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Nick Brooks

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Last updated 18 March 2017

Nick Brooks, President for 2017/18

I was born in Bromley in 1958, my father was a policeman and my mother worked at the Bank of England. I have a brother who lives with his family in Hong Kong. I have been married to my wife Jacqueline for 28 years and with two sons Alex aged 24, and Peter aged 21 who is studying at Bill my predecessors’ alma mata at Newcastle University.

My father Gordon is a club member and Vice President and former club Chairman and my brother Andy was a club member during his teenage years. My grandfather George Brooks who was known to many was Club President in 1972, he would have been so proud to see me in this role.

I had an active childhood playing rugby for the school, and also basketball where I went on to gain county honours. I was also an all-rounder at athletics until I joined Blackheath in 1973 where I focused on middle distance. Back in those days Graham Botley would visit the local schools looking for athletic talent and he went on to form the initial young athletes teams of which I was a team member often running the 200m, 800m, both relays and the high jump. On several occasions Graham took a lot of us youngsters to cross country races in Belgium where had great success often winning electronic products with European plugs!

Despite my focus on middle distance I had a pb in the high jump of 1.89m often beating Gordon Hickey to the club high jump championship, 100m best of 11.22 dating back to 17, and many reasonable middle distance pbs.

During my time at Langley Park Boys School in Beckenham I ran In numerous Kent and England Schools cross country events, finished second in the county events and no better than 74th in the England Schools. However, on the track I fared a lot better and after finishing 8th in the 800m as junior boy I went onto win the intermediate boys 800m in 1975, the same weekend being picked for the schools international which I also won. The following year I won the senior boys 800m breaking the record at that time ahead of Garry Cook.

By this time I was attracting a lot of interest from US universities and following the southern 800m race which was shown on TV where I finished 2nd to Peter Browne and broke 1.50 for the first time, David Hemery called me and got me interested in attending Boston University. I met with him and several of his athletes including David Jenkins to see what it was all about but nothing came of it and other better offers came along. After a lot of correspondence with Coach Glenn Hayes and one of his UK athletes Paul Bannon I decided to give life a go as a 19-year-old in the US and I went to Memphis State University in January 1978, and having such a great time tempted my training partner and good friend Julian Spooner to go to Richmond University the following year.

That summer before I went to the US I had a mixed season as I had glandular fever and got beaten narrowly in the England Schools by Colin Szwed, but I did represent GB against France and ran a pb at that time of 1.49.8 as an 18 old, and only a 0.1 improvement from the previous year. 1978 saw me clip by best 800m time a little further but the races were mainly local and running to win was more important than chasing times, winning all my races except the most important conference race but did manage another pb in a slow race. In 1979 I ran well on the college circuit and lowered my pb to 1.48.53 and won the conference meeting which is what my scholarship was based on. 1980 was Moscow Olympic year I ran well that winter on the country with a large contingent of UK athletes at Memphis like Steve Anders, Geoff Cooper, Tony Blackwell, Gerry Helme, Jim Wise and Garry Nurse. I remember once running 5 miles on a golf course in 24.12 and came in more than half way down the field with all of those runners in front of me.

I did win the Tennessee state 800m for the third consecutive year and after running an indoor pb I made the NCAA Champs indoors in Detroit. Having been an athlete that ran from the back all my life as I had a good finish, running on a 160-yard tight board track indoors meant new tactics were needed and after winning my heat with a front run I made the televised final and finished 2nd behind reigning champion Evans White having led until the final stride. I did beat Agberto Guimaraes who went onto finish 4th in the Moscow Olympic 800m behind Ovett and Coe. This gained me an All American honour and then in 1998 the Univeristy of Memphis inducted me onto their Hall of Fame. I still hold the university 800m record after 37 years!

Myself in action with John Walker AAA Champs 1979

Following that success, I did get invited to some of the bigger college meetings and twice I ran in Knoxville, once in a college race and once in an open race with US Olympic athletes lowering my pb to 1.47.01 and more importantly inside the Olympic qualifying standard. That particular day at the Dogwood Relays I also ran a 1.49 800m only 45 minutes later. My 400m pb had come down a lot to 48.22 and most weeks I ran on the 4x400m relay team, I even ran a 4.10 indoor mile and 4.06.4 outdoor mile that year. Of course I did not make the GB Olympic team for Moscow as a certain duo of Ovett and Coe took gold and silver.

In 1981 I had pulled my hamstring playing rugby for Memphis Old No 7, so I “redshirted” meaning I did not compete for the school, but I did run 1.49 late on and 48.32 before having one last cross country season before graduating in December 1981. I earned a BA in Geography. Having returned to the UK in early in 1982 I picked up my beloved rugby at Beccs and broke my leg and ankle pretty much putting an end to my running days. After almost 7 weeks in hospital they said I would never walk without a limp after all the pins and plates were put in, and a punctured lung did not help, but I proved them wrong and trained hard with Botley that year for the 1983 New York marathon where I limped around in 3.26.

I did run again for the national league team but mainly as a 400m and relay runner but I never did get back to my best form. I had competed for the club in the southern league from 1975 and had helped them get back into the national league, one time I flew back from the US for the club to compete in a qualifying match which we won to get promotion to the national league.

Once the broken leg had mended I returned to playing rugby for Beccehamian RFC at Sparrows Den as 1983 was their 50th year. I made the first team for the next 19 years and used rugby fitness to run for the club without training for the track. Eventually I could not keep this up with a new job and a girlfriend who went onto be my wife. I did come out of running retirement to run the 1991 London marathon and I did win the closing 5 handicap in 1990, having taken a year away from rugby to run half marathons. However, I missed the rugby and the club convinced me to go back and play before retiring in 1994 to take on coaching mini rugby, writing match reports, coaching the first team and then becoming Chairman in 2005, a role I still hold today.

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 Bob Taylor, Ian Wilson, John Baldwin, Chris Haines and Graham Botley and a little later Les Roberts who always gave 110%. I also drew great inspiration from team mates Mike Winch and Buster Watson not to mention great competitive spirit from Julian Spooner who always pushed me hard in training. I was also very fortunate to have had two great coaches as a youngster in Charles Elliott and Dennis Watts, and Glenn Hayes in Memphis, and of course my best friend Graham Botley as a mentor. Mike Peel and Andy Frankish were also great support ferrying me around when they could as we lived near each other at that time, and Bob Richardson was always our standout distance runner who I have got to know in recent years.

When I look back on my athletics career even though it was cut short by my broken leg I had a great time. I won two England Schools 800m and had a 2nd place too, schoolboy international, senior international and 4 great years studying, running and travelling in the US. I raced against the likes of Steve Ovett, John Walker, Mike Boit, Harald Schmid, Nick Rose and Garry Cook and my contemporaries from the school days included GB legends like Daley Thomson, Eamonn Martin, Tim Hutchings and Olympic bronze medallist Gary Oakes.

I live locally in Orpington and have always maintained my membership at BBHAC. I did the communications and sponsorship role for a few years and more recently I have taken on the role of writing the reports for the press following the success of our athletes every weekend. This is a difficult task as it has to be done on a Sunday night to make press deadlines, often results are not available and with only one or two faithful club members providing me with any data a lot of good performances probably go unreported.

Blackheath and Bromley Harriers AC has been (and will continue to be) a big part of my life for the last 44 years and it is an honour to be asked by Bill to be the new Club President. I hope club members will accept me as President! I'm really keen to do all I can in the coming year to help in the continued success of our great club and build on the great foundations that have been laid down over the years! I have a tough act to follow after Bill’s fantastic year as President.

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