Charlie Williams can’t stop running fast

Charlie Williams holding his prize teapot

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.

Charlie Williamscrosses the line at White City, 1956

Charlie Williams cross­ing the line at White City, 1956

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

Charlie and Evelyn Williams at home, by SabrinaWe met at a friend’s house. He asked me to go with him once when he was being presen­ted with some prize. That’s how we got together. We’ve been mar­ried 54 years.

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

Year Age cat­egory Distance Indoor /​
Time (sec)
1978 45 100m out­door 11.1
1987 55 400m out­door 53.98
1996 65 60m indoor 8.17
1997 65 200m indoor 26.41
1998 65 200m out­door 26.06
1999 65 400m out­door 60.84
2002 70 60m indoor 8.47
2006 75 60m indoor 8.80
2007 75 400m out­door 69.51
2009 75 200m indoor 29.94
2011 80 60m indoor 9.55
2011 80 200m indoor 33.05

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.

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