Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and
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Dave Bedford OBE (MAY 2015)

Alastair Aitken, who has known Dave since he was 15 and run in cross country races with him as a senior, all be it much further back, put his particular brand of questions to Dave at Ben Pochee’s ‘Night of the PBs’ and the British & English Championships at Parliament Hill Fields track, on the 16th of May. Of course Dave was the last British 10k World record holder (Alastair had an interview in AW with him which, came out the day he broke the record on July 13th 1973, running 27:30.8).

You have been at all three years of the ‘Night of the 10k’ PB's presenting the prizes. How do you look at that now?
“I think as an event it is developing well. In all these events you need good weather. This is the best weather we have had over the three years. A little bit of a breeze on the back straight, that must be quite difficult.
Good atmosphere, lots of people up on the bank watching. There must be 400 to 500 people, which is great. Looking at the first race on the cards. There must have been 40 plus people in that race. Not bad at all.
It is catching on well.”

Last year we had Jo Pavey winning, a very genuine person in more ways than just as a runner. It was wonderful and, also we had Andy Vernon winning and then doing so well afterwards.
‘They both had Great Europeans. All of that was set here at Highgate at Parliament Hill.’
Why on earth did UK Athletics not give them funding, when they had done so much for British Athletics. The reason, it appeared to me, was that they thought neither had much of chance at Rio in the Olympics next year?
“Probably. UK Athletics don’t appear to recognise that the European Championships are really important for those  people just below absolute World tier. So, it was fine for Mo Farah to run but I don’t think there is enough incentive for people to be working really hard when they are treated like that. The two of them should be on some level of support this year. It is a shame."
Andy Vernon has just run 27.42.62 in Australia which does make you think!
“Of course athletes over the years have done this. If they feel they are slighted by Administration, there is always one way to show them. That was a great effort by him and he can go faster. He can run  27.15, 27.20. I am sure he will.”
Looking back through the years, Gordon Pirie and you were criticised by the Press who thought ‘They won’t do it’. People often like to see somebody fail sometimes, as well as succeed.
“It was a long time since I was in that goldfish bowl. As  you get older it gets a lot easier to look back on it and not worry about it. In my time I had good days and bad days, like all athletes. That is the nature of the beast.
It does not matter whether you are a club athlete or an athlete performing at the Olympic Games. It is the same challenge. To be good on the day.”

At Crystal Place on September 10th 1971 you ran 8:28:6 for 3000m steeplechase and it was a British record. The leading steeplechasers in the UK were in the race. You were a novice steeplechaser, beating the UK's No.1 at the event at the time Andy Holden. The excitement was fantastic as you came up the finishing straight together. Looking back after all these years, could you tell me if you did any specific training work for that?
"Very little, Bob Parker's wife Sylvia, who is no longer with us, was a hurdles coach and she tried to get me to hurdle. It is a skill way beyond me and I had one session, where I said this is ridiculous so, I just carried on putting my foot and pushing off as far as possible. That one session was the only one I did for it. It did not achieve anything." (Bob Parker was Dave's enthusiastic coach.)
Martin Cadwallder (Wolverhampton & Bilston) ran 48:53 for 10 miles on the road and said to me "If Dave Bedford could have run the marathon at his peak he would have run 2:7 (Inside the World Record time in 1971) because he could have blasted it from the start. What are your feelings about that.
"If you go back to those times. People used to turn to the marathon when they felt they had gone as far as they could on the track. It was a different era and because I finished athletics quite early because of injury, I never got that opportunity to have a real crack at the marathon. I think my  training clearly indicated that I would be quite strong on a marathon. There is no point on me speculating. If I had not had all the injuries I would have had a crack at one time and that would have been exciting."

While you have been at the London Marathon. You have brought in some wonderful 'Star' marathon runners. Does that give you a lot of pleasure to know you have been instrumental in getting fantastic athletes to run the event?
"I think there are three elements when I was Race Director. The first element was to make sure it was financially very solid and the marketing was strong so that it could afford to get the Best in the World in.
I think those two things are absolutely linked. You have to be in a strong financial basis to do that. Then it was exciting to see  the best in the World running the London. I think the other thing I am proud of is that half a billion pounds raised by runners in the Charity. You can put a few things on a gravestone as well as Cheers and Thank you. I think for being involved and seeing that charity develop as well as it has, has also been exciting.
When you look back at your career. Winning the International (World Senior & Junior ccc) two Southern's in one afternoon on Hampstead Heath shows obviously cross-country was 'Great Fun' for you and England did have a tremendous cross-country team. I remember Mike Beevor was 16th and unable to make the six scorers and did not get a medal.
"He has talked about that for the last 40 years."
He managed to get me a medal for a joint third rather than 4th in the Commercial Union 5 miles road race.
"I don't remember reading about that! (Laughing)
You have hit upon something and did not realise it. Even I was in the small print results section of the 'Daily Express & Telegraph in very, very, lowly races and yet now in the Daily Newspapers you get nothing on the top domestic events like the National & Area cross countries in any of the Sunday editions. You will not see those results these days.
"It is not as strong as a sport as it was which is a shame"
Perhaps the news of Cross Country cut out in the media, contributes to the fact we are not quite so good any longer at World level?
"One of the reasons BUT look on a night like to-night. Let us look at the POSITIVES. They have got six races with as much as 40 people in each race. It is important and I think the work by BEN on this event should be particularly applauded."  

Alastair Aitken

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