SPEECH BY TERRY DARLINGTON AT THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF STONE MASTER MARATHONERS
WELCOME TO GUESTS AND TALK ON THE FORMATION AND HISTORY OF STONE MASTER MARATHONERS
Councillor Lyn Davies the Lady Mayor of Stone, from Hilderstone, and Brian Fletcher, Chairman Tennis Club. Old members – lovely to see you again.
David Moorcroft, Chief Executive of UK Athletics. His job is to lead, direct, and manage the progress of athletics in the UK, as well as ensuring the financial stability of the sport. David is known to you all from his television appearances and is a former world record holder, and Commonweath Games double gold medallist. In 1998 he was awarded the Order of the British Empire for services to athletics.
A quarter of a century ago – 1978
Background to 1978 – Top of the hit parade was Rat Trap, by the Boomtown
People wore suits and blazers and polished leather shoes. You were old at forty. Doctors warned against running because it threatened your health. People shouted abuse at runners in the street. The marathon was not recognised as an event for women in international competition. Someone had just invented the Nike Waffle trainer – the first trainer with studded soles.
Records in 1978 – men’s marathon record was 2.08 by Derek Clayton, women’s 2.32 by Greta Weitz. Only a few years before the women’s best time had been over three hours.
Stone Masters in 1978 – Bill Couldrey and Tom Chitty and I decided to run the Boston Marathon. We got good encouragement from local runners like George Kay.
One evening Bill and I were having a drink in the Brushmaker’s, and I suggested we start a club. Starting a veteran marathon club in a town of 10,000 was considered statistically impossible, but Bill and Tom and I were not very good at mathematics.
We went over to Boston as a club in our tracksuits and were received as heroes and all got in under 3.15.
In 1978 if you wore a tracksuit you could only be an athlete and if you ran a marathon you were considered a superman. Ladies used to say – goodness you must be very fit and brave, and Bill and Tom and I would answer, yes, we are, give us a kiss!
Bill actually stopped in the middle of the Boston marathon to kiss a girl from the Boston Ladies College. It was a passionate embrace and took a lot of energy. Just think, without it he might have beaten three hours!
21 years ago – January 1982
Background to 1982 – Top of the hit parade was Happy Talk by Captain Sensible. The marathon was still not recognised as an international event for women. In a dark corner of a draper’s shop someone was designing the first shell-suit.
But suddenly marathoning had becomefashionable. Everyone was climbing on board the bandwagon. Violent exercise was the answer for everything. Jane Fonda said go for the burn. Olivia Newton-John was getting physical. Some said no-one who has run a marathon race had ever died. Any man that had not run a marathon was a wimp.
Records in 1982 – in Oslo David Moorcroft took six seconds off Henry Rono’s world 5000 metres record, without using a pacemaker. This run has been called the greatest performance ever in British athletics. It is still the UK record.
Men’s record for marathon was now 2.08 held by Rob de Castella. Women’s record was 2.25 held by Greta Weitz.
Stone Masters in 1982 – big changes – there were now 77 people in Stone Master Marathoners. We had organised three UK Veteran Marathon Championships. From being based in my front room we had just moved to the hockey club.
I was still running the club myself with the help of the other hardworking club officers. I had a very simple management style, based on a small amount of flattery and a lot of threats directed at people who wouldn’t wear club kit. The general feeling was it was time to write a constitution and elect a committee.
Only yesterday – 28 November 2003
Background to 2003 – it doesn’t matter any more what is top of the hit parade. You wear anything you like. The running boom is over because everyone under seventy-five has already run a marathon. You are now considered an old person at eighty. Marathoning has become a part of normal life, and accessible to almost anyone. The doctors who warned against it have died.
Records in 2003 – Men’s marathon Paul Tergat, 2.04. Womens – Paula Radcliffe, 2.15 – faster than any British man in London and faster than Jim Peters ever ran the marathon. The battle for women runners was won long ago.
Stone Master Marathoners in 2003 – all over the world at race meetings the red and black is recognised and respected. The club has over 100 members. It is open, democratic, with a full sporting and social programme.
For over twenty years we have had winners and champions and some of our lady runners are famous throughout the world.
Reasons for the success and survival of the club
The club succeeded because although I shouldn’t say it, it was a good idea and ahead of it’s time in the UK. It has survived because of the hard work by David Mason and the Committee over the last twenty years.
Also because of the captains, who set the tone of the club more than any other person. We have had excellent captaincy over the years, including I am proud to say my wife Monica, and we have it now with Richard Shaw.
Pushing the envelope
Remember that once people laughed at runners in the street, women were physically removed from marathon races, doctors said it would kill you. The message is clear – don’t listen to what people tell you, don’t follow fashion, follow your own star, keep pushing the envelope.
If people are laughing at you and saying you are crazy, you may well be onto something good.
I am so very proud of SMM, and all you have achieved and are achieving and wherever we are Monica and I think of the good times and adventures we have shared, and now that we are back in Stone we look forward to being with you all again.
Thank you, and once more, welcome to our distinguished guests.
President, Stone Master Marathoners