VALE COLIN YOUNG (1935-2019)
I was saddened this week to hear of the passing of English walking great Colin Young. I was privileged to know Colin, mainly from my time racing in England in 1980 and from the various international meets in the late seventies and early eighties where our paths crossed. He was one of those people who, once met, was never forgotten.
I will start off with a wonderful appreciation of Colin, written by Mel Watman for his newsletter Athletics International.
With the death on December 17 of Colin Young I have lost one of my oldest and dearest friends, and our sport
has bade farewell to one of its most memorable characters. What a contribution he made to athletics: as a
redoubtable long distance race walker, as a founder member of the NUTS and as the inspirational coach of world
record breaker Mel Batty.
I first got to know Colin when I was a teenager and we were both founder members of the National Union of
Track Statisticians (NUTS) in 1958. Born in Barking (Essex) on 20 January 1935, Colin took up race walking in
1947, aged 12, and by his early twenties was aready a well regarded figure, having won the National Junior 5
miles title in 1953 and clocked under 4 hr 50 min for 50km. Competing for Essex Beagles, he would go on to
post such times as 1:39:27 for 20km in 1962 and 4:35:20 for 50km in 1963, but it was in the ultra distance events
that he proved such a formidable and gutsy competitor. He achieved the coveted Centurion status in 1960 by
covering over 131 miles in 24 hours; two years later he walked from London to Brighton in 8 hr 7 min 42 sec
and in 1966 he won an international 100km race in Lugano.
As I recounted in my book My Life In Athletics, the great Paul Nihill paid tribute to him in AW in April 1970
and wrote that Colin was preparing to attempt a fantastic endurance double: a 24 hour walk in Rouen followed
less than a month later by the 512km (318 miles) Strasbourg to Paris classic. Colin didn't win either race but
walked with his customary grit to finish second in Rouen and fifth in the Strasbourg to Paris, becoming the first
Briton to complete that gruelling event. The latter was tough going indeed as daytime temperatures hit 90ºF in
the shade (only there was none), the road surface included long stretches of cobbles, and there were at least four
climbs of 8-10km in length. For good measure, the heels on both pairs of his shoes collapsed, resulting in a
severely wrenched calf muscle over the last 50 hours, necessitating frequent short stops for massage. The
experience didn't deter him, for next year he followed up with victory in the Rouen race, covering a record
215.835km, with a close third place in the Strasbourg to Paris in 73 hr 37 min.
It was at another celebrated ultra-distance event, the Prague to Podebrady 50km in what was then
Czechoslovakia in 1968, that Colin met his future wife Eva, an orienteer, through a mutual friend, Ivo
Domansky. She moved to the UK as an au pair the following year and, as Eva puts it, "the rest is history".
Colin continued to compete for several more decades, winning numerous international medals as a veteran. As
he stated in AW in 1969 what he liked most about athletics was "the satisfaction of pushing one's body to the
limit, the wonderful friendships made, the feeling of bodily fitness and the delight of winning or setting a
As well as his own exploits, Colin was THE expert on reporting the UK and world walking scene and from 1967
to 1986 was the highly respected and ever enthusiastic walking correspondent of AW. For over 60 years he
remained a stalwart member of the NUTS committee, delighting in challenging myself in particular to remember
some arcane result or other. He himself had an astonishing memory, not only for athletics trivia but also for his
other passions which notably included cycling and traditional jazz.
Colin's greatest hero was Emil Zátopek and how appropriate it was that as a coach his major success was guiding
Mel Batty to a world 10 miles record of 47:26.8 in 1964 – a distance at which Zátopek was a former record
holder with 48:12.0 in 1951. Batty, whose time was bettered the following year by Ron Clarke no less, in turn
learned from Colin's methods to coach Eamonn Martin to his 10,000m and marathon triumphs.
In recent years Colin suffered from poor eyesight and a number of physical problems, but he remained an avid
fan to the last, lapping up all the latest results worldwide. No one who knew Colin will ever forget him and I
offer Eva heartfelt condolences on her and our loss.
And now onto a few more bits and pieces from a life filled to the brim and overflowing.
Colin was part of the most famous of all English Centurion walks, held at the Walton track on 20 th October 1960. On
that occasion, he became English Centurion 317 with a time of 17:48:05, but that is only a small part of the story. Much
of the information for this next section was taken from the 1997 edition of the Centurions History.
The 1960 English Centurion qualifying race remains on record as the most magnificant 24 hour track walk ever
witnessed. For some time Centurions and other long distance specialists had wanted such a race in order to
match themselves against the performances of others over the previous 50 or more years. In order to meet this
request a special invitation meeting was arranged by Walton A.C. at their headquarters at Stompond Lane,
Walton-on-Thames, on 14-15 October.
