Ken Harris: Runner for Wales in the 1930s

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."

Rob Cole

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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete tomorrow
News
Piers Morgan tells Scots they might not have to suffer living on the same island as him if they vote ‘No’ to Scottish Independence
peopleBroadcaster has a new role bringing 'the big stories that matter' to US
Arts and Entertainment
Kylie performs during her Kiss Me Once tour
musicReview: 26 years on from her first single, the pop princess tries just a bit too hard at London's O2
Life and Style
Moves to regulate e-cigarettes and similar products as medicines come amid increasing evidence of their effectiveness
healthHuge anti-smoking campaign kicks off on Wednesday
Life and Style
fashionEveryone, apparently
Voices
The erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey has already been blamed for a rise in the number of callouts to the fire brigade for people trapped in handcuffs
voicesJustine Elyot: Since Fifty Shades there's no need to be secretive about it — everyone's at it
Arts and Entertainment
A new Banksy entitled 'Art Buff' has appeared in Folkestone, Kent
art
Arts and Entertainment
Shia LaBeouf is one of Brad Pitt's favourite actors in the world ever, apparently
filmsAn 'eccentric' choice, certainly
Life and Style
An Internet security expert has warned that voice recognition technology needs to be more secure
techExperts warn hackers could control our homes or spend our money simply by speaking
Extras
indybest
News
peopleBenjamin Netanyahu trolled by group promoting two-state solution
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing - Acquisition & Direct Reponse Marketing

£90000 - £135000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing (B2C, Acquisition...

1st Line Service Desk Analyst

£27000 - £30000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client who are...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Computer Futures

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Computer Futures are currently...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style