The winners who weren't: Trail-blazer who broke the rules - Sport - The Independent

The winners who weren't: Trail-blazer who broke the rules

Simon Turnbull talks to the first lady of British distance running, Scotland's Dale Greig

Dale Greig always was a running pioneer. The morning she set off on the London to Brighton road she did so with a map in her right hand. "I was worried about going off course," she recalled. "I had to start on my own, an hour before the other runners, because women weren't allowed to run with the men." Women, in fact, were not allowed to run full stop; not officially, at any rate. It was only in 1979 that the supposedly weaker sex were deemed strong enough to stay the 55-mile distance from Big Ben to the Esplanade in Brighton. Greig, though, was a woman before her time. It was in 1972 that she made her ground-breaking, not to say rule-breaking, maiden voyage of discovery.

"It was an experience," she mused, a quarter of a century on. "I'd been to watch the race once or twice before so I had some idea of the route but I still needed a map. The men caught me after 14 miles or so anyway, so I had them to follow for most of the way." Perhaps to the surprise of the athletics authorities, the Scotswoman did not fall apart along the way. The Road Runners Club, organisers of the annual ultra marathon, allowed her to cross the finish line and recorded her time, 8hr 30min 4sec. As far as the official results were concerned, however, her run never took place. She was strictly a ghost runner.

It was nothing entirely new to the printing consultant from Paisley. Back in 1964 she became the first woman to break 3hr 30min for the marathon distance. Far from trumpeting the feat, the Women's Amateur Athletic Association reprimand- ed the organisers of the Isle of Wight Marathon, Ryde Harriers, for allowing her to compete, albeit with an ambulance trailing her round the course. The Women's AAA have held a marathon championship race since 1978 and just to get Liz McColgan to line up in three of the last four, incorporated in the London Marathon, cost a reputed pounds 450,000.

Greig has been as significant a figure in British athletics as McColgan, yet she is not even a forgotten heroine. She was never hailed as one. Even in her day her name and her deeds were barely mentioned. Not that she reflects upon her lot with the slightest trace of rancour.

"Life is all about timing," she said, "about being in the right place at the right time. I just ran for fun and I don't regret that at all. I really enjoyed it. It just happens to be a different sport now. There was never any thought of making money in those days and, running in the marathon or the London to Brighton, it was just a matter of getting round the course. Today the women are racing these distances, racing really fast. I must say I admire them."

Ingrid Kristiansen has held the women's world record for the marathon, 2hr 21min 6sec, since the 1985 London Marathon. There were no official records in Greig's day - just "bests," as performances in unrecognised events were strictly termed -- but her time in the 1964 Isle of Wight Marathon, 3:27:45, was the fastest recorded by a woman for the classic 26 miles 385 yards. It was bettered a month later - the New Zealander Mildred Sampson clocked 3:19:33 in the Auckland Marathon - but it stood as a British "record" for 11 years.

Greig was 60 in May. She has been a non-runner for more than a decade now. "I had an accident in a swimming pool in the early 1980s," she said. "I cracked bones in my feet and I haven't run since then. It seems such a long time ago that I ran in the London to Brighton. I must admit I'm amazed that anyone remembers it."

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news

Watch this commuter make a mad 320-metre, 75-step dash to work
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK edition of wedding show forced to recast after wave of drop-outs
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Top conservatoire offers ‘groundbreaking’ arts degree

Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teaching Assistants

£50 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing ...

Supply Teachers needed in Stowmarket

£1034496 - £1516224 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: The Job:Randstad ...

Primary Teacher EYFS, KS1 and KS2

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are urgentl...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week