For those of us who now nearly into our 60th year, it seems incredible that Derek Akers is still as active as he was back in the 1970's. This week Steve Kiss arranged a lunch for him and his wife Pat and invited along some staff from those years along with a few old boys. Here he is speaking to Richard Mant ( History and Careers Master ).
Geoff Hayes has very kindly put together an Obituary for Michael Davies who sadly died last month. Michael Patrick Davies
“One of the most revered
athletes in the history of amateur fell running.”
One of four children, Mike was born in
September 1933 in the Bradfield District of Berkshire. Not much is known about his early years until
he gained recognition as a talented road, track and cross-country runner at
Reading Athletics Club. In 1960 Mike was
a member of the record-breaking Land’s End to John O’Groats relay run in which
he was specially selected to run the mountain pass range in Scotland. In 1967 Mike rejoined the team to recover the
record, running the same mountain pass section.
In 1961 Mike entered the Ben Nevis
Race. He trained in heavy boots to make
up for the lack of hills in the south, running twice daily over golf courses on
the South Downs and repetitive hill climbs of 300 feet on the steepest slopes
available. After a training holiday in
Lapland with a fully loaded rucksack, he returned to his regime of two 8-mile
runs per day. The preparation paid off
as he won the first of three Ben Nevis wins, the others in 1968 and 1969. On five occasions between 1962 and 1967 he
The Three Peaks Race was a natural
progression and Mike trained hard, staying at the nearby Youth Hostel,
determined to break the ‘2 hours 50 minutes barrier’ for the 23-mile race. Mike achieved his first win in 1965 with a
record-setting time of 2:47:00. He also
won the race in 1966, 1967 and 1968 when he achieved his personal best time of
Mike achieved other outstanding
Vaux Mountain Trial 1965, 1967,
1970 (now known as the Lake District Mountain Trial). In his 1967 win, Mike beat Old Purleian
Gordon Pirie – who finished 3rd.
Mike’s winning team mates were John Disley and Chris Brasher.
Chevy Chase 1968
Thieveley Pike 1967
Mamore Hill Race 1963
Lomond of Fife 1973
as well as many 2nd and 3rd
Mike continued to run competitively into
his 40s, his last recorded race at the age of 46 where he finished 15th
in the Veterans’ Fells Championship.
For his outstanding contribution to Amateur
Athletics, Mike was made an Honorary Life Member of Reading Athletic Club.
Mike was a founder member of the Fell
Runners Association (membership number 7) and of its founding committee which
was set up in 1970. In 1972 he became
editor of The Fell Runner, a post he
held for two years. He devised the
original ‘Fell Runner of the Year’ scheme in 1972 and his definitions of the
three categories of severity are still adhered to, 40 years later.
Remembered as a ‘gentleman with
impeccable manners’, Mike was also generous in spirit. In the early days of the Three Peaks Race,
routes were a matter of personal knowledge and preference – provided one
arrived at the summit of each peak, it did not matter how one got there. Mike sportingly showed fellow competitors his
favoured route between Pen-Y-Ghent and Ribblehead, hitherto unknown to some of
For most of the 1960s and until its
closure in 1971, Mike worked at the Royal Wanstead School where he was Deputy
Headmaster and Sports Teacher. A
temporary teaching post followed for a year, before he arrived at Purley
Grammar School in 1973. Mike is
remembered as a firm, but very fair disciplinarian as Form Teacher of ‘4S1’ by
pupils; a very private and unassuming man by colleagues. Mike was appointed Second Deputy Headmaster,
a post he held until Purley High School for Boys as it was renamed, closed in
One abiding memory of Mike is at a
sponsored walk at Kenley Airfield in February 1976. Although 45 people tramped 30 miles or
further, Mike covered more distance than anyone – and he ran for the entire
time. He passed everyone several times,
but always had cheerful words of encouragement on every passing. Many will remember watching him disappearing
ahead into the distance.
Jimmy Jardine’s 1973 poem, of which Mike was the inspiration, ‘The Rime of
the Ancient Fell Runner’ summarises this memory perfectly:
off he’d run, as though just begun,
I sank down to rest;
fading into the setting sun
the faded Reading vest.
thanks to Dave Hodgson, ex-Chair of the Three Peaks Race Association and Colin
Evans, Deputy Head (Retired), Purley High School for Boys, for their assistance
with the collation of biographical material.