new President of Blackheath & Bromley is Les Roberts.
A Message from the 2007/8
Being a member of this Club has
always meant a great deal to me; I only wish I had discovered it sooner
than I did. The Club gave me the
opportunity, guidance and encouragement
to run in a way I could never have dreamed possible, which in turn
opened doors to many invaluable experiences and allowed me to achieve,
over many years, an exquisite state of homeostasis where work, rest and
play complemented one another perfectly. I feel, therefore, I owe the
Harriers a lot; so now to have the added privilege of being your
President for the forthcoming year is beyond words.
My plan, as far as I have one, is
to get out to all "four corners" of the Club to experience first-hand
what goes on and to put faces to the names that feature in the Wednesday
evening results round-up and in the press every week. I'm also looking
forward to seeing in action again faces that are already familiar to me.
I want to rediscover the atmosphere of competition; to get in amongst it
all and play a part. Alas, this can now only be as a bystander but I
shall be in there, in spirit, endeavouring to give the sort of
encouragement and support I used to enjoy when competing.
Since hanging up my spikes and
flats I have become increasingly disenchanted with the top echelons of
athletics, which I now find predictable, uninspiring and all too often,
of questionable validity. Thankfully, shake-ups are taking place in the
sport, which will lead, it is to be hoped, to major changes in the way
talent is identified, nurtured and developed and to a reinforcement of
the mechanisms that ensure competing athletes' bodies contain only the
chemicals God gave them.
In stark contrast, there is the
sport of athletics as played by our own teams to savour. Here you will
see, at all levels and ages, competition as it should be - fierce and
uncompromising but conducted in the true Corinthian spirit of enjoyment
For the first time in my life I'm
looking forward to being a spectator. If you should find yourself
without a fixture of your own, at a loose-end, with a need for
distraction or to let off steam, come and join me. Why not peruse your
fixture card and commit yourself to swelling the ranks of our supporters
from time to time? We already have a reputation for being a
well-supported club (although to what extent this might be due to the
efforts of a highly mobile and strategically gifted few rather than the
work of vast numbers, I'm not at all sure) but let's try and boost that
reputation; perhaps we can turn it into a notoriety. Corinthian spirit?
- there is a limit! As, of course, there is to this message.
Every Past President I have spoken
to has warned me how quickly this year will pass - so I'd best get on.
According to his mum, Les started
running mid term during her pregnancy and didn't stop until he had
broken the umbilical "tape", so to speak, in a complete lather of muck
and bullets. So, not a lot was to change there then.
Les was educated at the Roan Grammar
School, Blackheath (coincidence or portent?), a fine institution that
had already produced a number of quality young athletes, some going on
to become 'heathens, like John Baldwin. It was clear from PE lessons and
obligatory school runs in Greenwich Park that Les had the potential to
follow suit. He had a higher stamina level than most of his peers, and,
as a consequence, would inevitably be called upon to represent them in
competition but he didn't welcome this recognition and would run only
very reluctantly. This lack of enthusiasm was due in part to the simple
fact that Les didn't find running an appealing way to move about,
moreover, it detracted in terms of both time and energy from the sport
that was truly capturing his imagination - cycling.
After leaving school at 18, Les raced
on the bike through the 1960s and early 70s, quickly acquiring a 1st
Category Licence, which he maintained throughout his competitive cycling
career. At first he dreamed of taking cycling all the way and turning
professional but once he started mixing it with the big guns at national
level he soon realised that this would be a desperately hard way to earn
a crust and so serious competition was given a progressively lower
There then followed a few "gap"
years: Les had decided it was time to catch up on the social life he had
largely forgone in the name of sporting endeavour but, after a while, he
found he could take only so much bacchanalia and, once again, he began
to look for a pastime with more shape and discipline. He needed to get
back into sport.
For reasons long since forgotten the
bike had lost its allure but, as chance would have it, Les then found
out that the Blackheath Harriers athletic club was in Hayes, just down
the road from where he was living. And so, one Wednesday evening, towel,
shorts and dodgy pumps in hand and the promise he had shown at school in
mind, he ventured, with some confidence, through the hallowed portals of
56 Bourne Way - and got one of the biggest hidings of his life. Four
miles of unfamiliar trails, courtesy of a group led by those BH speed
merchants Brian Stone and Colin Brand, had him grovelling and gasping.
He'd clearly underestimated the standard of club-level running.
But, despite that rude awakening and
the further pastings he suffered during those early days, Les stuck at
it. The spasmodic runs became more regular and focussed and then
developed into structured training. Things started to get better.
Driven by a determination and
resilience gleaned from his bike racing days ("which had to be seen to
be appreciated" pp Pat Calnan), Les quickly established himself in the
Club's senior track squad at 5000m and 10000m and the 3000m s/c during a
period that saw the Club rise from the middle of the Southern League to
the top division of the British League in 4 consecutive seasons as
Champions and feature prominently in the Cup competitions.
Come the 1984 track season Les had
turned 40 and become a "Master" but showed no signs of slowing down. He
could be relied upon to run well inside 15 minutes for the 12½ laps and
sub 31 for the 25 and so remained very much part of the Harriers' fire
power. Given the level of competition to which he was now being
regularly exposed, it was perhaps not surprising that he should shine
when competing in his own age group. He took the European Masters 5000m
track title that year and also the silver medal in the 10k Road
Championship. Then, in 1985, in the Olympic Stadium in Rome, a final lap
of 60 seconds flat brought him the World Masters' 5000m title.
He peaked in 1987, a year in which he
rarely failed to either win or post a PB. He retired from active
athletics in 1990 after noticing some of his motor-skills were losing
their edge. A new opponent was about to emerge...
1981. 7 ½ miles X Country; 10000m
track (31m26s) 1983 7½ miles X Country; 5000m track (14m54s) 1984 10
miles X Country (57m17s); 5000m track(14m52s) 1985 10000m track (30m30s)
1982 Kent 20 miles Road Race
(1hr49m23s) 1983 ditto (1hr47m17s) 1987 Kent Vets X Country
Open Road Race wins
1981 Cornwall 10 (51m13s);
Inter-Banks 10 (51m36s) 1982 Boulogne Demi-Marathon (65m55s); Fourbanks
10 (51m52s; City of London 10 (53m11s) 1983 Lingfield ½ Marathon
(66m04s) 1985 Crawley Vets 10 (50m43s); High Peak ½ Marathon (70m33s)
Modesto Masters 10k USA (30m51s) 1986 Presteigne ½ Marathon 67m02s) 1989
Tunbridge Wells ½ Marathon (69m54s)
1984 European Veterans Track 5000m
(14m53s) 1985 World Masters Track 5000m (14m40s-60s last lap)
Other Championship Wins
1983/1984/1985 European Cross
1983 London Boroughs Track
Championships 5000m and 3000mS/C 1985 ditto 5000m 1989 Southern 12 Stage
3000mS/C 9m27s; 5000m 14m32s; 10000m
30m15s; 10 miles (49m24s) ½ Marathon 65m00s; Marathon 2hr24m59s; 1hour
1982-1989 Gazette editor 1993-1997
Wine Committee Secretary 1997-to date Wine Committee member.