Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
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Peter Clark A Forgotten Hero

Peter Clark, in the last few years, has been seen helping out and officiating for his club Thames Valley Harriers, at North London cross country fixtures.
On the 23rd of January I talked to the, well spoken, tall, dark haired man, for a short while at the Middlesex Championships. That was at the Hillingdon AC's cross country course at Ruislip.writes  Alastair Aitken.
   At one time Clark was amongst the World's best runners, if you consider he was fifth fastest 5000m runner in the World in 1958 with a time of 13:53.8. A time he did on the cinders in Colombes Stadium, Paris on the 28th of August that year.That to him was one of the most satisfying performances of his athletic career " Beating the French and taking them apart. Stan Eldon was in the race too.' However he points out ' I made a  damn silly mistake there. They wanted me to run the 3000m steeplechase and I should have done it. I decided I wanted to go home on the Saturday night. I had been away from the family for about a month and so I wanted to get back to them but, you can always look back and say if !'
  In 1958 Peter Clark was fourth in the European 5000m in Stockholm in 14:03.8 and in Cardiff he was fifth in the Commonwealth 3 miles the same year in 13:30.6. The latter was won by 1960  5000, Olympic Champion, Murray Halberg of New Zealand in 13:15. Before all that he was third in the AAA's 3 miles in 13:39.2. It was won by policeman, Stan Eldon, in 13:22.4. ' To me another highlight in my athletics was winning over 2 miles at the White City.' said Peter Clark.
Of the many races he won was the Cardington to Henlow 10 miles in 1959 in 53.49. That is held in high regard by the R A F camps all over the country. He went down as Sergeant Peter Clark on the result sheets.
   About Peter Clark, Dick Booth in his book called the ' Impossible Hero'  about Gordon Pirie said of Peter Clark " Peter Clark had grown up in Wiltshire some miles from an athletics club or a decent track and for many years travelled 14 miles to and from school every day, and a similar distance to a track to train. He later took a long-term contract in the RAF as a radio fitter, joined Thames Valley Harriers and gradually worked his way through the running ranks until, 14 years after starting as an athlete he got his first international vest."
   Clark told me " I was a radio technician so, if one person was to go with the squadron I would be chosen. That was to parts of Europe and it could be 24 hours a day for a whole week in the UK but that was what I was paid to do'
   As Clark ran against the best in the World who did he most admire?
   ' I think the best bloke was GORDON PIRIE. At times we did not see eye to eye but who does!
    'He was a very nice guy really. Very, very helpful to a lot of people.'
Peter Clarke was a Wiltshire, Lincoln and Hampshire cross country Champion in his life so, what did he feel about people missing out on such events these days and do they race enough
   " I DON'T THINK SO'  was his short reply.
   'Being in the Services I  would race virtually every week and in the Summer it was mid week all the way through to the end 4 months later. Ideally, looking back, there were things I should have done. I did not work hard enough. If I had used my head I would have won a lot more races. When I used my head I thrashed the opposition but I didn't and that is life. The Olympics was the one thing I wanted to achieve but in some way I was glad I did not because in Rome in 1960 it was absolutely awful, so I understand from what they told me. OK for the Ethiopian marathon runner or the many Eastern block countries where drugs were available.'
   However he concluded about the whole of his life and how he was still happy the way things turned out so far " I would not change a bit of it"

Alastair Aitken

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