Enjoying Alf’s weekly adventures were certainly a factor in why I became a runner ( albeit not very good ) after I left school, having been indoctrinated into this marvellous world of spikes, cinders, Athletic clubs & baggy 1960’s tracksuits, by my uncle's games teacher, Mr Godfrey & by the stories in the Victor Comic. Mr Godfrey used to take us, on weekends when I was visiting my grandparents in Alperton, to the Thames Valley Harriers club in Perivale, London on Sunday mornings, to change in the old wooden clubhouse with all the experienced runners. We’d warm up on the cinder track, run on the streets in our plimsolls & then up to Horsenden Hill for a good training session. Then it was back to the club for a cold shower. My friends & I used to run relay races around the block on our Hemel Hempstead council estate, set-up Steeplechase courses in friends back gardens made up from chairs, buckets, ladders etc & time ourselves round them with the second hand on our Timex watches.I didn't realize at first how many people remember Alf & his stories with so much affection, but it became clear after some internet searching, that this character really did make a mark on the impressionable youth of the 1950’s, 60’s & then on into the 90’s. One of the most unlikely references to Alf that I have found, are in the lyrics of the "Iron Maiden" track, "Lonliness of the long Distance Runner". I know what I expected Iron Maiden band members to have been influenced by & its not British Comic hero's like Alf !
"The tough of the track with the wind
And the rain that’s beating down on your back
Your heart’s beating loud
And goes on getting louder
And goes on even more ’til the
Sound is ringing in your head
With every step you tread
And every breath you take
Makes you run never stop
Got to win got to run ’til you drop..."
Even University students today, are inspired by the fictional hero with a bad diet. On the website links menu item, you can find two stories of Alf's influence over student life, one in Buckinghamshire & the other in Leeds. I guess the only thing missing from the stories about Alf was him drinking pints after training, which was certainly the one thing that ALL running club members I have ever known – many clubs were first formed in Pubs – have loved. Still, I am sure that the student runners of Leeds University make up for Alf's abstinence, in their Student Union bar.