RIP Russell Vroobel 1958 – 2018
VAC are sorry to hear of the passing of Russell Vroobel. He was an active member of both
Hillingdon AC and VAC.
Welsh International Ken Bobbett, also from Hillingdon AC has kindly given permission for the
“It was with great sadness that I learned of Russell’s death. He was a well-known and liked
man who communicated easily with all in the race walking fraternity.
His race walking career, like many of us, began at school. To those walkers active in the
1970’s and 1980’s Russell would have been well known. His Club in those days was Highgate
Harriers. He was a reliable club member and was an accomplished racer achieving the 7 mile in
the hour standard on a number of occasions. His ambition was to become a Centurion and
indeed on a number of occasions Russell did attempt the 100 mile distance. Sadly, due to lack
of time for appropriate conditioning he was not successful. This, however, remained a goal that
Russell hoped to achieve when retired.
His race walking career took a backseat when he graduated in Law and started to build a
business specialising in Conveyancing.
I first met Russell in2012 when he joined Hillingdon AC, his local club, to restart his race
walking career. He joined the club at a time when Hillingdon AC race walking section was
beginning to enjoy team success. His contribution to the team ensured success for Hillingdon in
the Enfield League when finishing in the frame in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
A lasting memory for me will be his competitiveness and gritty determination to finish. This
determination can be best exemplified by his performance in the BMAF 30k at Coventry in 2014.
On an extremely hot and sultry day, conditions not best suited to Russell, he soldiered on to
the finish to earn himself a Bronze medal.
His death is a sad loss for our sport in general but for Hillingdon AC in particular.
Russell is survived by Jackie his wife, Anna his daughter and Jonny his son.”
Noel Noble 1923 - 2017
VAC was very sad to learn of the death of International Opera Singer and longtime Polytechnic
Harriers and Veterans AC middle distance competitor, Noel Noble, at the end of June after a
fine innings of over 94 years.
As an athlete in the UK, in the 1970s/1980s, he was very supportive of both Poly and VAC and,
although his running career in the UK never reached great heights, he would invariably be
present to complete his club teams, not least at cross country events. He contributed to VAC on
and off the arena, and was their TM/Organiser when they set a World Best for the then-popular
100 x 1 Mile Relay at Crystal Palace, causing other overseas veterans clubs to challenge their
VAC has the Noel Noble trophy, for MV50 1500m/1 mile.
BRIAN HARLICK 1942-2016
Brian Harlick sadly died shortly before Christmas
2016. He was an active member of both Epsom and Ewell Harriers and VAC. He competed regularly
in the pole vault, and all the throwing events, most recently as a V70. He competed in the Pole
Vault in the Main Surrey Championships from 1994 - 2010 having previously competed in the
Surrey Cross-Country Championships from 1983 - 1986. He was also a very active official, and
when not competing, helped at VAC track and field championships. At the Surrey County Athletics
Association AGM on Friday a posthumous award was given. The Officials Cup was collected by his
children (Marianne and Michael).
Photo: Jeremy Hemming
Charles Eugster (1919 – 2017)
Charles Eugster joined VAC as a sprinter a few years ago so that he could compete in British
Masters events. He had previously rowed competitively, but took up sprinting at the age of 95.
He set age group records in both the 100m and 200m and competed at several World and European
masters’ championships. He has written a book called Age is Just a Number which was published
in January 2017.
Alasdair Ross, 1952-2016 In Memoriam
Alasdair died on 4th July 2016 aged 64. He was originally from Edinburgh and, as
a senior athlete competed against David Jenkins in the 400m and Allan Wells in the 200m
and was selected to compete for Scotland on a couple of occasions.
However it was in Masters competition that Alasdair excelled winning gold medals and setting
records at numerous World, European and British championships since starting to compete at age
40. He is currently European M60 indoor record holder over 200m (25.24s) and British M60 indoor
record holder over 400m (58.13s). He holds Scottish Masters outdoor bests for 100m, 200m and
400m in the M50, M55 and M60 age categories and the 400m in the M45 category. Indoors he holds
bests for 60m, 200m and 400m in the M50, M55 and M60 age categories.
