Geoff Hayes has very kindly put together an Obituary for Michael Davies who sadly died last month.
Michael Patrick Davies 1933-2012
Michael Patrick Davies 1933-2012
“One of the most revered athletes in the history of amateur fell running.”
One of four children, Mike was born in September 1933 in the Bradfield District of Berkshire. Not much is known about his early years until he gained recognition as a talented road, track and cross-country runner at Reading Athletics Club. In 1960 Mike was a member of the record-breaking Land’s End to John O’Groats relay run in which he was specially selected to run the mountain pass range in Scotland. In 1967 Mike rejoined the team to recover the record, running the same mountain pass section.
In 1961 Mike entered the Ben Nevis Race. He trained in heavy boots to make up for the lack of hills in the south, running twice daily over golf courses on the South Downs and repetitive hill climbs of 300 feet on the steepest slopes available. After a training holiday in Lapland with a fully loaded rucksack, he returned to his regime of two 8-mile runs per day. The preparation paid off as he won the first of three Ben Nevis wins, the others in 1968 and 1969. On five occasions between 1962 and 1967 he finished 2nd.
The Three Peaks Race was a natural progression and Mike trained hard, staying at the nearby Youth Hostel, determined to break the ‘2 hours 50 minutes barrier’ for the 23-mile race. Mike achieved his first win in 1965 with a record-setting time of 2:47:00. He also won the race in 1966, 1967 and 1968 when he achieved his personal best time of 2:40:34.
Mike achieved other outstanding victories:
· Vaux Mountain Trial 1965, 1967, 1970 (now known as the Lake District Mountain Trial). In his 1967 win, Mike beat Old Purleian Gordon Pirie – who finished 3rd. Mike’s winning team mates were John Disley and Chris Brasher.
· Chevy Chase 1968
· Thieveley Pike 1967
· Mamore Hill Race 1963
· Lomond of Fife 1973
as well as many 2nd and 3rd places.
Mike continued to run competitively into his 40s, his last recorded race at the age of 46 where he finished 15th in the Veterans’ Fells Championship.
For his outstanding contribution to Amateur Athletics, Mike was made an Honorary Life Member of Reading Athletic Club.
Mike was a founder member of the Fell Runners Association (membership number 7) and of its founding committee which was set up in 1970. In 1972 he became editor of The Fell Runner, a post he held for two years. He devised the original ‘Fell Runner of the Year’ scheme in 1972 and his definitions of the three categories of severity are still adhered to, 40 years later.
Remembered as a ‘gentleman with impeccable manners’, Mike was also generous in spirit. In the early days of the Three Peaks Race, routes were a matter of personal knowledge and preference – provided one arrived at the summit of each peak, it did not matter how one got there. Mike sportingly showed fellow competitors his favoured route between Pen-Y-Ghent and Ribblehead, hitherto unknown to some of his rivals.
For most of the 1960s and until its closure in 1971, Mike worked at the Royal Wanstead School where he was Deputy Headmaster and Sports Teacher. A temporary teaching post followed for a year, before he arrived at Purley Grammar School in 1973. Mike is remembered as a firm, but very fair disciplinarian as Form Teacher of ‘4S1’ by pupils; a very private and unassuming man by colleagues. Mike was appointed Second Deputy Headmaster, a post he held until Purley High School for Boys as it was renamed, closed in 1988.
One abiding memory of Mike is at a sponsored walk at Kenley Airfield in February 1976. Although 45 people tramped 30 miles or further, Mike covered more distance than anyone – and he ran for the entire time. He passed everyone several times, but always had cheerful words of encouragement on every passing. Many will remember watching him disappearing ahead into the distance.
Jimmy Jardine’s 1973 poem, of which Mike was the inspiration, ‘The Rime of the Ancient Fell Runner’ summarises this memory perfectly:
And off he’d run, as though just begun,
And I sank down to rest;
And fading into the setting sun
Went the faded Reading vest.
With grateful thanks to Dave Hodgson, ex-Chair of the Three Peaks Race Association and Colin Evans, Deputy Head (Retired), Purley High School for Boys, for their assistance with the collation of biographical material.