Alastair Aitken
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Harry Tempan The Rennaisance Runner


by Alastair Aitken

Harry Tempan, who retired from athletics competition on the 2nd of January, 2009, is a name few will know about unless they look deep into Athletics Data as he no longer competes in the major Masters Athletic Championships but, at 83 years of age, he still had an amazing turn of speed over 400/800 and 1500 in 2008 Writes ALASTAIR AITKEN.

   IN 2007 at 82 he topped the World M80-85 lists with 3:08.9 for 800 and 6:30.1 for the 1500. He did those at the Veterans Athletic Club Championships at Kingsmeadow.

"Because I had not raced on the track for so long I did not know what I was going to do. I had only been running in fun runs or on my own.' he said.

 Harry Tempan who has nine top age rankings on Data since 1984 explained why he did not race on the track and retired from any serious competition from 1993 to 2007.

        ' I retired from the National Westminster Bank in the city at 62 and moved to Galloway in Scotland where there was not a strong athletics fraternity' He did move around to various locations before coming back to a more centrally located place where he now lives at Station Road, Dorking.

      Last  year after running 3:15.5/6:37.5 for 800/1500 in very windy conditions in the Surrey Veterans Championships at Kingsmeadow, he ran 3:08.8 in a Vets AC/ Rosenheim league on the 23rd of July and then, Harry Tempan an enigma to many, decided to run the 100/200/400 in the Vets AC Championships on the 24th of August.

    "I did not really feel I had done enough training for 800/1500. I seem to have got a bit of speed and I really wanted to go for the 400' he told me. After running the 100/200 he ran the 400 in 83.9 (1:23.79 electric) which was easily a British M80 record. Hugh McGinlay ran 91:39 for a listed British record in Glasgow in 2006. At Kingsmeadow Harry Tempan's event was the last on the programme and many had gone home. Tempan tripped after the finish of his 400 and was spread-eagled on the track, grazing and bruising himself with blood on his teeth but there were no bones broken for the man who is small in stature but big in heart.  

   Harry Tempan's record in his veteran days since he joined the movement as a 41 year old is impressive. Here are some of his results.

       At 54 he was 3rd in the European Vets Championships M50 final in 2:12.84. ( Viareggio )

       At 57 he was 2nd in the European M55 Vets final for the 800 and 1st in the 1500 ( Strasbourg ).

       At 59 he won the M55 European Vets Championships over 800/1500 in 2:14.0/4:29.95.( Brighton ). Leading all the way in the 800 and coming from last to first during the course of the 1500 final..(1984)

  'You see there were such good vets around my age at the time who were more fancied to win such races like Charlie Walker, George Smith, Colin Simpson and Bill Fitzgerald."

       At 60 in the World Masters Championships in Rome he was 2nd in the 800 and 1st in the 1500.(1985).

One of the main reasons he stopped competing abroad in the major veteran championships was because his wife Kathleen subsidised his trips and she just came to the meet in Strasbourg .

    Harry Tempan has three children. A son of 56 and another of 45 plus a daughter  who is 55 and a granddaughter of 23.

     Tempan was born at St Thomas's Hospital near Big Ben on 20.5.25 and, he did not achieve any kind of 'Stardom' that he did as a veteran when he was a younger runner so, one could say he is a Rennaincance Runner but his early athletic life, nonetheless, was full of incidents.

     It is not difficult to establish that he has always loved running but as for racing it was more sporadic. He remembers as a boy of 14 coming second in a 440 yards race and running a 60 second quarter mile.

      He takes up the storey " I was evacuated in 1939, the day before War broke out. I joined the Air Training Corps in 1941. When I was sixteen I was one of a team of eight for Newton Abbott Air training corp. and we had the first South Devon Air Training Corp Trophy meet at Paignton. I did the quarter mile in the medley relay. We were against Exeter , Torquay, Tinmouth etc. We had some good runners. We won the trophy but I was just incidental there. Two weeks later I was cycling home from work in Devon and I cycled head on into a car and tore my leg open and landed on my head. Although I did not have concussion they kept me in hospital for sixteen days. I went back to the school, still with bandages on my leg and kicked a tennis ball coming towards me and pulled a thigh muscle and that still troubled me at 18 . At Skegness when I was in the Air Force I tried to catch the leader in a race and the leg went again so, I did not run again till I came out of the Air Force. I was always keen to run but not particularly for a club. I went with some lads jogging. After I had been to Paddington Rec two or three times Bill Sheehan, the Secretary of Queens Park Harriers asked  me to join them. I did that but when I moved to Ilford it was too far to go to the things like cross-countries at Eastcote but, it was while I was at QPH I can still remember I ran against Arthur Wint's brother but as he was a 50.0 second man and my personal best was 54 for the 440  I did not beat him. I joined Eagle Star for a short while and was third in the Insurance Championships Final for 880 at Motspur park in 1948, which was in my fastest time of 2.05.0. I had been leading till the straight.

   It was after he got married to Kathleen he joined Victoria Park Harriers and lived in that area and of course met the locally well known  Flowers brothers', who insisted he join their club but Harry Tempan surprisingly never came in the first three in the Victoria Park Club Championships. He is now a Dorking Mole Valley member as it is near his home.

       How did he look at his athletics, as he is still running and racing at such an old age then

        ' I love running. Why would I do it at 83!  It would be crazy!, He chuckled."

Alastair Aitken

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