Basil Heatley

Basil is certainly one athlete who served his apprenticeship in cross country running, by running very frequently within the Birmingham League Structure, his first races within the League would have been in the 1953/54 season whilst a Junior man. Unfortunately the results of the League have only been kept since the 1959/60 season, so it is not exactly known how many League races Basil won prior to this period (even Basil was unable to remember when asked). However, legend has it that Basil won twelve League races on the trot, before being beaten by Roy Fowler (this athletes break through to the big time). Since records have been kept the name Heatley appears eight times as winner of the first division race. Conservatively speaking, the number of times Basil won the first division races must amount to a score in the mid teens.

What is most apparent is that Basil raced very frequently. You will see his name appear in all the Championships and most of the League races over the period that he was running at his best. It was very rare for Basil to miss a League fixture.

If one is looking for the consummate cross country runner, look no further than Basil Heatley. He is one of the few athletes to have won the midland Cross Country title at Youth (1951), Junior and Senior level, indeed he won the Junior title two years running 1954 and 1955. His tally of Midland Senior titles was five (1957, 1958, 1959,1960 & 1964).

In 1959 Basil won the Inter Countries title over the tough and undulating Parliament Hill Fields. This was an event that he frequently ran for his County – Warwickshire. Couple these races with the numerous outings he had in the Midland Regional vest, it is easy to see how vast his competitive experience at all levels of the sport was.

Nationally, Basil first reached the top in 1957 when he finished 5th in the National at Peterborough; this sparked off a series of top ten places, culminating in his first National win in 1960 at West Bromwich. He retained the title the following year at Parliament Hill Fields and gained his hat trick of wins two years later at Cambridge. Basil was only once outside the top ten between 1957 and 0964, this was in 1962 at Blackpool, when he finished in the low teens after being injured for much of the season.

For eight years Basil was a fixture in the England Cross Country team, usually one of the teams top scorers. Indeed in 1961 he was to win the International Cross County Championship title in France; this putting the icing on a wonderful Cross Country career.

On the Track Basil was no mean performer twice winning AAA's title at 10 miles; his performance in the 1961 event lead to him breaking the World Record with a time of 47 min. 47 secs. He was a regular performer over 6 miles and was awarded several Great Britain vests for that event and the 10,000m.

Perhaps the Marathon is where Basil will be best remembered; in 1964 he won the Polytechnic Marathon (Windsor to Chiswick) in what was a World best at that time of 2hrs 13 min 55sec. He had a terrific battle with Ron Hill who finished second on 2hrs 14 min 12sec. This performance by both athletes was to earn them selection for Great Britain at the Olympics in Tokyo.

Tokyo gave Basil a wonderful end to his International career, suffering with stitch for most of the way, he ran a gutsy second half, to pull himself into third place. At 40km. Basil was some 75 seconds behind the second place athlete Tsuburaya of Japan. On reaching the Olympic Stadium Basil was still 30 meters adrift of the Japanese. However, with the last 200m. covered in a phenomenal 32.3 sec, the Coventry Godiva man flew by Tsuburaya to snatch the Olympic silver medal. The race was won by the wonderful Ethiopian, Abebe Bikila.

Although this was the end of Basil's illustrious International career, he was still to be seen running in the Third Division of the League in the early seventies. At this time he was to become a very efficient secretary of the Midland Cross Country Association for a number of years and perhaps retired from this position too early.