Earl Taylor is 67 and the proud owner of a bus pass – he’s also the proud owner of an athletics gold medal which he won earlier this month as the British Masters Decathlon Open Championships, completing 10 (yes, ten) energy-sapping events.
It was a murderous two-day programme at Oxford, near the track where Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile barrier in 1952. On the first day, Earl ran the 100 metres, did the long jump, shot putt, high jump and finished with the 400 metres. Day two meant the 110 metres hurdles, the discus, pole vault javelin and topping off with the 1500 metres.
Earl, a former pupil of Portadown ‘Tech’, did rather well in track and field events at school, and he recalled that he invariably won the Boys Brigade cross-country championships – “I was beaten twice over the years, by Kenny Vennard and David Swain!” But he packed it in afterwards to eventually run a consultancy business. He came back at the mature age of 58, and now competes in the 65-69 age group.
“At various ages I won Irish and Northern Ireland titles,” he said. These included the decathlon and pentathlon, and he was placed in the top six all over Europe in the Masters, initially in the 55-59 section and then in the 60-64 group.
But the British title has been his high point, with 7,320 points. Not bad for the father of three daughters and the grandfather of three. He won half the events outright, going into the final 1500 metres and gaining another first placing. “I could relax in that one,” he recalled. “And there was such a great camaraderie among the athletes,”
He undergoes a punishing training schedule four days a week that would flatten anyone less than half his age – travelling to the Mary Peters Track in Belfast, the Antrim Forum, an indoor facility in Magherafelt, and to a friend’s house and gym in Richhill.
During the run-up to the UK event, he trained in Tenerife where he met and ran with the Borlee Twins from Belgium who made the 400m finals at the London Olympics - “but I didn’t run quite as fast as they did!”