The records to be attacked were impressive. The British records were shared between Tom Hammond who in
1908 walked 131 m 580 yds in 24 hours, Tom Richardson who in 1936 had walked 100 miles in 17:35:04 before
retiring at 18 hours and Percy Reading who in 1946 had walked 129m 749 y in 24 hours. The world record was
held by Henri Caron of France who in 1950 had recorded a distance of 132m 1320 y in 24 hours.
Apart from the long distance specialists, some of the fast men were also invited to attack records up to 4 hours
and 50 km. In the shorter event, Don Thompson, the recent winner of the 50 km gold medal at the Rome
Olympics, broke his own National records at 20 miles, 3 hours, 25 miles, 4 hours, 30 miles and 50 km.
To return to the main event which by coincidence fell on the 10th anniversary of Caron's 1950 world record, 15 of
the best long distance walkers in the country faced the starter. For the first 12 hours a thrilling race unfolded, but
the record of E. C. Horton, set up in 1914, remained intact. At this point some of the competitors began to fall by
the wayside. One of the first to go was Frank O'Reilly who was lying in third place at the time, having dropped
back from second. He had covered 70 miles in just over 12 hours, such was the quality of this race. He was
feeling very unwell but struggled on to reach 78 miles in 14 hours. In the meantime, Hew Neilson was having a
terrific race at the front, with Colin Young some 2 miles adrift in second place.
At 13 hours, Hew Neilson claimed his first record of the race with 77m 30y, beating Richardson’s 1936 distance
of 76m 930y. His second record came at 80 miles in 13h 34m 37s. From here he broke records all the way up to
24 hours. Colin was closing slightly but it would be a few more hours before he also started to better the
previous British figures. The progress of the various records is shown in the table below.
Previous Records World Record British Records New Records
Tom Hammond Henri Caron Tom Richardson Hew Neilson Colin Young
(G. W) 1908 (Fra) 1950 (G. B.) 1936 (G.B) 1960 (G. B.) 1960
14 Hours 81 m 1100y 82m 788y 80m 950y 82m 517y 79m 1705y
15 Hours Florimond Cornet 87m 566y 86m 569y 87m 1040y 85m 1470y
90 Miles 16h 09 50.s 15h 30m 12s 15h 40m 48s 15h 28m 19s 15h 53m 10s
16 Hours 89m 435y 92m 689y 91m 524y 92m 1318y 90M 1015y
17 Hours 94m 668y No Record 96m 1152y 98m 164y 95m 1570y
100 Miles 18h 04m 10s 17h 47m 46s 17h 35m 04s 17h 18m 51s 17h 48 05
18 Hours. 99m 1067y 101m 429y 101m 1230y Ret. 103m 615y 101m 6ly
19 Hours 105m 275y 106m 1646y 105m 466y 107m 1175y 105m 1545y
110 Miles 19h 58m 40s 19h 33m 41s 19h 57m 16s 19h 25m 48s 19h 45m 54s
20 Hours 110m 203y 112m 464y 110m 410y 112m 1262y 111m 330y
21 Hours 115m 575y 117m 342y Hammond 117m 1150y 116m 265y
120 Miles 21h 52m 58s 21h 32m 02s Hammond 21h 24m 16s 21h 46m 23s
22 Hours 120m 1156y 122m 712y Hammond 122m 1432y 121m 235y
125 Miles 22h 48m 21s 22h 30m 06s Hammond 22h 25m 30s 22h 46m 49s
23 Hours 125m 1354y 127m 1021y Hammond 127m 1510y 126m 118y
130 Miles 23h 45m 51s 23h 27m 10s Hammond 23h 25m 27s 23h 47m 09S
24 Hours 131 m 580y 132m 1320y 129m 749y 133m 21y 131 m 327y
New Neilson had only one thing on his mind, to win the race, especially bearing in mind the quality of the
opposition. He had won a road race and had completed more races of 100 miles or over than any other British
walker. The only thing he had not done was to win on the track, which is where he made his debut in 1948. He
was aware of the records held by Caron and Richardson, but treated the beating of them as a bonus if that was
what it would take to win the race.
Colin is the only walker in the above table of figures who did not set any records, due to the presence of Neilson
in the same race. His objective, like Neilson, was to win the race, but he had a more pressing task to fulfil first.
That was to complete 100 miles and in so doing, qualify for Centurionship. He was the only person to qualify
from this race and became one of the few Centurions in the Centurion handbook to have a race heading to
himself. From a steady start he gradually gained ground on the leaders, and by 50 miles he was in front of the old
figures set up by Hammond in 1908, a position he maintained throughout the race. However he remained approx.
