to a point, were nearly always the same.You could judge one performance on the track. On the country you can only tell how well you did by who you beat.There is a difference. If you are a good cross-country runner you should be a very good 10,000m runner.'
    'The interesting thing was you ran a 10,000 in a very good tine in atrocious hot weather and some of those in the know around that time would say- 'Don't forget  that one!
      ' I ran 27:47 on a cinder track in 78 degrees F' temperature. Maybe that was a better run than the World record. It is difficult to compare.Every athlete when they end  their career, thinking they could have gone a bit faster.I think I could have run, in the right conditions without the injuries, another 30 seconds faster. Could have been the first person under 27 minutes but that is unfinished business. When I come back next time I might have another go at it!"

Alastair Aitken

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