Tributes to Centurions who have passed away
Boyd Millen C.930
1995: British Centurion 930 | Continental Centurion 289 | Australian Centurion-41, 22:28:25
1999: Battersea Park, London; 23:13:25
2000: Weert, Netherlands Melbourne 23:25:43
Lilian Millen made the following brief announcement to notify fellow walkers that her husband Boyd Millen had finally lost his battle against cancer. The brief details were as follows:
I am sorry to tell you that Boyd died peacefully on the 26th January. He celebrated his 70th birthday in the Hospice surrounded by many friends and family on the 25th. His condition deteriorated very quickly, we feel he was waiting for his birthday. He fought so hard all the time and we did everything we could in the last year. He walked 20 miles cross country using his crutches and even went climbing on the high fells. He also did a 68 mile cycle ride over the fell roads. He will be missed by many.
from Essex Walker:
"Not one with Essex connections, as far as we know, but one who many readers will have met and will be sorry to hear of his departure during January at the age of 70 years. We knew him as a distance walker, both in the UK and on mainland Europe and as a Centurion (No. 930). Before striding out, he made his name as a top class fell runner. Indeed he was the first to complete the Bob Graham run twice – back-to-back. That’s a double 70 miles run visiting every Lakeland peak over 3,000 feet! Boyd had not been well of late, but still got out onto the fells with his crutches. You just can’t keep a good man away from his chosen activity! We extend our condolences to his widow Lillian who is also a Centurion (No. 907) as is well known in walking circles in her own right.."
from Sandra Brown:
Boyd Millen died on Thursday, 26th January 2006. He had been unwell for some months, but showed characteristic spiritedness, courage and humour throughout.
He continued to walk his beloved Lakeland fells on crutches, determined to fight the good fight. I shall cherish very fond and happy memories of the many walks we enjoyed together, including Centurion events in the UK and abroad, LDWA walks, and Paris - Colmar walks on which Boyd was a great team member. Boyd always kept everyone smiling, through highs and lows.
Before becoming a Centurion, Boyd was for many years an outstanding fell runner, and was the first to accomplish a double Bob Graham round - the circuit of all the Lakeland tops over 3000 feet, over 70 miles, twice, back to back. Life shouldn't be measured in years but in what you do with it. It would be hard to live a fuller life than Boyd did.
from Kathy Crilley:
I have some extremely fond memories of Boyd which I shall always cherish. Supporting at the 48hours race in Blackpool in the early 1990's with Boyd sporting my dainty aquamarine skiing jacket, (very not Boyd!) then feeding myself and Hilary Walker with marmalade sandwiches on the Manchester to Blackpool and (grudgingly!) following Boyd around Battersea Park for 100 miles in 1995 where we both became Centurions. Boyd completed his first 100 miles in 22 28 25. He was a great team member - even though he wasn't in our team - but he was always there to encourage the flagging spirits of everyone, chivvying us all along when we felt low and always bringing a smile to our faces. God bless.
Vale Boyd MILLEN
from Tim Erickson, Australian Centurions
It was a sad announcement but not unexpected by those of us who knew of Boyd's battle. Lilian and Boyd had made the decision to share their remaining time to the full and not to publicly announce the details of Boyd's condition. During the year since the initial diagnosis, Boyd deteriorated gradually but relentlessly but he continued to lead a full life and do what he loved most – enjoy the wild country he had so often walked in healthier times.
I well remember Boyd's trip to Australia in 2000 when he became Australian Centurion number 41 with a fine walk under adversity. He was unable to really eat or drink anything during the whole 24 hours and had to dig deep into his own reserves to somehow keep the pace going and keep on schedule. With this walk, Boyd became a triple centurion, adding to his 1995 British and 1999 Continental Centurions finish.
At 64 years of age, he was second oldest person to have achieved the feat in Australia. (the honour of the oldest Centurion finish belonged to Merv Lockyer (C30) who achieved his membership at 65 years of age).
Boyd came to Australia specifically for this event and his single minded determination paid off. He confided to me after the event that this might be his last Centurion race due to his feeding problems. He planned to restrict himself to the various Fells events and Long Distance Walking Association events and this proved to be the case.
To say the Boyd was as tough as nails was an understatement. He had worked as a stone mason, a specialist field that meant days on end spent in inhospitable conditions refurbishing old stonework - he worked for 19 years on Liverpool cathedral and the memorial service was held for him there. He loved stone work and did stone carvings as a hobby. When I noticed that he did not wear socks in our event and commented that he should perhaps rug up a little for the cold night conditions, he confided to me that this would not be necessary – it was not really cold and he never wore socks. He was as good as his word, walking consistently through a cold Melbourne night with seeming nonchalance.
