Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Britain is a country which reveres an old athlete called Roger Bannister, remembers his 4 minute mile and forgets his fellow runner called Tom Hulatt

Sixty years ago to the day : 6 May 1954 at Iffley Road Track in Oxford, with Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher providing the pacing, the now 85 year old and then 25 year old Roger Bannister became the first person to run a recorded 4 minute mile and in the process became a national hero. I was seven years old at the time and dimly remember the talk among us awe-struck kids at school. What I didn't know then and do know now is that the runner who came third in the race was the unsung hero and working class runner, Tom Hulatt.

What you possibly didn't know about Tom, that he :

* was born in 1930 in Tibshelf, Derbyshire and after leaving school, joined the Army but bought himself out and worked as a miner at Williamthorpe Colliery and ran five miles there and back each day and also worked as a council rat catcher.

* in his spare time ran for Alfreton Athletics Club, Chesterfield Harriers, Hallamshire Harriers and London Polytechnic and was the Derbyshire and Northern Counties 'One Mile Champion' in 1953 and 1954.

* on one occasion, when competing at Newcastle Upon Tyne, worried that he would not be able to get to the venue if he journeyed on the day of the meeting, arrived the previous day, slept rough that night because he could not afford the cost of accommodation, competed the following day, then made the journey back home.

* possibly had his presence in the famous race explained by the fact that the previous year, Roger had a time of 'four minutes two seconds' cancelled by race officials because of concerns about pace setting which worried him throughout the winter of 1953-54 and led to the Amateur Athletics Association selectors to look for someone who wasn't part of the tight knit training group of Bannister, Chataway and Brasher and found him in Tom who was Northern Counties champion.

* was 24 years old when he attended the Iffley Road Track in Oxford, the only of the six runners not to have attended university, part of the AAA team but not part of the conspiracy to pace Roger to break the record and was advised by Roger before the event to "run his own race".

* started the race on the extreme right and recorded a time of 4 minutes and 16 seconds https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTXoTnp_5sI

* was not interviewed after the race and while the 'Bannister Trio' went celebrating and clubbing in London, got his programme signed by Bannister, Brasher and Chataway, had a pint and a sandwich and took the train back to Derbyshire with his brother.

* posthumously, on the fiftieth anniversary of his run in 2004, had a one mile stretch of the 'Five Pits Trail' designed as the 'Tom Hulatt Mile' identified by two marker stones with inscribed plaques in coal measures sandstone (left), donated by the National Trust.

The Iffley Road race with its glaring display of class division was run in a time when sport reflected and reinforced, social, cultural and political hierarchies to a far greater extent than its does today. So we can celebrate Roger's great victory and also celebrate the passing of the Britain in which it was achieved.

1 comment:

  1. Interview with Bannister on Meridian today and he couldn't even mention that Tom Hulatt was in the same AAA team as the 3 of them.