BILLY THE KID BECOMES A MAN
AS a teenage runner in the 1980s, I was inspired by British middle-distance runners and fascinated by the coverage they received in magazines like
AW and Marathon & Distance Runner. Of the many articles I soaked up, one in particular sticks in my mind – a feature on Ikem Billy as a young runner at Loughborough University, with a large photo of him relaxing on the bed of his rather spartan student accommodation.
So roughly 35 years later it feels slightly surreal to publish a piece about a former 800m prodigy who now has grey flecks in his hair and spends more time keeping fit cycling than running.
Billy’s PB of 1:44.65 has certainly stood the test of time, though. With good reason he wonders why today’s athletes aren’t running much quicker and in his interview (p32-34) he also questions whether the sport needs “an Andy Normantype figure”, or someone like Jack Buckner or Nigel Walker, to steer the sport in the right direction.
IT IS a travesty that crosscountry runners do not attract Lottery funding simply because their discipline isn’t an Olympic sport. The sport lies at the harrier heart of the nation. The leading protagonists work just as hard as those in Olympic events. Numberswise, it’s also one of the most popular event areas, filling acres of column inches and multiple front covers in AW every winter.
So thank goodness for the London Marathon funding
(News, p8), which fills a void in the Lottery system and which supports, among others, the senior winners of last weekend’s Euro Cross trials.
Ross Millington and Charlotte Arter both returned from injury to take victory in Liverpool – and in Millington’s case he made the cover of AW – and they’ll now lead a GB squad in Tilburg which will be tipped to top the medals table as usual.
Such strong, gritty performances are worth every penny of support, surely.