Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

John Steed (February 2017)

At 81, John Steed is remarkable, having run all Five Start Fitness Metropolitan League races in 2016/7 season. At 80 he also was the oldest runner, when he ran all the Metropolitan league races the previous season. He also, as a 79 year old ran them all.
Each of those years it included, a run up the steep double hill at Alexandra Palace, three times. It was not so easy for him at Alexandra Park on, the 11th of February 2017 as, for the first part of the race, his heart rate had a  few high readings on his wrist monitor so, he had to stop for a few times till his heart rate had steadied itself. The very cold conditions would not have helped. But in the last of the three laps, the rate had settled and, it was fine for him to continue. In fact, coming down the hill, to go into the last flatter kilometre he bounded down the descent, more like a twenty year old and, was easily spotted with his bright red Herts Phoenix vest. Regarding the Met League, it was certainly the case then and is now, in the last few years again regarding the standard of the event. If you finished in the first 20, that was considered a very good standard. John remembers coming 12th or 13th in the event back in 1973. He won the 10 mile Herts. County Championship on the road in 50.5 minutes, which illustrates what type of runner, was making the first 20 in those days. He later won the Southern Vets Track Championships over 10,000.

Despite John Steed always having something interesting to say, he went out talking on his runs.
Even when he went training with Billy Dee and Tony Simmons, two high quality internationals and John at first could keep up with them and talk at the same time. The only way they could stop him from talking, however interesting the subject was, to pick up the pace, which would eventually pay dividends for them as they were such superb athletes.
Certainly to drop John, you would have to be a very fast runner indeed in those days, as you can imagine.
Some interesting facts about John

“My Mother died at 104. She took me boating when I was 9 years old. We cycled from Edgware to Alexandra Park, as we were going to the dentist in Highgate. She took me out rowing on the lake then, we cycled back to Edgware. People did things like that in those days’
‘My Grandfather was a builder and had a road named after him in Muswell Hill’.
‘My wife Anna, was Au pair for my dentist’
‘She used to live in the Russian sector of Austria, on the Czech border and wrote cook books in Russian in those days. ‘My Father in Law fought in all the major battles in the second World War Moscow, Tusk, Normandy Landings and Arnhem How he survived I don’t know!’

Before taking up running as his major sport he was a good cyclist

“I was 2nd in the Army Championships, the hill climb and Cyclo-Cross Championships.
In the Army Hill Climb Championships, the man who won raced in the Tour de France; I came 2nd, the 3rd person rode for Scotland and the 4th person rode in the Tour de France. I was at quite a good level.’
‘I can also remember coming 11th in the County race on the Saturday and then, on the Sunday morning winning a cyclo-cross at St Albans in the park’
Later on when John Steed was in his mid 60’s and was out in Perth, Australia and, his brother took him to a Cyclo-Cross race but John related ‘I was walking round and saw a running race was about to start.
I quickly looked down the programme and saw there was a $100 prize for the oldest finisher. I shouted out can I run, put a number on and my wife paid the entry fee and I ran round, and got reasonably well placed. I was given a voucher for the equivalent money for staying in a hotel.”

More Running Highlights for John Steed

When he turned more to running he was in the England’s winning Over 40 team in the World Veteran Championship Marathon in 1970. That was at Coventry His training partner from Verlea AC was Ron Macey. Macey was 3rd in the race and John Steed being 5th in 2:29.33.

Here I thought I would give a sprinkling of results  hat John featured in

In October 1975 in the Southern Counties Veterans cross country relay 3x2½ miles on Hampstead Heath John was in Verlea AC's winning team with 14:21 with Ron Macey (14:27); and George Brown (13:47).
In 1976 again at Parliament Hill Fields, out of 204 finishers, he was a 5th in the National Veterans 40-49’ cross Country Championships, which was won by Roy Fowler (City of Stoke) 31:39. Just behind John were Colin Simpson; George Rhodes and Mike Barratt. All class veteran runners.
In 1979 in the Southern Vets cross country Championships he was 2nd in 31:15, behind Evening News van driver from Fleet Street, Nat Fisher (Harlow), who ran 31:02. Ron Gomez was 3rd in 31:23 and Taff Davies (Aldershot & Farnham & District, (who went on to be a World class Vet)) 4th in 31:40. The same year John Steed was in the National Vets cross country at Parliament Hill Fields and came 6th in 33:54 but ahead of Bruce Tulloh and first ‘Over 45’ Mike Barratt.
In March 1980 in the Southern Vets cross-country championships won by ‘Taff’ Davies  in 31:26, John Steed was 2nd in 32.49, immediately followed by Geoff Harold (Editor of Marathon & Distance magazine) and Gerry North (A previous National Champion and good international in his day).

John Steed is someone who helps people to think of  not giving up and, extending their life span as a tough cross-country racer and, he shows what can be done, in his case in several of his races in the 2016/17 season, as an over 80 year old, he had younger men in his wake!

Alastair Aitken

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