A well known, popular and top class athlete, Alasdair will be sadly
missed. VAC and all its members offer their sincere
condolences to his wife Lorraine and his family. 7-11-16
Taken in August
1991 at VAC T&F Champs West London
The trophies in his hands are
probably 100m, 200m and best sprint trophy.
Possibly his first veteran comp;
certainly first with VAC.
RON HOPCROFT 27 FEBRUARY 1918 – 17 MARCH 2016
There is a photograph of Ron in 2009 with Cecil Gittins in Cecil's obituary below.
Thames Valley Harriers club legend Ron Hopcroft has died at the age of 98.
Ron was born in Chiswick in 1918 and was active in many sports at school before joining Ashcombe AC at the
age of 17, winning his first race in Regents Park and competing in cross country and track races before being
called up to the forces in 1939. He returned to London in 1941 dealing with bomb damage from air
raids and finding that Ashcombe AC had disbanded, he joined Thames Valley Harriers. Ron briefly returned
to track running after the war but in 1949 at the age of 31 he decided to try long-distance road running to get
fit for the cross country season, joining the road running team and a large training group based at
Boston Manor in West London.
He won the “Brighton” race (approx 55 miles from Big Ben to the Brighton Aquarium) in 1956.
Ron then turned his attention to the 100 mile record, targeting the world best time of 12:20:28, deciding to
do it the hard way by running from Hyde Park Corner to Box in Wiltshire, a very hilly course in the final 30
miles. At 5am on 25th October 1958, Ron set off from Hyde Park Corner; through 30 miles at
Reading in under 3½ hours before the hills started, Newbury at 56 miles before it became crowded with
racegoers, cup of tomato soup and piece of bread on the move at 60 miles, on to Marlborough at 75 miles, in
trouble at 80 miles walking for a few yards, more soup and back to sub 7 minute miling, through Chippenham at
90 miles, struggled through worst of the hills, eventually Box came in to sight in the dusk, finishing in a new
record of 12:18:16.
Ron but was forced to retire from running in 1961 after an ankle injury and the pressure of business and
family commitments. He continued working as a track judge and cross country official until 2007 and acted as
timekeeper at VAC events.
KEN CROOKE 1928 - 2015 - It is with regret that we have to report that Ken died on 8th
December 2015. He was elected president of the County Association in 2010 having previously been Treasurer.
Ken's passion was Cross-Country and he held senior positions in the English Cross-Country Association, South of
Thames Cross-Country Association and the East Surrey League. He was also the key person for many years in the
cross-country activities of his club, Croydon Harriers. His funeral was held at Lyndhurst, Hampshire on 7th
January 2016. Profile
Cecil Gittins and Ron Hopcroft (see obituary) on Wimbledon Common in
Photo by Jeremy Hemming
CECIL GITTINS 30 DECEMBER 1928 - 12 NOVEMBER 2014
Funeral of Cecil Gittins held at Kingston Crematorium 15 December 2014, followed by reception at nearby
Sad news has been received that Cecil Gittins, race walker, timekeeper, judge, and active VAC committee
member until 2013 has passed away.
He had been a member of Queens Park Harriers since 1946 and attended committee meetings until again
He was recognised for his numerous years' service to athletics in Queens Park Harriers and Middlesex County in
2014 in a Brent Community Champions Awards ceremony but was not well enough to attend personally.
He had been in a nursing home in Raynes Park since 2013 and was nearly 86.
The funeral was well attended by his many friends including those in race walking, VAC and Queens Park
The eulogies were delivered by VAC members Bill O'Connor and Peter Cassidy, and his lawyer, and
covered his active and successful life as a scientist, athlete, official, and prominent member of the Liberal
Party, later Liberal Democrats.
The following is reproduced by kind permission of Peter Cassidy:
Cecil Gittins, who has died six weeks short of his eighty-sixth birthday, was for many years a well-known
figure in the race walking world in this country.
A club competitor in his younger days, he will be known principally because of his contribution to
administration and officiating, both locally and at a higher level.
He served as Chairman of the Race Walking Association from 1977 to 1980, 1983 to 1988 and again from 1989 to
1998; the period from 1983 to 1998 would have been a remarkable unbroken spell of fifteen years had he not
vacated the chair in 1988 to become the Association's President. Although he was asked to continue to guide the
General Committee and Annual General Meetings from the Chair, he firmly declined to stand after his seventieth
birthday, modestly declaring himself to be too old.
