The Killer mile in Staffordshire

The Mow Cop Killer Mile came out of the running boom of the late 1970’s. The ICL (Kidsgrove) Athletics Club used Mow Cop regularly for long training runs – one group on flexi-time often ran up Station Road as their Friday lunchtime special. With new events springing up everywhere, John Britton (an active road and fell runner) looked into what sort of new event the ICL club might be able to organise. There was news of fast times being set in the downhill New York 5th Avenue Mile; he had measurements on the map of all manner of routes on Mow Cop (which later turned into the short-lived Mow Cop Hill Race); we had Seb Coe, Steve Ovett and Steve Cram dominating the world in middle-distances. An evening in the drizzle with a surveyor’s wheel  
showed there was an exact mile without a single level step, and a total climb of over 550ft. (The surveyor’s wheel was borrowed from Pete Goodfellow – an ex-international athlete who lived a few metres down from the castle car park). The idea of the toughest conceivable 1-mile road race – a “Fell-Runner’s Revenge” – was born. It was thought that a “novelty” event would do best held mid-week in Spring, away from the more conventional races  
The “brief but brutal” race route breaks into several different sections – a gentle first 1/4 mile away from the level crossing, then a 1-in-5 section up to Birch Tree Lane. A steady climb up through the fields in full view of the horrors to come, and at last the truly killer bit – the 1-in-4 section past the most popular spectator spot outside the Cheshire View, whose front door is the 3/4 mile mark. Even the comparatively level section from the top corner to the Finish is still climbing – never have so many people “sprinted” so slowly.

The first event on 14 April  1982 attracted a largely-local field of 95 club runners, and was won by Martin Bishop in 6:50 from Alan Adams and Barrie Williams of ICL. (Martin and his twin Mike were international runners whose parents lived on Mow Cop)  It grew bigger every year to peak around 1988-90, when there were over 1100 entries spread over 10 races, and the event had been moved a few weeks later to get enough daylight. Word of mouth proved to be a very effective form of advertising – entries poured in from all over the UK – Scotland, Wales, East Anglia, etc. There was coverage in all the running magazines and one year we had an outside broadcast team from Central TV

In the Men’s event, the record moved to undeniable world class in 1987, when Roger Hackney, who had recently placed 5th close behind four Africans in the final of the World Championships 3000m Steeplechase and whose track mile time was well under 4 minutes, won in 6:17. But there was even more to come – regular competitors Andy Wilton of Staffs Moorlands lowered it to 6:14 in 1990, and Bashir Hussain of Stockport set the current mark of 6:12 in 1991. Anyone lucky enough to see these performances will know just how awesome they are.

In the Women’s event, despite the attentions of numerous track, road, fell and cross-country internationals, records have always been a surprisingly long way behind the men – Jayne Spark of Altrincham ran 8:06 (as a Junior) in 1988, Sandra Bentley of Tipton was first under 8 minutes with 7:56 in 1990 and Shireen Barbour of Reading set the current mark of 7:54 in a very close race in 1992.

As well as marvellous performances at the front, another feature of these marvellous evenings was the lighter side. The “Not-a-Lot-of-Fun Runs” included the Fancy Dress brigade, the lunatics who would run straight back down the hill for more (several would manage to complete 5 races in one night), 3-legged and backwards runners, pushers of things, go-karts, etc.   

Through the 1990’s the event continued to be organised by John Pointon of ICL with help from local runners, gradually suffering the lower profile and reducing entries common to all running events, until in 2001 the intended event was cancelled due to Foot and Mouth restrictions on access to the car parking field plus obligations to limit unnecessary travel, and time was called.

John Britton

Now the ‘KILLER MILE’ has been resurrected.

That will teach the rugger chaps a lesson.

The Buzz Bomber
Hawick is a sporting town, but that sport has to be Rugby.
We have any number of alternative sports clubs in the town and they have produced International Athletes, Cyclists,Boxers,Canoeists etc
But its Rugby which is recognised, and to be fair Hawick RFC is the most sucessful club in Scottish Rugby history.
However, when some overwieght 3rd choice prop is telling you how good a sportsman he is while your barely awake after that 10 mile burn up, you really wish you could show him what training is really all about.
So you are out for an easy run with your mates and suddenly 200yards down the road a Rugby star is plodding down the road, what do you do?
Engage silent mode, turn on the afterburners and hunt him down – failure is not an option, you have to steam past this superstar and leave him trailing in your wake.
But FRR took it one step further!!
FRR is coming to the end of his evening run when he is confronted by the Hawick Trades Rugby team doing a training session.
As he closes in (silent mode engaged) he realises that on the sound of the whistle the man at the back has to make his way to the front, where he slows up and the process is repeated.
FRR silently joins the back of the group, the whistle goes and he takes off passing the guys who’s turn it is, but when FRR reaches the front he employ’s the Ovett wave, and with a loud insane laugh just keeps going into the darkness.
The Trades are not happy, who the hell was that?
Buy FRR is not finished, he races on for 600yards then ducks down a track.
The Trades waddle by, only a mile to go and they are home, dignity upheld as no one but they no about the mystery attack.
How wrong they are, just before they reach the safety of the town FRR strikes again  and for a second time they are ‘Buzzed’ by this mysterious runner.with insane laugh and the cheeky wave.

How the Fun Run Robbie name came to be

I think it is only fair to tell the origins of the name fun run robbie. i was a competitive club runner in those bygone days however the bicycle has always been part of my life. As a wee lad growing up in hawick i went to school on my Rayleigh twenty folding bike, at one time i heard Nazareth’s song “my white bicycle ” , i went into my dads shed and painted the frame gloss white. While studying textiles at Leicester Polytechnic in the 80’s I owned a dutch style 3 geared bike, and job allowing i have always tried to cycle to work.

The name Fun Run Robbie come about in December 1982, that spring I had ran the London marathon in just under the three hours, however a Frenchman internationalist dressed as a waiter carrying a tray with a bottle of wine was I think only 30 seconds behind me. Off course this fact was cause for much mirth and merriment for my fellow harriers, and they never allowed me to forget this outcome! “You were nearly beater by the fun runners was the cry.

I would like to introduce into the story an athlete called Colin Hume, on of my training partners, Colin was one of the best 800 meter runners in Scotland , and represented his country in the 3000 metres steeplechase and other distances. Colin spent 4 years at Memphis state university where he is still the record holder for 1500m. He would come back to Hawick and tell us tales of America, such as hiding the black athletes in the university van when the klu klux klan were on the prowl, he also told us of a runner called Fun Run Robbie, who would turn up at road races around the Memphis area wearing a ski mask and white shorts and singlet with Fun Run Robbie on the front. His tactic was to sprint into the lead for the first mile then disappear into the crowd.

At the Xmas holidays we always had our Xmas relays , everyone in the club would be put into a team , the adults course was about three miles, i decided to dress up like a french waiter and try to beat some of my colleagues who had been taken the piss over the last few months , however during that fun someone shouted, Look there’s Fun Run Robbie and I have had that nickname ever since, I hope the above explanation has made things a little clearer.