Neil Black: The mentor who knew how to find winning line

 

Jim Alder was the man who got Neil Black into athletics and who guided him, as his coach, to victories over Steve Cram and Sebastian Coe. The 72-year-old has long been an inspirational figure in the North-east, the trailblazer who paved the way for Brendan Foster, Mike McLeod, Charlie Spedding and Cram – all Olympic medal winners.

An orphan from the Glasgow Gorbals who settled at Morpeth in Northumberland, he was one of Britain's distance-running greats of the 1960s – a hard-school marathon man who could have been drawn from the same pen as Alf Tupper, the celebrated comic book hero who would put in a full day's shift as a welder in the northern town of Greystones before hitching a lift down to London and beating the southern toffs in a big race at the White City.

Alder worked as a bricklayer and would cry out "Geronimo" whenever he crossed the line first – as he did in the incredible Commonwealth Games marathon in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1966, when he regained the lead on the track after being misdirected at the entrance to the stadium just before the finish. Remarkably, he has held a world record for 48 years.

After being overlooked for selection for the Tokyo Olympics (he made the team in Mexico in 1968), Alder set a world two-hour best of 37.994km (23.608 miles) on an ash track at Walton-on-Thames on 17 October, 1964. It still stands in the world record section of the International Track and Field Annual. "It's great to see Neil doing so well," Alder says." I never for one minute doubted his ability to do well in whatever channel he decided to take.

"I remember when I first met him. He came into my sports shop in Ashington and asked to buy a pair of running shorts because he was competing in the East Northumberland Schools' Championships.

"We got chatting. He said he was 16 and his main interest was rugby as he played fly-half for the county. I told him athletics and rugby didn't mix because of the injury factor but, if he fancied giving athletics a go, why not come along to Morpeth Harriers?

"He must have listened to my advice because, a few weeks later, there he was in the Morpeth clubhouse. And that was the start of what, sadly, was to turn out to be a relatively short competitive athletics career.

"Neil was unbelievably talented as an athlete but he started to pick up injuries. It's a shame injury forced his early retirement from competitive athletics, but it's great to see that he's still made it to the top in the sport."

Life and Style
love + sex
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all