Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

Bruce Tulloh (29/9/35-28/4/2018) May 2018

MICHAEL Swinton ‘Bruce’ Tulloh, was born on 29th of September 1935 and died at home in Marlborough on 28th of April 2018.

BRUCE TULLOH made an immense contribution to British athletics, of that there is no doubt. As a runner who raced from 12 to 82; an author of several books, giving really good advice to endurance athletes. He coached Richard Nerukar, who won the World Cup Marathon in San Sebastian in 1993 (2:12.57). Nerukar had a personal best time of 2:08.36.
When Bruce was out in Kenya for 2 years teaching, he gave Mike Boit great coaching advice, which improved his confidence no end and, told him he could be one of the best in the World. Bruce remarked “As he was only fifth best in Kenya at the age of 23 Mike, seriously thought of retiring from athletics but I then gave him some good time trials”  It was after that Mike Boit went on to be a close up 3rd in the Olympic 800 in 1972 in Munich; 2nd in the Commonwealth in Christchurch in 1974 in 1:44.4 and then Mike won by a street in the Commonwealth 800 in 1978. So, that was the kind of effect Bruce had on the athletes he coached.

Bruce Tulloh, I assure you has a charming wife in Sue Tulloh, who enjoys running too. Bruce & Sue Tulloh have three children Clive, Jojo and Katherine. They all ran to a high standard. The twin sisters were 1st and 3rd in the Under 15’s in the English Schools Championships 1500 and are now in the ‘W45’s.

Bruce Tulloh got a science degree at Cambridge University, where he quite naturally obtained a full athletics ‘Blue’. He joined Shell Company first of all but ended up his working life as a School teacher for 20 years at the prestigious Marlborough College.

When I first interviewed him, on 30th of September 1962 at the White City stadium, it was after the European Championships of 1962. He was then a research Biologist. but, of course, his family and running were the important planks of his life, right till the very end. Other than his track success he was one of a very successful Portsmouth AC team road relay & cross-country team, along with Tim Johnston & Martin Hyman and others (Portsmouth AC won the team award in ‘National’ Seniors in 1963, 64 & 67.)
Bruce, came very close to winning the ‘National’ in 1962 but, as it was Gerry North’s home course, at Blackpool Gerry, was determined to hold him off in the finishing straight, so Bruce ended up a good second.

When I first talked to Bruce Tulloh at length, it was for my first published article in an athletics magazine, called Modern Athletics. The heading of my article was ‘The Qualities that Make a star’ The three people that I included were Bruce, Robbie Brightwell and Derek Ibbotson.
In 1962 I asked Bruce who inspired him most?
“Zatopek is my main inspiration. Following his ideas and his book, a great man and a very nice chap, Gordon Pirie as well has done a great deal for British athletics- He showed us how to train. Most of us have benefited from his example”
In 2011 Bruce Tulloh added these words “Gordon was an inspiration and a totally committed runner but very self-centred, as most good runners are but he would be very kind to you and helpful to young athletes and, set a great example in terms of hard training. He raised the standards. We went to Rome for the 1960 Olympics and it was very hot and we did not acclimatise properly. None of us made the final but Gordon took us to the beach the next day so, I have very fond memories of Gordon”

In 1955 Bruce Tulloh won the Hong Kong Championship 5000 in 16:46 which he considered was his first breakthrough, after his days at Wellington College. A lot later in 1962 he won the Inter-Counties 6 miles from Martin Hyman at the White City and beat Derek Ibbotson to win the 3 miles. He was AAA’s Champion for 3 miles in 1959; 62 and 63 but an intriguing aspect of his career was the fact that he won running bare foot!
“I had been running in bare feet on grass in Devon and on the beach and then tried it on the cinder track and it was Okay. The old fashioned black ash cinder tracks.
It was just lighter in weight. You feel freer and easier. Run with a better action. I tried it out at the White City.” (It must have helped him, as in old measurements he was light at 8 stone 4lbs and 5ft ins tall.)

In 2011 Bruce talked about the European gold medal that he won over 5000m in 1962. There was a loaded field in Belgrade when he won in 14:00.6, from 1960 and Olympic bronze medallist Polands’Kazmirez Zimny;(14:01.8) and Olympic 10,000 Champion Pytor Bolotnikov (14:02.6) from the USSR.
To mention a few others of quality in the race Michel Bernard & Robert Bogey of France Siegfried Hermann of East Germany and the British runner John Anderson
When did Bruce really go for broke “At the bell; I was well up and could not hear a man behind me then I started to put in a bit more effort. I knew I had a bit more extra and was happy then. I had run some good times. I had run 13:12 for 3 miles by then, that was pretty close to the world’s best. I figured my chance was then. I had been beaten narrowly by Zimny in the Poland match earlier on but I thought in a Championship race I could probably beat him. I convinced myself I was going to win. Bolotnikov won the 10,000 and did not like doubling up. He tried a few bursts but he did not push it hard enough to drop me. I felt I had enough speed to out sprint anybody as I had broken 4 minutes for the mile earlier that year and so, it proved.
I had various plans depending on how things worked out. Plan C was that if nobody was making it very hot I would kick from a long way out so I did. People say it is all in the mind you know.”

Two other performances I would like to mention
He ran across America in 1969. Los Angeles/New York, knocking eight days off the record and, when he was 58 he ran the London Marathon in 2:47.

A wonderful gentleman that was Bruce and, will be missed by many in athletics.

Alastair Aitken

Back to Reports Index

Back to Archive index