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Nick Rose — March, 2023
Nick Rose is a versatile British distance runner who excelled in cross country, indoor racing from the mile to 5,000 meters, outdoor events up to 10,000 meters and road races from 5,000 meters to the half marathon. Nick broke the Half Marathon World Record at the 1979 Dayton Half Marathon in 1:02:36, a PR he lowered subsequently to 1:01:03. In cross country, Nick won the 1971 International Cross Country Junior Gold Medal in leading England to the team title. He was Bronze Medalist at the 1980 World Cross Country Championships, and an England Gold Medal team member in 1979 and 1980. At the NCAA Cross Country Championships, Nick was Silver Medalist to Steve Prefontaine in 1973 and Gold Medalist in 1974, leading Western Kentucky to the Silver Medal team position. On the track, Nick was a two-time Olympian in 1980 and 1984 and finished seventh in the 1983 World Championships 10,000 meters. He was Silver Medalist at the 1982 Commonwealth Games at 5,000 meters. Rose was Bronze Medalist at the 1983 Oslo Bislett Games 10,000 meters in his PR of 27:31.19. His 1977 British Record of 8:18.4 for two miles indoors stood for twenty-four years. On the roads, wins included the Wendy’s Classic 10k (1980/81/82/83/86), 1982 Tulsa Run 15k, 1983 and 1984 Bobby Crim 10-mile, 1983 Gate River Run, 1984 Maggie Valley Moonlight Run 5-mile and 1987 Trevira Twosome 10-mile. Other podium finishes included the Crescent City Classic (1981/82/84), 1982 Gate River Run, 1983 Tulsa Run 15k, 1984 Azalea Trail 10k, 1984 Maggie Valley Moonlight Run 5-mile and Virginia 10-mile (1980/83/85/87). Nick was a top Master racer, winning the 1992 USA Championships in an 8k World Best of 23:31. He won the London Marathon Master title twice, in 1994 at 2:21:10 and 1995 at 2:22:32. While at Western Kentucky University, Nick won eight Ohio Valley Conference championships and two more NCAA championships at 3,000 meters indoors (1975, 1976). His personal best times include: 1,500m – 3:40.41; Mile – 3:57.49; 2,000m – 4:59.57; 2 miles – 8:18.4; 5,000m – 13:18.91; 10,000m – 27:31.19; 15k – 43:35; 10-mile – 46:43; and half marathon – 1:01:03. Nick was inducted into the Dayton Distance Running Hall of Fame in 1986 and Western Kentucky University Athletic HOF in 1992. Nick grew up in Bristol, England where he currently resides with his wife, Christine. He was extremely generous with his time to spend two hours on the phone in March 2023 for this interview.
GCR: A DOZEN BIG RACES The first big race chronologically for us to discuss is the 1971 National Junior Cross Country at Norwich where you finished in third place in 32:18 behind Jack Lane and Phil Banning and slightly ahead of Ray Smeadley, Steve Kenyon and Peter Adams. What do you recall of your outlook before the race, how it transpired and then how it set the stage for you as a young racer?
NR I had just moved up from the Youth Division to the Juniors and was the youngest in that particular age group. Jack Lane and Phil Banning were a year older than me so I was a bit intimidated by them. They were already established as good runners and I was an up and comer. I remember running out of my skin and finishing third. Phil Banning went to the States not long afterward and, at that time, I was also seriously considering going to the States. I had a dead end job and didn’t have anything going for me so was truly thinking about the States. That race set me up for interest from the U.S. collegiates.
GCR: Later that year at the 1971 International Junior Cross Country Championships, you totally broke out when you won the 7k race in 23:12.4. Ray Smeadley was five seconds behind you and you both were well ahead of the other runners including great runners such as Ed Leddy, Eamonn Coghlan, Fernando Mamede and Neil Cusack. How did you have such great improvement from the National Junior Cross Country Championships and how tough was it to hold off Ray Smeadley?
NR I started training a bit more seriously. In the early days, my training was more recreational and I wasn’t as focused. I was enjoying life, going out with friends and training two or three times a week. After finishing third at Norwich, I got more serious and was running maybe five days a week with two very hard sessions per week. That put me in good shape for San Sebastian. As it turns out there was a lot of rain in Spain at that time of year in March. The course was a quagmire and there was lots of mud out there. That suited me and I plowed through it and beat a lot of guys who were much more established than me. Two other guys who stood out were Jim Brown of Scotland and Franco Fava of Italy who was the favorite. Ray Smeadley went on the next year to go to the Munich Olympics in the 1,500 meters, so it was a quality field. For me, that was a breakthrough win that made me aware of how good I possibly might be if I trained hard.
GCR: Speaking of breakthrough races, for most runners, even today, it is very exciting to run their first sub-four-minute mile. I remember when I talked to Dave Wottle, and he said he was on cloud nine for two weeks after he did it the first time. Your first sub-4:00 mile was on July 25, 1973 at the BMC City Charities Mile Race for the Chubb Trophy at Motspur Park on a cinder track with a 3:58.4 time that bested a young Steve Ovett, who ran exactly four minutes. What do you recall from that race, where you were with lap to go and how you focused on breaking four minutes for the first time?
NR My coach, my one and only coach, Dave Jennings, was brilliant. He had the experience of being an athlete and what it took to train someone to run a four-minute mile. I had done a lot of work with the intention of breaking four minutes and got a lot of confidence from my training. My workouts were going well, and I knew I had it in me as long as the conditions that night were good and the opposition was strong. And everything just clicked. It was quite breezy warming up and, suddenly, when we were called to the line, the wind dropped. In the BMC Mile we had a pacemaker like in the Diamond League races today. He was supposed to go out in fifty-nine or sixty seconds the first lap and keep it going. We got to three quarters of a mile and I took the lead. I didn’t look back and I won the race, and it was a breakthrough for Steve Ovett as well. He was a seventeen-year-old. The unfortunate thing for Steve was that he ran four minutes, zero seconds point zero, zero. It was the first time I broke four minutes, was on a cinder track and was a great moment and one I will never forget.
GCR: The next two races I would like to discuss are both NCAA Cross Country Championships. At the 1973 NCAA Cross Country Championships, you were up against the great, and late, Steve Prefontaine, who was a two-time champ and was fourth in the 5,000 meters at the 1972 Munich Olympics. What was it like in that race as you were out front in the lead through much of the way until he caught you and went on to his third NCAA Cross Country title?
NR My build up to that race was very good. Training was going well, I had won every race leading up to the NCAA race and my confidence was high. But I also knew the competition would be very intense, especially Steve Prefontaine. His reputation was that he was unbeatable. He had been fourth in the Olympics, and everyone thought he would win. I thought, ‘Okay, if he is going to win, he is going to have to run hard. I’m going to go out and make sure he runs as hard as I was and we would see who broke.’ Unfortunately, it was me, but I gave him a heckuva race. In Spokane there was this hill that seemed to go on and on. The first time I sort of flew up there and took the lead. I broke away and had a bit of a gap. But the second time I knew that I was suffering though everyone behind me was also suffering as much as I was. Unfortunately, Steve Prefontaine wasn’t suffering as much as I was, and he went by about 800 meters or 400 meters before the finish. I hung onto second and felt that I had given a hundred percent. I couldn’t give any more. I like to think that he had to run as hard as he possibly could to beat me because I had given everything. That was the whole purpose of how I intended to run.
GCR: The next year you came back and Steve Prefontaine had graduated. You won the 1974 NCAA Cross Country title over John Ngeno from Washington State. How did that race go as you moved up one spot and took home the Gold Medal?
