Bill Adcocks

Master of the understatement, an acerbic wit and a manner for speaking good plain common sense. These are three of the attributes that make listening to Bill Adcocks so compulsive. His homespun philosophy on any topic, especially athletics, should be part of any youngster's scholarship into this wonderful sport.

Forget the highfalutin talk of the theorist, this man has done it and worn the T shirt, his times still pass the test of time. Who amongst today's luminaries of marathon running in the UK can boast a time of under 2 hrs 11 min for the classic distance? Bill did this in the late 1960s. Like most of the runners of his time Bill had no personal coach; the Club, his contemporaries and his own search for knowledge were the building blocks of his great career. One often wonders, when looking at the statistics of athletes such as Bill, if today's endurance athletes are not over coached and too cosseted. "You only get out of the tank what you put in" !!! In short, perhaps an hour in Bill Adcocks' company might be better than a month of coaching by today's theorists.

What then of Bill's athletic career. Like most youngsters his early taste for the sport came from both his primary and secondary schools, the latter giving him his first taste of cross-country running and track competitions. Being of a diminutive stature, he was drawn to athletics more than the team games played in schools; where he has quoted "I could be mistaken for the ball during a game of Rugby". This said, endurance running suited his makeup both mentally and physically.

At the age of fourteen Bill joined his local club Coventry Godiva Harriers, where he joined an environment that was about to explode with talent. A club that during the sixties spawned such icons as Basil Heatley, Brian Kilby, Juan Taylor, Dick Taylor, John Hammond, Colin Kirkham as well as the young Adcocks. It is no flippant statement, in this case, when one uses the statement "Success breeds success". The environment that you are placed into permeates right through; and this of course acts as a spur, to be as good as, if not better than, your Club mates.

Bill thrived in such an environment, his exploits over the country and on the track improving steadily. In 1964 Bill completed his first marathon, finishing second in 2 hrs 19 min 18 sec in the Port Talbot marathon. This race was to decide his future course within the sport - he was to become a marathon runner.

Having been beaten in a marathon in Prague, by his clubmate Juan Taylor, he recorded the same time as his first completed marathon. He went one better six weeks later in winning the 1965 AAA marathon title at Port Talbot, bringing to an end the sequence of five consecutive titles by his friend Brian Kilby. Kilby on this occasion was second. Bill's time for this event showed a marked improvement of nearly two and a half minutes (2 hrs 16 min 50 sec).

A back problem at the start of 1966 hindered the progress of our man; yet with a crash course of racing and training six weeks before the AAA championships Bill was placed fourth, thus gaining selection for the England Commonwealth Games team and despite finishing in the worst condition that he'd ever been in at the end of the marathon.

The Jamaican Commonwealth Games marathon was married by the fiasco at the finish, whereby Bill who was lying second to Jim Alder, some fifty yards behind, suddenly found himself some thirty yards up as he entered the stadium, Alder having been misdirected. Jim with a last gasp effort managed to pass the tiring Adcocks to take his rightful win. However, one does wonder if Bill Adcocks' preparation for the event had not been such a rushed affair, what might have been? One thing is certain, a silver medal was no mean achievement in the circumstances.

Back trouble still persisting in 1967 Bill took a rest from competitive running in an effort to be injury free for Olympic year, towards the end of the year stepping up his mileage to between 105 and 115 miles a week. Fit again, Bill began to turn his attention towards the Olympic Games.

1968 proved a much better year, starting with a superb 6th place in the National Cross-Country Championships at Sutton Park; this gaining him selection to the England team for the International. An additional bonus to this consummate club man was leading Coventry Godiva Harriers to team victory in the National. Bill was soon to follow up this performance with a 25th placing in the international in Tunis, helping England to a very comfortable team victory over France. Who says road runners can't run cross-country?

Spring saw Bill given the chance of going to altitude for training, or doing the Karl Marx Stadt marathon. As one would expect from such a resolute competitor he chose to do the latter. Winning the event with ease he ran a new European best for the distance, 2 hrs 12 min 17 sec.

Eight weeks later he was lining up for the Olympic Trial Race at Cwmbran. Despite being disappointed at finishing second to Tim Johnson, his objective had been achieved, he had gained selection for the Olympics in Mexico City.

To finish fifth in an Olympic Games marathon is an achievement to be proud of, to achieve this position at altitude was a superb performance. With just six miles remaining Bill was in thirteenth position, which just shows how strongly he was finishing. One wonders at governing bodies (IOC) when they can select venues for events which they know full well will not provide a level playing field for all the participants.

Quickly recovering from this effort Bill was on his travels again to run in the Fukuoka marathon in Japan in December. Here he showed what could have been, if the Olympics had been held at sea level, winning the race in the ultra fast time of 2 hrs 10 min 48 sec, a time only few of our present countrymen could dream of achieving.

Injury problems reoccurred at the beginning of 1969. However, our intrepid traveller recovered in time to wing his way to Athens for the classic Marathon to Athens race. This race was important to him for the four athletes that had beaten him in the Olympic Games were running. Not only did he beat these opponents comfortably but he took nearly ten minutes off the course record. His time of 2 hrs 11 min 7 sec still stands as a course record, this despite European and World Championships having since been held over the same course. Who would bet against it still standing after the 2004 Olympic Games?

Perhaps one of the secrets of the phenomenal success that the Coventry club had during their glorious sixties was that all their maestros of the marathon happily indulged themselves in all aspects of endurance running, be it the country, track or road. Marathon running is about speed and endurance, so it takes no Einstein to figure out why they indulged in all aspects of the sport.

With regard to the Birmingham League, Bill was regular with his outings on the country, he chalked up wins in both the first and second divisions and was a regular top five contender throughout his career. Bill was still competing in the League through to 1978.

His love of the sport now sees him as Secretary of his beloved Coventry Godiva Harriers, Race Secretary for Division One of the League and Treasurer of the Midland Cross Country Association. He combines this with the job of Information Officer for uk : athletics.

Perhaps there is no more fitting way to end, than by allegedly quoting Bill: "It really is all about getting the most from yourself that is reasonable to expect you can get out." He went on to add "And I did".