It is with great sadness that we report the
death of Len Durkin who passed away on 5th December 2019.
Len was an active member of the Club in the 60s and 70s and
was particularly known for running the longer distances. He
competed in Marathon events when they were not as popular as
they are today, often competing against a small field of
less than 50 “specialist” runners. Len also represented
Wallasey AC at the National Cross Country Championships.
Len was also made a Vice President of Wallasey Athletic Club
in recognition to his service to the Club.
Some stories in which Len was mentioned can
be found here.
He will be greatly missed by all of us and our condolences
go to his family and friends.
Below is a contribution Len made when the club celebrated
its centenary in 2006 and also a poem that was dear to his
THE LIFE and TIMES of a LONG DISTANCE RUNNER
My name is Len Durkin and I was born in Liverpool on 16
July 1935. From a very early age I found that I loved
running, encouraged by winning races at Primary school.
In 1950 I left school and started work at a printing
establishment in Liverpool. A couple of years later I
changed jobs and worked at a tin box factory ten miles
away, and kept fit by cycling daily the twenty miles
return trip to work. Crawfords had an annual sports day,
and because I could run the distances with ease, won the
mile, was`3rd in the half mile and 2nd
in the quarter mile race against other factories in
National Service call-up was still in operation at that
time, and in 1953 I joined the East Lancashire Regiment,
ending up in Dusseldorf after initial training at
Preston. Every Friday, a battalion cross-country run saw
over 1100 men taking part, and I consistently finished
first over distances ranging from 5 to 9 miles, mostly
as a result of the spartan army life making everyone fit
and healthy and of course we were all very young men. I
became cross-country champion for two years, and winner
of the mile and 3000 metre races.
After demob, and returning home I joined Pembroke
Harriers in 1955 and began running and training longer
distances. In 1957 I changed jobs and joined the Mersey
Tunnel (only one crossing from Liverpool to Birkenhead
at the time). Shortly afterwards in 1959 I married and
moved to Wallasey and shortly after began my long and
happy association with Wallasey Athletic Club.
I found running in races for the athletic club much more competitive and
faster, but just as enjoyable. By then of course, long
distance running meant both cross-country and road
running, and I found that I could combine the two easily
with beach and country all within easy reach of
Wallasey. Mostly I ran alone, as shift work meant that I
couldn’t attend regular club training sessions, but I
did manage to represent Wallasey in various races,
notably the Pembroke 20 and the Bebington 15 a number of
times. Also, I competed in several marathons (the
Liverpool Marathon and the Milk Marathon) as well as
road races of 10, 15 and 20 miles. In those days all
competitions were run according to the Amateur Athletic
Association’s rules with no thoughts of sponsoring for
charities and all competitors having to finish the
course within a specified time to qualify as having
finished the run!
From 1955 I calculate that I have run a total of around
50,533 miles, but started to keep a daily record from
1965 onwards. Whenever we went on holiday, as a family
or just myself and my wife, I always managed a run of
some sort, and now have photos to prove that Americans,
Germans and many other European people have seen the
Wallasey Athletic running kit in their midst.
I retired from the Mersey Tunnel in 1997, and because of
various health issues, have had to curtail my running,
but still have a keen interest in the sport, and of
course Wallasey Athletic Club in particular. Keeping fit
is even more important, and now I have a daily workout,
varying from tai-chi, yoga and meditation to gym work
and cycling. Being a member of the Northern Veterans
(now Master Athletes- anyone over the age of 40) keeps
me in touch with news about senior runners, so although
I don’t compete these days, I still feel in touch with
the running world.
Len Durkin 2006
A bespattered figure soaked in sweat
Came pounding along in the murk and the wet.
Strain and tiredness lined his face
As through the streets his feet did race.
People stopped, some laughed, some stared,
The athlete ran, he never cared.
The people thought him somewhat crazy,
The outside world was blurred and hazy
Mile after mile he grew more and more tired,
His breathing was heavy, his strength expired.
His body and mind had begun to complain
Why was he out running in the mist and the rain?
With eight miles gone and two to go,
His determination had begun to grow.
Gritting his teeth and clenching his fists,
He flung himself onwards through thickening mists
The final mile was now in sight,
As he charged along in a headlong flight.
Gasping lungs were short of breath,
His face was white he looked like death
With blistering feet and half closed eyes,
He neared the point when a lesser man dies.
His mind was throbbing with the strain,
His body throughout was racked with pain
With leaden legs he increased his stride,
To give up now would hurt his pride.
A final lunge and he was home and done,
Once again he had finished his nightly FUN