Tillington man’s whackiest race


He has run with the Olympic gold torch, scaled Ben Nevis, Snowdon and Scafell Pike and even jogged the entire length of the South Downs Way.

But even by 73-year-old Gerald Gresham Cooke’s standards his latest adventure has to be the whackiest.

The Tillington villager was the oldest of 900 competitors, when he ran against 52 horses - and their riders - across a gruelling 22 mile course in the Brecon Beacons.

“Common sense did eventually prevail,” he said afterwards, “I was going to do the whole course myself, but it was up 3000 feet and my wife Angela persuaded me to take part in a relay.”

So he joined forces with fellow Fittleworth Flyer Linda Toombs from Harding, who only admits to being ‘in her 50s’ and Tillington runner Steve Martin, a youngster at 47.

“It was one of the whacky events dreamed up Llanwrtyd Well to attract visitors some years ago.

I heard about it while fishing there and I thought I’d like to give it a go as it sounded so much fun.”

“The competitors came from all over the world and the buzz was amazing.

“It was a little place, not much bigger than Tillington and it was bursting with people.”

As the hour approached for the start, runners gathered in the station yard to eye up the four legged competition and Gerald, as the oldest runner, was interviewed on television.

“The ones to watch were the horses of Arab stock which coped the best with long distances,” he said.

Gerald took the first leg with its steep climbs and runners setting off 15 minutes from the horses.

“It was quite scary at times and you had to take care when the horses came close.”

Five horses overtook Gerald on his leg. He was followed by Steve who took the boggy leg and Linda’s leg included a river crossing.

Gerald’s team finished in three hours and 53 minutes, beating 23 horses and coming a creditable mid way down the 900 strong running list.

“My ambition was to overtake one horse and I felt very exhilarated,” he said.