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Bill Foster

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Last updated 19 March 2016

Bill Foster, President for 2016/17

I was was born in Leeds in 1958 and my parents owned a dairy farm at Weeton, a small village near Harrogate in Yorkshire. I'm an identical twin and have an older sister and a younger sister. My brother and I had a very active childhood on the farm and also at school, playing many sports including rugby, hockey and cricket. I always enjoyed running in school competitions, although we didn't train very hard as other sports were the main priority. My best time was 4.11 for 1500m when I was 16 years old.

In 1976 I went to Newcastle University to study Agriculture and joined the Cross Country and Athletics Club. We had a strong squad at Newcastle and often challenged the bigger Universities. Richard Coles was our best Cross Country runner at that time and I heard quite a lot about Blackheath Harriers from him.

In 1979, my last year at University, I became more serious about my athletics and shared a flat in Gateshead with Kevin Forster (who went on to run a 2.10 Marathon and finish 2nd in London). I was the Newcastle University Athletics' Club captain and finished second at 1500m in the Universities' Championships. It was a good time to be a runner in the North East with so many fantastic athletes around, including Brendan Foster, Mike McLeod and a promising young Steve Cram. My 1500m PB improved from 4.01 to 3.49 in 1979 and I also ran a reasonable 10 miles time of 50.01 in the Chas Kendal road race.

In September 1979, after finishing at Newcastle, I started a job at the Milk Marketing Board Head Office at Thames Ditton in Surrey. Running was now an important part in my life and it was Richard Coles who persuaded me that Blackheath was the ideal club for an 800/1500 runner like me ~ at that time the club was in Division 5 of the British League.

Blackheath gained promotion every year for the next four years to join Division 1 and it was a great time for the club! We had a fantastic team atmosphere - the track athletes supported the field event athletes and vice versa. We also had a large group of supporters, with many 'Heathens coming along to watch the team. Bob Taylor and team manager Andy Frankish played a large part in the success, a role which Pat Calnan has done very successfully in more recent years.

The knowledge that experienced athletes pass on to younger club members is a key factor in the success of our sport and many people at Blackheath gave me good advice in my early years at the club, including Richard Coles, Ian Wilson, John Baldwin, Chris Haines and Graham Botley.

The four British league races were the highlight of the summer track season at that time and I used to run 800m and/or 1500m and often the 4x400m relay. There were no BMC meetings and very few open meetings to take the limelight away from club competition. The BMC do a fantastic job and allow people the opportunity to run fast times but in many ways it is a shame that club competition isn't considered such a high priority for today's runners. The County Championships (always Yorkshire for me!), Southern and AAAs Championships were also key races for me, as I felt that trying to win Championship medals was more important than running fast times.

During the 1980s I gradually improved my track times, clocking 1:51.1 for 800m (1982) 3:44.9 for 1500m (1986) and 13:59 for 5000m (1988).

During the 1980s Blackheath's cross country and road teams also got better and better, directed by club captain Graham Botley. In 1986 we won the Southern Cross Country Championships and that was the start of many successful years for the club at both Southern and National level. One of the highlights was winning the National 12 stage Road relay in 1995, clocking one of the fastest times ever recorded on the well known Sutton Park course.

By that time I had moved to Loughborough, having started a new job at Sutton Bonington with the Milk Marketing Board. In the 1990s I concentrated more on longer distances and ran PBs of 29:14 for 10,000m, 63:50 for Half Marathon and 2:15.49 for the Marathon. I ran five Marathons for GB, including a 2:17 clocking at the 1994 European Championships in Helsinki and a 2:18 run in the 1995 World Cup in Athens. Perhaps Athens was my best ever marathon as I finished 18th and first GB on the tough course which runs from the village of Marathon and finishes in the 1896 Panathinaikon Stadium in Athens.

Although I lived in Loughborough, I was always a loyal Blackheath athlete and competed in league races whenever possible. Over the years I managed to win club championships at 5000m, 5 miles cross country, 7.5 miles cross country and four marathon club titles in London.

I continued to run in open and Masters' competitions after turning 40, clocking 3:59 for 1500m, 14:40 for 5000m and 30:14 for 10,000. I thought these were reasonable times but then Dave Taylor came along and relieved me of all my club records! I believe I still hold the club record for M50 3000m at 9:11 but Dave Heath has been running rather well recently so that will not last long either!

I managed to win a few medals at various World Masters' championships, over a range of distances from 1500m to 10,000m, including gold medals at 3000m indoors as an M45-and M50. ln 2008 I ran 73.26 to finish first M50 in the Great North Run half marathon. However, following a knee injury four years ago, I now just go jogging twice a week and go swimming in Loughborough's 50m pool.

Since turning 40 my main priority has been coaching, rather than competing, and in 2001 I was appointed the Club coach for the girls' middle/long distance squad at Loughborough University. Coaching is very rewarding, helping athletes develop and progress towards their goals. It's a big commitment and I have a group of 30-35 girls doing the main Tuesday and Saturday sessions, but I really enjoy it. Lauren Deadman was my most successful athlete in 2015, running 9.04 for 3000m, 15.45 for 5000m and 33.16 for 10k road.

Blackheath and Bromley Harriers AC has been a big part of my life for the last 35 years and it is an honour to be asked to be Club President. I hope club members will accept a Yorkshire man as President! I'm really keen to do all I can in the coming year to help in the continued success of our fantastic club!

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