Mileage wise the week was nothing special. Sunday I ran what was a long run for me, 7.5 miles, much of it on trails alongside the river Tame, checking the distance using my GPS watch. That gave me a good start, and a chance of shorter runs later in the week to get me my target of 25 miles.
The bigger news is that the Her Majesty the Queen and his Royal Highness Prince Philip were visiting Accrington, the town where I was born and raised, as part of their Jubilee Tour of the North West. They would arrive at Accrington Market Hall and Hyndburn Borough Council had Invited me to greet them and invite the Queen to unveil an old stone coat of arms which had been donated to the hall and would be a lasting reminder of their visit. Amazingly the far end of the market hall, on the upper floor had been decorated with a huge banner with three pictures of me in my string vest, two of the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, 1970 and one of me winning The Boston marathon the same year. Below my name it read, “OLYMPIAN, WORLD RECORD HOLDER, ACCRINGTON LAD.” What an honour !
Mike Deegan kindly drove us to Accrington and The Globe Centre, which used to be Howard and Bulloughs textile machinery factory in my youth. I knew this well as many times I ran past to my aunty Florrie’s bakery, which was on a corner opposite Scaitcliffe Pit, now long gone, to get a loaf of bread. At the centre we had an excellent lunch with members of the local Chamber of Commerce.
The ceremony went off well. I did not fluff my lines. The Queen unveiled the coat of arms. The Chief Executive of Hyndburn Council, David Welsby, himself a runner introduced May and I to the Royal party. Prince Philip asked May whether she had run after me to marry her, to which she replied, ” No, he was too fast for me.” I reminded the Queen of a marathon fifty years ago, my second ever. The moment I mentioned ” Polytechnic Marathon ” she said, ” Windsor Castle.” She had inspected us runners in two lines before starting the race by firing a silver pistol a silver pistol. Happily, on a hot sunny afternoon, I won the race in 2:21:59 with the Olympic marathon silver medallist from the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, Franjo Mihalic, Yugoslavia second, 2:23:21, and Ron Franklin, Tipton Harriers, third, 2:25:06.
It was a delight to meet the royal couple. They were so friendly and put us at our ease immediately.