NR Again, everything went well and probably a bit better than the previous year. I was again unbeaten. At our conference meet I had beaten Ed Leddy and Neil Cusack and all the Irish guys from East Tennessee State. In the Regional I beat the Tennessee guys, including Doug Brown. I knew I was in good shape but I also knew that John Ngeno would be a big threat along with the whole Oregon team. Their whole team was a threat to our team and individually they were a threat to me. I also think Craig Virgin was up there with me at the front from the beginning. I took off very early on and had the same intent as the year before that I was going to run hard and anyone who tried to go with me was going to suffer if I suffered. I was running controlled in that race in Terre Haute, Indiana. It was an undulating course. It was cold. It was a bit muddy. So, it wasn’t a glorified track race, which a lot of cross country races are that are flat and on golf courses. This was a tough course. It suited me a bit like in Spokane the previous year. I thrived on it, got away early and didn’t have to hang on. I felt very comfortable and didn’t really see anyone the whole race.
GCR: In the results, behind John Ngeno in second was Wilson Waigwa in third place and three Oregon runners, Paul Geis, David Taylor and Terry Williams in fourth, fifth and sixth place. Craig Virgin faded to twelfth place and he was still young at that time.
NR Craig was young. Paul Geis was a 13:20 5,000-meter runner. There were some good runners there but I felt if they wanted to win it they had to go with me. And no one went with me. I controlled the whole race.
GCR: If we go forward five years, you broke the World Record at the Dayton Half Marathon in October, 1979 with a 1:02:36 to best fellow Brit Tony Simmons 1978 World Record of 1:02:47. Were you off the front by yourself in the latter stages of the race and what was it like in terms of excitement to break the World Record?
NR The Dayton course is conducive to fast times. It runs along the river and was flat and fast. The weather was with us. It wasn’t windy and the temperature was in the high fifties. It was one of those days again when I was fit, I had a crack at it and it all went well. I ran some very good half marathons, and it was a distance that suited me. If you are a 5k and 10k runner, and are putting in the work, you can get away with racing a half marathon without training specifically for it. And that was what I did. I was a 5k/10k runner who ran the odd half marathon and seemed to run them well.
GCR: Let’s discuss the 1980 World Cross Country Championships where you were off the front and running a great race but were caught by Craig Virgin and Hans Jurgen Orthmann in the last quarter mile and earned the Bronze Medal. It seemed that you gave your all - could you have run a better race or did you give your all and those two guys were just a bit better?
NR It’s the way I used to run my races. John Treacy was the favorite as he had won in 1978 and 1979. I knew Leon Schots of Belgium would be up there and, obviously, Craig Virgin would be. It was a very, very competitive race. It was on a course where there were logs piled up on top of each other that we had to jump. It was muddy. The Longchamp race course in Paris wasn’t a surface we could float on. This suited me because I’m a strength runner. Again, I went out with the intent that I was going to blast it out and anyone who tried to go with me was going to suffer as much as me. I ran into the finishing straight which seemed about a mile long, but it’s only about six hundred meters. To me it just went on and on and on. I got into that finishing straight in front and the French crowd were unbelievable. They could touch us. We were that close to them. In most international races, the spectators don’t get that close to the competitors. But this crowd could touch us and were shouting, ‘Allez, allez, allez,’ which means ‘Go, go, go!’ I was trying as much as I could but first Craig went by and then Orthmann went by. I was pretty gutted initially when I reflected on the race. I had led for nine tenths of the race, but two guys went by me. When I look back on it now, I have no excuses. I’m not an ‘if and but’ person. I gave it all I could and finished third and got a medal in the World Cross Country Championships and two very good guys beat me. It was one of those races that didn’t quite work out for me, but I still ended up with a medal.
GCR: In both the prior year in 1979 and that year you were a member of England’s team champions. How exciting was it to share the team Gold Medal with your teammates?
NR I love the team concept, especially when it was World Cross Country where England won in 1979 and 1980 and I was a team member. That was a wonderful feeling. I have also always cherished the memories of being a team member at Western Kentucky. We had Tony Staynings, Chris Ridler, Dave Long, Swag Hartel, Ross Munro, Stevie Smith, Tom Condit and Joe Tinius. We were all cogs in the wheel and I was one part of that wheel, part of that team. We had a great team camaraderie. We supported each other through thick and thin and it was a great feeling to be part of that team. Even though there are races where I may run as an individual, I love the team concept. I loved being part of that Western Kentucky team and the England team.
GCR: Speaking of teams, in that same year you were part of the 1980 National 12 Stage road record setting group with your Bristol AC team including Tony Staynings and Steve Jones. How cool was it do be a part of that stage team, to win and break the record?
NR The National 12 Stage is the biggest relay race in the United Kingdom. It shows the strength of the club system because your team has to have twelve strong runners. There are six short stages of about three miles and six long stages of just over six miles. We truly dug into the depths of the team. We had a great team with Tony, who was in two Olympics, and Steve, who broke the marathon World Record and won the New York City Marathon. We had to perform on the day. Runners can be as fit as they wish and it doesn’t always turn out on race day. But on that day, everything turned out for all of us. All twelve ran well. We didn’t have a weak link. We could run that race fifty times and it wouldn’t happen again. There is almost always someone who doesn’t run as well as they thought they could. But with our team they all excelled. That is why we ran as fast as we did and we broke the record. And it is a record that has never been broken.
GCR: Another race in 1980 that is interesting is the inaugural Wendy’s Classic 10k as you found yourself on the line with Craig Virgin who had outkicked you at World Cross Country earlier that year. Did that turn into a two-man duel and what was it like to beat Craig in a fine time of 28:15 to turn the tables on him?
NR It’s always good to beat Craig. I have the greatest respect for Craig. For someone to be the American Record Holder on the track, to go to the Olympics, to win two World Cross Country championships, you’ve got to respect him. He was probably a different person than me socially, but I respected his ability. We got along great, and I truly admired Craig. It was always good to beat him in Bowling Green where I went to college and was possibly harder for him because that is where I went to school and I had the support of the home crowd. He was the outsider and he never beat me in the Wendy’s Classic. But we got along great and often reminisced and talked of the great memories we accumulated. We had the greatest respect for each other, and I like the guy. He’s a good guy and was great for the sport.
GCR: It must have been exciting for you to represent England at the 1982 Commonwealth Games in the 5,000 meters where Dave Moorcroft won in 13:33.0, with you second in 13:36.93 just ahead of Peter Koech, who clocked 13:36.95. What were highlights of that three-way battle for medals and how cool was it to bring home a Commonwealth Games Silver Medal?
NR I’ve been to World Championships, Olympics and European Championships, but at the Commonwealth Games I ended up getting my first track and field major medal. To race Dave Moorcroft was tough as he was in the best shape of his life, had just run a World Record and was close to breaking thirteen minutes. He is also a World Class miler and 1,500 meter runner. He was on a different level than me for fifteen hundred meters, but there wasn’t much difference at 5,000 meters. It was a great challenge for me going into that race. Peter Koech had also run a very fast time coming into those championships. It came down to a sprint in the last four hundred meters. I was with Dave until about the last two hundred and fifty meters. Then his fifteen hundred meter speed told the story and he got ahead of me by a few seconds in that last two hundred meters. I was happy to get a Silver Medal in a major championship.
GCR: Tony Staynings sent me the video to watch from the 1983 Oslo Bislett Games where you raced 10,000 meters in a personal best 27:31.19 for third place in a strong field that included Steve Jones, Fernando Mamede and Carlos Lopes. Can you take us through the race, especially the last four laps when Carlos Lopes threw in a sixty-two second lap to pull away and eventually win in 27:23.0?
NR In one respect it was a great race for me and a great time. But it was also very frustrating because I missed the British Record, that was held by David Bedford, by less than half a second. It was upsetting in that respect but, obviously, I ended up with a great time. Since I ran twenty-five laps and missed the British Record by a half second or a third of a second, I thought about where I could have passed someone at this or that point or run on the inside more. I did run a great time and to run against Mamede and Lopes and to beat Stevie Jones, I was rewarded with a nice time and great memory.
