The Big Freeze (22/01/2013)

Did you watch the programme recently on BBC Television called The Big Freeze which looked back fifty years to the winter of 1962/63 and the freezing wintery conditions that gripped the country?

In the programme, which screened a documentary televised at the time, it touched on the impact of the weather on sport across the country. Football, Rugby, Greyhound Racing, Horse Racing were all cancelled due to the snow and ice that held the country in a vice like grip from Boxing Day (1962) through to the end of February 1963.

But what impact did it have on cross country running? In looking at the various results it seems that the Birmingham League managed to stage the final two races of the season. The third races (12th January 1963) were held at Sheldon, Shrewsbury & RAF Cosford whilst the fourth races (2nd February 1963) took runners to Perry Barr, Halesowen & Redditch.

Here are the results from the Third Race & Fourth Race.

When you look back at the results from this distance you wonder just what the conditions were like on the courses. How on earth did the clubs and runners get to the various venues?

Closer inspection of the results shows some participants who have gone on to senior roles within the administration of the League & their Club's.

In the third race a young Graham Heeley from Sparkhill Harriers was 89th. Graham is still active within many areas of athletics at both club and national levels. He also obtains all the league medals and plaques for presentation at the end of each season.

In 57th spot in the fourth race of the first division is one "J Peet" running for Sparkhill Harriers who has been a President of the league in the past ten years. In the fourth race of the third division at Redditch a certain "B J Ewington" of Nuneaton was 34th. Barry is still very active in our sport as a coach, official and administrator. Pictures of both Jim & Barry have adorned the site this season acting as officials.

Other XC Championships appear to have safely taken place. The CAU Inter Counties was on 19th January 1963 at Caversham Park, Reading. The Midland Championships was at Bedworth on 16th February 1963 whilst the National took place at Cambridge on 2nd March 1963 where two league icons lead the field home.

Basil Heatley from Coventry Godiva was first home from H Fowler of North Staffordshire & Stone Harriers.

The closer you look the more you may find. Many of that generation of runners have now died but equally there are many still alive and kicking and helping to make the Birmingham League tick. Just how many of today's participants will be around in another fifty years time helping the sport of cross country remains to be seen.

If you have any memories of the races held at the time we would love to hear from you. Please email us your memories at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..