Archive for May, 2012

Nostalgia: Jim Peters – Marathon Man (1918-1999)

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

James Henry (Jim) Peters was one of the greatest marathon runners. His exploits in the early 1950s are often overlooked because of his dramatic collapse at the 1954 Empire Games in Vancouver. Jim was born on 24-Oct-1918 at Homerton in the east London Borough of Hackney. He overcame childhood poverty and ill-health to make his name as a runner. His speciality events were the 6M and Marathon. In 1946, he was English 6M champion and 10M champion in 1947. Peters finished 8th in the 10,000m at the 1948 London Olympics after being lapped by the great Emil Zátopek. Jim wanted to quit the sport, but his coach persuaded him to focus on the Marathon. For the next three years, the mild-mannered Jim trained hard and ran low-key races, all the while working full-time as an optician in Essex.

Peters wins Chiswick Marathon (1952)

When Jim Peters pulled on running kit he became a demon running machine. His motto was “Kill or be killed‟ and his fierce training programme horrified friend and foe – “I bashed it night after night” in his own words. He single-handedly revolutionised Marathon running pace giving all that he had in each and every race. He smashed world records while running in plimsolls, commonly known as sand, or beech shoes. Jim said he used to swap feet after a few months so they wouldn’t wear down in the same place! Notwithstanding, he was the first man to run the 26.2M / 42.2km distance in under 2hrs 20mins, an achievement equivalent to the breaking the four minute mile. His comeback in 1950 involved a self-imposed training programme of unprecedented intensity. Lacking a tactical sense and ignoring conventional wisdom, he ran ‘ugly’. But guts and sheer bloody-mindedness saw him grind out victories irrespective of the conditions. He won the Polytechnic Marathon, a point-to-point race from Windsor to Chiswick, West-London, four years in a row. In 1951, after a great battle with the veteran Jack Holden, Jim set a British record time of 2:29:14. This run was surpassed by his next three Poly Marathons, all of which Jim won in a world best time. In 1952, an Olympics year, he clocked 2:20:42. In 1953, he ran the first sub-2:20 point-to-point race clocking 2:18:40. Later in the year, he ran the first sub-2:20 out-and-back race clocking 2:19:22 at the Enschede Marathon in The Netherlands. On 26-Jun-1954 he clocked a career best time of 2:17:39 setting another world record at the Poly Marathon.

In spite of all his Marathon exploits, Jim was plagued by a series of setbacks at international level – a situation akin to Paula Radcliffe, the Woman’s World Record Marathon holder, who failed to win a medal at four consecutive Olympics (1996 – 2008). At the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, Peters opened a commanding lead in the Marathon, but he began to develop leg cramps, something he said he’d never experienced before, and was eventually forced to quit the race after 30km while in 4th position. It was a crushing defeat for the pre-race favourite. The next year (1953) Peters was running just as well, having gradually built up his training workload. Peters looked in even better form in 1954. Following a horrendous transatlantic journey, he finished 2nd behind Veikko Karvonen (Fin) in the Boston Marathon and looked a certainty for the 1954 Empire (Commonwealth) Games in Vancouver.

Peters finishes 2nd in Boston (1954)

Two steps forward, three to the side

Jim’s Empire Games began well clocking 29:20 to win a bronze in the 6M track event. The Marathon set off at noon on 07-Aug-1954 in sweltering hot and humid conditions. Jim set a blistering pace entering the stadium 17mins ahead of the next man. However, he was to pay dearly for this policy of running ‘eyeballs out’ every time. The final victory lap turned to excruciating heartbreak as the gangly and exhausted optician collapsed from heatstroke. Reports say the sun was so warm that tar melted during the race. Only six out of sixteen starters finished and Jim would not be one of them.

On entering the stadium, he appeared drunk swaying from side to side and it seemed one half of his body was paralysed. With only 385 yards to run, Peters fell six times within the first 200 yards. Driven by instinct and a misbegotten willpower, Jim would haul himself up and stagger a few steps forward and from side to side in a tottering dance of death. The crowd could only observe in agonising silence as the tragedy played out for another 11mins until Jim collapsed over the Mile finish – 200 yards short of the Marathon line.

High in the press box, Peter Wilson of the Daily Mirror fed another sheet into his typewriter: “Two steps forward, three to the side. So help me, he is running backwards now … oh, he’s down again. The nauseous spectacle of a semi-conscious man being allowed to destroy himself while no one had the power or gumption to intervene”. Eventually, the English team’s masseur, Mickie Mayes, ran onto the track to grab Peters with 200 yards still to run. This was considered one of the greatest mix-ups in sports history. It’s hard to know who’s to blame – Mayes said officials told him that Peters had finished the race! Nevertheless, Mayes intervention probably saved Jim’s life. He was stretchered away, his skin a deathly mottled grey and a collar of foam streaming from his mouth. 

Masseur Mickie Mayes (towel in hand) steps in to grab Peters

Among those who tended Peters was Roger Bannister, who earlier on outkicked his great rival John Landy to win the “Miracle Mile” while the Marathon was still in progress. Some officials, who could have informed Peters of his great lead, had abandoned their positions to watch the Bannister-Landy race. Over the years there have been several published medical studies on Peters’ collapse.

