Ken Harris: Runner for Wales in the 1930s
Friday 19 December 2008
Ken Harris was widely known and respected as the grand old man of Welsh athletics; for almost 80 years, the sport was at the heart of his life. Having joined Roath Harriers at the age of 19, he went on to compete at the British Empire Games (now the Commonwealth Games) against some of the greatest middle-distance runners of his era. He then became an official and administrator, serving for many years as one of Britain's leading starters.
Harris was born in 1910, in Bristol, to an English mother and a Welsh father. Soon afterwards, the family moved to Cardiff. Football, baseball and motorbikes were his great loves at Marlborough Road School, before athletics took centre stage.
He left school at 14, went to work for a food chain in Cardiff, and got involved in athletics in his late teens. He quickly developed into a quality middle-distance runner. A contemporary of Jim Alford at Roath Harriers – Alford became the 1938 Empire Games mile champion – Harris won the Welsh mile title at Newport's Rodney Parade in 1934 in the second-fastest time ever recorded by a Welsh athlete in the 30-year history of the event (four minutes, 28.2 seconds).
That victory earned him a place on the first Welsh team at the British Empire Games at White City, London, in 1938. He was one of 10 athletes chosen to represent Wales and Alford joined him on the team in the 880 yards. But, while the future mile champion failed to get out of his heat, Harris was first home in his, in 4:35.4, to become one of only six Welsh track athletes to reach a final. The final of the mile was one of the marquee events at the Games, a race that saw the former New Zealand world-record holder Jack Lovelock come up against England's future world-record holder, Sydney Wooderson. It lived up to its billing and was won in 4:14.0 by Lovelock from Wooderson in 4:14.4, with Harris coming in seventh.
If that was Harris's greatest moment on the track – he won silver and bronze medals in the Welsh championships over the mile in the next two years and gold in the two-mile steeplechase in 1946 – he also proved to be something of a stalwart in cross-country. Between 1935 and 1950, he made the top 10 in the Welsh Championships on all but one occasion.
Harris was Clerk of the Course for the marathon at the 1958 British and Empire Games, held in Cardiff, and then became a Grade 1 starter who officiated at all the main championship and international events in the UK. His red jacket made him one of the most clearly identifiable starters, and he was also one of the fairest. His quip to the athletes before a race was: "Small gun today, so no false starts."
Among the plethora of titles he held as an administrator were president of the Welsh Cross Country Association (1959-61), chairman of the Welsh AAA (1980-85) and president of the Welsh AAA (1985-87).
His services were well recognised and he earned a Welsh AAA meritorious plaque in 1958, an IAAF special award in 1988, and an AAA plaque of honour in 1989. In 2007, he was named as the first recipient of Welsh Athletics' lifetime achievement award. As the citation stated: "The first recipient of this unique award is a man who has given his life to Welsh athletics."
Kenneth Walter Benjamin Harris, athlete and administrator: born Bristol 7 October 1910; married 1938 Lorna Harris (died 2003; one son, one daughter); died Goodrington, Devon 5 November 2008.
- 1 Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
- 3 World learns of app that shows you who unfriended you on Facebook, app promptly crashes
- 4 Chris Moyles reportedly set to make radio comeback with new breakfast show on XFM
- 5 The Greece debt crisis explained in less than 100 words
Florida man sentenced to two-and-a-half years for having sex on the beach in front of a child
Autistic teenager beaten up by bullies makes them watch 20-minute video about autism
Man who was struck and killed by lightning in Brecon Beacons 'was carrying a selfie stick'
Greece debt crisis as it happened: EU chiefs at loggerheads hours before Alexis Tsipras’s last ditch deal proposals
Florida teacher sentenced to 22 years in prison for sexually abusing three pupils
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Sickness and disability benefits could be reduced by £30 a week as part of £12bn welfare cuts
£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...
£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...
£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...
£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...