GCR: That same year at the 1983 World Championships, the 10,000 meters was bunched up with three laps to go with thirteen runners within ten meters when the hard racing started. At the finish, the first five of Cova, Schildhauer, Kunze, Vaino and Shahanga all ran 28:01 with Lopes at 28:06 and you at 28:07. What was it like when the racing got hot and was it disappointing when they pulled away and you were doing everything you could but weren’t able to stay with them?
NR The 10,000 meters is a tough race mentally and physically. You’ve got to switch off the race, if you can do that, until the latter stages. It can get monotonous as we do lap after lap. We see the lap holders and the remaining laps are twenty-four, twenty-three, twenty-two. And it can be painful. If you aren’t in a good place with twenty laps to go, its not much fun out there. It is a true mental and physical battle. I do remember that race had a lot of physical activity. Things were going through my mind, and I was trying to focus on staying with that leading bunch. Then I had to figure out what to do. Am I going to make a move? Are they going to make a move? Who’s going to make a move? My mind was going through all these different emotions. Mark Nenow was also in that race in the group and was developing into a great track runner. If we reel off the names in the race, they were all great names and it was nice to be part of it. The race was hugely disappointing as well because I had gone into it with one of the fastest times in the world. Unfortunately, I couldn’t reproduce that in the final. Sometimes things go with you on the day and other times they don’t. That’s what racing is all about – trying to time it for that one moment in the year. It’s like the Olympics. I know so many people that train for four years and on that one day at the Olympic Trials they don’t make it and they think, ‘I’ve got to wait another four years.’ It was like that at the World Championships. I waited all year for it, went into it with one of the fastest times in the world and it didn’t click on the day. That’s the way athletics is. I had to get my chin back up and grind out the miles for the next big race which was the 1984 Olympics. You can’t give in and say, ‘I’ve had enough of this.’ You have to be mentally tough and train harder and try to get that mental toughness back to where you think, ‘Okay, I can take on these guys.’ It’s a tough world – it truly is.
GCR: If we look at the complete results of that 1983 World Championship 10,000 meters, back in thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth place were Steve Jones, Mark Nenow, and Fernando Mamede, who were all eight to ten seconds behind you. As much as you were disappointed, I’m sure they were even more disappointed.
NR They were, but look at what they went on to achieve. Mark went on to break the American Record for 10,000 meters. Steve Jones went on to find his forte in the marathon. It was a loaded field.
GCR: We are going to chat about several races at ten miles later as that was a great racing distance for you. One I want to highlight is the 1987 Trevira Twosome 10-mile which you won in 46:43, which is your all time personal best. What can you relate about the competition and how do you like that distance?
NR It is a great distance. At ten miles and the half marathon I seem to excel and do very well. That race in Central Park was my sort of course. It was tough. It was hilly. I think that was the race where Dave Murphy or Geoff Smith or both of them were running. The rolling hills were hard. I went out and decided to go hard. I thought that if anyone went with me they were going to have to run a hard race and if I died they were going to die as well. It was one of those races where I took off, no one went with me and I controlled the race again.
GCR: GETTING STARTED Why don’t we go back to your childhood and how you got started in the sport of distance running? Were you an athletic kid playing a lot of sports like soccer and cricket and how did you get started running as a youth?
NR I was a very energetic kid as my mum and dad would have certainly admitted. I was a bit of a tearaway at school. I didn’t enjoy school and was always in trouble. I was always doing the wrong thing. I was a kid who was outside all day when I was home instead of doing my school homework. I loved playing soccer and cricket and being outdoors. I have always embraced the outdoor life, whether it was running, walking, hiking, soccer – I loved anything outdoors. I always had the ambition of being a soccer player just like everyone here in the U.S. has that ambition of being a basketball player or football player or soccer player. No matter how unrealistic that may be, we always have that dream. And there is no harm in having dreams. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, it never worked out that I became a soccer player. When we were at school, we were at the soccer fields one day and we were supposed to play soccer. But the pitches were absolutely drenched with water. So, the groundman said we could not play because we would tear up the pitches. ‘What you can do is have a race around the soccer pitches.’ Our soccer coach said, ‘Okay, what we’re doing is you will run three laps on the outside of the soccer pitches and then we will go back to the classroom.’ We all ran and I was cold and wanted to run as fast as I could so I could get back into the classroom. I finished second to a guy who was in the Bristol Athletic Club. He said, ‘You ran very well. Why don’t you come along to the athletic club?’ I met my coach, Dave Jennings and I never looked back. It was one of those moments when I was very fortunate that it poured down with rain and we didn’t play soccer. We ran this race around the soccer fields and look where I am now. It was wonderful.
GCR: How old were you and what was the training that Coach Jennings prescribed for you the first couple years when you were a distance running novice?
NR I was fifteen years old when I took up running. I then gave up all my aspirations of being a professional soccer player. I’ll tell you an interesting snippet. Dave lived just up the road from me and said, ‘I can coach you.’ I remember this one moment. It was very cold outside, and it was dark. It was supposed to be a night that we trained. We did so on Tuesday and Thursday and Dave was supposed to come around after his work and pick me up. We were going to run from where I lived. It was wet and cold and my mum said, ‘You’re not going to go out in that, are you?’ And I said, ‘No, Dave won’t come around.’ And so she said, ‘Okay, let’s have our tea.’ That is dinner as it’s called in the States. I sat down, we had our tea, or dinner. After about ten minutes, there was a ring on the bell at the door. It was Dave and he was all ready to go running. I had just eaten my tea, my stomach was full and my mum couldn’t believe it. I had to quickly get my running kit on. We went out the door and I had this horrible indigestion all the way around. I stopped to visit the loo because I was full up. That was my introduction to running whatever the weather.
GCR: When you were a youth and rapidly improved as a distance runner, what were some highlights of your racing where you started to see that you could shine, whether it was at 800 meters or 1,500 meters, other distances and cross country?
NR I always had this way of running hard from the word ‘go.’ I would go out there and blast it. Sometimes I would blow up and other times I would end up winning. That is what I did. I remember when I was fifteen and finished second to that one guy when I was running around the soccer pitches. Soon I ran against the Bristol Schools and then in the National Schools race. I have this vivid memory of winning the Bristol Schools and then going to the National Schools race. All of England was there. They picked the best runners from each city and they all were there. The top six or seven runners from each city competed at the National Schools Championships. I went out very hard, totally blew up and finished a hundred and fourth. That was a wake up call that maybe I needed to run a bit differently at times and I also needed to train a bit harder. That is when I went from training on Tuesday and Thursday to training five days a week. I got more serious about running.
GCR: COLLEGIATE RUNNING AT WESTERN KENTUCKY Let’s switch gears and talk about your years when you ran collegiately for Western Kentucky University. There was a pipeline of British runners coming over to the U.S., so how did Coach Bean recruit you and did other British athletes encourage you to come to WKU?
NR The assistant coach was an English guy named Allan Launder, who down the road became an Australian national coach in the pole vault and wrote numerous books on the subject of pole vault coaching. He had heard about my running about six or eight months earlier and had asked me to come over to the States to study. I had left school at sixteen and had a dead end job. I was working in a chocolate factory doing nothing. There was no career and I was not in a good place as far as what I wanted to do. Allan came over to England to visit his mum who lived about an hour from where I lived. I was working in the chocolate factory, and he came to the chocolate factory and asked the manager if he could speak to me for half an hour and give me this opportunity of coming to the States. He talked to me and took me home and talked to my mum and dad. It still took me another three or four months to be totally convinced. I knew that Phil Bannon had gone over to Villanova, stayed about two or three months and wasn’t happy with what had happened. He was exploited by the system and didn’t enjoy it. But at Western Kentucky there was a guy, Swag Hartel, who was there from England. Ian Whittle, another English guy, was there along with the assistant coach. So, there were these guys and two or three others from England and I thought I wouldn’t feel homesick because of them.
GCR: How was it for you to adapt to the differences as you were in a new country and a different environment?
