Running with Roger Bannister put Cecil Walkley on track for an extraordinary life

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By Emily Piesse

Updated

March 17, 2018 12:31:01

Video: Cecil Walkley still in the running at the age of 88

(ABC News)
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“I just wasn’t as good as them. I didn’t win, but I completed.”From Kenya to NarembeenIn 1962, Dr Walkley moved to the tiny Wheatbelt town of Narembeen to be a general practitioner, where he delivered “50 to 60 babies” every year. Not complaining. I was there for the independence of Kenya.””I looked after [Ugandan dictator] Idi Amin every time he came through [in training].”I was seconded to Paramount filming corporation and looked after the personnel on [the film] Hatari! Photo:
Dr Walkley is training for the Australian Masters Athletics Championships in April. with John Wayne.”During his time in Kenya, Dr Walkley organised the Army’s local athletics competition.”[Before one race] at the last moment, one of the Kenyan three-milers fell sick so I ran for Kenya. (Supplied: Graeme Dahl)
A life forged in warBorn at a Hill Station in Murree, Pakistan to British parents, Dr Walkley’s childhood was shaped by war.His father, a quartermaster in the Royal Army Medical Corps, was posted to Egypt in 1938, taking his young family with him. There was [Chris] Chataway … there was [Chris] Brasher, who later on won the Olympic steeplechase, and Bannister.”

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Cecil Walkley (right) and Chris Brasher running the three-mile event at London’s White City Stadium in 1950. And running — lots of running.These days, the dedicated middle-distance runner still pounds the track in suburban Perth every Thursday night, at the Ern Clark Athletics Centre in Cannington.”It’s exhilarating. But the great thing, and I don’t care what age you are, is keep moving,” he says.”I’ve had a wonderful life. Photo:
Dr Walkley retired from his job as a rehabilitation physician just five months ago. Sporting greats, African dictators and John Wayne — Cecil Walkley has packed plenty in to his 88 years. (ABC News: Emily Piesse)
“I met somebody, a British doctor who said ‘go to Western Australia, it’s a very exciting place to go to, particularly if you go to the country’,” he said.”[They told me] ‘you’ll do some veterinary work and you’ll see lots of animals’ … which I did in my four years there.”The married father-of-three later become a rehabilitation physician in Perth, retiring just five months ago.In April, on his 89th birthday, he will compete at the Australian Masters Athletics Championships in Perth as a member of his WA club.A stroke last year and a heart failure in 2012 threatened to end his running career, but Dr Walkley said he had excellent rehabilitation — and the motivation to get through it.”A certain amount is genetic. (ABC News: Sarah Collard) (ABC News: Sarah Collard)
“I was with the parachute field ambulance for nine months and then I was fortunate enough to get a secondment to the King’s African Rifles,” Dr Walkley said.”I had a lovely time in East Africa … Not nearly.”
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Roger Bannister runs a sub-four minute mile
Running for Kenya, Idi Amin and John WayneAs a recipient of a Kitchener scholarship, Dr Walkley was required to serve time in the military and he spent six years in the British Army. I think that’s the right word to use,” he says.But years ago, at the peak of his career, the former doctor ran against one of the greats — one-mile record-breaker Sir Roger Bannister, who died two weeks ago.”I started curiously enough when I was in Egypt at the age of 10,” Dr Walkley says.”I found I could run fairly well.”

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Dr Walkley started running aged 10 and is still clearing hurdles on the athletics track. And I hope it hasn’t ended yet.”

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Despite suffering a stroke and heart failure, Dr Walkley says he has plenty left in front of him. Not much far behind, but I was.”Dr Walkley’s home town was Oxford, where Bannister attended university, and the pair trained together during vacations.”I broke the London University three-mile record, in those days, on the same day Bannister broke the mile university record.””[I] couldn’t catch him. They were evacuated with other families to South Africa a few years later, before returning to England on a troop carrier.”We got bombed several times in the Mediterranean,” Dr Walkley recalls.”Then when I got back to Britain, I was sent off to boarding school.”Competing against the starsAfterwards, Dr Walkley studied medicine at Cambridge University, where he ran against the marquee names of his generation.”There was four of us.