Appreciation of Les Pulman by Andy Bentley and Mike Puddifoot

Andy and I were at senior school together from age 11, and we both showed some ability at athletics early on, although Andy was an equally good footballer often combining a morning match with an afternoon race.

Mike was ‘head hunted’ by TVH due to his prominence in the Ealing district schools cross country. I was asked along at least to share the tedious and irregular 187 bus ride to the Alperton track and we became training buddies under Les at the tender age of 14+, in mid 1967.

Alperton was a cinder track lit in winter by pressure lanterns thinly spread around the track by a cantankerous ‘parky’ named Bill. On wet cold misty winter nights there was something of the Hound of the Baskervilles about it. Despite the differences in our events Les devised progressive training schedules to suit us all. He would be with us in all seasons, always guiding and supporting, never chastising, never letting us down and that created a very tight group for many years.

It was there that Les sowed the seed of a great young athletes section, assimilating a group with Steve Tingle, John Barrow and Graham Jukes (OBE) and a wider team including Pat Heffernan and Seamus Kelly, the most tenacious yet hilarious colleagues one could wish for. The Alperton squad then allied with the Hounslow squad coached by Merv Pretty and included John Davies, John Ovenden and Jim Pearson. The regular weekend race attendances saw 50-seater coaches full of enthusiastic youngsters.

Les was a great leader and motivator, chauffeur, and friend. He and the Team Manager Sam Dalmaine would run us to the ends of the earth for winter and summer comps despite having small and fragile cars which creaked under the weight of too many young athletes jammed inside. We felt we had invented push starts. They had a knack of choosing the right venues and the right teams not only for success but inclusion. They would switch B teamers into the A to get them a prestigious chest puffing medal. Everyone felt welcome wanted and successful. As Boys we rarely lost a team race or relay and as youths won County, North of Thames, Southern only missing out in the National, similarly repeated as Juniors.

Les also went out of his way, with Margaret, to gather us for e.g. afternoon tea at their place in West Ealing. It was our first baptism into Les’s devotion to Sinatra, we did not mind and our appreciation lasts to this day. Injuries were dealt with there by massage with Les’s mixture of olive oil and wintergreen learned from Bob Musgrave, club Masseur in the 50s & 60s. Les’s career lasted many, many years beyond our young group and quite rightly you may ask “who are they.”

Well, we are now a couple of old blokes who remember him like it was yesterday and we owe so much to Les for our development not just as runners but most especially culturally and morally. Quite an epithet some 55+ years on. 

Les dear friend rest in peace but you could start working on some 400 reps and fartlek (yes, he was that progressive in the 60s) for when we join you ……. 

Andy Bentley and Mike Puddifoot