Carolyn Franks (17/12/2012)

Carolyn Franks (Cheltenham & County Harriers), the Secretary of the Birmingham & District Cross Country League. was featured in a recent autobiographical book by Mike Fleet (Croydon A.C.). Mikes' appreciation of Carolyn follows and well portrays the careeer of this hard working athletics coach, official and enthusiast.

Mike introduces his feature as follows :-

Foot Soldiers beat Falsifiers by a Furlong

It was my original intention to highlight my "Victor Meldrew-like" hatred of drug cheats here in a list of "My Bottom 20 Athletes". Following advice, wisdom has prevailed and I decided to avoid the risk of litigation. The creation of this chapter in praise of the unknown and unsung foot soldiers of athletics is in a truly positive vein.

Much more comfortably, I take this opportunity to feature the front-line action of just a few of athletics' unpaid and unsung heroes, past and present, whom I know and without whose generous involvement our sport would be in a very poor state.

Hail my chosen few representatives of this wonderful unpaid workforce, who guarantee the smooth running of athletics in perpetuity. Eat your hearts out glory-seeking cheats; this is where many of the real rewards lie, in creating opportunities for, and ensuring that, genuine enthusiasts to enjoy fair competition.

Mine is only a sample study, for the limitations of which I apologise, but if I succeed in directing acclaim across athletics to the many hundreds of honorary unsung heroes to whom the sport owes so much, I will have no regrets.

This, then, is the piece dedicated to Carolyn Franks, our own Cross Country League Secretary.

Carolyn Franks (Cheltenham & County Harriers)

Recognised as one of the country's most knowledgeable and effective javelin coaches, Carolyn, started on her career helping throwers way back in 1960. Working tirelessly since then helping many throwers to progress, her significant contribution was recognised with the 2009 Gloucestershire Outstanding Services to Sport award, Carolyn, modest in the extreme, said of her award: "It's nice to be recognised, but there are a lot of people out there doing a lot of hard graft. It is something for which I would like to see them being recognised too."

Her interest in the sport "kicked off" in her first year at secondary school, when the headmistress inspired her during early morning sessions and she was even allowed the freedom of an un-caged discus circle in which to train. She joined Cambridge and Coleridge AC in the early 1960s when the girls' athletics section was somewhat peripheral, but as good fortune had it, further inspiration was on hand when the great Australian Herb Elliott paid a visit to her school.

Training to be a physical education teacher followed, and then it was out into the demanding world of teaching. There another significant situation haltingly evolved. Unwilling to follow advice to vote for her school's area committee nominee Cliff Franks, then little known to her, she could have deprived herself of a husband, and the sport of her significant and ongoing contribution.

Happily, thanks to those who knew him better, Cliff was elected anyway, and Carolyn's subsequent compassion in offering him a lift one day, may well have set the ball rolling for her future happiness. The rest is history.

Her most outstanding recent outstanding athlete has been James Campbell, who threw the javelin 73.00m at the Beijing World Junior Championships, when he finished 8th. He has since moved to Commonwealth Games status, representing Scotland as the U.K. number one ranker in Delhi in 2010.

Carolyn is currently nurturing two exciting girl shot put prospects in an enthusiastic and diverse group of throwers.

The offices she has held, the committees she has served and in many causes still serves are legend, and her 30,000 a year mileage by car speaks for itself. One of the jobs this tireless lady inherited from her husband is that of Secretary of the Birmingham and District Invitation Cross-Country League, a post in which she continues to hold in parallel with being their President.

Her inter-personal skills have also been recognised in the many team management posts she has held from schools level to UKA Small Team status.

Carolyn lists among her many qualifications that of a Chief Timekeeper and on finding herself to be beyond Seiko's athletics needs at the Barcelona Olympics, she changed sports, and worked with their rowing team at the 1500m mark. This became known notoriously as the "Piddle Point" due to the extra-curricular activities in the vicinity of some of the returning oarsmen.

Clearly not among them, the British Searle brothers, allegedly "blown", by Carolyn, to victory after she had recorded their time, were not only excellent practitioners of their sport, but apparently rather gorgeous into the bargain! So much for the Barcelona memories of this heroine.

Details of Mike Fleet's autobiography, which incidently is a very good and amusing read covering a lifetime with athletics, can be found here. Proceeds go to an excellent cause CRY (Cardiac Risk in the Young).