Many people in our club will not be aware of who Jeff Ford is, though we have a meeting of race walks in memory of this much missed coach.
Jeff had been connected with race walking since 1967, when at the age of 17 he was disqualified from the Star Walk whilst contesting the lead with Sheffield’s future Commonwealth Champion Jake Warhurst. He finished 2nd in 1968.
In 1969 I enjoyed a close rivalry with Jeff as we both competed for GB in a junior international match against West Germany and later we finished first and second in the RWA national junior championships.
By 1979 his racing career had been cut short by a knee problem and his first coaching job was to motivate sister, Brenda Lupton to victory in the 1980 Star Walk. Brenda became the first of many walkers coached by Jeff to reach international level.
Jeff has been described as one of the UK’s best ‘hands on coaches’ in race walking and in 1992 Jeff was given a national appointment as ‘Junior event coach for race walking’, it was assumed that Jeff would move into the senior position when the incumbent resigned in 1995 but he did not take up this option because he preferred to work with juniors. Jeff became part of the triumvirate charged in 1997 with coming up with ideas to revitalise British race walking performances.
It is a sad fact of life that we often do not praise the virtues of those who have affected us so much until they have left us.
Many of us, especially those he coached would echo Betty Sworowski’s comment..
I would like say how unappreciative I was of Jeff at the time. He travelled miles for his athletes to see them train and race, eg San Jose & South Africa. He did so much for the sport and all his athletes he trained. His recognition of what he did wasn’t apparent until it was too late. I will always feel sad that I didn’t tell him how much I really appreciated his time, effort and personality!
…and Vicki White’s comment.
I owe so much to Jeff he supported me to achieve so much in race walking. The amount of time he spent helping me achieve my goals meant time away from his home life and he travelled all over the world for his athletes. Without him I would not have succeeded in what I wanted to achieve and have the memories. To be involved in race walking with Jeff and his other athletes at that time was truly a great.
Many of the athletes that Jeff worked most closely with retired from racing within a year or so of his death following a long fight against cancer in July 1999. Here is a summary of the successes of his top walkers… apologies to anyone or any fact that I have missed out or haven’t got right.
Held the British 3,000m record for 19 yrs, around 16 national titles, Championship appearances… 2 world Cups, 1 Commonwealth, 1 European, 1 World, 1 Olympics.
8 national 50km titles (& 2 British records) plus 2 @ 35km, 1 @ 20km and 1 @10 miles, 7 World Cup appearances, 3 World Champs, 2 Olympics and 3 European.
Vicky Lupton (White)
Daughter of his sister Brenda; A Junior & Sen British Record, 5th in World Juniors, 4th in Euro Juniors, Multiple national champ, 4 World Cups, 2 Olympics, 1 World Champs, 1 Euro Champs, 2 Commonwealth, 1 World student Games.
6 national titles, 4 world Cups, 1 Commonwealth, 1 European, 1 World champs.
Multiple national medals, 1 World Cup
2 World Cups.
Multiple National Champion in Younger age groups, Multiple Junior International, 10th World Schools Games, competed in World Junior Champs.
Multiple Junior International, Multiple National Champion in Younger age groups, National 35km Champion.
(Jeff’s daughter); Multiple National Champion in Younger age groups, Multiple Junior International.
When Katie recently completed her first marathon she dedicated it to her dad.
I will leave the last word with Jeff….
“No such word as CAN’T.”
Referring to repetition sessions…
“The last one is always the fastest one!”
When training was tough…
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
Or as Jeff probably said it…
“Stop feelin sori fa thee sen.”
“If you haven’t got red cards you’ve not been trying.”