Taylor returns to Sunderland Harriers to take up new coaching role

Simon Taylor and European 10,000m champion Jo Pavey at the Brighton Marathon.
Simon Taylor and European 10,000m champion Jo Pavey at the Brighton Marathon.
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Simon Taylor is back with Sunderland Harriers after suffering severe health problems that brought his athletics career to an end.

The 54-year-old former middle distance runner, who has suffered two heart attacks, will be moving into coaching.

He said; “In May 1987, I was working for Reebok at the London Marathon exhibition. I started experiencing some chest pain while out running, but I thought nothing of it.

“A couple of months later I was running in the forests just outside Oslo with Chris Brasher (the founder of the London Marathon and the 1956 Olympic steeplechase gold medallist) who was head of Reebok, when I had to stop because of the discomfort.

“Brasher insisted on sending me to see Dan Tunstall-Pedoe, the London Marathon cardiologist, who identified blockages in my arteries.

The blockages stemmed from hypercholesterolaemia, high blood cholesterol, which I inherited from my mother.

“I started on medication to reduce cholesterol and managed the problem for 10 years, but couldn’t run properly any more.

“I tried to jog to keep in shape and on May 2, 1997, co-incidentally my 10th wedding anniversary! I was jogging in Paris with a Nike colleague when I collapsed with what turned out to be a heart attack.

“Luckily, the first passer-by was a doctor, who immediately began CPR.

“Seven days later I underwent a quadruple by-pass in Paris, and by the middle of the following week I was up and about, walking 20 minutes twice a day around the hospital grounds.

“From this I began running again, 18 months after the heart attack I ran the New York City Marathon in 3:18:46.

“These days I take a whole tranche of medication to control cholesterol etc. and while I still try and run at least four days a week, I struggle to do anything fast.

“Other than an episode in December 2013, a SCA (Sudden Cardiac Arrest), after which I had a defibrillator fitted, I have been fine – touch wood!”

The Thornhill schoolboy joined the Harriers in 1977 as a 15-year-old.

He was encouraged to join the club after he had got to know Graham Smith and Paul Collins, two of the clubs top youngsters.

He added: “I was a solid, but never an outstanding runner.

“My favourite distance was 800m and I ran 1:54.6 in 1982 and placed 4th in the NE Champs.

“I never broke 4:00 for 1,500, which was a huge frustration, my best being 4:00.8 running for British Colleges in 1982.

“I suspect had it not been for my health issues I would have gone on to concentrate on longer distances. At 19, I ran 51:39 for 10 miles in Coventry.

“After 20 months or so at Reebok in Lancaster, I moved back to the North East when I joined Nike in February 1988.

“I worked with the likes of Mark Rowland, Liz McColgan, Derek Redmond and Fatima Whitbread.

“In 1996, John Trainor, ex-St Aidan’s teacher and Gateshead Harrier, who sadly passed away in January, took me to Holland to head-up Football Footwear Marketing for Europe and from there I went to the USA and managed the Running shoe-line for Europe, Asia and Latin America.

“We came back to the UK in 2000 and for the next 15 years, I worked in football with some of the biggest clubs and players in the game.

“I looked after Wayne Rooney when he first signed with Nike in 2003, and in the later years I managed a lot of the club business, notably Celtic, but also Aston Villa and Everton among others.

“When it was decided Nike wouldn’t renew the Celtic contract, which was up in June this year, it gave me the opportunity to call it a day on 27 fantastic years.

“Health wasn’t the reason I retired, but following the SCA in 2013, it did play a part in the decision.”

Taylor, who lives at Ingleby Barwick, Cleveland, with his mother still living in East Herrington, continued: “As my dad was a journalist I have always enjoyed writing, and over the years I have written for Runners World, Athletics Monthly, as well as doing football match reports for The Times, Daily Mirror and Sunday People.

“It is something I would like to do more of now I have more time on my hands.

“I have always fancied coaching, and over the years I’ve helped a number of work colleagues or friends through marathons and half-marathons – recreational athletes mostly.

“I helped Adrian Passey in his quest to make the GB Sydney Olympic team.

“He narrowly missed out, but that was when I was bitten by the bug.

“My Club Assistant course is a million miles from that of course, but I like to think I know a bit about the sport, have some good experience and I like working with athletes of all ages.

“I’m looking forward to learning the ropes from the likes of Richie (Tough) and Glenn (Forster) in the short term, guys who have been there and done it at the top level.

“Hopefully, I can progress up the ladder as a coach.

“I would love to be able to contribute to helping the club improve in the longer term.

“It’s very encouraging to see the numbers turning out on a Tuesday at the track, including so many youngsters.”