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Thursday, 20 November 2014

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One Olympic runner’s tribute to another

AMONG the Cumbrians who thrilled in person to the record-breaking exploits of Team GB were ex-Olympian runner JOHN KIRKBRIDE and his wife, LYN, from Whitehaven.

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Still sports mad: John and Lyn Kirkbride still enjoy sport today. Here they are pictured in the Olympic Stadium to watch the 1500m final

And of special interest (one final in which Team GB had no representation) was the 1,500 metres – John couldn’t help but cast his mind back 40 years earlier to the Munich Olympics of 1972 in which he competed. His mind was racing over what might have been for he had high hopes of reaching the 1,500 metres final but for being ‘bumped’ out in the heats.

“It was an arm across my chest, just kinda stopped me dead. I’ve never seen any film of the race, I’d love to see.”

John also thought of the many cold, wet evenings training alone except for the support of Lyn (née Prowse) more often than not holding the stop watch.

Back from London 2012, John reflected on past and present, still looking fit and lithe and certainly happy to be alive.

“Rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated,” he laughed – a reference to a recent Whitehaven News feature which made reference to the “late” John Kirkbride – for which we sincerely apologise.

Anyway, of the past, he recalled: “I used to race the buses up Inkerman, plough along the Loop Road, down to the bus station, back up to Kier’s garage. before the Commonwealth Games in New Zealand (1974), it was the middle of winter and I wasn’t going to go to be honest, but Lyn said: ‘You’ve got to go you won’t get another chance’ – and I did.

“I went without being really prepared, to be honest; I ran well in my heat to get to the final but had to come out the very next day and compete in what proved to be a world record race. I just didn’t have the speed endurance I should have had. Little did I know that a few years later I’d be off to work in New Zealand for Taylor Woodrow International.”

For John, the London Olympics was actually the first he had attended since the fateful Munich Games overshadowed by the massacre of Israeli athletes.

“Just being present at an Olympics and seeing everyone doing so well was absolutely great. The atmosphere was exciting and, without naming names, it was good to meet up with some athletes from my own era,” he said.

Main highlight for him was Mo Farah’s remarkable double gold medal track triumph. “When I see today’s runners accelerate down the back street that’s what I miss a lot – that feeling of power, just moving through and away to the finishing line.”

A fuller account of John’s time as an elite British athlete and his eventful career oversees for many years in the mechanical engineering sector will appear in The Whitehaven News next week.

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