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 Bill Clinton portrait features Monica Lewinsky reference, artist admits
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 Average penis size revealed: Scientists attempt to find what is 'normal' to reassure concerned men
Bill Clinton portrait features Monica Lewinsky reference, artist admits
Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
China's 'Inconvenient Truth': video exposing country’s smog crisis watched 100 million times
Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...
£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...
£38000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This B2B content marketing agen...
£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...