Brian Kilby

Not surprisingly, Brian's career in athletics started at the young age of thirteen, at secondary school. Not keen on team sports, he persuaded the PE staff to allow him to run in the cross-country trial for the school team, despite being too young to run. Much to everyone's surprise, including his own, he won the trial. Thereby another convert to athletics was recruited, leading to a most successful career that culminated in marathon gold medals at Commonwealth and European Championships and a fourth place at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

Brian was soon to realise his potential and joined Coventry Godiva Harriers, a club that was on the up, with the young Basil Heatley at the forefront of Coventry Godiva's progression to the top endurance club in Britain. Success breeds success and the youngsters joining Coventry at this time could hardly not improve.

Failing his medical for conscription into the forces, within a year Brian was to become AAA Marathon Champion and run in the 1960 Rome Olympics. Not bad for a man who was not considered fit enough to get into the armed services. However it was just the incentive that he required to make him a great runner.

Prior to 1960 Brian had never competed over a distance of more than ten miles. However in the late spring of 1960 he ran the Pembroke '20', finishing third. This result encouraged him to enter the Polytechnic marathon over the famous Windsor to Chiswick route. He finished a splendid second in this his first marathon in a time of 2 hrs 22 min 53 sec. Just a few weeks later he was to line up in the AAA Marathon Championships, where he improved his inaugural time by just four seconds. However this time he won the race and gained selection for the Rome Olympic team.

Although not setting the world alight in the Olympics, Brian finished in a creditable 29th position. So in a six month period he went from being a good club runner to an Olympic runner. Although this rapid improvement astounded the press and the running fraternity, it came as no shock to Brian, who was one of the first athletes to train twice a day.

Back in Coventry, with the next four year Olympic cycle in mind, Brian embarked on a tremendously successful period, winning the next four AAA Marathon Championships. He was the only person to win five consecutive AAA titles at the Marathon distance. Not even the great Jack Holden or Jim Peters could match this success, both winning four consecutive titles. Building up his training over this period, at his peak he was doing 170 miles a week.

1962 was the year Brian Kilby collected his Championship hardware, winning gold at the European Championships in the intense heat of Belgrade. Just 24 years of age (young for a marathoner in those days) Brian finished almost a minute ahead of the field, his closest challenger being Aurele Vandendriessche of Belgium. This set up the possibility of Brian emulating that other great Midland athlete Jack Holden, who in 1950 had won the European and Commonwealth marathons back to back. The Commonwealth Games were held late in the year at Perth, Australia. Taking the lead at ten miles Brian went on to record a time of 2 hrs 21 min 17 sec to take the Commonwealth title comfortably. His year was crowned by being voted Sportsman of the Year by the Sports Writers Association, ahead of the likes of Graham Hill and Ted Dexter.

1963 saw Brian run the second fastest ever marathon up until that time. His time of 2 hrs 14 min 43 sec was done on a very cold and wet day at Port Talbot. This time was just fifteen seconds slower than the World best set by American Buddy Edelen in the Polytechnic Marathon a few weeks earlier.

Olympic year saw two of the marathon men selected from the Polytechnic Marathon. This meant that only one place was up for grabs at the AAA Championship marathon. This was to the annoyance of all those hoping to gain selection through the AAAs event. Because of all that hung on the result of this race a frantic pace was set, with the first ten miles being run in 49 minutes. This of course took its toll and the likes of Juan Taylor, Jim Alder and Ken Wood all dropped out before the finish. In the extremely hot weather it was no surprise that the pace would have an effect on all those taking part, however Brian held on to take his fifth consecutive title and gained his selection for the Olympics.

To finish fourth in the Olympic Games is a tremendous feat, yet in some ways it must be the worst position to finish, being so close to a medal. Brian's preparation after the AAAs was hampered by a motor accident, where he was thrown through the windscreen of a car, requiring 28 stitches in his face. So fourth place in the circumstances was a great performance. Indeed, he was the second Briton to finish. Although he was the second Coventry man to finish, his club mate Basil Heatley ran a storming second half to take the silver medal.

Picking up various injuries after this hampered Brian's marathon career and although he ran his last marathon in Kyoto, Japan in 1969, he never quite achieved the same success at the event again.

Throughout this extraordinary career of marathon running, Brian competed on both the track and country regularly. The Birmingham League often saw Brian compete, often finishing in the top ten, no mean feat in those days. His best performances in the League were to finish second to Roy Fowler on two occasions, once in 1961 and again in 1965.

All through the sixties Brian was a regular member of the Godiva team that won so many team medals at the National Cross Country Championships. He was a member of the team that claimed two first places, one second and two third places between 1961 and 1968. On the individual front his best effort in the National came in 1964, when he was placed eleventh - just out of the England team.

There can be no doubt that cross country running played a part in Brian's conditioning. It did not matter if the going was heavy or dry, he would be there performing, as all good athletes should.