The 1958 beer mile? Running disaster stories

Have university athletes changed since 1958 at Oxford. What happens when they find themselves invited to a race in Dublin, the home of Guinness? This post is part of the running disaster stories series, a series of stories about those races or training runs that did not quite go as planned.

In case you missed it, the previous disaster story: The wardrobe malfunction. Here’s the next story in the series!

When you wish to attend the storied institution of Oxford university, you don’t just apply to Oxford University, you apply to one or more of their colleges. The application process may have changed somewhat now, but when my mum and dad attended, each college had it’s own entrance exam and interviews. Each college had it’s own sports teams and competed against each other. You probably know at least one famous running alumni from Oxford: Roger Bannister. Bannister started his running career in the fall of 1946 while studying medicine at Exeter College at Oxford and it was at a meet between British AAA and Oxford University at Iffley Road Track in Oxford, May 6, 1954 where Roger Bannister became the first man to break the 4 minute mile

What follows is my father(Tim Andrew)’s tale of carrying on the family tradition of running on one of the Oxford college cross country teams just 4 years after fellow Oxford alumni Roger Bannister inspired the nation.  Tim’s father also raced for Oriel, 30 years earlier, and based on the photo below, that team won the two mile relay.

Oriel college 1926 cross country team photo for winning two mile relay
Oriel College 1928 winners of the two mile relay, somewhere in this photo is Leslie Andrew, father of Tim Andrew.

In the fall of 1958, I was captain of the Oriel College Oxford Cross Country team. Now, before you are too impressed, you should understand that every college had their own team. A college was made up of about 250 students, so sometimes it was hard to field a full team of 8 runners. That said, Oriel college was one of the stronger teams. We had three runners in 1956 who ran for the university team, and another runner  who had trained with Bannister. I tried out for the Oriel college team in first year but didn’t make the cut. The next year, I did make the team, and due to the fact I volunteered and no-one else wanted the job, I also became team captain.

1958 Oriel College Cross Country Team
Oriel College Cross Country team 1958-1959. Tim Andrew is seated in the middle of the front row

We competed every one to two weeks. Most meets were 5 or 6 mile runs against one or two other Oxford college teams or occasionally a Cambridge college. 8 runners could enter, and the top four runners on each team earned points based on their finish position. The team with the most points at the end of the meet won. 

Trinity college in Dublin had always been a twin college to Oriel so it was not uncommon to arrange competitions against them. Because of this history between the colleges, that meant travel costs to a meet against Trinity College in Dublin would be subsidized, which provided the perfect opportunity for a match up.

Sample room Guinness factory 1958
P.G. Holbourns, Foreman in charge of the Sample Room, draws a glass of Draught Guinness for tasting – photo came from the post “Draught Guinness 1958: Two casks one tap”

We travelled by boat to Dublin where Trinity were amazing hosts. They took us to the theatre the first night, and the next morning invited us to join them to tour the Guinness factory. The tour itself was interesting (check out “Draught Guinness 1958:Two Casks one Tap” to learn how they made Guinness beer at the time) and of course it terminated in a hospitality room where we were encouraged to try free samples of different Guinness beers. These were not small samples, but in fact were proper filled glasses of beer if it was on tap, or bottles if they weren’t on tap. I never realized how many different beers Guinness produced. We partook in a fine assortment of samples with our hosts and then headed to nearby Phoenix Park for the race itself.

When we arrived at the park, we discovered, much to our chagrin, that the team that had accompanied us to the brewery was not the team that we were going to race!

At this point, I was of course under the influence of a not insignificant number of stouts and porters. I was also unfamiliar with the race route. The only sensible course of action, I decided, was to ensure that I kept the captain of the opposing team in sight throughout the race so that I would not make a wrong turn. I seem to remember he was quite a serious runner, and had competed for Ireland in the Commonwealth games. But, as you can imagine, my memories of this race are somewhat fuzzy, so don’t quote me on that. In a sort of bladderfull single minded blur I stuck with him, close enough for us to exchange a few friendly words. I was still with him when I saw the finish line ahead. At this point I had two thoughts, the first was “I think I may be able to pick up the pace and pass him,” the other was “the sooner I finish, the sooner I can take care of my full bladder that has just spent 5 miles being jostled about.” That second thought may have in fact been the more prominent motivation, but regardless, I ran past him to win the race and to my amusement I also set a personal best by a solid minute per mile! 

Who is Tim Andrew?

Tim Andrew ran cross country and later on moved up to running marathons. He ran his first marathon in 1978 in Fredericton, New Brunswick in tennis shoes. He posted a personal best of 3hrs 10 minutes in 1982 winning the Masters category of the Atlantic Invitational marathon which was fast enough to qualify for Boston, although at the time running Boston was impractical. He and his wife Sheila were both well known on the New Brunswick road racing scene in the 1980s, collecting a large number of trophies and medals for age group and masters top three finishes. Sadly, shoes held together by shoe goo were not kind to his knees, so running is no longer an option. But, if you visit Fredericton, you may well spot him crossing the train bridge on his bicycle. There is also a good chance you will spot him appreciating a beer at the Lunar Rogue Pub, though it will probably be a Moosehead rather than a Guinness.  

If you enjoyed this post check out the previous disaster story “The wardrobe malfunction” a story that features Tim’s wife (my mum!),Sheila Andrew, (as you can see running runs in the family!) or check out the rest of my running related posts which include race reports, gear reviews, and other posts I write to amuse myself but that do occasionally amuse others.

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