NR Eventually I went over, and it was struggle. It took me a while to get to know Swag Hartel and the rest of the guys on the team. There was a guy, Ross Munro, who was Canadian. There were three Swedish tennis players and a couple Iranian soccer players. As foreign students, we sort of hung around together and that was very welcoming. It took a while for me to integrate, and it was a bit of a shock to the system. It was a bit intimidating to start with because we were in the Baptist Bible belt. I’m not religious at all and I have this vivid memory of this one guy putting his foot in the door and trying to preach to me. I handled that and quickly shut the door, to put it politely. So that was a bit of a shock and also I was a social drinker back in England. The pubs were a social place to meet your friends. We didn’t go to get drunk. We went to meet friends, reminisce about what was on TV that day, who your best soccer team was, what you were going to do the rest of the week and who you were going to play with - all that good stuff. It was a social scene. I came over to America into Bowling Green, Kentucky and I wasn’t allowed to drink. The first thing I did was to get a fake ID. That solved that problem. So, it took a while to get into what I was used to.
GCR: I’d like to focus on the 1974 Western Kentucky cross country team that had Tony Staynings, Chris Ridler, you and also Dave Long as a super strong top four runners. The four of you tied for first place at the Ohio Valley Conference Championships, WKU won the District meet and you went to NCAAs in very strong position. Did you feel WKU could contend for the team title or did you look at Oregon’s squad and know that your fifth man would really have to step up and run an amazing race?
NR The thing is, everything had gone well the whole year. The team was peaking well, and everyone was running strong, even our sixth and seventh guys. But there was that gap between the fourth and fifth scorers. We knew Oregon was going to be the team to beat because we had beaten Tennessee. We were pretty confident of placing in the top three teams with the hope that we could squeak that win. We were hoping that Oregon wouldn’t be as strong as what they turned out to be. But unfortunately, they packed very well. I think they exceeded their expectation as well. If you asked any of them, I’m sure they would say they ran very well on that day. Having said that, we did as well. But we didn’t have our fifth scorer in as soon as we had hoped. But second place is a huge, huge accomplishment and I was just one part of that team. I am hoping we can all get together next year, the team members that are still with us, fifty years after that event. We are hoping to come together in Bowling Green and reminisce about that wonderful day.
GCR: When we discuss collegiate competition, many turn their thoughts to NCAA Championships. In addition, your Western Kentucky team won the Ohio Valley Conference Cross Country championships in 1974, 1975 and 1976 and scored four straight Athlete of the year designations in 1973 with you, 1974 with Tony Staynings, 1975 with you again, and 1976 with Chris Ridler. How much fun was it to compete and win those conference championships, especially when several of you would tie for the win?
NR It's always huge. In the Ohio Valley Conference back then the coach’s job was on the line to win the conference whether it was football, basketball, track and field, or cross country. We had this great team and this great team ethic and we won the Ohio Valley Conference in track and field and also in cross country. We had a powerhouse of a team. What was also good was that East Tennessee State had the Irish contingent. They had Neil Cusack, Eddie Leddy, P.J. Leddy and Ray Flynn in the days after that. They had a powerhouse, and it was great to take them on. That was a steppingstone to the NCAA Regionals and on to the NCAA Nationals. So, we had to win the OVC. We were also lucky in one respect because we didn’t have to run a hundred percent in a lot of the dual meets and the triangular meets. We could pretty much use them as training runs. We were able to train hard that week and run through them. In other conferences the teams had tough meets most weeks. If they did get to the Regional or Nationals, they were exhausted because they had to run hard every week. But we were able to run through many of those early meets and peak. We would ease down our training a bit for the OVC meet, get to the Regionals and ease off a bit more, win that race and then go to the Nationals feeling that we were in peak form.
GCR: Even though most distance running fans know you for your cross country exploits and on the track at 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters, you won four straight individual Ohio Valley Conference championships in the mile – in 1972 your 4:09.7 tied with teammate Hector Ortiz before you won in 1973 at 4:08.0, in 1974 at a quick 4:02.6 and in 1975 with another speedy 4:03.0. Was it a lot of fun competing at the conference level in the mile?
NR The Conference was always a special time because there was pressure for the coach and Jerry Bean was great. He was a social guy. He would come out with us when we would go to the pub and have a drink. I’m sure that never happened with most coaches. There was usually that arm’s length between the coach and the team. But he came with us. We didn’t go out to get drunk. We would go out and socialize. We would say, ‘That was a great race Jerry, and we’re going to do it for you.’ He was part of the team and I felt we had this closeness through every member of that team with the coach. That wouldn’t happen at many institutions. It wouldn’t.
GCR: Did you enjoy racing indoors on boards with the crowds close to the action?
NR I’ve always enjoyed indoor track. Again, I love racing. I love that challenge - whether its indoors, outdoors, cross country, roads – I love to get on the line and love that challenge. I was never afraid of that challenge of going in there regardless of if it was Steve Prefontaine or whomever it may be. I love to race. Indoors I love because of the closeness of the crowd. They felt like they were right next to us shouting and screaming. There was excitement and it was great.
GCR: When I reviewed your collegiate racing, it seemed like many of the close races at the NCAA level for you were indoors. At the NCAA track indoor 3,000 meters in 1973, Michael Keogh of Manhattan won in 8:00.7, followed by Glenn Herold of Wisconsin in 8:02.9, you in 8:06.00 and Pat Mandera of Indiana in 8:07.6. Mike Keogh and Glenn Harold aren’t household names fifty years later, but they must have been totally in top racing form on that day.
NR They were and I vividly remember Pat and me battling for that third place. I must have been gritting my teeth with about three laps to go. Pat was there and I couldn’t shake him off until the finishing straight. It could have gone either way. Mike Keogh and Glenn Harold were ahead of us, and they had first and second place tied up. Pat and I were battling it out and that was the first time I placed in the NCAA indoors. It is very vivid in my memory. Pat was a great guy. I’ve always respected everyone who gets on the line with me. We have to. We are all in the same sport. We are all doing the same thing and we have to respect our fellow competitors. Again, great memories.
GCR: Two years later you had a duel with Josh Kimeto at the 1975 NCAA Indoors in the 3,000 meters and beat him by less than a second with a time of 8:06.0 to Kimeto’s 8:06.8. Were you off the front or did he pass you and you had to get him back in the latter stages of the race?
NR Again it was nip and tuck and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to outkick him. I had to do one hundred percent and try my best and that’s exactly what I did. It was hard but I just managed to hold on and beat him in the end. I fully respected Josh. He was a great guy and a very good competitor and someone I enjoyed competing against.
GCR: The next year at the 1976 NCAA Indoors in the 3,000 meters the pace was very hot as you won in 7:52.91 ahead of Craig Virgin who ran 7:55.71. Was that another epic battle between the two of you?
NR I had many epic battles with Craig, but that one is a vivid memory. I was running very well and was confident in my kick against Craig that one race. I just knew I would outkick him and win it. Craig can kick, but I felt I had a better kick than him that day and I was able to beat him. Again, I do have that vivid memory of Craig beating me a few years later at the World Cross Country Championships. I had beaten him many a time, but the race I would have loved to beat him at was World Cross Country, but he beat me at that and there we go.
GCR: One big outdoor race where I took note involved the aforementioned Paul Geis at the 1974 NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships where Geis won the 5,000 meters in 13:38.89, with you in second place in 13:41.38 which narrowly held off Ron Martin of William and Mary’s 13:41.49. Were you off the front trying to hold off Paul, since he had great speed?
NR Paul outkicked me. I had great respect for Paul and that was a year when he was running very well. I think he had broken 13:30 for 5k that year and was running great. I wasn’t intimidated by his times because we all have our off days, and we still show up and do our best. I did that and it wasn’t quite good enough, but I still ran well.
