CLIFF TEMPLE was at the heart of athletics, as a writer and a coach.
During his 25 years as Athletics Correspondent of the Sunday Times Temple brought many things to the sport which he loved. He had a wide knowledge which enabled him to produce books on running which were regarded as virtual set texts; and an expertise which was demonstrated by his success in coaching athletes to the highest level - amongst them Shireen Bailey, a finalist in the 1988 Olympic 1,500m final, Mike Gratton, winner of the 1983 London Marathon, and Sarah Rowell, a former British marathon record holder.
Above all, he had an instinct for communicating his enthusiasm, and, partly through the medium of the Sunday Times Fun Runs, he was one of the people who did most to make running a people's game in the boom years of the 1980s.
Whatever Temple did, it had a humanity and humour about it. He was utterly serious about athletics, and utterly incapable of being po- faced or pompous about it. In his teens, as a gifted writer of comedy scripts, he had been in two minds about which career to pursue. In the end, he chose athletics, but he continued to contribute sketches and one-liners to radio programmes such as Week Ending and Hudd- Lines, and television comedies such as The Benny Hill Show.
His sporting output was similarly wide-ranging. Apart from contributing to magazines in Britain and abroad, he co-wrote books with leading athletes, notably Brendan Foster, in 1978, and Dave Moorcroft, in 1984. His other titles included Middle Distance Running, and Marathon, Cross Country and Road Running (1990), which were full of his quirky mix of information leavened with wit and first- hand experience of the vicissitudes of the club runner. He also produced television programmes such as The Running Programme, for Anglia in 1987, and a work entitled The Rear End, a slimming programme for women.
Temple knew the sport inside out, but he would never miss the detail which gave his readers a sideways view on whatever was going on. At Crystal Palace four years ago, after Steve Backley had broken the world javelin record, Temple was on hand to witness his reflective stroll over the darkened turf to the spot where his spear had landed. In Trondheim two years ago, as Daley Thompson laboured vainly to qualify for the Olympics at the last minute in a virtually deserted stadium, it was Temple who spotted one man and his dog in the stand. Typically, he found out the name of the dog. In Stuttgart, at last year's world championships, Temple was the man who actually went and spoke to the sprinter who failed to qualify from the opening round of the 100 metres after being obliged to run in borrowed shoes.
One of Temple's books was dedicated to Julie Rose, whom he coached to the AAA indoor 3,000m title in 1982 and whose promising career was ended when she was killed in an air crash in 1985. In recent years, he worked to publicise and raise funds for the installation of an all-weather track in her memory. The track is just starting to be laid at Ashford, in Kent. Last week Cliff was talking of plans for an official opening in October.