One Day That Changed My Life - Ken Rushton

Sporting Stories writes: Ken Rushton is a much-respected and honoured member of the sports community in North Staffordshire and beyond.  Ken continues to contribute a huge amount to the local running scene, not least as the race director of the iconic Potters ‘Arf half marathon, held on the second Sunday in June each year.

1982. Overweight and unfit, my wife Sue and myself decided to go and watch the first Potteries Marathon which passed through Baddeley Green at mile 23 before finishing at Trubshaw Cross.

Something must have stirred in me to take some action. I knew a neighbour did some running to keep fit for rugby, so tagging along with him puffing and panting I couldn’t even manage a mile. The next step of good fortune was finding a group of runners who used to train twice a week in Milton. I was quickly made welcome and after some training decided to take part in my first race at the end of 1982: the Madeley Half Marathon. Finishing in a respectable 1hr-37mins the bug had bitten me. Fast forward one year and I was on the start line for the 1983 Potts Marathon and four and a bit hrs later I had done it.

A few things happened in the next couple of years: a 10k was to be organised in Milton and volunteers were being sought, this was the start of my organising career.  Also I was introduced to the long run on a Sunday from the Michelin Athletic Club where runners from all clubs in the area trained together.

Last but not least in the list of people who have influenced my life, I was introduced to the great George Kay who explained the concept of North Staffs Road Runners to me, I was hooked, “how can I join?” I asked George, application form produced I was a member, not knowing 11 years later I would become Chairman of NSRRA a position I still hold today. 

Training continued and I was always picking the brains of other runners, Mick Thacker, Norman Deakin and Don Shelley. My times continued to fall but I also discovered cross country which I quickly found I had a real affinity with. From 1984 until 1999 I only missed one North Staffs Cross Country Fixture, first of all with Newcastle AC, then one season with PMAC and finishing with Trentham RC.

Alongside my running career my organising continued, the Milton 10k achieving national acclaim in 1989 as it hosted the AAAs 10k Championship with an amazing field assembling.

Course records of 28 minutes for the Men and 31 Minutes for the Ladies and the 100th runner clocking 35mins-10secs. In 1990 the Milton organising team were asked to take over the running of the Alsager 5. This race is still successful today with over 1000 runners turning up in Alsager in February every year. 

1995 was another turning point in my running life as I became a veteran and a group of us who trained together decided to join Trentham to see what we could achieve as veterans.

For a number of years we were undefeated as a team and also taking many individual awards but the pinnacle was yet to be reached. In 1999 the British Veterans Marathon Championships were to be held in Wolverhampton and with months of training together the hard work we had put in saw us become British Marathon Champions and I had a Gold Medal. Wow I thought, what a journey, but in 2000 we decided to defend our Championship in the Isle of Man where the British Veteran Marathon Championships were to be held.

The race date was August and my 45th birthday was the month before so I had two goals to aim at, those goals were achieved as we were successful in defending our Championship and I was over the moon to win an individual silver medal in my age category. 

Sadly in 2005 I had to retire from running with a serious knee injury, luckily I still had the organising side to keep me involved. So where can I be found today? Well organising the Potters Arf and still looking after Alsager, still Chairman of North Staffs Road Runners and the North Staffs Cross Country League.

I was proud to receive the Tom Brennan award for Services to Sport in 2014 but as proud as I was to receive this award I have to pay tribute to the organising team around me and last but not least I must thank my wife Sue who has been my rock at my side throughout the whole of my running career both in competing and organising.

Thank you Sue