GCR: TRAINING Let’s discuss your training at Western Kentucky. Since Dave Jennings had coached you for five or six years, was he still writing workouts for you and what were you doing in your cross country training as far as mileage, long runs, fartlek and hills?
NR We had a wonderful relationship which Coach Bean as he let us be coached by Dave Jennings’ workouts. Coach Bean respected that he didn’t have great knowledge as a distance coach. He was a great recruiter, great administrator and a great coach for the hurdles and sprints up to four hundred meters. He had never truly coached distance runners and respected that Dave had more knowledge than he did. But Coach Bean laid down the rule that if things didn’t work out, then he would have to coach us. But for as long as we were there, we had workouts from Dave Jennings and we performed to what Coach Bean wanted us to perform. So, we kept getting Dave’s workouts by post. The whole team would do hill reps once a week. Coach Bean would be there with his watch timing us as we went up and down, up and down. We would do sixteen repetitions. For track workouts we would do mile repeats, 1,200-meter repeats and 800-meter repeats. We would rotate week after week. The beauty of it was none of us had to lead them all. If we had to do four times a mile, I wouldn’t lead all four. I would lead one, Tony Staynings would lead one, Chris Ridler would lead one and Dave Long would lead one. Maybe the following week we would do five 1,200 meter repeats and we would introduce Swag Hartel as leading one along with the four of us. So, we only had to lead one and the rest of us would slip stream. It’s a lot like cycling as I cycle often now. We would just get in that draft and be pulled along. We would have this Indian file of runners all behind each other doing these workouts. We found it quite easy. Instead of having to lead all of the workouts, we would each take our turn.
GCR: When indoor and outdoor track seasons rolled around, what were some of Dave Jenning’s favorite sessions to prescribe for pace and sharpening and changing gears?
NR During track season, when we were focused on peaking to run sub-four minutes in the mile, then certainly a lot of our work was based around running repeat 800 meters in two minutes. We would try to run four, five or six times 800 meters in two minutes with a short recovery. We would run four hundreds in fifty-seven or fifty-eight seconds, maybe ten or twelve of them. So, the workouts were based upon trying to break a certain time. If we were trying to break thirteen minutes for three miles, we would run four-twenty miles and we would run four of those or five of those. It was hard, very hard, but we knew we had to do that. We would also run a lot of two-hundred-meter repeats. We would do them in twenty-seven or twenty-eight seconds with short recovery. The training was leaning toward what we wanted to achieve, whether that was a sub-four-minute mile or a sub-thirteen-minute three-mile.
GCR: What were the changes in training post-collegiately when you kept racing 5,000 meters, but stepped up to 10,000 meters, prepared for World Cross Country and raced longer races on the roads?
NR Later in life, when we moved up to 10k, I used to run five times 2,000 meters on the track. That was very hard mentally. Again, the 10,000 meters is a mental and physical race. You can’t be just physically fit. You must be mentally fit. If you are doing mile repeats or 2,000-meter repeats, if you are hurting after the first four hundred meters, you’ve got three or four more laps to do and three or four more repetitions. So, you’ve got to build that mental toughness and grit your teeth and get through it. A lot of my training and races were geared toward the track. I always felt that the track was a world stage. Cross country was still developing. Many of the east Africans weren’t running in World Cross Country, but they always took part in the World Track and Field Championships, Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games and European Games. The track and field meets were on a global stage, had television coverage, got the huge crowds and were in the big stadiums. So, everything was a means to an end of achieving on the track. If I ran cross country, it was a means to get to the end of running in the Olympics and everything was geared toward that. I loved to race so I would race indoors, roads, and cross country. Those races were all a means of getting to the Olympics and World Championships. They were all steppingstones.
GCR: POST-COLLEGIATE RACING In the late 1970s and into the early 1980s you raced in many track, cross country and road races during the time that was prior to open professional racing with under the table appearance money and results prize money. Were you racing often to make a living from running like a lot of distance runners were doing at the time?
NR Absolutely. It was my livelihood and how I survived. I didn’t have a job and I committed myself to running. I was very, very fortunate. I’ve had a lot of luck in life and was very fortunate that professional running was starting to break out as I was achieving my peak. This was around when the ARRA came into being. There was under the table money, especially in Europe. We could run cross country and track races and receive money. That was happening in the U.S. a little bit, but there was a professional body that was administering the process so it was all done in a legal way. I was very lucky. I remember going to the Bobby Crim 10-Miler and the ARRA were involved and made it a professional event. As soon as the British Federation got wind of it, they told us we couldn’t run. So, Tony Staynings, Stevie Kenyon, Geoff Smith and I couldn’t race. If we did, the British board would have termed us professional and we wouldn’t have been able to run in the Olympic Games. That was a turning point and eventually the sport turned professional and we were able to run races for prize money. Tony, me and many other guys were able to take part in that and it became our livelihood.
GCR: Tony Staynings was kind to send me some links to race clips where your race tactics included multiple surges of about 200 meters. These were at the 1976 Crystal Palace 5,000 meters versus David Black, 1977 Europa Cup Finals on wet track and in rain, and 1977 Gateshead 3,000 meters for a 7:45 personal record. A few years later, it was common to look at the Miruts Yifter racing style that was known for surges and gave him the nickname of ‘Yifter the Shifter,’ but you were ahead of him with this tactic. How tough was it for you to execute the multiple surges and then even more so for your opponents to withstand the repeated surges?
NR In many races that took place, they came down to a sprint in the last four hundred or two hundred meters. I didn’t think they were true races. It was a matter of who was the best sprinter. I knew that I couldn’t stand a chance against someone like Miruts Yifter on the last laps. He was a fifty-two or fifty-three second four-hundred-meter runner on the last lap. So was Marty Liquori. In the World Cup 5,000 meters in 1977 that is what happened. I surged and surged and surged and ended up running 13:20 for 5,000 meters and yet they both still had a kick. Liquori and Yifter got right away from me on that last lap. But it was a good tactic for me that I used. I used it a lot indoors previously in the track season against Henry Rono and Suleimen Nyambui. When I ran in San Diego indoors for two miles, I beat Rono, but Nyambui got me. He ran a half second faster than me. He ran 8:17.9 and I ran 8:18.4. I was surging in that race. I ran a 4:16 for the first mile and a 4:02 for the last mile with lots of surges. The next night I flew to San Francisco and raced against Filbert Bayi and Henry Rono in the mile and surged many times again. Unfortunately, I got nipped by Filbert Bayi by a hundredth of a second as we both ran four minutes. But I did beat Henry Rono again. That is how I found out I could beat a lot of good runners. In Toronto that year I ran 12:57 for three miles indoors. I surged a lot in that race and beat Henry Rono once more. I’ve always admired Henry. He is the one person I truly looked up to. What he did in 1978 when he broke four World Records in the 3,000 meters, the steeplechase, 5,000 meters, and 10,000 meters - no one has ever done that again and I have a huge amount of respect for him. Those multiple surges are how I used to beat top competitors. I certainly used that tactic a lot in 1976 and 1977 and I’ve always tried to use it in races since then. It’s a tactic that served me well. If I start surging halfway through a 5,000-meter race, my competitors start thinking, ‘I’ve still got six laps to go, and I can’t go with that surge because I know I’m going to hurt.’ All these thoughts go through my competitors’ minds. I wanted to break them, not only physically, but mentally as well. Inevitably, I would often get away because runners were reticent to go with me because all they were used to was sprinting the last lap. It was a tactic which served me well.
GCR: Let’s switch gears to road racing and first to races at the ten-mile distance. I’ve raced the very hilly Virginia 10-Miler and you had some strong races there in 1980 with a 47:08 for third place, in 1983 with a 47:35 for another third place, in 1985 with a 46:58 for second place and in 1987 with a 47:37 for another second place. How tough was both that racecourse and your competition?
