Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

Bruce Tulloh (Interviewed April 2011 and September 1962)

Bruce Tulloh, his wife Sue and his three children Clive, Jojo and Katherine all have run to a high standard
at some time or another. When I first talked to Bruce Tulloh in 1962 at the White City Stadium he was a research biologist and he retired eventually, having been a biology teacher at Marlborough College.

   Bruce Tulloh may be remembered for his feat of running across America in 1969 (Los Angeles/New York) knocking eight days off  the record but here Alastair Aitken interviewed Bruce at the London Marathon Exhibition and also back in 1962 at the White City Stadium, after Bruce Tulloh had won the European 5000m in Belgrade. Some of Alastair's first ever published interview appeared in Modern Athletics with two other extracts of his with Robbie Brightwell and Derek Ibbotson. The article was called 'The Qualities that Make a Star'
   "When did you first take up running?"
   " I came from a very sporting background. All my aunts and uncles did sport and my Grandfather was an international tennis player. Having that sporting background meant I played all sports as one does.'
   ' I went to Wellington and as I was not a rugby player so, all I could do was run. From that time on I ran. I ran fairly successfully but not top class. I was at the back of the team but I enjoyed it. When I went into National service, if I had been any good, they would have kept me back at the depot to run for the regiment but as it turned out I went to Hong Kong and in 1955. I won the Hong Kong Championships 5000m in 16:46 so that was my first breakthrough.
  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 beech a lot then tried it on the cinder tack 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."
   The White City Stadium had a fantastic atmosphere?
   " Being completely built up made a big difference with less wind. It was a better atmosphere. We used to get big crowds in those days 30,000 or more for an international athletics match or the AAA's Championships. That made a huge difference and very exciting, and very frightening but made it a great place to run. A pity we have not got a central venue now."
   The European Championships 5000m final on the 15th of September 1962 in Belgrade. The first 3 were 1 Bruce Tulloh 14:00.6 with Olympic bronze medallist, Kazmierz Zimny, 2nd in 14:01.8 and Olympic 10,000 Champion Pyotr Bolotnikov 3rd. There were other great runners in the race. The two Frenchman Michel Bernard and Robert Bogey, Siegfried Hermann of East Germany and John Anderson of Great Britain to mention a few. First his account on the 30th of September 1962 at the white City Sadium:- At What stage of the race did you think you had the really under control?
 " 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 bit more extra and was fairly happy then."
Running against Zimny earlier must have given you some idea of the tactics to pursue?
" It gave me more an idea of what he was capable of. That is why I ran from the front, I did not know what his capabilities were, this I would not discover in slow race."
Bolotnikov (U.S.S. R.) made a burst late in the race to be in with a chance of second place behind you?
  " I do not think he was expecting to win but he made up a lot of ground in the last lap."
Bruce Tulloh's confidence for that race was illustrated by him when I talked to him later in 2011:-
" I had run some good times. I had run 13:12 for 3 miles by then what was pretty close to the World's Best . I figured my chance was then. I had been beaten by Zimny (Poland) very narrowly 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 who won the 10,000 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 outsprint 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."
   The British Empire and Commonwealth Games were coming up in Perth, Australia in November so, what training did he think he would do for that, when I talked to him in 1962
   " Distance training and repetition miles, very little speed work, then hill running and more repetition work, then with faster stuff in the two weeks before the Games in November. Strength is more important, the speed is there. We will have time trails amongst ourselves in Perth and friendly races to get the racing edge."
   The first six in the British Empire & Commonwealth 3 miles Final in Perth were 1 Murray Halberg (NZ the Olympic 5000 Champion) 13.34.2, 2 Ron Clarke (Australia) 13.36, 3 Bruce Kidd (Canada) 13.36.4, Bruce Tulloh (England) 13.37.8; 5 Albie Thomas (Australia) 13.40.6; 6 Eddie Strong (England) 13.41.4.
  Talking about that in 2011
" I started off competing in New Zealand in January and February and went straight into the road relay and track season with international matches,.the European Championships. We had to gear ourselves up again to go to the Commonwealth in November and I had not got the mental drive anymore. It was a good field with Olympic Champion Murray Halberg, Ron Clarke and Bruce Kidd who  won the 6 miles. Albie Thomas and Kip Keino were behind me so it was a good field."
   You had some good cross-country races and you were just beaten by Gerry North in the National of 1962?
   "It was Gerry's day. It was in his home town Blackpool. He forgot that he could not outsprint me but he was very determined to win. I was running in bare feet and probably could not sprint. He took his chance."
    Your club Portsmouth had a very good road relay and cross-country team?
   " We won the Southern road really many times but not the National. It took many years before we could win the team title in the 'National' cross country Championships (They won in 1963, 64 and 67).
   Your team runner Tim Johnston was a great cross-country and road runner and as a veteran champion later on?
   " When he was 21 he won a lot of cross-countries that year. He was totally dedicated. He won the AAA's 10,000 and Marathon trials in 1968. He had gone out to live in Mexico the year before and came close to winning the Olympic marathon'(AA--Johnston was leading at 20K in 1:06:02 with Temu on 1:06.03 but later unable to run hard with the altitude effecting him) Bruce continues:- " I think if Tim had eaten more at breakfast. He had his quirky diet but he had a real go to win (8th in 2:18:42)."
   Gordon Pirie was someone you admired?
  " He was an inspiration and a totally committed runner but very self centred, as most good runners are. He was particularly self centred 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 the Rome Olympics and it was very hot and we did not acclimatise properly.None of us made the final but Gordon took us to the beech the next day so, I have very fond memories of Gordon."
   You achieved quite a lot of things in your veteran years?
    " I won my category in the London Marathon at 58 running 2:47. I am still running. I ran a 5k Park run a couple of weeks ago. I like to measure my decline for medical interest. The rise and fall of a runner and how fast one's declines. If you don't have the odd race you don't have the incentive to train. The older you get the more you need to look after yourself. I am 75 now. I am writing a book on old age. I am .looking for a publisher at the moment It might be called '
'Live Longer Live Better' How to avoid dyeing for as long as possible!"
   You coached Mike Boit of Kenya who was 3rd in the Olympic 800 in 1972 and also 2nd in the Commonwealth Games in 1:44.4 in 1974 and a clear winner in Edmonton in 1978.
   " I was in Kenya for 2 years teaching. I was coaching at a college. He ran one international but he was about to retire at 23 at the time. He was only fifth ranked in Kenya but before the Olympics of 1972 I realised what a good runner he was and told him so and, I kept telling him that and we did time trials. It was the start of a long career for him. I wrote a long letter and told him not to open it till he was on the plane. I said what to avoid and what training to do and he followed my instructions and won a bronze!"
       Richard Nerurkar was a very intelligent man you coached?
       " He still is! He went to do languages at Oxford and spent one year in Russia and had an academic scholarship to Harvard in the USA for two years. He was a talented runner and very hard working at everything. He was not fast with basic speed but he still ran 7:47 for 3000, 62's all the way. He had the great capacity of not being injured and got fifth in the Olympics. He did 50 miles a week at 40 but 100 miles at the age of 21 onwards and 120 a week when he was doing his marathon training. He did 13:23.36 for 5000 and 27:40.03 for 10k.
       His World Cup was a special victory for him?
          " We had not won a major marathon for a long time so that was very pleasing." (San Sebastian World Cup Marathon winner in 2:12.57--Nerukar's personal best 2:08.36)

Alastair Aitken

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