We pass our deepest condolences onto Lilian Boyd will be sadly missed by us all - walking has indeed lost a wonderful ambassador.
J.R Reed C.419
Mr J R Reed of Southampton who qualified at the 1968 Leicester-to-Skegness 100 Miles in 21 hours 58 minutes and 38 seconds (a race won for the 3rd time by Karl Abolins 233, from new qualifier John Hedgethorne 413 who was just one second in front of Mark Kasteljins 387 after an almighty sprint finish).
Don Thompson C631
Don Thompson MBE, at the age of 73,died in Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey after suffering an aneurysm. Don, who was one of the elder statesman of English walking, will be forever remembered for winning the Gold Medal at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games - and of course for his unique training methods prior to this race!
Don, born on Friday 20th January 1933 in Hillingdon in London, was not your typical Olympic champion. Standing 5 feet 5½ inches (1.68m) and weighing only 120 lbs, he must have looked a scrawny specimen when he first took up racewalking in 1951 at 18 years of age. He joined Metropolitan Walking Club, the same club where Harold Whitlock was a member and, although he had no formal coach, he was happy to receive advice from Whitlock throughout his career.
It did not take long before people started to notice the young walker. In 1954, he suffered through his first London to Brighton walk (52 miles) and had truly found his calling. By 1955 he was amongst the leading walkers over the 50 km distance and in the longer ultra walking distances. During that breakthrough year, he was 2nd in the R.W.A. 50 km championship in 4:34:39, won the London to Brighton in 8:06:24 and won the Milan 100 km championship in his first international event. People quickly realised that an indomitable spirit made up for his small stature and unsophisticated technique.
The next year, he improved one place to win the R.W.A 50 km championship in 4:24:39 and then won the London to Brighton classic with 7:45:24, breaking Harold Whitlock's 1935 race record of 7:53:50. These performances catapulted him into world class and he was rewarded with selection in the 1956 Olympic 50 km event. Alas, things did not go according to plan in Melbourne and, in hot conditions and on a tough course, Don collapsed when placed 5th with just 5 km to cover. It was a salutory lesson which he did not forget.
From then on, he was unbeatable over the longer distances in England. In 1957, he defended his R.W.A. 50 km title with 4:41:48, won the Hastings to Brighton classic (38 miles) in 5:45:22 to break Tommy Richardson's 1936 course record by 7 secs, and then won his third London to Brighton in an unbelievable time of 7:35:12. In fact an alteration to the Brighton road had increased the distance by 1195 yards to 53 miles 129 yards but Don still broke his record by nearly 20 minutes! This record still stands today, nearly 50 years later.
In 1958, he improved his 50 km time to 4:21:50 in winning his third R.W.A. Title at Wimbledon and came a great 5th in the European 50 km championships in Stockholm in 4:25:09. Of course, it goes without saying that he also defended his London to Brighton title.
1959 saw a special performance when he set a huge PB of 4:12:19 in winning his fourth R.W.A. 50 km title at Baddersley. This event also saw the first 3 places going to Metropolitan walkers (W Misson was 2nd and N. Thompson was 3rd). He also came within a whisker of his own London to Brighton record after fading in hot conditions to win in 7:35:28.
He was now ready for his second Olympic attempt and, remembering how he faltered in 1956, he decided to prepare as well as he could for the conditions he would probably encounter in Italy: searing heat and high humidity. His solution - he sealed his bathroom, heated it, filled it with steam and started vigorously exercising during the weeks leading up to the Games. "There was an electric heater attached to the wall and I thought, 'well, that won't provide enough heat,'"
Thompson said last year. “I had to boost the humidity, too, so I got a Valor stove and put that in the bath. Half an hour was more than enough; I was feeling dizzy by then. It wasn't until several years later that I realised I wasn't feeling dizzy because of the heat; it was carbon monoxide from the stove." Thus did he prepare, in addition of course to his regular road walking.
He returned to a hero's welcome as befitted Britain's only 1960 athletics gold medallist and promptly got back to 'basics' by winning yet another London to Brighton race within days of his triumph. He finished off the year with a second win in the prestigious Milan 100 km event.
The next couple of years saw him continue on his merry way, fresh with the confidence of knowing he was an Olympic champion. He won the 1961 and 1962 R.W.A. 50 km championships, the Hastings to Brightons and the London to Brightons. He also participated in the inaugural Lugano Cup in 1961, taking silver in the 50 km event in 4:30:35 and took bronze in the 1962 European 50 km championship in 4:29:02.
Yet Don was an unassuming person, lacking in the airs and graces one might have expected. He was willing to talk to anyone and was indeed a credit to the sport of racewalking and to the great English tradition. We will sadly miss him but will always remember his wonderful feats and achievements.
Sat 7 October 2006
Don's list of achievements makes for awesome reading