Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
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Mike Barratt The 'Evergreen' Running Legend


by Alastair Aitken

Mike Barratt was born in Fulham on 27th of October 1932

He joined Ealing Harriers, now called Ealing, Southall & Middlesex, in 1948, which he is now Chairman of, Cross Country Captain and Manager of the teams on race days. He is currently the President of the North London CC Association.
Despite having to give up racing as a 60 year old, because of heart trouble, his vitality as a 77 year old is unquestioned and the vast majority in retirement would be hard pressed to fill their days as he does. He is General Manager and factotum of Byfleet Tennis Club that has 800 members. He is there once or twice a day and few would know that, as a 48 year old, he was in Byfleet Tennis clubs' team that won the National Doubles Championships which was played at the famous All England Wimbledon courts. Fred Bell, who coached his son Peter Barratt at Woking, is the part-time groundsman at the Byfleet club. Barratt is a keen table tennis player and on the Surrey Committee as vice Chairman and runs the local league. He also works on his allotment that came with the house.
   It would be hard to tapestry his complete running career as, it would leave people exhausted just reading about it.
One of the things he achieved was having a phenomenal 'National' cross-country record. He ran the 'National' 39 times. His highest position in the junior race was 5th and he finished inside the first 30 in the Senior championships  seven times. His first senior 'National' was in 1955 and his final one in 1998. What then did he feel his best results were?
      " Winning the Southern Junior Cross country Championships and I obtained a third as well. My best senior Southern was at Parliament Hill in 1955. Gordon Pirie won the race from Ken Norris and Hugh Foord but behind me were Frank Sando, Mike Maynard, Peter Driver and the whole lot! I had never run 9 miles in my life before not even in training, it was an amazing run for me.
  'I loved road relays and we had a good team at Ealing. For two years we won the TVH road relay, out of about 70 teams and, I won it both times on the last leg.'
   A friend of his that he had great respect for was Ken Norris, who he finished second to six times in the Middlesex cross country Senior Championships.
Although he did beat Ken at least a couple of times, he pointed out that Ken had tremendous track and road times.
Another international he respected was Frank Sando who he considered very modest. In fact Barratt and Sando ran for the AAA's against Oxford & Cambridge over 2 miles and beat Chris Brasher, who went on a few months later to win the Olympic Steeplechase gold medal.
   'I guess the most important trophy to me must be the one that came as the greatest surprise. The Middlesex County Board presented me with a trophy, quite out of the blue, in recognition of my having run for them for so many years, 21 in fact in succession at the time'
   A race Mike Barratt featured in a lot was the North of Thames Championships. He won the Junior Under 20 in 1953 but the whole field went off course before he won it. The event took even longer than the senior race for one reason or another. It was at Welwyn Garden City and Alan Perkins won the senior race. Mike Barratt went on to win the senior race himself in 1955.
   Another race he had a prolific record in was the Liddiard Trophy cross country race
    ' In 1960 Queens Park Harriers invited me to their annual dinner and presented me with this beautiful silver salver with all my Liddiard performances engraved on it, and I consider it a truly magnanimous gesture on their part. I  think I had come  third in the race after winning several times and they must have t thought I was unlikely to win again but I still managed to win it for the next four years, but that doesn't t detract from the gesture in any way. Such a lovely club."
Mike Barratt's times as a non-vet were good 800: 1.57.0, One mile 4.10.6, 2 miles 8.53.4, 3 miles 13.39.2, 6 miles 28.40.00 and 10 miles 49.48.00.
   As a 'Master Veteran Athlete' he won three gold medals in the European M45 Championships at Vierregio in 1978. 5000 in 15.19.60/ 10,000 31:55.58/ and 3000 steeplechase 10.04.50. As an M50 he won the Southern and British Vets cross country Championships. The latter at Cambridge.
   Mike looks back at his training when he was running well " I did not rest or anything like that. To me Saturday was race day in the Winter come what may. I ran 35 miles a week. Short sharp 4 or 5 mile runs and then go out and play table  tennis or maybe a tennis match. Funnily enough I did my mileage after I was a veteran with John Doggett who lived down the road. He wanted to do longer runs. I went along with him and did them steady. I got up top 50-55 miles a week. Most of my career I was doing 35 to 40 miles a week-It was in my late 30's when I was running well and did my best times. I did a little bit more when I ran with John. Before that in the track season we did too much interval work, not enough endurance. Doing 12x440 and hammering them. I did not rest properly and I think that was why some of my track times were not as they ought to be. I did a lot of fast track work. I must have had natural endurance. You are born with it I suppose!"

'At 30 I was told by the Doctors I should stop running I had had a good run as I was 30'  Yet he went on and raced for another 30 years!'

When Mike Barratt was 30 he went to the doctor and saw a specialist and, was diagnosed with arthritis in his toes and that he should never run again. When he was 45 he said to me "If ran on the road my feet played up the next day but I had come to accept that and it did not bother me as much as it did. It had been a nagging pain like a toothache but I suppose, like everything else one learned to compromise and my  toes did not seem as tender as they used to be but I had to buy a size larger in spikes because of the fact my toes were so stiff but if there was any mud my shoes came off''  Despite the pain and problems with is feet and trying to run, in a certain way on the sides of his feet to compensate, he carried on until he had to eventually retire from competition at 60.
   Mike Barratt went to Latymer School, where a rival of his international Tim Briault was educated, before going on to Cambridge University also Hugh Jones the marathon runner was later  at that school. Mike Barratt did his National Service in he Army and at that time was playing football for Brentham but, as he was getting knocked about a bit, he decided to enter an Inter-club race and thought, if he won that he would give up football and concentrate more on his athletics. He duly won the race. In his second season he was second in the Middlesex juniors. His job over the years was in Transfer Printing before he retired at 65. His wife Pam was also interested in sport and, even at 50, she was playing good class  netball and his sons competed in the middle part of his long career. In fact Peter Barratt got international vests as a steeplechaser and his other son Tony was the Ealing club record holder for the 800 with a time of 1.51 and competed for Wales. Both have good jobs connected with athletics in some way. Mike Barratt's oldest is Jane and she was a good runner at school and a tennis coach after that.
   It is noticeable that without the unpaid officials, club athletics would not really exist as, the administrators who have the money, are far removed from the situation. Take Howard Williams the first man to start the Metropolitan league 43 years ago. He has been an unpaid official at every single meeting (5 in the year) since 1966 bar two.One of those was when he collapsed another when he was in a serious crash.
   Mike Barratt is passionate about the amazing work unpaid officials do " That is one thing my club Ealing Southall & Middx have got and they are so dedicated. We are missing Ron Jewkes from our club who died on January the 28th. He had 70 years of officiating.Over quite a few years Janet Bensley came up from Marlborough to take him to various meetings to start races with his pistol. He was always in great demand, right up to when he died at 92. There are others over 70' like many of the Middlesex officials like Ted Whitehead. Ron Hopcroft is 90 from TVH. Nobody is getting any younger. Ann Livings and tony Randall are others. Another, Charlie Williams the M75 world sprint Champion, is yet another person who stands out in the field in all weathers and sweeps up at the clubhouse afterwards.His wife Evelyn makes the teas. They are all unpaid officials. What will happen when they all go. It is all the old people doing it it's amazing really" .

Alastair Aitken

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