Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and
Reports

Gordon Surtees (9/9/32 - 1/9/17)

Gordon was brought up and lived at Billingham, Durham in the North East but, known by many, all over the World. Right up to when he died at 84, his passing, brought together enough tributes from athletes and coaches that could easily fill a book. There were so many class athletes he advised for over, 50 years. They respected his coaching which speaks volumes.
One of those who lends weight to that was a man who is a current Distance international, Jonathan Taylor of Morpeth Harriers “I have never met anyone as ambitious as Gordon. Even after all he achieved. he never lost the drive or determination.’
He was an ultimate pro He cared deeply about the sport and his athletes, not only on the track but as people. For me, he was more than a coach, but a role model.’
‘He was straight down the middle, wasn’t afraid to say what he thought but, always had the sport and his athletes in mind.”

Back in 1976 Gateshead Harriers had many of the best distance athletes in the UK. Heading them was Brendan Foster, who was a European 5k Champion and Olympic medallist amongst other things. Another Gateshead Harrier, Dennis Coates was another name. He achieved a British record for the 3000 steeplechase of 8:18.95 at the Montreal Olympics in 1976. He had this to say when I interviewed him with his coach Gordon Surtees at Crystal Palace, after the Games ,where he made the final in Montreal.
“I would say Gordon’s greatest quality apart from his knowledge is that he is a tremendous motivator. When you are down he can really pick you up and get you motivated. We tend to find Gordon is like a relation as; you can discuss everything with him. I can honestly say from the group he coached what a tremendous amount of respect we have for him”

I asked Gordon in 1976 if he thought it was important to join in and run with his athletes?
“I don’t think it is so much you can run yourself that gets the respect; it is showing them that you are prepared to suffer the same as they do. Up this grass hill we have which takes Dennis Coates and Dave Cannon four minutes to run I have got to come out each year and run it without stopping - and it hurts. I am probably, in a way, in a worse state at the top than these guys ever are in a race. They know it hurts and I sort of carry their respect from doing that. As far as being able to run, a hard training session for me these days is warming up with Dennis!”

Gordon’s  proven passion for the sport was indicated by the fact he was a Great Britain Team coach at more than 30 major Championships as well as 44 other international events from 1967 to 2003. He was named as British Milers Club coach of the year in 1989 and only 2 years ago received the British Milers Club’ Coaching Lifetime Achievement Award.
Club runners from 800 to the marathon were advised by Gordon and, to name a few of those Dennis Coates, Ikem Billy, Tony Morrell, Tom Hanlon, Colin Walker and Steve Kenyon and, many others of course.

All those who spent time at Clairville Stadium with Gordon will particularly feel the passing of a Great man.
To sum it up, well known distance runner, Liz McColgan said “He was a Great guy. A passionate, dedicated coach.”

Alastair Aitken

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