You will have read in Lisa’s report about Hugh’s over 90 record, but you may not have realised that Hugh was actually the fastest man running at Hove Park on that Saturday. In fact, of the almost 20,000 runners that has graced our parkrun only Olympians Tim Hutchings, Andy Baddeley, Richard Nerurkar and Rob Mullett have run faster during their careers.
In 1956 Hugh won the Southern 3miles track title (see photo above) in 13:35.2 on cinders, a time equal to around 14:03 for 5000 metres or 5k. Two years later his 28:16 for 6 miles on the track equated to approx 29:16 for 10,000 metres or 10k. In 1956 he was desperately unlucky not to make the Olympic Games. The three British representatives in the 10,000 metres finished 5th, 8thand 10th. Hugh, as the next selection possibility would have been in Melbourne if he had been from any other country. Ken Norris, the runner wearing 10 in the photo was actually the 5thfinisher in the Olympics. Also in 1956 Hugh was second in the International Cross Country Championship, which at the time was mainly European, but later became the World Championship. He also appeared for Britain in several two country international track matches, plus an England appearance in the 1958 Commonwealth Games.
That covers the big stuff, but my association with Hugh starts in the same year of 1956, when as a 19 year old RAF National Service Radar Operator I had the good fortune to be posted to the RAF Truleigh Hill radar station and be billeted in Shoreham. Most of my colleagues wanted to be posted near to home. All I wanted was to be posted near to a decent athletic club. Brighton Athletic Club, as it was then, had a very strong distance section in which Hugh was a massive inspiration. Unlike many top runners today, Hugh appeared in practically everything that the club was involved in, track, road or cross-country.
He always appeared at Withdean on a Tuesday evening and dragged several of us round sessions that look pretty advanced for 60 years ago. He would potter round with us while we were running our socks off with sessions such as 6 x 880yds (800 metres) in 2:14 average, with 2 laps recovery, and 10 x 440yds (400 metres) in 69-70 secs average, with just 100metres for recovery. These were pretty light sessions for Hugh and I used to think that this was his ‘easy’ day among 6 much harder ones. I learned later that he had been out for a quick 10 miles before breakfast!
In those days road and cross country relays were more popular than nowadays and clubs ran about 10 of these events each year. There were prizes (usually domestic items) for the first 3 teams rather than medals. Hugh always ran the 4thstage. The first 3 had to do their best before Hugh scythed through the opposition to hand over in the first three, often in front. The last two (sometimes I was one of them) had to do their best to stay in the first three and go home with a table lamp, a holdall, a pair of sheets, a set of fruit bowls or something similar.
Somewhere in the early 1960s Hugh stopped running seriously to get his accountancy career established, but returned to win quality veterans events and set age group records. He has run and raced continuously ever since, as you saw on Saturday. His 80-84 record of 28:31 on the not too easy Hove Park course is particularly impressive, as is the 85-89 record of 36.52. Hugh’s aim on his 90thbirthday was to run 50 minutes or less and he did just that with a time of 49:13. So, watch this space. Next step 95-99 record?