He continued for some time, however, as Chairman of the Rules, Records and Standards Sub-Committee, dealing
with some of the nuts and bolts of organisation. He had the attractive policy of not ending a Sub-Committee
meeting by fixing the date of the next, arguing that if a meeting took place without having some pre-arranged
matters to deal with, it would last just as long and achieve nothing; many of the members were grateful for
As an official - principally as a timekeeper but also as a judge and a recorder - he spent many hours beside
the track and the road serving his sport and was one of the timekeepers when the Lugano Trophy meeting was held
in the Isle of Man in 1985.
He was always interested in the younger walkers and, until age and health problems prevented it, frequently
accompanied the juniors in their trips to Dublin to contest the Nihill Trophy match; the young team members
came to regard him as a sort of mascot to be looked after.
Cecil had worked as a chemist and remained interested in scientific matters to the end of his life. It was,
perhaps, his scientific approach that led him to reject any religious belief, while his good nature allowed him
to look with a sort of benign sympathy upon those who did not share his views.
Cecil appeared to have no family, but with his passing, we in race walking have lost a loyal and devoted
servant of our sport and a mildly eccentric friend.
I regret to inform you that Jaroslav Hanus, multiple British masters
record holder in the throws, passed away on March 8th 2014, following a stroke. The
funeral will be at Breakspear crematorium, Ruislip, on Thursday 20th March at 1pm.
Jaroslav was born in Czechoslovakia in 1930, After the war he
participated in many sports - athletics, including throws and decathlon, basketball, ice
hockey, and volleyball. He eventually concentrated on the throws, becoming Czech hammer
champion in 1950 or 1951. During his national service he made the elite army team, and among
his team mates was one Emil Zatopek. He gave up his athletics when he qualified as an
architect, and emigrated to Britain in 1968 to continue his work as an architect. When he
retired in 1995 he took up athletics again, and set 33 British Masters records in the throws.
He competed all over the world in masters athletics, winning many medals in the process. He was
a character, and will be sadly missed. 17-03-14
Sir Chris Chataway, 82 has died after suffering from cancer.
He held membership of VAC since 2006, as well as Thames Hare and Hounds, and competed cross
country with the club.
Chataway was one of Britain's finest middle-distance runners in the 1950s and a member of the
Olympic team in 1952 and 1956.
In May 1954, he helped Roger Bannister break the four-minute mile before achieving his own
world record in the 5,000 metres four months later.
By the end of the year he had become the first person to be awarded the BBC's Sports
Personality of the Year.
In 1959 he entered Parliament as a Conservative MP. He was made minister of Posts and
Telecommunications (1970-1972) and Minister for Industrial Development (1972-1974). He then
left politics for a career in the City.
From 1991 to 1996 he was chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority and was knighted in 1995.
He kept his passion for running alive and ran the Great North Run some three years ago.
BOB BELMORE 13 October 1927 – 9 September 2013
Bob died aged 85 after a short illness. He
was well known as a tireless organiser and dedicated team manager who willingly devoted huge
amounts of time and energy to club affairs in every capacity. He was a former VAC President
and as a Committee Member for over twenty years filled the roles of Cross Country Secretary,
T&F Secretary and Road Secretary, as well as supporting and coaching many Masters
athletes to compete and fulfil their potential. In the 1950s and 1960s, he was instrumental
in building up his local club, Guildford & Godalming AC, to become a junior and senior
force on the Surrey scene. A legacy from that era is the Hogs Back road race which Bob
helped to instigate and make famous.
