“A legend” is how Severn Athletic Club’s Les Davis is regarded by fellow distance runners in the UK, Europe & USA. Now 77, the Tredworth born multi-record holder and champion in all veteran 5 year age groups from 40-44 to 75-79 has amassed a book length list of victories, course records, age group records and representative honours.
He started at 37.”My only sport had been skittles. I smoked 25 a day.” He started accompanying fifteen year old daughter Joanne on training runs. Joanne was a county track & cross-country champion in the junior age groups.
He had a go in local road races, then went with Joanne to a Bournemouth Track trophy meeting. Realising Gloucester would need a 3000 Metre Steeplechaser, club officials arranged for a spare kit to be available and asked for a volunteer. Always the competitor, Les “volunteered,” earning the points vital for Gloucester AC’s victory.
Training & racing became serious. By 1982 he was prominent in the top half of distance races. His first Marathon in 1982 was 2 hours 51 minutes and in the 1982 36 Mile Scottish Two Bridges race he was 6th in 3:34:02, winner Tim Johnston(Portsmouth) in 3:28:36. With Martin Daykin(2nd) & Ken Leyshon(16th), Gloucester AC won the team race.
He became a veteran on 23/5/1983 established amongst the nations leading veterans, good enough to race with the best in the open age group.
The rapidly expanding road race fixture list subsequent to the running boon, engendered by the first London Marathon of 1981 provided rich picking for Davis. He raced everywhere all over the UK, in Europe and had frequent running holidays in the USA with age group wins in the Duluth, Chicago & Las Vegas Marathons.
His fiercely competitive, no excuses attitude was always sporting, earning him respect, friendship & rivalries.
Terry Haines who has advised Davis said, “Les started at a time when it was considered he was too old to do well. Along with other veterans he demonstrated older runners could more than hold their own. I remember when aged 50, he won the Painswick Village 8 Mile Fell Race event considered the preserve of youngsters.”
Davis a bricklayer recalls his training, “Lots of quality distance work on the Forest Of Dean tracks. I ran to work and back and cycled to Gloucester for races.” He was in the tradition of the hard men of British distance running like Basil Heatley, Jim Alder & Bill Adcocks, all time marathon greats with hard manual jobs,
He encouraged many to take up running and was very proud when in the 1996 London Marathon son Chris ran 2 hours 35 minutes and he ran 2 hours 39 minutes, the first father son combination. Daughter Joanne and wife Pauline also ran.
After winning several age group firsts in the London Marathon and running his PB of 2:19:30 in Les Herbier(France) in 1984, he attempted to win a World Vets Title. In 1999 at Gateshead, he won the Vets 55-59 title in 2:41:40. ” I had to run hard to beat a couple of good Germans.”
A staunch club man, he supported the Gloucester AC track team placing in the 5000M & 10000M in British Isles Cup races.
Ever present in the cross-country team usually has a scorer, top honours came in Gloucester’s minor clubs trophy winning the “National” of 1987. He represented England at cross-country in all veterans age groups to 55-59. He was the national over 50 champion and twice won the veterans race at the prestigious Gateshead invitational.
He had many age group victories at the December Lanzarote 4 Day Running Challenge enhancing his European reputation.
At 77, he is still running in local Parkruns around the 24 minute mark. Grandson Alex Rawlings is nationally ranked in cross-country in the UK’s Under 17 age group.
It has been daunting sorting out his all time PB’s. “I was always trying to beat them but racing was more significant.”
1500M(V45) 4:29:7, 3000M(V40) 9:10:5, 5000M(V40) 16:10:1.
1 Mile(V45) 4:54:0, 5K(V50) 16:30:0, 4 Mile(V45) 20:08, 5 Mile(V45) 26:19, 10K(V40) 30:51, 10 Miles(aged 39) 52:04, Half Marathon(V40) 1:08:12, 20 Miles(V40) 1:53:57 & Marathon(V40) 2:19:30.