¼ mile behind Richardson and the same 2 miles behind Neilson, whom he was gaining on slightly with each lap.
Colin, with his 100 miles safely behind him, kept his momentum and caught up 3 laps on Neilson, but he could
never bridge the gap. It was only in the last 20 minutes or so that he went behind Hammond's figures to finish an
annoying 253 yards short of the old record, his distance being 131 miles 327 yards. Neilson, although also
slowing, maintained his lead at the front of the race and finished 461 yards ahead of Caron’s world record, his
final distance recorded at 133 miles 21 yards.
Colin completed two further English Centurion walks, in 1969 and 1976, to take his tally to three – and they are all
100miles 2nd 17:48:05 20/10/1960 Walton
100miles 1st 17:52:32 08/08/1969 Leicester
100miles 2nd 18:12:02 28/05/1976 Woodford
He actually improved on that 1960 24 Hour distance of 131 miles with an even longer performance in Rouen in 1971.
Of course, that was a road performance so could not be counted for record purposes. The Ohio Racewalker of June
1971 reported it as followsMAGNIFICANT EFFORT BY COLIN YOUNG
Rouen, France, May 8-9. England's Colin Young set a new record while leaving the field far behind in a 24 hour
walk. Starting in high humidity, surviving a 9-hour downpour and finishing with 7 hours in a blazing sun, Young
covered 134 miles 202 yards and was over 13 miles ahead at the finish. The race was held on an accurately
measured road course, consisting of 45 laps on a 1213 meter circuit, four laps of 25km 150 meters and hen back
on the short circuit until the finish. Young was on a 22 km (about 137 miles) through 18 hours after taking the
lead at 70 kms. This race qualified him for the Strasbourg to Paris (520 km), to be held June 10-13.
1. Colin Young GBR 215 km 615 m
2. G. Landreau FRA 194 km 201 m
3. E. Alomaine BEL 191 km 615 m
4. H. Fickinger FRA 191 km 475 m
5. J. Bonn FRA 184 km 279 m
6. H. Mainemare FRA 179 km 435 m
(30 starters and 13 finishers)
Sadly, the Rouen 24H, although still held annually, is now better known for its short courses rather than for the quality
of its walkers. It was different in those days.
The British all-time rankings (see http://www.gbrathletics.com/uk/mh99.htm) show Colin prominently in all the longer
distance lists, even after all these years.
100 KILOMETRES ROAD WALK
9:34:25 Tony Geal (ENG) 28.07.52 1 Grand-Quevilly, FRA 02 Jun 1979
9:36:23 Graham Young (IOM) 30.05.45 1 Stoke Mandeville 26 Sep 1981
9:38:38 Murray Lambden (IOM) 14.10.56 2 Stoke Mandeville 26 Sep 1981
9:45:46 Ian Richards (ENG) 12.04.48 1 Sutton Coldfield 27 Sep 1980
9:46:36 Peter Hodkinson (ENG) 05.11.44 1 Birmingham (M42) 29 Sep 1979
9:52:49 Tony Collins (ENG) 01.10.42 2 Birmingham (M42) 29 Sep 1979
9:53:04 Colin Young (ENG) 20.01.35 1 Lugano, SUI 30 Oct 1966
100 MILES TRACK WALK
17:18:51+ Hew Neilson (ENG) 15.04.16 1 Walton-on-Thames 14 Oct 1960
17:35:40 Tommy Richardson (ENG) .10/11 1 Bradford 19 Sep 1936
17:48:05+ Colin Young (ENG) 20.01.35 2 Walton-on-Thames 14 Oct 1960
24 HOURS TRACK WALK
214.061km Hew Neilson (ENG) 15.04.16 1 Walton-on-Thames 15 Oct 1960
211.354km Tommy Hammond (ENG) 18.06.78 1 London (WC) 12 Sep 1908
211.131km Derek Harrison (IOM) 22.01.35 1 Woodford 29 May 1976
211.123km Colin Young (ENG) 20.01.35 2 Walton-on-Thames 15 Oct 1960
24 HOURS ROAD WALK
219.570km Derek Harrison (IOM) 22.01.35 1 Rouen, FRA 21 May 1978
215.835km Colin Young (ENG) 20.01.35 1 Rouen, FRA 09 May 1971
215.050km Dave Boxall (ENG) 28.10.33 1 Rouen, FRA 06 May 1973His three Strasbourg-Paris races are shown below. He finished the entire distance in 1970 (fifth) and 1971 (third), only
failing to finish in 1972.
