Commonwealth gold medallist Alder joins Scottish Hall of Fame

COMMONWEALTH Games marathon winner Jim Alder has become the seventh athlete to be inducted into the Scottish Athletics Hall of Fame. The Glasgow-born runner won gold at the 1966 Games in Kingston, Jamaica, and took silver four years later when Edinburgh hosted the event.

His most enduring achievement in track and field, however, was set before either of those Games. In October 1964, he set a world two-hour record which still stands to this day: 37,994 metres.

Born in June 1940 in Glasgow, Alder lost both his parents as an infant, and found foster parents in Morpeth in the north-east of England. He set six Scottish records in the years from 1964 to 1972, all of which remain on the books today. His time for 30,000 metres is also a UK best performance, while that world best distance for two hours is the longest-lasting world record in athletics.

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While those records showed his versatility across a wide range of distances, it is for his feats in the marathon that Alder is best known in Scotland. But his greatest achievement, that 1966 Commonwealth triumph, was almost taken from him, as he effectively had to win the race twice.

Alder was leading the race as he approached the stadium, but took a wrong turning due to a lack of officials – they were reported to have left their posts to go and see the Duke of Edinburgh. By the time the Scot was put back on track he had been overtaken by Bill Adcocks of England, who had opened up a 50-metre lead.

That was not enough to daunt Alder, however, and he ended up winning by some 30 metres. Earlier in the Games he had taken the bronze medal in the six-mile race.

More success in major events came in 1969, when he claimed another bronze medal in the European Championships in Athens. The following year in Edinburgh he came close to retaining his marathon title, but this time an English competitor did get the better of him, with Ron Hill winning gold.

Hill's time was the first in history to be officially recognised as under two hours ten minutes, and he ended 1970 as the top-ranked marathon runner in the world. He had to be that good to see off the challenge of Alder, who himself set a Scottish native record for the distance of 2hr 12min 04sec on that summer day in the Scottish capital.

Competing at a time when athletics was strictly amateur, Alder had to earn a living as a bricklayer. These days such arduous work would be seen as a severe hindrance to a long-distance runner's training schedule, but Alder took it all in his stride. In 1970, for example, he broke the world 30-kilometre record in London the day after putting in a ten-hour shift at his day job.

He continued to work in the trade after his days as a competitive runner were at an end, and after a spell as proprietor of a sports shop he is now the owner of a building company. At 69 he still runs regularly. "I was born in Scotland, and even though I moved to the north-east of England when I was nine years old, it meant a lot to me to compete for Scotland," he said yesterday. "To be honoured in this way is very special."

Mark Hollinshead, the chair of Scottish Athletics, said: "Forty-five years on, and Jim Alder's records are standing the test of time. It's an honour to induct him into the Scottish Athletics Hall of Fame."

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Alder will be officially inducted at the Scottish Athletics annual awards dinner on Saturday, when he will be presented with the customary Hall of Fame framed photograph. The previous inductees were Wyndham Halswelle, Eric Liddell, Liz McColgan, Tom McKean, Yvonne Murray and Allan Wells.