Incidentally, Stan Cox, the athlete in second position also collapsed from heatstroke. At the 25M mark, he was so disoriented he ran into a telegraph pole. Police helped him to an ambulance, and he was taken to hospital ahead of Peters. The eventual winner Jim McGhee collapsed five times on the course, but he heard the two men ahead had failed to finish, so he picked himself up and went on to win – a real race of attrition if ever there was one! It seems bizarre now that athletes in those days paid so little attention to the body’s need for proper hydration – Peters drank no water during the entire race. 

Jim McGhee (Scot), teammate Stan Cox (Eng) and Peters early on

 In 1994, the dapper 75-year-old Peters said he’d no recollection of his Marathon collapse and conceded he was lucky not to have died that day. He said he’d often suffered since from giddiness and what he called ‘my Vancouver headache’ and cheerfully admitted regrets: ‘I set off too fast in the heat, but that was always my way: to destroy the field. I actually had a lead of nearly three-and-a-half miles. If someone had told me I was so far ahead, I would have stopped at the last feed station, had a good sponge down and trotted in slowly. When I woke up in hospital I thought I’d won. When I asked a nurse, she’d said, “You did great, Jim, just great”, so at least I went back to sleep a winner.’ My lasting regret is that all the focus on my folly denied just deserts for the actual winner, Jim McGhee, but at least I’d beaten Jim to the stadium by a whole 17 minutes, so the Duke of Edinburgh struck me a special medal, inscribed “J Peters, a most gallant marathon runner”. It’s the most treasured of all my trophies.’

Jim never fully recovered from his Marathon tragedy and retired from athletics on medical advice. Some years later, when the Commonwealth games returned to Vancouver, he was invited back to complete his historic last lap of the track. Jim Peters died at his home in Thorpe Bay, Southend-on-Sea on 09-Jan-1999 at the age of 80, a greatly revered member of the British running community.

Club Members Fundraiser for the Irish Heart Foundation

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Following the sudden death of his brother Ian on New-year’s Day 2010, Aiden Henry and his family decided to raise some much needed funds for the Irish Heart Foundation. Aiden, an avid BARRS member, took on the task with his usual energy and enthusiasm. “Our target was to encourage as many people as possible to run the BGE Cork City Marathon in 2010”. “When the big day arrived, we had over seventy family members and friends participating in either the Team Relay or the Full Marathon. We saw our sponsorship grow steadily as people were more than willing to donate generously in support of this very worthy cause”.

Aiden is quick to acknowledge the support he got from within the club. “Apart from the usual club activities, the legacy of this fundraiser bears testament to the efforts and contributions of individual club members, all of whom gave of their time freely and willingly”.

Show me the Money! Aiden Henry & friends

Just in case you’re wondering, that’s Aiden in the middle of the photo, behind the little guy. Aiden just completed the London and Belfast City Marathons and will be doing it all over again on June Bank Holiday Monday. “With the Cork City Marathon just around the corner, I want to say a heart-felt thanks to all those who helped us previously. In particular, a big thanks to club members Trevor O’Neil, Paul Gallagher, Willie Hayes, Colin Condon and Dáithi & Leonie Merrick, all of whom were so very kind and supportive”.

It appears that our Aiden Henry definitely has his heart in the right place, folks!

Paddy Hennessy – Founder Member of St. Finbarr’s A.C.

Saturday, May 19th, 2012

Paddy Hennessy founder member of St. Finbarr's A.C.

St. Finnbarr’s A.C. is proud to pay tribute to the late Paddy Hennessy, former president and founding member of the club. Paddy was a modest, sociable and enterprising man of many talents, well-liked and respected by colleagues and friends.  From Somerton Park in Ballinlough, Paddy was a former employee of the Southern Health Board. As co-founder of the Ballinlough Credit Union, he contributed to the development of his local community. His colleague Jack Healy remembers him warmly as a wonderful character with a keen interest in the welfare of the Credit Union.

Nonetheless, Paddy Hennessy is indelibly linked with the sport of Athletics and moreover St. Finnbarr’s Athletic Club. On a warm Sunday afternoon in the summer of 1951, Paddy Hennessy along with John O’Connell, Dick Day and Pat Bowe set off for an athletics meet held by Rising Sun A.C. The quartet won two medals setting off a sequence of events that would culminate in the founding of St. Finnbarr’s A.C. Initially, the club was registered with 17 members and Paddy as secretary. Over the years “The Barrs” has gone from strength to strength and currently boasts a membership well in excess of 200 men and women.

