Dave Taylor

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Last updated 24 November 2004

Dave Taylor

First published in Masters Athletics Monthly www.mastersathletics.co.uk  December 2004 and reproduced with their permission.

OUT OF AFRICA

Dave Taylor: the ‘new kid on the block’ in masters’ athletics talks to Pete Mulholland about the past, present and future.

NOT since the days of Nigel Gates has someone hit the masters’ scene with such an impact as Dave Taylor has done. Two European veterans’ titles, both with championship records, three British M40 records, a British Masters 10km title and a ten-mile run in 49:13 at a wind blown Portsmouth to place himself as the fourth fastest ever M40 Briton.

Taylor had what some may is the most favourable start in life an athlete could hope to have, being born in Kenya on January 9, 1964 where his father was employed as a forest ranger.

At the age of five the family moved to what was then known as Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) where they were to spend the next ten years before settling in South Africa.

“Fifteen years at altitude and I didn’t do any athletics,” Taylor admitted, “it wasn’t until I went to school as a 15-year-old that that I got involved in running.”

“I did a lot of other sports especially since both my parents represented Kenya at hockey. My older brother went on to play and coach hockey for South Africa also, so you can say I came from a sporting family. I played all sports such as football and hockey and took part in the school sports days but not specifically running”

It was, as in many instances, teachers who were involved in athletics who enthused Taylor into the joys of running.

“My school had a history of running and even took on athletic tours to the United States,” said Taylor, “and some of the teachers had run in the Comrades Marathon which impressed everyone. If I hadn’t gone to this school I may never done running seriously.”

Inspiration
“THIS was around 1979 when there was a boom in running. We heard of the exploits of Seb Coe and Steve Ovett on the track and then there was Alberto Salazar and Bill Rogers running fabulous marathons. Everyone was ignited and we got caught up with the enthusiasm of it all.”

“We used to study all the athletic magazines, we watched television and saw world records being broke and the coaches motivated us. I used to run anything from 1500s to half marathons and got excited as the Comrades Marathon passed by my front door. It was just considered normal to run.”

While a young Taylor enjoyed his five-times-a-week training schedule at Westville Boys High, Durban it wasn’t until he was an 18-year-old student at Natal University that his talent began to develop.”

“I then began to train every day with a group whose goal was the big inter-colleges’ competition and made what I consider my first breakthrough when finishing second in the South African under-19 2000m steeplechase championship.”

The following year saw Taylor timed at 8:19 for a flat 3000m. “That put me up with the leading lights to rank about fifth in the South African rankings.” Also during this period Taylor was among the top ten cross country under-19 runners in the country.

Then came problems. “I suffered quite a lot from injuries after that initial success,” Taylor confessed. “In fact I was plagued with injuries really up to the age of 30.”

England beckons
AT the age of 23, Taylor arrived in England. “I wanted more out of my running and to test myself competitively. I intended to give it about three years and also perhaps, do some studying. However, I enjoyed it so much I decided to stay permanently.”

Fortunately for Blackheath Harriers, Taylor’s first place of residence on arrival in 1987 was in Bromley, Kent, a short jog away from that club’s headquarters in Hayes and he has remained a loyal club member since then.

“I ran everything in those days from Kent Championships over the country to British League on the track.”

Over the next ten years the team honours came along with remarkable frequency, with Taylor admitting, “The highlight was the winning of the National 12-stage Relay in 1995,” a year that also saw the club win the National Cross Country Championships for the second successive year.

It was also in 1995 that Taylor made his British international debut with the first of his three representations in the World Half Marathon Championships. “By targeting half marathons I felt this would help for future success and it appeared to pay off for other events.”

Pay off it did as later that year honours came his way in the European Cross Country Championships - after winning the trial at Margate - when together with Andrew Pearson, Keith Cullen and Jon Brown he came away with a bronze team medal. Taylor modestly admits, “But it wasn’t down to me as I didn’t have a particularly good run.”

Marathon man
IN 1998 he was to represent England in the Commonwealth Games marathon, gaining selection after his time of 2:12:37 in Frankfurt in his debut over the distance, the previous October. “That was a club record until someone named Mark Steinle came along,” Taylor jokingly said.

In those Games he had to tackle the humid conditions of Kuala Lumpur where after leading for the first five miles and still with the leaders up to 20 miles he had to finally settle for fourth place.

Amazingly, between those two marathons he found the leg speed to dead-heat for first place with Rod Finch in the AAA 3000m Indoor Championships in a time of 8:00.37.

As if to confirm his wide range of abilities, Taylor twice placed second in the AAA 10,000m championships.

By now Taylor had moved to Streatham, south-west London and in 2000 won the first of his four Surrey County Cross Country Championships, but this time in the colours of Herne Hill Harriers who he had joined as a second claim member. The last of the four victories, which were all won at Lloyd Park, the venue for this year’s Masters International, was just six days before attaining masters’ status. The following month he proved first M40 in the National Cross Country Championship when finishing tenth.

