RICKY WILDE and his records

by Neil Shuttleworth

The 2007 Lantern Pike fell race has just seen Andi Jones (Salford H) equal the second fastest winning time (30:04) there, thirty years after Ricky Wilde (Manchester H) ran 29:12 in the inaugural race. A day later a neighbour enquired of the race and I said Andi was OK as he had three hundred chasing him. Well, 284 actually but the queueing for the stiles is another story. "Ricky was a world class athlete," said my neighbour. I agreed then gave him a brief resume of his athletic career. For those new to the sport I recap on this conversation.

Wilde did the 1968 Three Peaks race off the cuff (no specific training) and to plagiarise Joe Lancaster in The Guardian, Ricky - the sheepdog - faithfully followed its master - Mike Davis who was on for this fourth consecutive win. Wilde "stopped in his tracks at Winterscale" and 'crawled' up Whernside to finish fifth at the Hill Inn.

In 1970 he had a tremendous cross-country season and placed sixth in both the National and the International, the pinnacle of any cross-country runner's dreams. He was also fourth Briton there. That winter he had broken the world record for 3000m indoors when winning the European title (7:47.0) having won the UK too. A year later he was credited with the very fast time of 58:40 for the Manchester YMCA 20km race yet only placed third.

"I am lazy, says world champ!" was the headline he had generated in 1972, and this was the man who was a key part of Manchester and District Lads Club Harriers success over the country and in road relays when they (or Bolton) were then the dominant team - at least in the North.

For the 1972 Olympic Marathon trial (Maxol Marathon) he went well for about 20 miles being up with the leaders in what was truly an international marathon race. He dropped many places in the then dismal setting of Trafford Park and came 36th, way off the selectors radar. That day he was just a footnote - 36, R Wilde (Manchester & D) 2:23:04.

His best time for a marathon was set in the States when he ran 2:14:44 for Grandmas Marathon. He was fifth best Briton that year, and that was worth about 40th in the world.

1R Wilde2:14:4423 June 1979Duluth, USA

On the fells Wilde was outstanding - take the Snowdon race, he turned up for the second one in 1977 and won it in a new record time with specialists like Jeff Norman and Mike Short in his wake. He took 66:07, compared to the current record of 62:29 by Ken Stuart (1985).

Personally, I recall many of us were timed out of the 1971 Karrimor as Plas-y-Brenin. Unofficially Ricky and John Irwin (Bingley) were sixth with myself and Peter Walkington eighth. But the last checkpoint had been withdrawn and only four finished.

Once when I asked him about that 1977 Lantern Pike record he was so modest that all he would say was 'I ran hard all the way'. And that is what Ricky wrote of that epic race at Hayfield in Bill Smith's Stud Marks.

One could use the analogy to a kettle boiling and say that Ricky was on the boil that day. But what talent he had even when he was just simmering.

Finally, I quote from his club's centenary history -
Ricky Wilde had a number of outstanding performances in 1980. There were wins for him in the Darwen Moors, Fairfield Horseshoe, Lyme Park, Great Hill and Edenfield Fell Races, the last named in a new record time. He also had 2nd placings in the Saddleworth and Kinder Downfall races. At the AAA Marathon championship in Milton Keynes he finished 17th in 2:19:23.
So for many years Ricky Wilde has been making his mark. He was absent from the 2007 Lantern Pike race because he was attending the World Veterans Track and Field Champs in Italy. Come next year and we'll see that it is thirty years since Saddleworth's Pots and Pans race record was set by Ricky, a remarkable runner. I do not for one minute feel that a slightly shorter course is the answer to sceptics who say "the course has changed" - take the Saddleworth race: the late inimitable Frank Sykes told me that if more than a hundred started it was on the road at an equivalent distance one would have run from the original mill yard start. No, on his day Ricky was steaming from all portholes. And thirty years ago on the hills he was producing super-heated steam.