24TH EDITION STRASBOURG – PARIS 4-7 JUNE 1970 512 KM
1. ZAUGG-SAMY SR-DELLE FRA 512KM 70H04m
2. SIMON-JOSY AA-LUXEMBOURG LUX 512KM 70H35m
3. LEBAQUER-LOUIS RC-ROUBAIX FRA 512KM 70H37m
4. GUNY-CHARLES AS-AULNOYE FRA 512KM 71H42m5. YOUNG-COLIN ESSEX-BEAGLES GBR 512KM 74H24m25TH EDITION STRASBOURG – PARIS 10-13 JUNE 1971 520 KM
1. SIMON-JOSY AA-LUXEMBOURG LUX 520KM 73H08m
2. BRACQ-SERGE CA-MONTREUIL FRA 520KM 73H25m3. YOUNG-COLIN ESSEX-BEAGLES GBR 520KM 73H38m26TH EDITION STRASBOURG – PARIS 15-18 JUNE 1972 513 KM
1. SIMON-JOSY AA-LUXEMBOURG LUX 513KM 67H03m
2. SCHOUCKENS-ROBERT US-BINCHE BEL 513KM 71H40m
3. LEBAQUER-LOUIS RC-ROUBAIX FRA 513KM 73H24m
4. ANXIONNAT-ROLAND AS-GUENANGE FRA 513KM 73H58m
5. QUEMENER-ROGER AS-POLICE PARIS FRA 513KM 75H08m
6. TRAVARD-LOUIS AS-NEUVILLE FRA 513KM 75H51m7. YOUNG-COLIN ESSEX-BEAGLES GBR 494KM 71H01m
You can see some terrific coverage of the 1970 Strasbourg to Paris racewalk in a 14 minute French TV production at
http://www.ina.fr/media/entretiens/video/CPF04006252/la-plus-longue-marche.fr.html. Number 23 is John Dowling of
Sheffield and number 19 is Colin. The year was very hot, as is often the case in mid June in that part of France. Mel
Watman (see above) talks of the fact that Colin’s shoes collapsed and he struggled with foot issues for most of the race.
This can be clearly seen around the 11 min 40 sec period of the film.
I finish with a few of the many recollections of Colin from the many that have been published over the last few days.
It is very sad indeed to read of the death of Colin Young - one of the greatest British ultra-distance walkers, who
competed with distinction nationally and internationally among a fine generation. He pitted himself against the
best in Europe with his Paris-Strasbourg walks and completed with distinction. He continues to be talked about
with admiration by continental walkers and officials at many 24 hour races. We fondly remember him being
invited by the organisers to support us and Edmund Shillabeer on the Tour du Var – where he was given a driver
and the Toulon rugby coach! He enthusiastically and professionally supported us on our Paris-Colmar exploits
where his insights and experience were invaluable. Colin loved a challenge; Sandra recalls Colin, Bob Dobson
and herself being invited by the organiser, a long-time admirer of Colin, to participate in the Etrechy 24h track
race. Though relentless wintry conditions drove many athletes off the track, Colin kept going and achieved a
fine performance. Peter Selby had a hard job looking after us for 24h in the driving rain, not to mention a
challenge getting the van out of the mud at the finish.
Colin’s encyclopaedic knowledge of racewalking and other sports stretched across the generations, and was
highly valued by athletes and fellow sports historians and statisticians alike. To meet and talk with Colin was
always a source of fascination. Sandra and Colin visited the Revd David Christie-Murray, who had been a
distinguished race-walker in the 1930s. Colin delighted David, then in his late 90s, by taking press cuttings and
photographs of races in which David had participated, and recalling names and performances which gave David
For us personally, as ultra-distance race-walkers, Colin was an inspiration and an iconic figure from a golden
age of our sport. As Captain of the Centurions, Colin commanded the highest regard. We shall always remember
him with the greatest affection and respect.Richard and Sandra Brown,
It is very sad news. Colin was a great ambassador for British ultra distance race walking. Colin served on the
Centurions Committee for good number of years and it was alway a pleasure to hear Colin recount tales of race
walkers and races of years gone by. He always asked me to send him reports of the Paris Colmar race especially
as his eye sight was failing and so his wife used to read them out to him. In the race walking worl, both in
France and the UK, he was really was a “national treasure”.Kathy Crilley
He was a great walker a true motivator and always greeted me with Pete ryan 4 hours 18 minutes 30 seconds
yes he remembered times to the second he did suffer with his eyes remember going to naumburg with him and
we got him next to the big screen so he could see more of re race he was as enthusiastic about race walkingPeter RyanTim EricksonTuesday 24 December 2019