Marathon-man Jim Alder in town to pass on his experience

Jim Alder presents medals to the Houghton Harriers under-13 team at the North Eastern Cross Country Championships, back in 2014.
Jim Alder presents medals to the Houghton Harriers under-13 team at the North Eastern Cross Country Championships, back in 2014.

On the eve of the London Marathon, one of the North East’s greatest ever distance runners will be at Sunderland Harriers for an in depth discussion on endurance running and a question and answer session.

Jim Alder MBE, is a Commonwealth and European championship medallist and coach and adviser to many of the all-conquering Morpeth Harriers team.

The 75-year-old, who is still working part-time in his business as a bricklayer, will offer those in attendance his advice, experience of 60 years in the sport, inspiration and his undoubted humour.

The 1966 Commonwealth Games marathon champion is always willing to take his coat off and get involved in other duties when the matter arises.

He came forward as a volunteer to man the car park as a marshal at the recent Northern Road Relay Championships at Silksworth.

He said: “I’m really looking forward to coming back to Silksworth.

“I have always had a good relationship with Sunderland Harriers and it will be a pleasure to come along and have a chat with the members.”

The Scotsman, who was a top British distance runner during the 1960s and 70s, first came to international prominence just after the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo.

Injury had dashed his hopes of selection, being named as a reserve.

In October, he took his Olympic disappointment out on the track and fuelled his frustration by setting a World Best by covering 37.994k in two hours at Walton on Thames.

He had set a world record at 30k (1hr 34min 01.8 sec) and 20 miles (1.40.58) on route to a new global mark of 23.6 miles. Half a century on, his two-hour record still stands.

“That was my biggest performance in my early years, he said.

“I ran in Dunlop sand shoes on an ash track. The World record for the marathon was 2:13.45.

“I am not saying I would have won a medal at Tokyo, but I was in the best form of my life – world class form at the right time in the wrong place.”

In Kingston, Jamaica, Alder won marathon gold after being misdirected when entering the track in the lead.

He had to make up 50 yards on Coventry’s Bill Adcocks, who had gone the correct way. Alder won by five seconds in the sizzling heat in 2 22.08.

Before his marathon victory, he had won a bronze medal in the six miles.

In the European Championships in Greece in 1969, Alder took the marathon bronze (2.19.05) behind Ron Hill’s gold (2.16.47), finishing in the historic Olympic Stadium.

At the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games marathon in 1970, Alder completed his set of Commonwealth medals by taking silver in his best ever time of 2.12.04.

Alder, a prodigious heavy mileage man during his long athletics career, offered an insight into the work he put in to get to world class level.

“It took me 100 plus miles each week to get me to international level at the age of 21.

“I was regularly running 140 miles each week and sometimes I topped 200, while working as a plasterer and bricklayer.

“If I had stayed on 70-80 miles, I would have not moved on, staying as a county standard runner.

“To make training that little bit harder, I always trained in a full tracksuit throughout the year.

“During the winter I also wore a wetsuit on top. As we say, train heavy race light.”

Alder ran to and from work all year round to reach his training mileage. He is a real tough of the track.

During the winter months he sometimes had to resort to breaking the ice on the building site bath to get a wash-down after his early morning training spin before starting work!

His main focus now is his training group, which the promising Carl Avery belongs to.

He coached Mark Hudspith to a Commonwealth Games marathon bronze medal in 1994.

He will be at the Silksworth Sports Complex on Thursday, April 21, in the Heritage room at 7.15pm.

Sunderland Harriers are one of five North East teams that have qualified for the National 12-stage Road Relay Championships at Sutton Coldfield on Saturday.

This will be the Wearsiders first appearance since 2011 when they finished 30th. Morpeth Harriers defend the title.