Monday 5 August 2013

Most meaningful medals......

   A South African blogging acquaintance, a runner called Karien, recently posted an article featuring her five favourite race medals. Quality and design-wise they are each very exotic and far outshine any of those in my collection. In fact, her five least favourite medals - her subject for another posting - also put the majority of mine to shame. Don't believe it Karien when you say that South Africa must be the 'original home of the crappy medal' for I can assure you England produces some pretty cheap and ugly ones. Only a couple of weeks back, a medal I received belatedly, for an MV80 victory in a 1500m track race last September, was so tatty compared to others I'd won the same day that it was only fit for the trash can. Anyhow, a seed was sown so here are some of my personal favourites, not because of their quality or appearance but for the memories they revive.  I have many more.
The 'Peaks' medal - my favourite one of all...
   First: From the day I discovered I could run (June 5th 1987 when I had my first ever win of any description in the Pennine Marathon) my mind became focused on the one race that has always been my favourite in the racing calendar - The Three Peaks of Yorkshire - a fell-running classic over 24 miles with 4,500ft of ascent. I'd watched it from various viewpoints on many occasions and marvelled at the skills and stamina of my super heroes, never dreaming I'd one day be joining their ranks and running alongside them. But in 1993, a week after running sub 3 hour in the London Marathon, and against everyone's advice, I lined up with 447 of Britain's best fell runners and stormed round in a cracking 4:09:27 to finish 193rd overall and easily take the MV60 title. The boxed medal awarded to me, with its image of Horton Church and suitably engraved 'Veteran over 60 Winner' on the reverse, is the one I cherish most in my whole collection. I subsequently won two others in the 'Peaks' but they mean little by comparison to that first one.
   Second: I'm a bit reluctant to put it so high in the list but I
Cheap London Marathon medal - not even engraved...
suppose London's 1993 marathon was a huge milestone in my racing carreer because it was my first sub three hour. As I said in the paragraph above, it took place only a week before my 'Peaks' triumph but was far less meaningful. I'd been cajoled into running it by a Sikh friend, Ajit Singh, who'd finished second to me in the 1992 Pennine marathon. "You must run London with me" he insisted, "you'll beat them all". Meaning all runners over 60. I eventually gave in to pressure, travelled down to London with Ajit on Saturday morning, stayed with his friends overnight and lined up with all the 'good for age' veterans at the Red start on Sunday morning. Being but a dozen yards from the Start line I was away in seconds and through the first mile in little over 6 minutes. I didn't quite get it right (that would come two years later) and was slowing down towards the finish, but still crossed the line in a creditable 2:54:18 - good enough to take the MV60 title. Ajit was right. However, the winner's medal didn't arrive until some weeks later after they'd checked all the cameras and decided I had in fact gone through all the mile markers! It isn't even engraved and merely a larger version of the one all finishers received. Other than that I got nothing - unlike the previous year's MV60 winner, Derek Turnbull, who'd been flown over from New Zealand and put up in a posh hotel, all expenses paid, and awarded prize money for winning his category. Or so I'm told.
M70 Fell Championship medal - 2004
Third: In 2004 the Fell Runners Association introduced an MV70 category into their English Championship series. It involved running two short and two medium races with 12 points for the winner of each race, 9 for second and down to 1 point for tenth place. I'm not sure why I entered for there were some very good MV70's running regularly at that time - Barry Thackery, Colin Henson, Derek Clutterbuck, Bill Gauld - to name but a few. I was 72 that year and hadn't run a race of any description over the past four years, the last being a flat 10K road race where I'd finished 3rd MV60 at Leeds in 1999. But, as the saying goes, 'cometh the hour, cometh the man' - though I was plagued with calf muscle problems throughout the series. By some miracle I won the first two races, Noonstone (9 miles/2,300ft ascent) and Buckden Pike (3¾ miles/1,580ft ascent), both after hard fought battles with the on form Barry Thackery, thus gaining 24 points, but tore my calf muscle again in the third race, Kentmere Horseshoe (12 miles/3,300ft ascent), and could only finish second there to the Durham Harrier, Alex Menarry. The last two miles, limping to the finish off Kentmere Pike, were sheer agony but luckily the 9 points I gained gave me an unassailable lead in the Championship so I didn't have to run the final qualifying race at Shelf Moor.  My Championship medal was engraved - English Championship, Mens V70, Gordon Booth, Longwood, 1st 2004. I'm proud of that!  But it was eleven months before my calf muscle allowed me to race again.
   Fourth: I'd been searching the calendar for an interesting race to run on the occasion of my 75th birthday in
75th birthday medal - 2007
2007, preferably one my wonderful partner could run too. We eventually decided upon the Great East Anglia Run, a popular 10K road race with chip timing at King's Lynn in Norfolk - an area that is notoriously FLAT.  Never having visited Norfolk before we set off a few days prior to the race and camped along the coast to explore, and run, and maybe do a spot of bird watching.  Come race day I'd almost to work myself into a frenzy, knowing that in order to win I'd have to beat all the MV70's. There was no MV75 category. Although flat the course had many twists and turns (not to mention bollards) but I whizzed round in 45:32 to indeed beat all the MV70's and come away with a marvellous glass trophy engraved with the date 6th May, 2007 - my birthday - and 1st male veteran 70+. The medal too has the date inscribed upon it, though it's difficult to see in the picture. To add icing to the cake, my wonderful partner finished second in the LV60 category and also came home with an engraved glass plaque.

M55 10,000m Track Championship - 1990
Fifth: I've never felt quite comfortable when Track racing, feeling a little bit nervous of all the protocol, frightened of moving in the 'set' position or, God forbid, getting a false start. But not long into my racing career one of my Longwood team mates, Peter Dibb, introduced me to track racing by persuading me to compete in the Northern Veterans 10,000m track championship held that year at Blackpool's Stanley Park stadium. "How are you going to run it?" he asked as we drove down the motorway. He smiled at my rookie reply. "I'm thinking to put in a fast mile at the start to break up the field, settle into my race pace, keep ahead of the field and hopefully have enough left in the tank to outrun anybody that might try to come with me at the finish". The smile was on my face as I crossed the Finish line to win the race outright to much applause in 37:43 - just as Peter was beginning his final lap with the rest of the field strung out all over the place behind him. That was my first ever Track Championship and it had gone exactly according to plan. The medal was nothing to write home about though it was suitably engraved on the reverse marking my MV55 victory. There were more track championship medals to come but don't get me started or I'll finish up writing a book!


  1. There are lots of really bad medals here in SA, and, well I have stopped taking medals after a race unless I've come in the top 3. Which doesn't really happen... OK i do still take one at the end o the couple of marathons I find myself running. I have a box at home full of old medals and I would have needed a 2nd one if I was still taking medals. Now I have an African head (curved out of wood) on which I hang my special medals...

  2. You are SUCH a talented runner - amazing memories indeed! Loved reading your post. Thanks so much for the shout-out!

  3. Hi Old Runningfox, excellent posting. Thanks for sharing your memories and medals with us. All this are very precious and with beautiful memories. Keep up the good job, hopping to see more medals coming. :)

    best regards.