Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

Roy Fowler - The Red Fox

Henry Roy Fowler ' Known as The Red Fox' as a runner, was born 26th of March 1934 at Longside in the Potteries and died at 6.30 on the morning of the 27th of June 2009.
An appreciation by Alastair Aitken

On March the 3rd 1979 I wrote in my report in Athletics Weekly that Roy Fowler, who was 45 that month, illustrated why he must be considered one of the greatest veteran runners Britain has ever produced when he convincigly won his fourth National Veterans Cross Country title at Parliament Hill from Nat Fisher and Harry Clayton. Roy had run 90-110 miles a week for that which included a 15-20 mile run with International Mike Tagg on a Sunday. Roy Fowler had also been an excellent distance coach and helped start up the Staffs Moorlands club.
Roy Fowler also won the 10,000 in the World Masters Games in Goteborg in 1977 and the World 5k, 10k and cross-country at the World Masters Games in Toronto in 1975. That is only part of the story about the runner with so much mental steel, who produced two sons and a daughter. The two sons Anthony and Paul are good runners.
   Roy Fowler who was a great admirer of Emil Zatopek and Gordon Pirie showed those same type of qualities that they had. To look at his athletics record is only half the story. He was AAA 6 mile Champion in 1962 and 3rd in the European 10,000 and in 1963 International Senior Cross Country Champion (Now the World event).
   Bill Mutler, a Highgate Harrier Hon Member, a great friend of Roy's who was doing his National Service with him in Western Command and ran 4.23 for the mile plus  sub-2 minutes for a half mile, remarked on Sunday 27th of June "He was only Staffs Champion then but I knew how good he was and he was a great friend and I set my standard by him. I think his time of 27:24.76 for 6 miles in 1966 stands up well if you think the best British 10k time in 2005 was 28:40.58 nearly 40 years after."
   Roy at his best as a veteran, would have his sherry with a raw egg in the early morning and go off for his run in heavy army boots then, be up a ladder most of the day decorating and painting, which incidentally was his full time job at the time.
   Roy Fowler had poor health as a child and had pneumonia three times so he was in an out of hospital. On medical advice he was told to run to strengthen his lungs and got so keen on running that after he was 14 he never looked back.
   As a senior in 1968 he was third to Ron Hill and Mike Feary in the National cross country at Sutton Coldfield but sometime before that in 1963 he was second to Bas Heatley in the National at Cambridge. It was Basil Heatley's third win in four years. After that run 1963 Heatley said that over the shorter distance, in the International coming up, Roy would be more suited to taking on Gaston Roelants, the 1964 Olympic steeplechase Champion. However Roy complained of terrible burning pains in his legs but the doctor said there was nothing wrong at the time. 60,000 people were at the race in San Sebastian in hot conditions and Roelants looked like winning for most  of the way but in the last mile Fowler came back at him so many times Roelants gave up in the run for the tape. However, a short time afterwards it was discovered that in the National Roy Fowler had fractured his tibias on a concrete path and, ended up in plaster.
He was third in the 1968 International behind Mohammed Gammoudi and Ron Hill but his chance of winning was wrecked, when he felt terrible pain in his toe over the last mile. He had a small operation afterwards to take a bit of steel out of his toe and also then had an operation for an Achilles tendon too.
   The other big race where he was successful was the European 10,000m where he gained a bronze medal but there was a lot of rough tactics in the race. Pytor Bolotnikov the 1960 Olympic 10k Champion won the event. When Roy had finished it was found he had suffered internal haemorrhage in the race. His groin was bleeding internally and the leg severely swollen. His briefs had to be cut away from his leg. However optimistic Roy said  "Any Road, it was a great race and was what I had trained for, and I was very happy and content"
   That perhaps indicates the qualities of Roy Fowler that make him a legendary figure in the sport.

Alastair Aitken

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