In the 1980s he used his organisational
skills and immense enthusiasm to found Waverley Harriers, a running club for athletes of all
ages and abilities. Bob also became a specialist at developing cross country courses, such
as those on his local commons at Milford and Tilford. This prepared him well for embracing
Wimbledon Common as Vets AC’s home ground. He organised countless club and Surrey League
cross country races there. His hands-on style saw him out early setting up the courses,
constructing the finish funnel, sorting out the officials, starting the race with
well-chosen words, working out the results and finally presenting the awards. In 1991, he
took VAC’s men into the Surrey League, followed a few years later by a women’s team. Under
his upbeat and positive leadership, the teams demonstrated that Masters athletes can hold
their own admirably in senior competitions. Other credits due to Bob include the foundation
of the 5km Veterans’ championship races at Dunsfold Aerodrome in the 1990s and VAC’s
successful hosting of two BVAF Championships at Reading (T&F) and Tunbridge Wells (cross
Bob was a great athlete himself in a long
career stretching from success in 440 and 880 yard races in his early twenties, through to
honours at County and Southern level at cross country, competing well with the greats of the
time such as Gordon Pirie and Chris Chataway. He fully embraced the Veterans’ scene after
his 50th birthday and made good marks. In 1983, aged 55, he won Gold in the BVAF National
Cross Country at Wolverhampton. However, it was in the M60 age group that he achieved
success at national and international level. He was justifiably proud of his British 5,000m
M60 record of 17:27.8 achieved at Reading in 1988. The record stood for four years until it
was bettered by the late, great, Laurie O’Hara. At international level, Bob’s highpoint was
his trip to the World Vets in Melbourne in 1989 in which he won a Bronze medal in the
5,000m. He also placed highly in middle distance events at European championships in Verona
In his later years, Bob devoted nearly all
his time to organising VAC activities in every running discipline. He is remembered for his
dedication and persistence, and also for his generous spirit, warmth and
You may have been expecting this sad news. It is with much sorrow
that I have to inform you that Jack died this morning (13 May 2013) in the temporary
Residential Home in Putney where he had been moved to from hospital whilst waiting a place
nearer his home. He had been very much up and down recently. He reached his 90th birthday in
January and had always said that would do him, that is long enough.
funeral was on Thursday 6 June at Lambeth Cemetery, Tooting
Ron Eaton, 'Ron the Runner'
A great servant of Athletics has been lost to us. Those who in the past have worked on
Administration at the London Marathon, will remember Ron as the kindly and friendly man who
managed the Registration process. Sadly he died recently and his funeral was at the City of
London Crematorium on 20 September. He was 86 and was survived by a son and a daughter and two
grandchildren. He was shortly to become a Great Grandfather. He was himself a prodigious runner
who completed many marathons including London and New York. He also race-walked, was a
Centurion and had completed the London to Brighton. He was greatly affected by the loss of his
wife Joyce 7 years ago and it was appropriate to hear the BBC's London Marathon theme being
played at the service which ended with the pop song 'Keep on Running'. He greatly enjoyed
running and considered himself a serious runner. Thus the award by Running Magazine of the
title 'Fun Runner of the Year' didn't go down at all well... 26-09-11
The funeral took place on Tuesday 9th June 2009
at The Forest Park Crematorium, Forest Road, Hainault. Essex. IG6 3HP.
Laurence was involved in a fatal accident in Wood Lane, Dagenham at the junction of Gosfield
Road opposite the Dagenham Civic Centre. 4-06-09
Chas Walker (on right) was a former VAC President (1999) and an
active distance runner up until 1998, and quite a character.
The Belgrave site citation says
Charlie Walker 1929-2008
It is with deep regret that we must announce that the President of Belgrave
Harriers, Charlie Walker, died yesterday afternoon, Wednesday 13th
Charlie’s career was a prodigious one to say the least. He ran with success
at the top level of competition when this country’s middle and long distance runners were
household names and second to none!
In any other period he would no doubt have gained himself full international
Gordon Pirie, Frank Sando, Alec Olney, John Parlett, Chris Chataway… these
are just some of the stars of the ’50s & ’60s with whom Charlie tangled with over track,
road and cross country. He trained with them, raced against them, was beaten by them and on
occasions beat them in return. 14-02-08
Jim Day died suddenly on Sunday morning (1 July 2007). Jim would have
been 74 in August and the following year would have achieved 50 years membership of
Blackheath & Bromley HAC. 4-07-07
|Jim McQuillin died around the 26 December 2006 after a short illness.
An Epsom & Ewell Harrier, distance runner and official; he was also a former Membership
Secretary of VAC. The funeral was private. It is understood that there was a plan to scatter his
ashes on Banstead Downs on Sunday 14 January 2007. 6-01-07