Athletics world is saddened by the passing of renowned distance running coach Frank Horwill MBE
Tim Hutchings is one of many from the distance running community to pay tribute to legendary coach Frank Horwill, who lost his battle with cancer on Sunday at the age of 84.
The principal founder of the British Milers Club more than half a century ago, he also coached more than 50 international athletes, lectured worldwide on coaching and authored many articles and books.
Hutchings was perhaps Frank’s biggest success, twice winning the silver medal at the World Cross and finishing fourth in the 5000m at the 1984 Olympics.
“He was a quite remarkable, brilliant man; a true eccentric, full of energy, and one who oozed confidence and passion for the sport of running,” said Hutchings. “He was one of the last of the great old school of coaches: whistle, stop-watch, baseball cap and a bus ticket to get to and from the track – and he was very rarely late for a session for decade after decade of coaching at a wide variety of London tracks. And all this after living one of the most fascinating lives one could imagine before athletics became his love; a book on Frank’s 84 years would be a fabulous read.
“I’m just one of hundreds of athletes that Frank has assisted over the years, and I feel privileged to have fallen under his wing at the age of 15 and spent so many great years with him. Not only was he an astonishing motivator but he was undoubtedly one of the great innovators and no higher praise could be applied than the fact that Seb (Coe) and his father Peter used much of Frank’s thinking when devising their training.”
Tim Brennan, chairman of the BMC, said: “Frank has been an inspiration to me and to so many others lucky enough to spend time with him.
“It is hard to believe that such a life force is no longer with us. Frank’s original vision, intellect and leadership sparked a revival of British middle-distance running and without him there would be no British Milers Club.”
Dave Moorcroft, former UK record-holder over 5000m, added: “Frank made a huge impact on middle distance running in the UK and those of us who benefited from his vision and knowledge have much to be grateful to him for.”
Tributed poured in on twitter too, with UK steeplechase champion Luke Gunn saying that Frank was “a true running enthusiast and coaching pioneer”.
In 1963, following a year in which no British male distance runner appeared in the top 10 of either the world or European rankings, he founded the BMC with the aim of boosting standards in this country. The formula used at BMC meetings – which has spawned corresponding “milers’ clubs” in Ireland, Australia, the United States, New Zealand and Malta – is responsible for hundreds of personal bests each season.
Among his first successes was Pete Beacham, whom he guided to a UK 800m record in 1965. Another charge of his, Gill Tivey, set the women’s UK 1500m record in 1968. During his long career, five of his athletes have run sub-four minute miles – the fastest being Hutchings, who ran 3:54:53.
He co-authored with Denis Watts and Harry Wilson the book The Complete Middle Distance Runner, which ran to three editions. He also wrote Obsession for Running, described by The Daily Telegraph as “the athletics book of the year”.
Frank, who was weell known for not being afraid to speak his mind, wrote more than 120 articles for publications such as Athletics Weekly, BMC News, The Coach, Running Times, Peak Performance and Ultra Fit.
He also lectured in Canada, Poland, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Bahrain, Portugal and South Africa.
Renowned for his hard training programmes, Chrissie Wellington, who was once a regular in his group, described the first of her four world ironman triathlon victories as easier than one of his sessions.
However, aside from these achievements, it was his extraordinary enthusiasm and clear love for the sport that made him stand out.
This was demonstrated by his continuing until this year to coach at least four days a week and at weekends despite health problems.
He had two operations for cancer of the stomach and was left with only one third of his stomach. Three years ago he had major heart bypass surgery and he also battled amyloidosis. However, these issues caught him up with him the week before Christmas when he was admitted to hospital.
His death came little over a month after he visited Buckingham Palace to receive an MBE.
The funeral will be on Tuesday January 17 at Christ Church in the Isle of Dogs from 11.45am with a reception after, also on the Isle of Dogs from about 1.45/2pm.
To help with the arrangements, if you intend to come please email Jane Wingrove (Janewingrove1@aol.com), stating what your relationship was to Frank (eg used to train in his squad, current athlete, fellow coach, friend, BMC coach, etc).