This week’s Friday Feature we have released from his barracks and pressed back into active service RAF Senior Aircraftsman, Roy Taylor. Hedgehopper stalwart, Roy has very kindly shared some of his running memories with us:
Please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born in the maternity hospital in Buckingham Road, Brighton, but lived my first 10 years in Warnham, near Horsham. I had no brothers or sisters and my father was away for about half of that time in the RAF during wartime and just after. My mother died and my father remarried, resulting in a move to Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire where I acquired a step-mother and three step brothers.
This lasted until I was 18, when I was called up for two years National Service in the RAF. Halfway through the first year I completed a Radar
Operator course and awaited a permanent posting. I asked about the chances of being posted near a decent athletic club, and was astonished to end up as an operator at the RAF Truleigh Hill radar station, and billeted in Shoreham. I later met this young lady in the Co-Op and never went home again. Diamond Wedding this year!
When did first start running?
At the age of 13 at technical school in Watford and also at the same time at a boys club in Welwyn. The sports master at school was very keen on athletics, and a helper at the boys club was a top level county runner. I joined ‘Welwyn Athletic Club at 16 and changed to Brighton once I knew that I would be remaining in Sussex.
How many years have you been running for?
70 years. The queen was still Princess Elizabeth, and Winston Churchill was Prime Minister when I had my first race.
When did you join the Hedgehoppers and why/what made you become a regular?
I joined the Hedgehoppers at the beginning in 1982 but was also still a Brighton member at the time. I was getting close to the back end in club races, but was 29th out of over 200 in my first fun run league event. Probably got my only 10 pointer in this run.
Best thing about being a Hopper?
It has always been special to be a Hedgehopper. We have had league winning years and some not so good ones. The general spirit has always been the same. I like our current set up where we have good coverage across the age ranges. Having three daughters and a son in law involved is also going to keep me involved for a while yet.
Favourite running memory i.e. that WOW moment?
I have had a couple of WOW moments on the track, like getting a mile PB by nearly 5 seconds.. Getting in the Herts senior team for the Inter Counties cross country at 19 I think merits a WOW! All a long time ago and not in any way comparable to the amazing day I had at parkrun on my 80th birthday weekend. Family and Hoppers combined to make this really memorable. Mate Pete Weston, sadly no longer with us, organised a special tee shirt and the place was awash with super cakes after. On the run itself I was peacefully pottering along to the 4k point when at least 30 Hedgehoppers appeared from all angles to run the last kilometre with me. Stewart virtually ran the last kilometre backwards in order to take a load of very much valued photos.
What made you start running?
Encouragement at school and the boys club mentioned earlier, was a major factor.
What’s the longest distance you’ve every run?
In the run up to the second London Marathon I ran 17 miles with friends Alan Buchanan and John Wait one Sunday. They did 22 the following Sunday and I left them to it. I have never run a marathon and only three half marathons. Max weekly mileage is a mere 43!
Favourite running event and why?
If I had to select one event, I would probably go for the London to Brighton Relay. There were 20 qualifying clubs, with 12 to a team and the atmosphere was terrific. Traffic on the A23 in the 50s and 60s was not great, so club coaches full of supporters and various cars followed their runners. Even a lady in a wheelchair covered a large section most years. I ran stages from Clapham Common to Mitcham and Purley to Merstham for Brighton (in different years of course!!)
Do you have a nickname and how did you come by it?
This should answer the question
Please tell us one thing about yourself that people may not know?
Back in 1959 I was an original member of the National Union of Track Statisticians. It was a carefully chosen name as it produced the acronym NUTS.
People with this strange inclination towards athletics statistics were known as Track Nuts. I am not a member now, but I still have my membership card signed by Harold Abrahams, one of the subjects of the film Chariots of Fire.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
In 1964 in a mile race at Ilford , I battled for third place with Kevin MacBrearty of Hercules Wimbledon for all of the last two laps. At the finish line he just leaned over and took the verdict. Why is this significant? Kevin MacBrearty was 6 Feet 8 inches tall. The spectators were amused.