NR That was a race that stood out for me. It was a tough old course. It wasn’t a course where we could think, ‘I’m going to run fast.’ It was very tough because of the hills. It was a course that suited me because I loved the hills, and I loved that distance. There was one hill that was probably three quarters of a mile from the finish. Then we had this long straight for about six hundred meters to the finish line. I had this battle with Rob de Castella one year. I tried and tried to break him. I surged and surged and got to the top of the hill slightly ahead of him. But he managed to sprint past me on the straight. That is a vivid memory. The ten-mile distance and half marathon were where I could do well, and I loved them. And I always seemed to race well in Virginia.
GCR: You mentioned earlier how the British contingent couldn’t race at the Bobby Crim 10-mile that one year or you would be excluded from the British national team, but you came back to win in 1983 in 46:58 and win again in 1984 in 46:59, just one second slower. Are there any top recollections from those races?
NR Again, it was ten miles, and I loved the distance. I loved the Bobby Crim race as it was a charity race and fund raiser. It was a tough course and wasn’t easy. There were some hills, not vicious hills, but it was a time of year when I was ready to run well. The competition was always good. Tony Staynings was always racing there. He is someone I loved to race against, and we have this great friendship. Tony lived two miles from me back in Bristol. We’ve known each other since were teenagers. We always seemed to meet up at the Bobby Crim ten-mile and run well there. The distance suited both of us well.
GCR: There is a great race in New Orleans, which I have raced, and that is the Crescent City Classic 10k. It has a great field and, since it is point-to-point, can be with the wind or against the wind. You had three podium finishes with a 1981 third place in 28:17, a 1982 second place in 27:50, and a 1984 third place in 27:34. What do you remember from going down to ‘The Big Easy’ and racing in New Orleans?
NR There were two race organizers, and they were great. They brought in Tony and me and gave us this jambalaya meal the night before the race which was a hot and spicy meal. It was a great city. New Orleans is a buzzing city. We loved it. And they brought in all these competitors for the race. Craig Virgin ran well there. That is where Mark Nenow had his big breakthrough and broke the American 10k road record. Michael Musyoki was always there. Mary Decker ran there a few times as did Wendy Sly. They brought in great, great runners. I vividly remember racing flat out from the word ‘go.’ I wanted to get to the finish as fast as I could. I’ve always suffered pain when I race because that’s the way I race. In 1984 I got to the park in the lead with Mark Nenow breathing down my neck and Michael Musyoki breathing down my neck. Unfortunately, once we got into the park, the two of them sprinted away from me. I ran 27:34 and just got beat by those two. Again, I’ve always thrived on racing and those were two great guys. It was no embarrassment losing to them because they were great competitors.
GCR: Since I’ve lived in Florida for decades, a race I’ve raced many times with great familiarity is the Gate River Run 15k in Jacksonville which is a tough race as we cross the Hart Bridge in the last 5k which is a tough hill and often has whipping crosswinds. You finished second in 1982 in 43:35 and then had a duel in 1983 with Mark Nenow as your 43:42 time resulted in a victory by a couple yards. What was that race like as you knew the course but had to hold off Mark Nenow as you battled off the Hart Bridge?
NR I knew Mark well because he went to the university of Kentucky, which is down the road from Bowling Green. He’s a great guy and we used to call him ‘No Neck Nenow’ because it seemed that he had no neck and his head sat on his shoulders. He had this great lung capacity and loved racing. It was great to race him all the time. It seemed that whenever I raced him that I had this confidence that I could outkick him. When we went across the bridge in the River Run, I tried to break him as much as I could. I also remember sitting behind him for a bit to try to gather my momentum. When we came to the finishing straight, I just got by him and barely held him off. It was a great race and was great racing against Mark because he was in his prime and was running strong races on the roads and in Europe on the track.
GCR: It's interesting to note the differences in these road races. The Virginia 10-mile had tough hills, the Crescent City Classic 10k was point-to-point, and the Gate River Run had the Hart Bridge. Another race I’ve raced which is very different is the Maggie Valley Moonlight Run 5-mile since it is slightly downhill the first half before going around a small loop and finishing up hill the last half of the race when tiredness is setting in. You won in 1984 in 22:44 and were second in 1985 in 22:52 in a race that brought out guys like Rod Dixon and Craig Virgin and Michael Musyoki. What are your recollections of battling to win while also running uphill the last half of the race?
NR It was a strange race because I had never run a race where the runners basically ran down, turned around, and ran up. I didn’t like the downhill. I’ve never liked downhills. But I love uphills. They are a test of strength. And running up hills is my strength. I didn’t enjoy the down but thrive going up. I’ve always had these epic battles with Michael Musyoki and Rod Dixon is many races. Maggie Valley is a lovely place. They put us up in these condos on the edge of the golf course. We trained on the grass which was lovely as opposed to pounding out on the road. Then we would all get on the starting line at eight o’clock at night in the dark which was very strange for a road race. It was a new experience for me because most races in the States were early in the morning. So, that was different. The crowds came out and it was unique with the uphill and downhill. I ran well there, and I won it. But I also lost it. I was always up toward the front because I was so fit. I loved the uphill finish.
GCR: You continued racing as a Master runner when many runners stopped competing. Right here in Orlando you won the Masters 1992 National Championships with an age 40 World Best 8k time of 23:31 over Mexican Manuel Vera’s 23:38 clocking. What was it like racing in Orlando with high heat and humidity plus such a great competitor in Manuel Vera?
NR I never thought I would make it to the Master running scene and be involved in that. But I loved racing and when I got to age thirty-eight or thirty-nine, I thought that maybe I could hang in there, stay injury free and run as a Master. The Master circuit was already strong with Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter. It was thriving and there was prize money. Since running was still my livelihood, I thought I would come back to the States. I was living in England back then. I came over and stayed with Dave Long in Louisville and with Stevie Jones in Boulder. We were great friends. I stayed in the States for a month or two months and ran as many races as I could. Then I went back home. That race I ran against Vera was one of the races I remember as he was one of the best Master runners in the world at the time. He was a tough competitor and continued to be throughout my Master career.
GCR: A couple years later you raced the London Marathon as Master runner in 1994, finishing in 2:21:10 and in 1995 as you clocked a 2:22:32 finish. Additionally, you raced 2:26:39 at the 1994 New York City Marathon as all three times you were Master champion. You didn’t focus on the marathon as a younger runner, so how was it racing as strong as you could now as a Master, and did you wonder what you could have done if you stepped up to the marathon and focused on it when you were in your prime?
NR You can always look back and think what might have been. I probably could have done well. I don’t like to stay that ‘I could have done this’ or ‘I could have done that.’ It would have been nice to have run a marathon at my peak, but I never did. It was nice to have done it as a Master. I did it running on 10k training and got through to run 2:21and 2:22 to win the Master division. It was good, but I will admit it was hard. When you run a marathon on 10k training, its not much fun because you do hurt those last six miles or ten miles. In a half marathon, you can get by on that training, but in a marathon it finds you out. I did find marathons hard, but I wasn’t absolutely exhausted. I was still able to come out the following week and run races. It was nice to run marathons and nice to run a big one because the London Marathon and New York City Marathon were two of the biggest in the world. The crowds were fantastic, and I managed to do well, so they are nice memories.
GCR: WRAPUP AND FINAL THOUGHTS We haven’t discussed your Olympic experiences in detail, and they didn’t go as well as I’m sure you hoped. In 1976 you didn’t qualify for the British team. In 1980 you were on the British team in the 5,000 meters and got out of your heat but didn’t make final. Finally, in 1984 in the 10,000 meters you made the final and finished in 12th place. Was it exciting to represent England in the Olympics, or did those performances put a damper on your experiences?
