Colin Young C.317
Colin was a very well known and well liked race walker not only in the UK, but also in France and further afield. Colin passed away on 17 December 2019 and our sport lost one of its most memorable characters who made a huge contribution to athletics - both as a long distance race walker, and as a founder member of the NUTS (National Union of Statisticians).
Colin took up race walking in 1947, aged 12, and by his early twenties was already winning races competing for Newham & Essex Beagles clocking times of 1:39:27 for 20km in 1962 and 4:35:20 for 50km in 1963.
Colin proved to be a formidable and gutsy competitor in whatever race he competed in and in 1960 he achieved Centurion status at the Walton 24 hours track race covering 131 miles and 37 yards in 24 hours. His 100 mile time was 17:48:05.
Two years later he walked from London to Brighton in 8 hr 7 min 42 sec and in 1966 he won the international 100km race in Lugano.
In 1970 Colin (pictured right during the Strasbourg-Paris race) became the first British race walker to complete this epic race coming 5th in 74 hours 24 minutes. This was less than a month since his 2nd place at the Rouen 24 hour race.
The following year, Colin won the Rouen 24 hours with a 215,835km and went on to place 3rd in the Strasbourg-Paris covering the 520km in 73 hours 38 minutes. In 1972, Colin won the Rouen 24H again with a distance of 212,015km and went on to compete in the Strasbourg-Paris 513km that year but did not finish.
In 1977, Colin won the Rouen 24 hours yet again with 210,717 kms.
Colin continued to compete for several more decades, winning numerous international medals as a veteran. Colin was considered to be 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 Athletics Weekly. For over 60 years he remained a member of the NUTS committee.
Colin served on the UK Centurions1911 committee for several years - and with his phenomenal memory, he brought his expertise and considerable knowledge about athletics and race walking to the table.
Mel Watman wrote a testimonial to Colin in December 2019 which covers many aspects of Colin's life.
More tributes to Colin on our NEWS page
Tim Erickson wrote of Colin in trhe December 2019 issue of the Australian Heel and Toe newsletter - extracts below:
Colin was part of the most famous of all English Centurion walks, held at the Walton track on 20th 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.
Colin is the only walker 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. 1⁄4 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.
From the French website Marchons
You can see some coverage of the 1970 Strasbourg to Paris racewalk in 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.
You can read Tim's full tribute in Heel and Toe pages 10-14