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Richard Coe

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Last updated 27 March 2010

Richard Coe President for 2010/11

This year’s President Richard Coe may need no or little introduction to most people in the club but he has a unique story to tell and is a person with a wide variety of tastes and interests

Born in  1951 in Birmingham (but having a French Grandmother from Brittany) he spent much of his formative years in Sutton Coldfield where he attended the the Four Oaks Primary and Arthur Terry Comprehensive Schools. Here he pursued a wide range of activities most particularly in drama productions, singing and of course sport ranging from cricket to athletics. His background was however very much steeped in business going back several generations. ‘My Grandfather was a director of Joseph Lucas the big electrical company He was very keen that his grandson should go into business particularly accountancy’. but Richard was to have other ideas. .Having a mother who was a talented pianist and singer he inherited an artistic leaning and had a childhood ambition to become an actor. Then someone a teacher Pat Broderick who described him as a dilettante told him “If you want to be good at something you need to decide what it is that you want to be good at”.

At an early age he expressed an interest in Natural History and considered pursuing a career in Zoology but by his mid teens had set his mind on acting instead. In 1968 he successfully auditioned for the National Youth Theatre where in 1969 he performed in London in productions of plays such as Fuzz and Zigger-Zagger, before touring with the NYT in festivals in Holland and Germany.

But reflecting on this time and even he’d enjoyed it he admitted that he did not believe that he could pursue this ambition.  “I was either lucky or unlucky to be in the same cast as Alfred Molina …..and when I came into contact with  people who had that degree of talent …. I didn’t have the belief that I could do this.” Going back to the drawing board, he “had the conflict between the acting and the accountancy and the teaching, so I put the acting to one side …..

For several months after leaving school and resisting pressure from his grandfather to become an accountant he chose to take a year out to consider his options. He traveled in Scandinavia and also worked in a variety of manual jobs including building sites, night-watchman and as a school caretaker foreshadowing his eventual career choice.

Considering teaching as a career and despite the expectations of his Grandfather, he pursued this career by enrolling in a teacher-training course in South East London, in English, Drama and PE as a subsidiary. Graduating in 1974 he worked first at a Church of England Primary School in South London as a class teacher and in a twenty year association with the school he was able to offer the children there the opportunity to enjoy the experience of opera, ballet and serious drama. His efforts in a local bird census resulted in the school being featured in a BBC TV children’s program Bird City in 1976.He later worked in primary schools in West Wickham again as a class teacher with responsibility for sport and PE. Reflecting on 35 years as a teacher he remarked “if you are prepared to put in the hard graft it’s very rewarding…you get out of it what you put in…”

From this he has continued to pursue a wide variety of tastes in music from jazz to classical including opera, theatre with anything from Shakespeare to musicals, and dance enjoying many forms particularly flamenco and ballet. He has continued to pursue ornithology and natural history and has an eclectic reading and film-watching taste.

Sport of course has been a prevalent pursuit for him throughout his life and in his teens he was encouraged to run by a teacher who ran for Tipton Harriers in the 1960s, in one of their senior teams, and who said to him “if you want to get better come and train with me”. He then took him on rather strenuous training runs at which point he realized that he could run quite well and actually got into the Sutton Cold field Town Team which competed in the Warwickshire Championships at cross-country. On leaving school, and at college he dabbled in various sports, trained a bit but it was only by chance that I took up running again at the age of 30. By then having played football for a local team Royal Oak, and frustrated by the lack of willingness of its players to train by regular injuries he took up running instead.

Richard’s associations with Black heath and Bromley go back to 1981 when in a sports-shop in Bromley he overheard a conversation between two club members and on introducing himself to them was encouraged to visit the Clubhouse “ I’d been toying with the idea of joining a running club and had heard of Black heath Harriers but had been put off by the thought of traveling over to Black heath. When I found out that the club was no more than two miles from where I lived I was down there the following week”. He signed up immediately. Naturally he immersed himself in the athletic activities and over the next two decades distinguished himself in a variety of events in cross-country and track (with several 2nds and 3rds) and distinctions in field events such as the Javelin (a first in the championships of 1990) and Triple Jump. On the track 1992 was something of a vintage year for him. In the BVAF championships he gained second places for the 1500m (indoors) and the 800m (outdoors), was with Doug Cocker, Ken Daniel and Bob Minting part of a record-breaking 4x400m relay team, and to cap it all won first place in the Club Mile, together with the Pash Cup, and in a time of 4’25. 9, a vets PB. Also in 1992 he finished first male vet 40 in an 8km cross-country international in Acoteias, Portugal.

 As to what his most satisfying performances were for the club he has identified three key ones that stand out. These are running the last leg of the Kent Vets Road Relay at Rochester Aerodrome in December 1991 in an equal fastest time with  John Wigley; winning the Newport City Center Vets Mile (May 1992) in a new course record of  4’ 27; and in 1995 setting a new course record of 15’41 in the Parris Memorial Handicap. He emphasizes of course that these were all achieved after he had attained veteran status.

There had of course been the odd marathon or two earlier in his running career, both in times which by the standards of most runners would be highly satisfactory but after coming frustratingly close to the magic three hour mark in 1982, he returned the following year to register a time of 2 hours 38 minutes in kinder conditions “I wanted to do the second one well…I didn’t think I could commit to put in the time and effort every year to run to that standard, but I did commit the time to this one and it was a relief to cross the line having achieved a sub- three hour marathon” . After this he decided to concentrate on shorter evetns and distances in order to consolidate his speed.

Remaining active in the club he was cross- country handicapper in 1987 and appointed a vice-president in 1997.

For a while in recent years personal circumstances and work pressures prevented him from regularly attending but he returned last year and in March of this year Richard succeeded Alison Brand as Club President, On the subject of this he described the process by which a president is chosen. “It’s the sort of thing that I wouldn’t immediately say yes to but Alison was very good .She gave a lot of her time to explaining what it would involve and answered at length all the questions I put to her on the subject”. As to the qualities that make for a good president he added “you need to be someone who’s going to be involved in the day-to-day running of the club…. you need to go and be involved in as many areas as possible, show your face and be there…”

Although anxious to keep the traditions of the club and conscious of the need to preserve its character he expressed his hopes for its future.  “If we can recruit new members in those parts of the club where we’re falling a bit short in terms of numbers and quality, and obviously greater financial security in terms of how we generate enough funds to ensure a prospering future”.

BVAF 5k Championships 29 May 1995 - 16th in 15:45

His understanding of club commitment is certainly enlightened. “I’m not saying that people dedicate their whole life (to the club)…club commitment is an aspect of their life. But however much time they are prepared to commit to Blackheath they should  show one hundred per cent commitment during that proportion of time …don’t do it half-heartedly!… as within the time that you’re prepared to commit you give one hundred per cent commitment the club can only be stronger”. He is keen to emphasise that that people should not get trapped in having a narrow mindset but move out of the comfort zone and to try new experiences even if they didn’t always work, in order to extend their horizons more fully.  “If you run on the road you should run an 800m or a 1500m track race even if you come last…pick up the discus, pick up the javelin, give it a go. You never know you might be good at it.... who cares anyway! ”

In summing up he says that we should ‘Remember we all do this because it’s something we all like and want to do, so let’s enjoy this great Blackheath and Bromley experience together’.

1983 London Marathon - Brian Swift, Richard Coe (2:38:03) and Doug Cocker


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