We mourn the loss of one of running’s champions, and a unique character. Andy Holden was an athlete whose heroic consumption of ale did nothing to stop him winning.
From the Telegraph (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/10572152/Andy-Holden-obituary.html)
14 Jan 2014
Andy Holden, who has died aged 65, was a UK record holder for the 3,000m steeplechase and an athlete of remarkable versatility, achieving the unique feat of representing Great Britain in five distance running disciplines: roads, cross-country, fells, and indoors and outdoors on track.
In an era when the enthusiastic amateur could still excel in athletics, Holden — a dentist by profession — managed to compete at the highest level without sacrificing his passion for real ale. He reputedly drank 10 pints of beer the night before winning the Bermuda marathon in 1979, a race which saw him break Ron Hill’s course record and beat a world-class field that included Charlie Spedding, who would take the bronze medal in the marathon at the Los Angeles Olympics five years later.
Andy Holden (centre) chasing Dave Bedford (right) and Jack Lane (left)
John Andrew Holden was born on October 22 1948 at Leyland, Lancashire, and showed exceptional ability as an athlete from a young age . He studied Dentistry at Birmingham University and, after qualifying, remained in the West Midlands, eventually setting up his own practice at Coseley, near Dudley.
He secured his first major title in 1969, when he won the English junior cross-country championships ahead of the future 10,000m world record holder Dave Bedford, and the following year competed at the Commonwealth Games. He was at the European Championships in 1971, and at the 1972 Olympics in Munich — in that year he also set the UK 3,000m steeplechase record (8m 26.4 sec).
Holden won World cross-country gold with the England team in 1979, but by now he was also making his name in marathons: he was victorious three times in the Bermuda event, and also won in Hong Kong.
His habitual good humour was sorely tested in the Belfast Marathon in 1986 when, after striding clear of the field, he was led astray by the lead car, which twice took him on the wrong route — at seven miles and again at 22. He still managed to finish second in the race (beaten by 10 seconds), but was able to joke with journalists afterwards: “It’s just one of those things which happen — it was an Irish marathon.”
Holden was a dedicated coach to hundreds of youngsters at his club, Tipton Harriers; and despite his achievements he liked nothing better than to turn out for Tipton, however small the meeting, flogging across many a muddy field in club cross-country events across Britain. It was team victories in the national cross-country championships and 12-stage road relays that he most treasured.
Noted in the close-knit athletics community for his joviality and humility, Holden was also held in awe for his ability to consume seemingly enormous quantities of ale while continuing to perform to the highest standards. At his peak, he achieved an ambition to run 100 miles and drink 100 pints in a single week; and he would regularly perform an after-race trick of drinking a pint while standing on his head — once while he was up a tree. The great Olympian Steve Cram once said to him: “I wish I was an athlete in your day — it sounded much more fun.”
In his professional life, Holden was opposed to the privatisation of dentistry, fearing that those in need could find it more difficult to access services, and he remained an NHS-only dentist throughout his career. He was a staunch supporter of the homeless charity Crisis.
On one of his training runs, Holden came across a dog which had been weighed down with bricks and left to drown in a canal. He adopted it, and Schnicky became his faithful companion, for some years enthusiastically accompanying its owner when he went running.
Andy Holden, who three years ago suffered an aortic aneurysm, is survived by his wife, Paula, and by their three sons and one daughter.
Andy Holden, born October 22 1948, died January 4 2014