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Athletics is in a good place, says Gloucestershire AAA chairman Arthur Daley

All Areas > Sport > Athletics

Author: Roger Jackson, Posted: Thursday, 25th January 2024, 09:00

Arthur Daley with top Gloucestershire runners Seren Jones, left, and Ruth Brook Arthur Daley with top Gloucestershire runners Seren Jones, left, and Ruth Brook

The sport of athletics in and around the county is in good health.

That’s the view of Arthur Daley, who knows what he’s talking about because he has been a big part of the middle-distance running scene – on the track, road and over cross-country – around these parts for more than 50 years.

He’s also chairman of the Gloucestershire Amateur Athletics Association, a position he’s held for the past three years or so.

“Athletics in the county is really quite strong, although I’d like to see it even stronger,” he told The Local Answer. “It’s all going very nicely.”

That’s in part down to the hard work and dedication that Daley and others like him put into the sport, a sport that has been a big part of the 74-year-old’s life for more than six decades.

And it’s fair to say the retired schoolteacher is enjoying being involved as much as ever – as well as being the figurehead for athletics in the county, he still competes and he’s also heavily involved in coaching.

His first involvement with the sport was obviously a long time ago but he can still remember his very first race.

“It was 61 years ago,” he said. “It was an 80 yards hurdles when I was at school at Redditch. Like a lot of young athletes I started with the shorter distances and as I got older I moved up.”

He’s moved up in performance as well as distance over the years, so much so that these days he’s an international age group runner, representing England Masters on the road and over cross-country.

He’s also run 10K on the road for England Athletics Masters – they are different bodies – and understandably he’s delighted to be involved.

“I’m very pleased to be running for England at this stage of my career,” he said with some understatement, before adding with a laugh, “I’m very pleased to just be moving!”

And he’s actually moving very well indeed.

“I won the age group 10,000 metres British Masters Championship at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham seven years ago,” he said.

“And I won the British Masters Cross-Country Championships for my age group three years ago up in Rhug in Wales. I won that by a minute, that was quite a nice achievement.”

He describes his Masters win in Birmingham as “one of the better ones”, adding: “I’m not sure which is my best result, they’re all fun and satisfying.”

Bristol-born Daley’s first club was Bromsgrove and Redditch Athletic Club, but when he moved to Gloucester in 1972 he soon joined Gloucester Athletic Club, a club he remains very much a part of today.

“I joined after about six months,” said Daley, who taught at St Peter’s Junior School in the city for some 20 years. “I had a break for about 10 years at the start of the 1990s, partly for work reasons, partly because I’d moved out of the city and partly because I felt I was too old, but I rejoined the club more than 20 years ago.”

His favourite distances are over 5K or five miles, although in his early days races of that length were not as readily available as they are today.

“In the 70s and 80s there were very few 5Ks,” explained Daley, who lives in Quedgeley. “And in those days races weren’t measured as accurately as they are now, so instead of five miles you’d have the ‘long 6’ or the ‘short 6’!

“When I first joined Gloucester I used to run 800 metres, 1,500 metres and the long or short 6, which is about 10K.”

And despite being well into his eighth decade he’s still very happy to put his hand up and run for the club today, and is equally happy whether it’s on the track, road or cross-country.

“I enjoy them all,” he said.

He enjoys his coaching too. “I coach the middle distance runners at Gloucester,” he said. “I coach a group of young athletes and a group of adults at the track at Blackbridge.”

And it was through his coaching that he landed the top job at the Gloucestershire AAA.

He’d been the county’s cross-country secretary for 10 years before retiring in 2019 but almost as soon as he’d stepped down he found himself back in the fold again.

“The secretary of the Gloucestershire AAA, who had been in the role for more than 20 years, had to retire,” Daley explained.

“It was seven weeks before the county track and field championships and it looked like they weren’t going to happen.

“But I coached a lot of young athletes and I wanted those people to compete, so I took on the organisation of the county championships.

“That was in the May and in the June the chair of the Gloucestershire AAA also stepped down, so I took on the role of chairman for three months before being properly elected at the AGM.”

So what does the chairman of the Gloucestershire Amateur Athletics Association do?

“I do a lot of organising,” he said. “County championships, everything really.

“What I would like to say, and this applies equally to the clubs as to the Gloucestershire AAA, is that it would be great to get more people involved in organising events.

“On the day there is always plenty of support but in the run-up it is often down just to one person to organise everything. It would be great to set up working groups, not to sit on committees but to share the workload and share their skills and knowledge.”

Daley, who also officiates, will be available to support anyone who wants to get involved in any shape or form, of course, and he has no plans to step back any time soon.

“I’m happy to do this role for as long as I can,” he said. “The more you stay involved, the longer you live.”

His name is very well known in athletics circles around Gloucestershire, of course, but the name Arthur Daley is one that will resonate with many people of a certain vintage way beyond the sport.

Arthur Daley was the name of the character played by George Cole in the hugely popular TV series Minder which ran for 15 years from 1979.

“I did used to get a few comments,” admitted Daley with a laugh. “In those days there were no emails or anything like that, you used to deal with people on the phone.

“I used to refer to myself as simply ‘Arthur’ most of the time but I remember one of the times when I didn’t.

“It was when I was running the Gloucester Marathon with my wife Shelagh in the 1980s. It started in Gloucester Park and we thought the best way to deal with the litter was to order a skip.

“I phoned them up and gave my name as Arthur Daley. Half-an-hour later they phoned back to make sure it wasn’t a wind-up.”

He assured them it wasn’t and the skip duly arrived!

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