NR It definitely put a damper on my feelings. I had these targets, and I had these dreams. I wanted to race well. I wanted to win medals at major championships. That’s why we all were in the sport. To make it to the Olympics or World championships is the ultimate and to win the Gold Medal is the absolute ultimate. I never did that (Nick makes a sound of exasperation). It is tough to pin your hopes on one day in four years. Some people succeed and many, many others don’t. It is very difficult to peak on that one moment when you are on the starting line for a final. In 1976, I ran the second fastest 5,000-meter time in the world going into the trials. I’d run 13:22. I was one of the favorites in the race and I just blew it. I didn’t run well and finished fourth and that was it. In 1980, I got to the Olympics in Moscow and made the semifinal. They took the top four to the final and I was fifth. I was totally gutted. I thought, ‘I’ve got to make it in 1984.’ In Los Angeles in 1984, I made the 10,000-meter final. I shot off with twelve laps to go, I blew a gasket and blew up totally. I felt I had given my all, but I was devastated. Its one of those feelings that is hard to describe. Its nice to get there, but I wasn’t all about getting there for me. It was trying to win. I’m like that with all my races. I go in there with the intention of winning. It is very, very disappointing to lose. I don’t like losing. Whether it is darts, whether it is soccer, whether its cards, whatever I do – I don’t like to lose. It was devastating.
GCR: When you were in Moscow and Los Angeles for those two Olympic Games, did you go to Opening and Closing Ceremonies, attend other events or sports and see some great competition?
NR The races that stood out for me were the Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett races in Moscow. Steve Ovett won the 800 meters when Sebastian Coe was the favorite. Then Ovett was the favorite in the 1,500 meters and Coe won it. Those two were huge sportsmen in Europe. All around the world they were the two best runners. And the mile, or fifteen hundred meters, was THE event. Those two would only race each other at a major championships and that was the Olympics. Leading up to the Olympics, neither of them had met the other. We were all waiting in anticipation for Coe to win the 800 meters and it never happened. Then we thought Ovett would get the double by winning the 1,500 meters and it never happened. For me to be in the stadium when that happened and to witness those races was something in a lifetime you will never get again. The two greatest milers in the world head to head. The two greatest 800-meter runners in the world head to head. It is something I will never forget. Tony Staynings was there with me in 1980 watching it and they were wonderful, wonderful races. You had to see them in person to believe it. You can watch on television and get thrilled by the races, but to be there was something else. It was great. They were both great guys. Stevie was probably the better liked. He integrated with the team while Coe was on a bit of a pedestal. Steve Ovett was a runner’s runner and was a great guy.
GCR: We have discussed some of these guys who were tough competition for you, including Craig Virgin, Steve Prefontaine, Michael Musyoki and Mark Nenow. When you were competing – who were some of your favorite competitors either from your youth, college days, international racing, cross country or on the roads – guys that when you raced you knew they were tough and would push you to another level and you liked it?
NR I can’t say one guy. I can mention three or four. Henry Rono – he was a tough as nails. He had a barrel chest. I knew he wanted to win as much as I did. Steve Jones was another. He was an eyeballs out runner, much in the same mold as me. We didn’t take any prisoners. We both knew we were in for an eyeballs out race. Craig Virgin was like that too. We were all eyeballs out racers. We couldn’t relax for one minute. We knew we couldn’t take any race easy. It wasn’t going to happen. Those guys stood out. They were great. They achieved so much. We can look at their resumes and not many achieved like they did. I would put Steve Prefontaine up with them, but I never raced Pre enough. I raced him outdoors in the NCAA Championships and in the NCAA Cross Country Championships. I never raced him enough to put him in that mold. If I had, I would. The top guys I raced against were Craig Virgin, Steve Jones and Henry Rono. It had to be those three. They were incredible. Anyone in a race with them knew they were going to have a race that wasn’t easy.
GCR: You raced dozens and dozens of times, if not hundreds of times, in cross country, indoor track, outdoor track and on the roads. Do you have a favorite surface and distance or do each stand out for various reasons?
NR I’ve always had a close affinity for cross country. I’ve always loved it because of the terrain and the conditions. It could be muddy. It could be dry. There could be up hills or downhills. It could be everything. That to me was more challenging. On the track it is flat, and we run round and round. Cross country was a great challenge to me and it seemed to suit me. I always loved tough races and I loved tough conditions. We could get all of that in the cross-country races. I loved getting splattered in mud and the toughness of the hills. It was great. Some people go into those races thinking, ‘Oh no, it’s muddy’ or ‘Oh no, there are hills.’ I used to relish that.
GCR: There is a quote attributed to you in 1977 in Runners World and I’d like you to confirm or deny it. The story notes that you claimed that you could be woken up anytime and could run a 4:10 mile. Is there truth to this or is it an unfounded legend?
NR I knew my own fitness and how in shape I was. There is nothing like being fit and everyone knows that. You know that. When you’re fit, you float. Training is easy. Racing is easy. It’s a magical moment. We don’t get many of those moments so we need to embrace them and cherish them. They don’t happen often, but I knew in 1976 and 1977 and 1978 through to 1980 that I was fit and was running well. I knew that I could go out there and run 4:10 miles any time of the day. I just knew it and had that confidence. There is nothing like confidence.
GCR: What are you doing now in a typical week as far as running, cycling, gym work, hiking or other activities?
NR I’ve always embraced running and loved running. I’ve been fortunate to be the same weight now that I was in college. I’ve not put on a pound. I have the same waistline. I’ve always loved the outdoors. I run now three or four days a week. I cycle three or four days a week. I hit the gym. I love being fit. There is nothing like it. I wouldn’t like to see myself not being fit. I’m lucky that my body is ticking and doing what I want to do. I’ve had a hip replacement due to falling off the bike a couple times and arthritis setting in. So, I had to have a hip replacement. I had a very good surgeon and am back running. I can run and bike and hit the gym. I envision myself always doing that. When I pop my clocks, I hope it is when I’m out there running or cycling. It’s something I’ve always loved doing and I’m very fortunate to be able to do that.
GCR: Is there anything else we haven’t hit on from your running career or life that is important to mention?
NR One moment was in 1973 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana when Steve Prefontaine won the NCAA 5,000 meters. I probably should have run better, and I didn’t. There was one little snippet when we went out one night to a bar to have a drink and a chat with a few members of the team. At the bar there was a bouncer at the front door. Robert Dudley was one of our one-hundred-meter runners and he was black. He came with us to the bar with Jesse Stewart, our shot putter. We had some big, heavy guys and then Tony and me. We went up to this bar and they wouldn’t let Bob Dudley in. We asked why and they said, ‘Because he’s black.’ That hit us like a sledgehammer because we had never experienced that before. It was a bit of a shock. They said, ‘You guys can go in, but he can’t.’ So, we all turned around and said, ‘No. We’re not going in.’ That was a shock and the only moment I experienced that. It was a shock to the system. Robert Dudley was a great friend. He was a great guy. He was in the Marines. He ran the one hundred meters at Western Kentucky. We played cards together and we socialized together. We had a lot of camaraderie. Black, white, yellow, whatever – we were a team. We were so close and supported each other. That was a moment when we all stood together and said, ‘We’re not going in.’ The other moments were the great guys that I’ve met. The meet promoter, Al Franken, is a man I knew very well. All the people I’ve met bring forth great memories. I’ve been very fortunate to have met these people, run with and against them, travelled together, and we are still friends. I’ve had a lot of luck in my life. Western Kentucky gave me that platform to be where I am now. If I hadn’t gone to Western Kentucky, I wouldn’t have achieved what I have achieved and made it to where I am now.
GCR: When you speak to a group and just have a short time to inspire them to be a better runner and a better person through talking about your background, working to achieve challenging goals, the discipline of running and the patience of training many years with a goal, what do you say that you would like to share with my readers?
