David Moorcroft organised a surprise get together for John Anderson last weekend along with former Leamington C&AC athlete Tim Redman.
Prior to becoming a household name as the referee on the hit 1990s TV show Gladiators, Anderson was a hugely successful international coach, taking Moorcroft from a 14-year-old Coventry schoolboy to the world record holder for 5000 metres 15 years later.
And it was while under Anderson’s guidance that Redman broke the four-minute mile barrier and ran internationally for Great Britain.
Last weekend also marked 44 years since Redman won the boys’ Inter-Counties Cross Country Championships, a race also won by Mo Farah in 1998.
Redman said: “That was a huge win for me as a young lad but it was John Anderson who made me the runner I became after he started coaching me a couple of years later.”
Redman had proved his ability before he went to Anderson, setting numerous Leamington club track records, many that still stand today, including running 4:00.6 for 1500 metres as a 15-year-old.
But it was when he started training regularly with Anderson as a 16-year-old that he really started to develop.
“It was fantastic to be part of such a talented, dedicated and aspiring group of athletes, with Dave at the helm, and John’s influence on all of us was incredible.”
Redman said it was not just Anderson’s undoubted coaching skills that were so special: “John was a phenomenal motivator who made us all believe we could achieve anything if we put our minds to it.”
Redman suffered a near-fatal accident six years ago that left him in a coma for two weeks and hospital for more than five months with badly broken legs, arms and elbow and serious head injuries.
But Anderson was still with him, as he explained.
“While I was in hospital, John helped me massively to recover, even though I hadn’t seen him for a few years.
“You see, while I lay in my hospital bed, I still had the powerful voice of John Anderson in my head, motivating me and pushing me like he’d always done for us athletes,
“But this time, I imagined his encouraging words were to get up and get going and try to get walking again.
“And I did.
“John helped me believe that I would recover from my injuries in my fight back to health and fitness and I worked as hard as I could to get there.
“The presence of John Anderson was such an important factor in my recuperation and continues to be so in my life to this day.”
So last weekend, Anderson who is now 87, Moorcroft and Redman were reunited at Moorcroft’s home in Coventry where they were joined by several more of Anderson’s former charges.
These included Sheila Carey, fourth in the 800m at the Mexico Olympics and John Graham who won the inaugural Rotterdam Marathon in a time of 2:09.
“To be reunited was fantastic, it was just so great,” continued Redman. “We all shared such special times together in the past and those memories and our friendship will last forever.”