IN TUNE WITH RUNNING
After leaving the football scene, I managed to retain many contacts throughout the sporting world and with obtaining commissions on the radio I was soon able to expand a growing portfolio of names to encompass the world of showbiz, sport, leisure and pleasure. And by writing a variety of features for the Manchester Evening News, local newspapers and having regular spots on BBC Radio Manchester, I was able to obtain exclusive interviews with sporting stars and in particular marathon runners or footballers.
I recall interviewing star runner Steve Jones at Reebok in Bolton just before he made a name for himself at the Chicago and London marathons. He was a rather shy but polite RAF mechanic then, who had a gruelling training schedule and seemed set for glory.
I also attended the London marathon press promotions and did interviews with Ron Pickering, the veteran Madge Sharples, Jimmy Saville and the great wheelchair champion Tammy Grey Thompson.
My regular scribblings eventually persuaded David Hulme, an experienced senior producer at BBC Radio Manchester to give me a break presenting on some of the new community satellite radio stations being launched around the region. He invited me to produce and present a twice-daily sports programme at BBC Radio Bury – and backed by an excellent management team, we soon attracted a good audience and completed some great outside broadcasts from a number of varied events.
This new show also allowed me to commentate and present a bizarre live radio programme from Gigg Lane about American Football – of which I knew very little – but enjoyed a long programme full of dazzling and attractive cheerleaders, and dozens of mighty men dressed in a mass of colourful ultra padding.
We even organised a few fun runs and charity events in and around Bury despite a terrible winter and freezing conditions in nearby Clarence Park. The format seemed to work well and I was pleased to be invited to continue in a similar role at BBC Radio Rochdale with producer Tony Coll.
Rochdale was a great place to work and right from the start we made a huge hit with the community broadcasting from the centre of town. With the addition of warm spring weather, we organised a major fun run and family day in Springfield Park, which attracted thousands of people. Another popular community day took place at the rugby ground, where once again we were besieged with support.
The only problem I had involved our faces being shown about 20-feet high on the side of buses. When I reached the rugby ground however, I lost my security tag and despite showing the ‘jobsworth’ guy on the gate that my face was on one of the buses, he still insisted on getting my entry approved by AN Other!
The Rochdale experience again proved invaluable and I interviewed rugby stars – including Iolo Williams – who later went on to present bird and wildlife programmes for TV, big Cyril Smith MP, and his mother; a young Lisa Stansfield, Bill Oddie and his mother and plenty of other celebrities with local connections.
We played charity cricket matches against the fire and rescue services, football specials with comedian Jimmy Cricket and alternative features with Dr David Bellamy, Hollywood star Charlton Heston, Oxo TV star Lynda Bellingham, and eccentric steeplejack/steam engine driver extraordinaire Fred Dibnah.
During this time, I was also working with BBC Radio Lancashire at Blackburn presenting a Saturday morning show with lots of OB’s all over Lancashire, reporting for BBC Radio 2 sports commentaries and doing odd shifts for BBC Radio Manchester on London Rd. One of our most talented researchers and receptionists was CarolineHook/Aherne who was a tremendous (if not sometimes controversial) character who created the lovable Mrs Merton character, and writer of the Royle family and several comedy shows.
We were then keen rivals with independent Piccadilly Radio, who had Timmy Mallett hosting their main daytime show, with Michaela Strachan and a young Chris Evans working as a runabout associate.
Despite working for the opposition and taking many listeners away with some seriously good OB’s, I continued to take part in several Piccadilly marathons and one of their top executives Tom Tyrell even let me run in their special 097 number.
Work on the radio attracted other offers from newspapers including Eddie Shah and an offer to work on his Messenger group sports publications.
One of my first regular columns in the newspapers was fondly called ‘Joggers Corner.’ It was a basic information site to start with, simply giving details of forthcoming running events, race meetings, and fitness or charity challenges. It seemed to capture the atmosphere of a new wave of running fever that was now sweeping across the country.
My columns also ran with ‘In Town Tonight’ celebrity reviews for top shows in the north, and ‘where are they now,’ reviews of former stars from the world of showbiz, sport or pop music.
My running continued with a host of strange and challenging events all over the Manchester region and even a special training programme with local Bury North MP Alistair Burt, raising funds for the local hospice and helping him to run his first London Marathon. He later went on to become a cabinet minister.
Work however was often patchy and unreliable as a freelance and having a family to support, when the opportunity came for more regular work and a chance to run my own newspaper again, I accepted the challenge and moved to Derbyshire in 1985 to take over the Matlock Mercury and so begin a fascinating 16 years plus on a temporary contract that was to change my life forever…
© Don Hale 2014 All rights reserved
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