Down Memory Lane

Haydn Hedydd Davies leading after 3 laps in 1964 AAA 3000m


My time with Sale Harriers Manchester 1971-73

In 1971 we moved from Edgware in London to Hartford in Cheshire. We were there for two years. In that period, I was a lecturer in Inorganic Chemistry at Mid Cheshire College of Further Education at Hartford (2 miles from Northwich). Eiddwen my wife was a lecturer at Crewe College of Education. We were both members of Northwich Welsh Society

I joined my third English athletics club Sale Harriers which was on the Wythenshawe side of Manchester. Sale Harriers, just like my previous clubs Birchfield Harriers and Thames Valley Harriers was an outstanding club and competed in top class cross country, road races, road relays and athletics competitions. When I was in London, I was appointed a Southern Counties Staff Coach for the steeplechase event. I was also appointed as the Northern Counties Staff Coach for the steeplechase when I moved to Hartford.

Living in the North was a little different to my time in the Midlands and the South. Fell and mountain running was very popular in the North and I competed for Sale Harriers in the Three Peaks race and Chevy Chase race. I was good at running up hill but very poor coming down as I was up against mountain running specialists who could fly downhill as if they were mountain goats. When I came back to Carmarthen in 1979, I did find my Northern mountain running experience some help as in 1980 I won the Sarn Helen sixteen and half mile race, Ras Beca and was first veteran in the Snowdon race.

In 1975 when we were on holiday in America, I competed in the Pikes Peak marathon race. This race stated at 7am in the morning in Colorado Springs at a height 6,800ft and then up all the way to the summit at 14,010ft. The first part of the run was through the forest and then on to the bare rock at 10,000ft. The day before the race I had travelled from New York to Colorado Springs and therefore had no time to acclimatize.

After a slow start I steadily ran through the field to arrive at the summit in seventh place. It was difficult running back down and my lack of downhill running experience showed as I was passed by several runners to finish in 21st place in 4 .19 hours. It was one of my hardest races and certainly was an experience. I suffered afterwards from a sunburned neck and shoulders.

Sale Harriers like Birchfield and Thames Valley Harriers took part in events throughout the year. In the winter I competed in all the Manchester and District League cross country races, the Midlands cross country championships and the English National cross country championships. I competed also in the Welsh cross country championships and for West Wales in the UK inter county cross championships.

Sale Harriers also was a very organized club run by dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers. On two occasions the Club organized two attempts at breaking the 24 hour 10 man world relay track record. The attempt started at 12 noon on the Saturday and finish at 12 noon on the Sunday. On the first attempt we went off a bit too fast averaging 4.40 each for the first few miles. We only had about 50 minutes rest between each run and every one of us had to run about 20 + fast miles in 24 hours. The period between midnight and six am in the morning was tough going. The pace dropped considerably, and it was difficult to run 5.10 miles. This is when club team spirit helped, and we all felt better at day break. If my memory is correct, we came very close to breaking the world record at our second attempt.

Again, a tremendous example of team organization and team work            

When I was with Thames Valley Harriers in London, we took part in a similar team event. This time it was a 100 x 1 mile race. I can remember the Valley having a strong team out with several British international distance runners in the team. Another fine example of club comradeship which is what club athletics should be. Also, an example of close team spirit was the numerous road relay events we took part each spring. The two big ones were the Manchester to Blackpool Road Relay and the National London to Brighton Road Relay. Both races were 12 stage events. The first six teams in the Northern Manchester to Blackpool relay race qualified to compete in the National London to Brighton Road Relay.

On two occasions I was on the opening stage out of Manchester. The 12th stage was the 7 mile run to the finish at Blackpool Tower. The whole team would stay the night in Blackpool. There would be tremendous competition amongst the team members for places in these relay teams.  I had the honour of making all these teams. We travelled down to London on the Saturday with the race starting the following day from Westminster. On one occasion I was second fastest on the second stage. The team coaches would all follow the race dropping runners off at the appropriate take over point. It was a great spectacle and a wonderful experience with a total of 20 club teams, (6 from the South, 6 from the Midlands, 6 from the North and two from Scotland) battling it out to reach the finish line at Brighton.

Sadly, increasing road traffic and on the advice of the police these classic road relay races came to an end and the qualifying Area road and the National event were transferred to closed road venues. I remember in 1973 running the first stage for Sale Harriers in the National Road relay final in Sutton Park Birmingham and then running again for Sale the following day in the 22 mile Three Peaks race and helping Sale to finish second in the team race.

We trained hard and we raced hard. I would every day go out early for a run in the morning and after college work in the evening. Long runs were done in the beautiful Delamare Forest which was nearby. The summer time was also a period competing for Sale Harriers in the British Athletics League matches and Welsh Championships and road races.

I was only two years with Sale Harriers, but it was an experience not to be missed. It was a great club to be a member of. It was a very well organized Club with great spirit on and off the track. Excellent Club Dinners organized by volunteers. I was a proud winner of a few of their club championships and extremely grateful for the help and support I had from the Robertshaws. In 1973 I moved back to London when I was appointed an assistant education officer with the London of Hillingdon (Boris Johnson’s constituency now)

Sale Harriers gave me a beautifully engraved stop watch on my departure.

It reminds me of my two happy years with the Club.

Hedydd Davies

26 February 2021