The year of his initial Surrey triumph saw him winning the South of England Cross Country Champion to lead Blackheath to their seventh team win for the event during the previous eight years. Yes, Taylor was certainly enjoying club life.

Training for success
ALTHOUGH considering himself as ‘self-coached’ Taylor has always taken advice and assistance from various sources.

“When I first arrived in England, I trained with a group of guys at Bromley. Around about 1991 I began to train with Stan Allen’s group at Tooting that included the likes of Mickey Boyle and Geoff Jerwood. I have also been to the Alan Storey sessions at Kingston and gone over to Highgate to train with Keith Cullen.”

“I certainly learned a lot from all of them but must admit it was in 1999 when training with Keith (Cullen) that I had my best year. That was when I set all my best times. My only disappointment was my 10,000m when just missing out on a sub-29 with a time of 29:00.04.”

Much of Taylor’s training is carried out at 90 per cent pace, more so when he is targeting a specific race. He has a mix of speed and strength sessions and admits to being influenced by the 5-pace training as advocated by Frank Horwill and Peter Coe.

Lunchtime during the week finds Taylor training from the Battersea Park track, conveniently near to where he works. “But these are more recovery runs than anything, about two or three miles and some stretching and strides.” he says, “and it’s good to get out of the office.”

Other sessions are based on speed often faster than his normal 90 per cent pace. “It might be 4 x 400m or 3 x 500m, all at 800m pace. It’s as simple as that really.”

Taylor has this year proved to be a rarity in running in that although among the leading athletes in the country he has competed in masters’ events. A route not often taken by those similar placed athletes. “I run where I think there is a challenge. My aim is to run a pb and being a veteran hasn’t changed that.”

“Much of my year is taken up with BMC (British Milers Club) races and the endurance series which keep me in top shape. There’s usually a pace maker, Kenyans and other top class runners such as Chris Thompson. If you don’t want to finish last you have to get a move on.”

To witness the benefits of these events you can look no further that the three British M40 bests that Taylor has accomplished this year, all of which evolved when competing in these BMC races.

Solihull in May saw his 5000m in 13:53.14 and in July came his 3000m in 8:12.69. After his European triumphs in the 1500m and 5000m he clocked 3:49.7 over 1500m.

Tales from Denmark
THE DECISION to compete in the European Veterans Championships was made in respect of his usual annual plans. That is half the season attacking best times and half going for championships.

“I didn’t know what to expect in Denmark but it certainly proved to be something different. I thought this would be one championship that I could do well in and spent the first half of the year getting in top shape before tapering down. I knew there would be three races in five days and geared my training for that. I was prepared to either sit in or run from the front. I heard that there were some fast guys around but I didn’t really know who I would be up against and I wanted to be ready for any situation.”

Most of Taylor’s race plans for Denmark could be classified as ‘off the hoof’ with much of the opposition being unknown. “Some of them set off fast and then slowed the action and others would sit in relying on a blistering finish.” But Taylor was unfazed as he handled with aplomb anything thrown at him and admitted, “It was a great occasion and I certainly enjoyed it.”

As for the World Masters in San Sebastian next August they certainly figure in his plans and also the European Non Stadia Championships in Portugal in May are looking appealing. “I aim to run next track season as I have done previously to prepare for the vets world championships. As last year, they come at the end of the season and give me something to aim for. In Denmark I didn’t know what to expect and I was a bit curious about it. Whereas in previous years I had say, the Southern or the AAAs to focus on but this is something new.”

Musings on masters
TAYLOR can see why these international masters’ events are so popular. “It’s a great social event although the athletes take the competition seriously. And you meet a lot of people you wouldn’t see otherwise.”

While the highest level on the masters’ international scene is attractive to Taylor, he hesitates when asked about competing as such domestically. “I did the 10k in Portsmouth as that fitted in with my plans to kick start my road racing season whereas I turned down the invitation to compete in the British Masters International over the country as it didn’t fit in.”

“I will continue to do the races that I feel will get me in as good a shape as possible. If a veterans’ race does that, then I will run it. I’m not sure how I will approach being a veteran in future years but currently I aim to keep my eye on actual performances and target a particular race to achieve it. I don’t know when it will happen but there will be a time I will hold my hands up and admit there is no more pbs to be had. You never know, I might sit down in March and decide that the British vets champs are for me.”

If the opposition is there Taylor will face them. “If, for example, Guy Amos, Mike Trees and Tommy Murray were to be among the entries in a veterans race I might be tempted. There are some good veterans out there and but I don’t want to go along to a race and win it by minutes. Potentially there are some classy athletes who will soon be veterans and I will have to watch out for them.”

For one who has been classified as a ‘breath of fresh air’ on the masters’ scene Taylor certainly raises its profile and will continue to do so for many a year.”

“Motivation wise, it’s doing something new each year,” he admits and as many a master will testify there are always fresh challenges.

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