At the 1950 Cork City Sports, Paddy competed as an under-18 in the 220 yards with St. Nessans (Sullivans Quay) School. In 1951 at the Drinagh Sports, Paddy was already winning at novice doubles (100 & 500 yards). Indeed, sprint doubles and trebles (100, 220 and 440 yards) became regular events for him at senior open sports between 1952 and 1955. At Ballymore in 1955 he showed his prominence sometimes leading home a One, Two and Three for “The Barrs”. Paddy was also prominent when the club first figured in Cross Country with a 3rd place in the 1953 Cork County Seniors. Among his other successes, Paddy won the 220 yards at the 1953 Cork City Sports and the 100 yards in Bandon. At the 1954 Munster Championships in Kenmare, Paddy won the 440 yards ahead of Fermoy’s Tom Kavanagh, the 1952 Irish Champion at the distance. The same year, “The Barrs” won the Cade Cup as the best club in Cork.

Decathlon Championship 1955 – J. Curtin (2nd), P. Hennessy (1st), P. Carrigy (3rd), D. J. Murphy (Hon. Sec. Cork County Board), L. O’Donnell (4th)

In 1955 Paddy was named “Cork Athlete of the Year” winning twelve 1st and seven 2nd placed prizes and helping “The Barrs” to retain the Cade Cup. He was also the first winner of the Cork County Decathlon Championship, coming ahead of athletes who were prize winners in Jumps, Throws and Hurdles. And yet, despite all his success in Track & Field, Paddy remained as down-to-earth and modest as ever!

Paddy Hennessy graduated with a Commerce degree from U.C.C. in 1959 and married Kay in 1960. His wisdom and experience were always available to the club as Vice President and President. In the mid-1960s he was back in full fettle on the club committee as the doors were opened to women and juvenile members. Paddy wore his club blazer and tie regularly and with pride. One of Paddy’s initiatives, the annual Christmas morning run with gifts for the Children’s Home in Passage, became part of the club’s tradition fondly remembered by runners and the children alike.

In 2011, the club celebrated its 60th Anniversary and Paddy was presented with the “St. Finbarr’s A.C. Hall of Fame Award”. Paddy Hennessy was a devoted family man sadly missed by his wife Kathleen, children Niall, Caroline, Patricia and Brian, grandchildren as well as his extended family and friends. His name is forever linked to “The Barrs” and remembered with pride.

Pfizer 6 Mile 9th May, 2012

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Congrats to Paul Gallagher on his maiden victory in this tough 6 miler last Wednesday. In wet and windy conditions Paul led from start to finish for a great win in a time of 33.25, which was almost a minute clear of 2nd place. Well done Paul!

Ken Devine who was 4th overall was 1st M45 with Willie Hayes 2nd M55 and Mick dunne 1st M65.
In the ladies race Orla Crosbie continued her good recent form with an excellent 3rd place finish!
Niamh Cronin was 1st F35, with Gillian Cotter and Denise Twohig 2nd and 3rd F35 while Ann Wolfe was 1st F40 and Margo Dinan 3rd F40. Marion Lyons was 1st F55.

Well done everyone!

Ballinhassig Straight Mile 13th May, 2012

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Colin Condon was the winner of the Ballinhassig Straight Mile race on Sunday in a time of 5.24. In windy conditions Colin finished 13 seconds clear of our own Eamon McEvoy for his maiden victory. Congrats Colin!
In the ladies race Orla Crosbie was 2nd and Rebecca McEvoy 3rd. Well done everyone!

2nd John Buckley Sports Graded T&F Meeting 2012

Friday, May 11th, 2012

The second of the John Buckley Sports Graded T&F Meetings 2012 starts on Monday, May 14th, 7.30pm at the CIT Track. By all accounts, the first graded meeting was a rip-roaring success on a somewhat cool but thankfully dry evening. Over 40 signed up for the MILE event, which had to be split into three separate races. The inclusion of a 3km event at the next meeting is sure to prove an equally popular draw with athletes.

These are graded meetings open to people of all levels of ability from any club. It should be a fun night out for all. Entry is €5.00 on the night. Do as much or as little as you like!

Belfast Marathon – 7th May, 2012

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Cathal O Connell was 15th in the Belfast Marathon yesterday. Cathal ran his usual time of 2.35 :-)   and was 1st M45! Cathal finished very strongly and ran a negative split having completed the first half in 1.18.59. Congrats Cathal!

Bay Run Winner 6th May

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Congrats to Cathal O Donovan who won the Bay Run yesterday in a time of 79.02. Cathal, who was 24th in last weeks European Duathlon Championships in Holland, continued his excellent recent form to win by 14 seconds in a closely fought race over the difficult course.

Mary Sweeney – Legend

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Congrats to the ageless and peerless Mary Sweeney who was 3rd in the Limerick Marathon today (6th May)! Mary who has been in excellent form recently in the local races was training hard and it paid off today with a brilliant perfornace to finish in 3.07. I’m guessing she was 1st F50!!! Well done Mary, enjoy a rest, at least until the Pfizer 6 mile race on Wednesday!

More Results!

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

In the Bride 10k in Rathcormac John Meade was 1st and Rory O Sullivan was 3rd!

In the Stride By the Tide race Michael Morgan was 1st while Mary Sweeney was 2nd in the ladies with Valerie Vaughan 3rd.

In the Midleton 5 mile race on Thursday John Meade was 3rd while Ken Devine who was 9th overall was 2nd M45.