Memories: Nigel Braggins & John Padbury

I am writing in memory of former Harriers Nigel Braggins and John Padbury, my good friends and running companions at the club during the early part of the 1980's. Nigel's contribution to the club has been well acknowledged in tributes and John, sadly, also passed away in 2002. Their memory motivates me to want to bring to the attention of anyone who is interested, information about the achievements of some of the 'Old Harriers' who were training and competing at this time.

I joined the club in 1980 after being persuaded by Jim Curtis, then Head of PE at The Warriner School, to enter the Oxon Cross Country Championships in January of that year on a very cold morning at Broughton Castle. Active runners within the club at this time were the Scot Ferg Gillies (a sub-2:30 marathoner), John Padbury, Nigel Braggins, Clive Rutland, Geoff D'Oyly and myself, Neil Moores. Names I also remember from around this time are Dom Murphy, Andy Garner, Bob Dainty and Alan Vincent, among others. It was the coming together of a group of these runners that forged a very strong senior men's distance running team for a number of consecutive years. Some remarkable times were achieved in the marathon and some ultra-distance events which may still stand as club records or at least rank very highly indeed alongside times posted by Banbury Harriers' senior men either before or since.

The inaugural London Marathon in 1981 was my own first attempt at the distance and I finished in 2:46. In the same race, local builder Clive Rutland, as I recall, ran a majestic 2:27. I first met Clive at a 5 mile race at Kingham. Our conversations at races about training methods and diet led to us, along with John Padbury, becoming frequent training partners. We would meet up for a 20 mile run each Sunday morning and often for a second long run during the week. We were able to share much anecdotal experience about running and also tips and advice on diet, including carbohydrate depletion and loading before races so that, as time went on, we improved our marathon performances. My personal goal was to break the 2 hours 30 minutes barrier which I eventually did in 1984 recording 2:29:30 on a Road Runners Club accredited course at The Newbury Marathon. I had also recorded 2:30:18 in the North Wales Coastal Marathon in the previous year; all of these performances, proudly in a Banbury Harriers vest.

Other than in the marathon, most of the above runners were regular competitors in the AP 20. In 1982 this race incorporated the Oxfordshire 20 miles Championships and Clive, Geoff D'Oyly and I were selected on our performances, all well inside two hours, for the Inter-Counties 20 held at Finchley. Also around this time, John Padbury, Clive Rutland and I were experimenting with ultra-distance running. Clive finished second in the Two Bridges 36 mile Road Race in Scotland; an awesome achievement and a tribute to his dedication to training and all three of us entered the South London Harriers 30 Mile Road Race in 1982. As I recall, Clive was in the top ten runners to finish and John and I were not too far behind. The following year, 1983, we entered again and I finished 9th in 3 hours 9 minutes, a time of which I was proud as the actual course distance was measured at 30 miles 616 yards! I also competed in the SLH 30 as a Banbury Harrier in 1985 and again in 1986 after I had left the club. Interestingly, ultra-distance running had also developed strongly around this time within several clubs not far from Banbury, notably Woodstock AC and Leamington AC. Some prolific athletes of high calibre such as Paul Taylor and Tom Glare (Woodstock) and Cavin Woodward (Leamington) were our frequent rivals at a variety of races.

1983 was in fact an eventful year as it saw the very first Banbury Marathon, run in October. I remember this race well as I kept pace with the eventual winner, Cavin Woodward (Leamington AC) until beyond half way. Cavin won the race on a very blustery day in a time of 2:34 with Nigel Braggins passing me on Bankside to finish a close second to Cavin and I came in third. Nigel, as you have acknowledged, won the Banbury Marathon the following year and the race was not held again in subsequent years.

In 1984 I left the area to work in the Advertising and Promotions Department at Ron Hill Sports in Manchester where I competed for the RHS Race Team in the Ron Hill Goretex 10k Series and also The Tour of Tameside, a unique stage race with runners accumulating times in six races over seven days. It was interesting to have been involved in the organisation of such an event and to have worked with Ron Hill. After that I moved to Norfolk to resume a teaching career and I ran briefly for West Norfolk AC. In 1987 I was forced to retire from the sport after sustaining an irremediable knee injury. I returned to live and work in the Banbury area again in 1997 and met John Padbury again several times before his untimely passing. I was also fortunate to meet Nigel Braggins again only two months before he passed away. At least we were able to share some happy memories of those keenly contested races.

Perhaps the marathon as an event in itself is not so popular nowadays as it was twenty odd years ago, especially with the proliferation of half marathons, ten milers and races like The Banbury 15 but it was also my intention to raise awareness that during the period I referred to, circa 1980-85, the club had at least 3 senior men in its ranks, myself included, who had gone sub 2 hours 30 mins in the marathon; the others being Ferg Gillies and Clive Rutland.

I've also always thought that Clive Rutland's achievement in finishing second (the winner was Mark Pickard of Epsom & Ewell Harriers) in the Two Bridges 36 mile Road Race at Rosyth in Scotland; this would have been in 1982 or possibly a year either side, must rank alongside any of the clubs best all-time distance running achievements. Clive's finishing time in that race was an astounding 3 hours 36 minutes!

I hope that these reminiscences may be of interest to club members, both past and present.

Neil Moores

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