Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

Robert Slowe - Outstanding Clubman



Interviewed by Alastair Aitken in Sepember 2004

There are precious few Highgate Harriers that could claim to having been officials and committee members for the club for last 45 years of the last 50 years but, in that regard Bob Slowe is certainly one of those.

Bob Slowe has been a competitive athlete, till the last six years and, held the post of  President, General Secretary, Running Section Secretary, Auditor, Treasurer,'Gate' Editor/publisher, Physio and he has even sponsored an athlete!
I talked to Bob at his office in Hampstead, where he still carry's on business in a major capacity, a couple of times a week. It was a glorious sunny day in early September, which really showed off Hampstead at it's best.
The one thing that interested me most was 'What stood out for Bob over all those years with Highgate Harriers?'

He said in that positive way of his

"When I finally became a decent cross-country runner and started finishing towards the front of fields and eventually got selected for Middlesex. I enjoyed that period immensely and also when I discovered in my 40's that I was basically a marathon runner anyway and started doing respectable times for the marathon (2:32) but cross-country has always been the thing I enjoyed. I never really enjoyed track running."

I would like to point out though that Bob also ran well for Highgate on the track doing around 1:54 to 1:56 for 800m and also came fifth in a blanket finish in the Maccabiah Games 1500 in Tel Aviv, behind the winner Ray Roseman, who was the first runner to run 'exactly Four minute's for the mile.

Bob was placed several times in age categories 'Over the age of 50' in the London Marathon..
I have vivid memories myself off Bob Slowe, pulling away from me with a group, on six mile training runs in the late 60's early '70's, as we ran up Bishops Avenue. He was training at the time with such good runners as Allan James, Oliver Fenton, Guy Ogden, Dave Yaffe and Doug Gustone.

"I was never up with internationals in races but I was a good club runner. Olly and Allan were good club or county runners, Doug Gunstone went on to be a very good marathon runner and both Guy and Doug were superb track runners. Dave Yaffe in fact was better than me till we got very old!"

Living in Hampstead Garden Suburb and being able to run on the Heath must have meant a lot to him and, a wonderful anti-stress mechanism for his intense business dealings.

"Definitely. For many years I have run to work and home again over the heath about six miles each way, that enabled me to keep training during the time the children were growing up and a long time afterwards. Many people still come up to me and recognise me, even now, and they say 'Oh you are the chap who used to run across the Heath. We used to set our clock by you'. I valued my run in and out from work when I could go over problems in my mind, even without thinking about it and even more so running home, having left work somewhat stressed but by the time I got home I was completely calm and quite a lot of problems had sorted themselves out."

Amongst the jobs that Bob has done with the club some must have been really pleasurable. Bob pointed out

'I can't say that any one was particularly more pleasurable than the others. I enjoyed being in the management of the club and of course the thing that went on the longest was editing the club magazine 'The Gate' which I started with Rob Kennan and I did it on and off for ages. Various other people like Paul Lovell came and went while we were doing it. Rob went to Ireland and I joined up with Sonia Wilson and more recently Javier Pes. Probably the first club journal I had anything to do with was in the early 1960's. I have been doing it on and off since then.'

With all those jobs, what did Bob feel about people, that have been years in the club but don't necessarily contribute to helping with the club. He was understanding about that when he said

"Some people are joiners, some takers, some join the club for a particular reason because they enjoy their sport but don't want to have any further involvement. I think you must respect everyone's own decision on that and not be critical. I got a lot of pleasure out of joining in and doing things with people and I would not have missed it for the World but there are some people whose lives are structured in a different way and I think one must accept everybody's decision on that."
He added 'I have got a lot of pleasure out of my sports massage and remedial massage. I spent every Thursday night at the track treating all the Highgate members. It was hard work but I found eventually I was getting too tired.'

Bob has not relinquished himself totally from Highgate matters by any means, although there are many people he does not know personally like he did in days gone bye. He is involved with the corporation of running the Heath and views things from a distance. He did point out though (I must point out what is now said was back in September of 2004) "I think the Management and coaching side of the club is weak. I don't think the club could survive by losing someone like Jack Bayliss.
The younger members are starting to get involved with management, like Ben Pochee and Nick Gold but it needs a lot more at the top particularly on the Young athletes side.'
He continued 'They are vastly overloaded with no permanent athletics team manager. One could say the recent success we have been having was despite all those problems rather than....There is no secret that I believe in this modern world there is not the room for more than one club in North London.'
Bob hoped that the time would be right for such clubs as say London Heathside and Highgate merging, in order to have a stable and robust structure for the future. Bob added "While we are having success it won't happen and I can quite understand people thinking 'Why should we merge ourselves' History has shown clubs only merge from weakness when they are on the way out, when the way of survival is 'merger' but that is not a good merger. What I would really like to see is two strong clubs merging."
Bob can remember how he came into running partly through a Master at prep school in Seaford.He had been an Olympian. Bob found out as a ten year old he could run better than many boys at school when, overtaking them on a run back to school.
It was something he then enjoyed for the foreseeable future.

There was one period in his life, five years ago (at the time of writing this story in 2004) when he had a heart attack brought on mainly through personal stress because, he did not have a family history in such matters.It was a great shock to him at the time, having been a runner for so many years for that to happen at all but typically, Bob rose above it all and continues to go out jogging and even playing some golf, as well as continuing his work but his racing days are over.However, by then, he was already well into his '60's and had had a very long racing life..

Bob values all his time with Highgate Harriers and there are many, particularly the older members of Highgate Harriers, who realise how important it was that he was willing to put in so much time over the years to further the cause of the club and, for that all Highgate Harriers can be thankful for..

Alastair Aitken

Back to Reports Index

Back to Archive index