Bedford, David (Part 1 of 2). An Oral History of British Athletics

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  • Subjects

    Athletics: Track

  • Recording date


  • Recording locations

    Flora London Marathon Office, London

  • Interviewees

    Bedford, David, 1949- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Cutler, Rachel (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: Born Hampstead. Twin sister. Relationship with sister. Happy childhood. But insecure child. Interested in sport but not good at sport. Wore glasses from early age. Not a positive part of school life. Discovered ability as long distance runner by accident through school discipline. New teacher who was interested in cross- country. Threw himself into it. Memories of grandparents. Maternal grandfather very important to him lived with the family. Grandfather remarried at 60+ to a "young thing". Detail about grandfather's character and relationship with wife. Holidays in Eastbourne with grandfather. Memories of paternal Grandmother not happy memories of her "old age". Relationship with parents. Lack of closeness from that generation of parents. Father's role - compares with relationship with his own son. Father and Mother's families - Londoners. Describes aunts and uncles. Hendon football + Tottenham + avid supporter. Now a Hendon supporter - disappointed in nature of professional football today. More detail of family and connections with Hampstead. [18mins.] Religion in the family - parent's lives driven by religion. Parents met at church youth club - Baptist. Very involved in community activity. Relationship with parents as a child. Details of parents' characters. Family events - details of Christmas celebration. Long discussion about faith - not religious in the same way as parents. Family and personal politics - connection with working class roots - Labour voter. Never involved in politics. [29mins.] School life: primary fine - went with twin sister - happy times; secondary school - attended different schools. Attended Whitefields against his parents wishes - sister in top he in second string class. Favourite things - English and in particular language. Self-confidence was low all the way through until found success in running. Other sports - describes one football match in particular to describe low self esteem. "Class clown". Success in running produced confidence and strength - bullying stopped. Sister developed a stammer 11-16yrs. Bedford developed stammer for longer. Stammer affected confidence - attended speech therapist. Long discussion of effect of stammer. Long discussion about relationship with sister, which isn't close although they are in contact - feels very different to her. Relationship with her children. [39mins.] Introduction to cross country running. Discussion about how unpleasant it seems to most people. Stories about being heckled on the streets as he ran. Change over time in terms of how the jogging phenomenon made it more exciting. Long discussion at this point about 118 118 advert and legal proceedings brought by Bedford against 118 118 (was victorious the following day) for stealing his image. "The message is don't let people take the piss out of you". Develops in to a discussion from this about the confidence in face of such things and how being Director of the Marathon has helped him to take that point of view. Discussion of success and failure in sport and how people tend to remember the success as you get older. [49 mins.] Return to early days of involvement in running. Helped to leave the constricting environment of family life. Enjoyed the training - issue about training on Sunday because expected at Church. At 16 decided that he wanted to train on Sundays and told parents that he would be. Quickly became top in the club. Natural physique for running - but trained very hard - never missed training unless ill. Took it very seriously and enjoyed the responsibility. Became his life - social, character, career eventually. People took notice of him suddenly instead of thinking of him as the "useless kid". Describes his coach Bob Parker - who became a surrogate father - spent more time with him and his wife Sylvia than with own parents at this time. Describes relationship with them and their characters. Great affection for his coach. Dedication to the sport and himself in particular. General discussion around the role of the coach in the life of a sportsman. Importance of being part of a team - great significance in his life, having been left out in youth, now was able to be an important part of the whole. Loyalty is a word, which keeps coming up in the conversation and we discuss this at length in terms of life, work, love, and relationships. Further discussion of sex, love, trust. Male athletic club at the time. Press secretary of the club at 16 yrs. AAAs and Womens AAAs the divide between the two - discussion about this. "Victorians set Womens athletics back 100 years". Detail about UK official bodies and difficulties within umbrella organisations. Detail of rising through the ranks as an athlete. First International won Cross Country Championships was in 1968 in Glasgow. Broke world record for six miles at 17 yrs. Attitude to competition - confidence in ability - challenges to himself and in particular speed - gives an example of racing a friend in a car. More about training and obsession with training. Psychological preparation for events. More training the better he became was what stayed with throughout career. Family support. Preferred family to stay away from competition. [1:12mins.] Discusses the importance of friendships from the club and secondary school. Returning as an old boy. Remembers returning to school as an old boy. Examinations - failing some of these. Favourite subjects. Ability. Accepted at P.E. College despite failing some exams. Sport had opened doors for him. Whilst at college became nationally recognise - great story that College failed him on practical athletics and 3 years later broke world record for 5,000m. Lived on Brighton seafront - and a great time and enjoyed freedom. 1970 - returning home after that experience was difficult - talks about the changed relationship. Won AAAs, full GB International, winning junior and senior races - "everything I dreamt would happen was suddenly happening". Describes first international - road race in Barcelona - letter received from AAAs. The older athletes taught him the ropes - "fiddling expenses" "taking the piss of the coach" etc.. They had been his heroes and now he was beating them. Broke 5,000m and 10,000m records by a huge margin. 1972 Munich Olympics was a disaster - describes in detail the feeling of the worst day of his life. Lessons learned through the failure at Munich in 1972 makes an analogy with Paula Radcliffe. [1:28mins.] Injury put him out of the sport at the age of 24 yrs. Derek Redmond and the Athletes Union. Describes his relationship with Derek Redmond and in particular how he had a major impact on his interests and character. Describes his role in the Union. More detail of the Munich Games 1972 - 10,000m "I thought I could win, I thought I would win and when I got out there I froze".. Affect of accusations of professionalism made towards him. Lack of support from officialdom - which he describes as: "good-hearted amateur tossers". Discussion about his memories of "Shamateurism". At 16 he heard a story from Ron Clarke (established runners) at Old White City that when "they" thought you were ready to receive extra money for races they would let you know and a year later he was being invited to races where he was paid on top of expenses.. Running abroad "earned you a few bob" - the administration turned a blind eye. Memories of team manager Arthur Gold - in particular over accusations from the IOC of professionalism. Long discussion about the struggle between amateurism and professionalism within the context of track and field athletics - the hypocrisy of the way in which amateurism was a applied differently to different sports. Believes that post-war expectation was for professionalism and athletes were and wanted to be paid. [1:41mins.] Return to details of the Munich Games 1972 - how he felt he dealt with it, how it affected him - "the sense of failure was massive". 1973 - was incredibly successful year despite being injured. Long discussion of breaking world record for 10,000m. "I knew I was flying" - much better preparation for the event at Crystal palace - broke world record for 10,000m 27.30.8 secs by 10 seconds.. Describes the crowds + the feeling of that race and how it went some way to putting to rest the memory of the Munich Games.

  • Description

    Interview with David Bedford, former long distance runner and race director of the London Marathon

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