NR One of the words you used is ‘patience.’ You can’t expect results straight away. I’ve always looked on running as something I’ve always loved. You’ve got to love it. You’ve got to put your heart and soul into it. You’ve got to go through the pain barrier at times if you want to succeed. It depends on what you want out of it. Do you want to go to the Olympics? Or do you want to keep it as something you enjoy at a lower level? If you do, then that’s brilliant. Go out there and enjoy every moment that you can running. But, if you want to succeed, you’ve got to be patient, you’ve got to work hard. You are going to go through some pain and you’ve got to appreciate that. You also have to respect your fellow competitors and enjoy the camaraderie you receive through running. I’ve got so many friends and I love the whole time I’ve been in running. Tony Staynings is a lifelong friend. Swag Hartel is a lifelong friend. Dave Long, Stevie Jones, and others are lovely friends I’ve made through running. I appreciate what they’ve given me and hopefully I’ve given them something. So, respect your fellow competitors and love what you are doing. Try to carry that over into adulthood and beyond. Always look after your body and try to enjoy all you are doing.
  Inside Stuff
Hobbies/Interests I love travelling. I love going to different countries and meeting people of different cultures. I love different foods and have been fortunate to travel the world. There are still many places I want to visit and go back to. I love New Zealand. I love America and the National Parks. I absolutely adore the National Parks and there are many I haven’t been to that I hope to see. There are also many other countries I want to visit. I’m fortunate that both my kids have jobs where they go to other countries. I’ve travelled through Africa with my son, Edward. Now we are in the States with my daughter, Alice. I’ve been fortunate that my kids are in countries where I can enjoy travelling with them. We’re off to South Carolina in a few weeks with my two grandchildren and my daughter and son-in-law
Nicknames Many of the New Zealanders – John Walker, Rod Dixon and Dick Quax – used to call me ‘Rosey’
Favorite movies I love ‘Pulp Fiction.’ It is a great, great film
Favorite TV shows In the early days, ‘Monty Python’ was great. It was ahead of the times and had cult viewing
Favorite music When I was growing up, I couldn’t help but love the sounds that came out of the 1960s and 1970s. They were great times with great groups. ‘The Beatles,’ ‘The Kinks, ‘The Rolling Stones’ – they all stand out. ‘Led Zeppelin’ was great. It’s hard to pick out one group. Many of the 1970s groups were brilliant. I was lucky to be around to embrace that music and be a part of it and to go to concerts. I was also lucky to be around in the 1970s when there were all these great runners. I had this wonderful privilege that was given to me to meet all these great runners and to race against them. It’s like being part of the 1970s rock groups
Favorite books I am not a great reader. I don’t read much. To be honest, I’m awful at reading. I will hold my hands up and say, ‘I don’t read.’ I’m one of a few people, when I was in college and had to read books, that struggled. Maybe that’s why I wasn’t vey academic
First car A Honda Civic which I bought from the Honda factory outside of Bowling Green, Kentucky. They also made Corvettes in Bowling Green. I would have loved to get a Corvette, but it was out of my price range
Current car I am driving a Skoda. They used to be made fun of in the 1970s and 1980s, but now they are dependable cars. They have the same engine as Audi and Volkswagen, which is why they are dependable. I’ve never been into cars. As long as it goes from point A to point B, I’m fine
First Job I left school at sixteen and went to work in a chocolate factory which was boring, boring, boring. It did give me a weekly wage so I could go out and socialize in the pubs. I soon got fed up with that job and that is why I ended up coming to the States
Family My mum and dad instilled in me the ethics of what I should be doing and shouldn’t be doing even though I was a bit of a rebel when I was young. They always tried to put me on that straight and narrow road. I have them to thank as they were lovely, lovely parents and brought me up in the right way. I was lucky to have met Christine through running and to marry Christine. We’ve been together for a long, long, long time now, since 1979. We’ve got two lovely children, Edward and Alice. They are lovely toward us. We’ve been able to travel with them to Bowling Green, Kentucky where we went to college. We continue to be lucky to have many moments together. And now we’ve got two lovely grandchildren. We look forward to the future and many more enjoyable, happy days
Pets We aren’t much of a pet family. I don’t like saying this, but I hated dogs, mainly because they chased me when I ran. I know you’ve got two dogs because I heard them barking and I’m sorry if I offended anyone, but I never got along with dogs. It’s always been a concern for me when I’m running and the dog owners will say, ‘He’s only having fun.’ I just wanted to run and didn’t get along with that minority of dog owners who didn’t have their dogs on a lead and didn’t respect runners
Favorite breakfast Pancakes, eggs and porridge
Favorite meal A roast stinger. My mum used to cook wonderful roasts. And now I cook wonderful roasts for my children and grandchildren and my wife. So, roast stingers on a Sunday are traditional
Favorite beverages I love the craft beer revolution and am with you on that. I love beer and still have a beer a day with my meal. I always embraced and loved beer and the taste of it is wonderful. For a morning cupper, I’ve always loved coffee. I don’t know if I’m addicted to it, but I probably am. I love at least a pint of coffee in the morning
First running memory That one I mentioned running around the soccer pitch stands out and is my first vivid memory as it led to many better things
Running heroes I looked up to Lasse Viren and Brendan Foster. Those two were older than me and were doing so well at the time that I started to get into the sport
Greatest running moment There are three that stand out. One is breaking four minutes in the mile on the cinder track against Steve Ovett. The second one would be the World Cross Country Championships and finishing third to Craig Virgin. The other one would be when I ran that 8:18 two mile and the following night ran four minutes for the mile. I look back on that double and think, ‘How did I do it?’
Most disappointing running moment There is only one and that is the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. I had won the British Olympic Trials and ran twenty-eight minutes for 10k pretty much on my own. I won it easily. I went to the Olympics thinking I had a chance for a major medal at that Olympics. That was hugely disappointing to finish in twelfth place. That stands out
Childhood dreams I wanted to be a professional soccer player when I was growing up. That was the ultimate. That is what every school kid, all my peers, wanted to be was a soccer player. I don’t know what percentage of those kids made it, but we still had to have a dream in life and there is no harm in that. I wanted to play for the Bristol Rovers. I was a Bristol Rovers fan. Tony Staynings was a Bristol City fan, but I was a Bristol Rovers fan. We were arch enemies (laughing)
Funny memories There was that one time in my early days I mentioned when my mum and I sat down to dinner one night and there was a knock at the door and it was Dave Jennings saying, ‘Are you ready to go running?’ I’ll never forget that because I didn’t believe that people ran when it was wet and cold. That was a shock to the system
Embarrassing moment There is one with Tony at the Moscow Olympics when Tony forgot his vest to wear when he ran the steeplechase. He was all ready to go out for his race. I was busy with the race officials cutting up numbers from people who had finished their races to get the number that Tony needed for his vest. I always found that to be funny as I couldn’t believe Tony could do that. We were at the Olympic Games, he forgot his vest, and there I was with a pair of scissors cutting up other people’s numbers to try to get his number to pin to his vest. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have got into the room where we had to be. He had his ID but didn’t have his number and wouldn’t have been allowed in the room to go to run his race. There was Tony, probably losing all his nervous energy as we were frantically trying to get him his number so he could go into the calling room prior to walking out into this hundred thousand person stadium to run in the Olympic Games. But that was Tony. If he was honest, he would say that he was always late for the bus to take us to a race and he sometimes forgot things. I would hope he would hold his hand up and say, ‘I was late for races and I forgot my number.’ But that was Tony. I always admired Tony. He is a good friend and a good mate. He’s a lifelong friend
Favorite places to travel I love New Zealand. The south island and north island are both wonderful places and the people are so friendly. The natural beauty includes the mountains and the beaches. There aren’t many people there. It’s almost like we are sent back in time. It’s said that New Zealand is thirty or forty years behind Britain. It seems that way. There are farming communities when you get away from Auckland and Christchurch. It’s a lovely, lovely country full of green farms and mountains. I love the United States and the National Parks. I’m trying to tick them off. I haven’t been to Yellowstone or Yosemite yet. Those two parks are on my bucket list. I’ve got to get to them. I love the National Parks in America and they are wonderful places to visit