Charlie Williams, 81, holds 11 UK Masters records for running, including two set in 2011. He lives in Harrow with his wife Evelyn, 76
I’ve always run, since my school days in Trinidad. I loved sport, and used to win all the races at school. I tried soccer, but I couldn’t control the ball – I was too quick for it, so my friends said, you should stick to running
I ran as an international for Trinidad, then when I came to England in 1955 I joined the Polytechnic Harriers. From the start, the GB team took me everywhere with them, but I couldn’t run for England until I was in the country for three years.
I’ve never been professional. They would pay expenses for the trip, but that was it. No one was paid. They used to go around the shops, asking them to donate the prizes. You weren’t allowed to accept any prize worth more than seven guineas (£7.30), that was the limit. Once I won a tea-set, and they had to break one of the cups, so it wouldn’t go over the limit for prize money.
I was a motor mechanic, but when I came to England I couldn’t get a job in that. I worked as an electrician on the London Underground for four or five years, mainly nights. I used to do a lot of training during the night: when I had my tea break, instead of sitting drinking tea, I’d run up and down the escalator. Usually it was Oxford Circus. It’s pure strength training. You just run up as fast as you can to build strength for your legs. I used to work 11pm to 7an. I’d go to the running club at six in the evening, and do speed training there.
I worked 28 or 29 years with BT. They liked sportspeople, we used to travel all over the world, maybe once a year. I never stopped. I became a veteran and then a Master athlete. I’ve been all over the world as a Master and have won most of the races I take part in. Last year (2011) I ran in the indoor championships at Ghent in Belgium and won the M80 races at 60m (9.5 sec) and 200m (33.05 sec).
I stopped running for a while last year. After we came back from holiday in Malta, I started going dizzy and the doctor diagnosed a deep vein thrombosis. These days I train at least three times a week for an hour or so. I warm up on my cross-trainer, then I use the grass in the park around here, I don’t often go on the track to train now – it’s too hard on the legs. I have a few weights and a multi-gym out the back, and I do those exercises about three times a week, too.
If I couldn’t run, I’d be very bored. If I don’t run, I don’t feel right, I feel like something’s missing.
Evelyn Williams on life with Charlie… and running
I don’t come from a sporty family. When Charlie was running in the Commonwealth Games, I went shopping with my sister! But as I got older, I went with him to meets a lot more, and then you get roped in. I do teas and coffees, make sandwiches, officiate. So now I’ve quite well known. I love it. It gets me out of the house; everyone is very friendly. We hve a lot of friends through the athletics.
If we sit in a room with ordinary people, Charlie will hardly say a word to anyone. But he’s a different person when he’s running. His whole nature turns: he’s happy and off chatting to everyone.
Just how good is Charlie Williams?
He is very, very good, an unbeaten UK record-holder in almost every age category in Masters’ sprinting, as the table shows. Think of this another way: when Charlie was 65, he ran 60 metres in 8.17 sec. Fifteen years later, aged 80, he ran the same distance in 9.55 sec, dropping less than 1.5sec in 15 years! Or how about this? Charlie’s 9.55 sec speed, aged 80, is 3.04 sec slower than Linford Christie at the same distance, aged 35. That’s fast!
Charlie Williams: UK sprint record-holder
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There’s a truly incredible world of competitive athletics for older people out there. To find out more – whether you fancy watching or competing – take a look at the British Masters Athletic Federation’s website.
We interviewed Charlie Williams in February 2012.