Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
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Dave Bedford O.B.E at the 10k PBs (May 2018)

About the Night of 10,000 PB’s, the last British runner Dave Bedford, to hold the world record for 10k (27:30.60 achieved in 1973.) Here he is talking a quarter way through the programme of events on at Parliament Hill.
“I think that this event is going to be the best event in the history of the Night of 10k PB’s. (First one was in 2013). I think that Ben Pochee has done an amazing job’
‘My concern about tonight is that it will be so successful, that we would have too many people here and, we would have to consider what happens in the future. I think the fact that we have got the European Cup races is a prize for Ben. I think that has only come here to Parliament Hill track, because of the work that he and Highgate Harriers and everyone else has done.”

You broke the World record with 27:30 in 1973 and, the fastest from the European countries of the entries, originally for the Night of the 10ks today, that were expressly selected to compete for their countries, in the European Cup shows the fastest  as Ross Millington with 27:55 (Although he did not eventually run) and, in the history of British athletics only 4 UK runners have run faster than you did since your 1973 mark when you broke the World record and, of those 4 Brendan Foster’s time was only fractionally faster. So, very few have achieved a really good time since then?
“I will sound like an old scratched record when I answer this.
I competed in a generation when even the average club runner who was going to run 52/53 minutes for 10 miles and, if they were lucky probably, it they broke 31 minutes for 10k would have been delighted, were running every day of the week, sometimes twice a day and probably doing between 80 and 100 miles a week. I do not believe that mileage is the only answer to running fast but I believe the commitment that allows you to do mileage is what is lacking. I think we have a generation who are looking for short cuts, not everyone but enough of them. We see a reduction in levels at every single competition in the UK whether it is National, Southern or Counties, there are less people giving that commitment. We can’t necessarily change that but if anyone wants to know the way and they have some talent. It is the consistency in training, consistency in mileage, consistency in commitment to wanting to be the best. There are just not enough people that want to see if they can be the best.’

You have retired from your posts that were very good with the London Marathon.
What do you feel you feel you got out of it?

“I need to say that I am leaving my post and my link with London Marathon in November
I am not retiring. I believe I will continue to be involved in the World of road running and distance running for some time yet. I love it. It is something I have always done and I will continue to look for being part of things that matter. What I have gained from my relationship with the London Marathon, I think I have been an integral part of making it the event that it has become. It was actually a really good event when I got involved on a professional basis.
Was it a great event at the time! In some peoples eyes yes. In my eyes it wasn’t. I have been empowered by working with a team over many years that have laid the foundations for it being the GREATEST marathon in the World and, that has given me immense satisfaction and it is something I will remember to my dying day.”

One certain individual who has been an organiser of ultra road races was rather carping about the London, being run now as a business
What do you say to that?

“The London Marathon is a business and it needs to be a business but it needs to be a business that understands the realities of running in the UK and running through out the World. It was perhaps easier for me, as someone who joined an athletic club at 14 and ended up at being World record holder at 10,000metres, to understand that journey. I cast no assertions that are not understood anymore. What I am absolutely clear about is that I never felt out of my depth in dealing with matters relating to club athletics, fun running and, international running through out my life.’

When you won the junior and Senior International cross-country Championships (Old style World cross)
In 1969 (1969-71- respectively).The interesting thing here was the countries that competed were besides the UK ones’ there was Belgium; France New Zealand; Spain;  Poland; Morocco; Finland; Eire; Switzerland; Netherlands; Algeria; Italy and the USA and in the senior race in 1971 England had 7 of the 8 man team in the first 18 home of 118 in the senior race.
Yet now, they don’t even send a senior men’s team or individual to compete in the World cross country Championships. Do you think that is right, as they could surely get some sort of benefit?

‘We need to understand that the World Championships, as we called them, has become a bigger World. We need to understand with the joining of Ethiopia & Kenya and the success of those countries that, the World has changed but, I believe that although the competition may have got a bit harder and you would find an athlete of today saying ‘ When it was easier then because these countries did not take part’ .Any generation can only compete against what is in front of you. Moving on to the point about, should we be sending teams? We should be sending people to all of theses championships, while at the right level, and can benefit from the competition at that level. We should not be sending teams just for the sake of it but we should be sending athletes who can benefit from the experience and that experience develops their competition programme.’

There must be some athletes of the right calibre. I will give you an example, Richard Goodman in your club Shaftesbury Barnet. He is potentially someone who is capable, with the right preparation, to finish in the first 10. Somebody like him should get the opportunity, if he made the grade. I read that they are intending running the World Championships in early February, before the Final cross challenge is concluded.
If that is the case; there will not be any significant competition to draw on. where you can say are we can select the runners to go, if they ever decide to send athletes.

“I have not seen the details of what you are referring to but, let me come back to what I said just now, which is, we should send any athlete at the right level who can benefit from the competition opportunity at the World Championships and, we should support them financially to get there because, our game of athletics is run on two levels. One on National level and international World level. We have to make sure that those people who have got half a chance of success at the World level are  supported in their move between National and International level.”

Have you memories of when you won at San Sebastian in 1971?
“My memories of San Sebastian were, as a young guy coming through and my memory is I won it in a front running style on a proper cross-country course and, at the time I thought it was the start of an international career that would allow me to win Olympic golds. That was not quite how it turned out but I believe that success on that event underpinned the fact I was not a bad runner and the rest is history.”

Mike Beevor was a close up 7th scorer behind Tony Simmons, Frank Briscoe and Andy Holden?
“They messed the results up. Mike was part of a winning England team and he was cheated out of it and everyone in the team knew the result was wrong but no one seemed to care.
He was 7th scorer but, he was actually sixth scorer so, he was part of an England winning team!’ (First six:-England 56; Belgium 174; France 185, New Zealand 192; Spain 196, Morocco 21)

What are your memories of Bob Parker who was such a motivational coach to you?
Such a wonderful man?

‘To find someone who is a coach and was interested in you when you were young is quite fascinating. There is a time when no one is interested in you and all of a sudden someone says ‘I think I can help you’
I was introduced to Bob from the time I met him for the whole of his life he was a factor on my life. He would not necessarily be the greatest coach in the World and, he never proclaimed to be but someone who was prepared to give me 24/7 support. He was always there. He never let me down. I may have let him down a couple of times but as I said he never let me down. He aided and abetted by Sylvia Parker his wife. Probably, and my parents would understand this. They were probably had more of an impact on my life, than my own parents were because of their love care and dedication.”

Alastair Aitken

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