Barrie Evans – A Life of Running
George Nicholson and Christine Farnsworth
7000 miles of competitive running? No problem, well at least it’s not if you are Barrie Evans. That is his remarkable achievement over the last 28 years – almost 600 races, and events which include:
- 137 half-marathons;
- 32 full marathons;
- 125 10 mile races;
- 55 races of a distances ranging from 13 – 20 miles in length;
- 1 race in South Africa covering 56k (35 miles) – the Two Oceans ‘Marathon’.
Barrie obviously showed great potential as a 13 year old school boy when he the 3rd-best cross-country runner in Middlesex. He excelled at many other sports, but football was his first love. He had a trial as a 14 year old at several clubs including Millwall, QPR, and Watford & Arsenal.
One of his early memories of Arsenal Football Club was to be summoned to the manager’s office at Highbury and told by the then manager, Billy Wright, that he was a bit on the small side to be a footballer! Billy Wright may have won 105 caps for England, but he was most certainly not known for his height.
He was recruited to the Junior Watford team in 1963 (a big event with the letters inviting him to trials archived in the ‘history drawer’!) and had a successful season with the team being runners up in the West Herts Youth Team Minors competition. Unfortunately he then had a serious knee injury in 1967 which meant an end his football career and there then was a very bleak outlook for any future sporting activity – a future operation only made matters worse and life with a calliper was suggested to be the only option.
It was whilst working on a project at Black & Decker in 1980 that Barrie resumed his running career. A group of workers there were aiming to compete in the first London Marathon the following year and formed their own running group, and Barrie joined in with them. He also had one other incentive. His brother was due to run the first London Marathon in April 1981. Barrie was not wishing to be outdone by his brother ( which typifies his competitive spirit ) entered the first Great North Run on the 28th June 1981. To this day he has been an ‘ever present’ and run in every Great North Run. His 29th was this year (2009) – excellent.
Not long after that first Great North Run, Barrie also competed in the Ushaw Moor half-marathon and came 47th. He subsequently joined Durham City Harriers and his race times improved dramatically. His first London Marathon was in 1986 and he has appeared 19 times there in total.
Without doubt though his golden year was 1987 when he achieved most of his PBs, including:
- 3 hours 6 minutes for the London Marathon
- 1 hour 21 mins for the Flymo Half-marathon
He also took a great interest in running events and in 1985 he won an Etonic competition to quess who would win the London Marathon and in what time – Charlie Spedding and Ingrid Kristiansen were selected and the combined time was out by only 8 seconds!
Unfortunately towards the end of 1987 his old knee injury became more problematic – had this not occurred, he would undoubtedly have improved on those times. It was also around that time that he became one of the early members of the newly formed Elvet Striders.
Nevertheless he continued his remarkable record in appearing at so many races and to this day achieves some very creditable times – and still rarely wears a watch! He also has a record of endurance which was typified in 1996 when he completed the Boston marathon on Monday and then the London marathon the following Sunday. He does get beaten by lesser runners, however, once by his partner Chris. in the Great North Run when he was a bit put out to be overtaken at around 12 miles and picked up his pace accordingly!! It has to be noted that he was a great water carrier for the Swaledale marathon, an event he has completed 10 times.
But not only has Barrie put in an incredible amount of hard work into training and participating, he has also put a lot back into the sport. Many runners have reason to be grateful for the time, effort and encouragement he has given to them as a coach.