ghost runner john tarrant

Accessibility links

  • Skip to content
  • Accessibility Help

The Ghost Runner: John Tarrant's story of triumph and tragedy

23 August 2022 23 August 2022 . From the section Sport

BBC Sport Insight banner

Easter Monday, 1957. A heavy gloom settled over Doncaster as crowds gathered for the half marathon ending in Sheffield.

The starting area was swarming with race stewards, many carrying a photo of the man they had been instructed to stop at all costs.

To the officials he was a gatecrasher, a scoundrel who must be prevented from racing. To almost everybody else, he was a downtrodden champion battling injustice.

Runners now pressed forward as the start time neared. The local mayor raised his arm to the clouds and with the crack of his starting pistol, the race was under way. Seconds later, another sound ripped through the air.

A spectator huddled beneath a long coat and a large hat had thrown his disguise clear, revealing his racing attire as he jumped, numberless, into the race. The spectators thundered their approval, and the stewards flailed as he skipped around them to join the runners disappearing down the road.

John Tarrant's sporting career fused triumph and tragedy. One of Britain's finest long-distance athletes of the late 1950s and 1960s, he ran multiple world records but was denied his full share of glory by the stubborn authorities who banned him from racing.

Tarrant wouldn't let them stop him. He was a dogged and brilliant competitor. A numberless outlaw. They called him the Ghost Runner.

Short presentational grey line

Born in London in 1932 to parents John and Edna, Tarrant lived his early years in poverty but they were loving nonetheless. His brother Vic arrived in 1935 and, for a time, life progressed as childhood should.

However, in 1940, with their mother's health failing and their father called up to man London's anti-aircraft batteries, the brothers were sent to Lamorbey Children's Home in Kent. There they would remain for the next seven years.

A stark setting at the best of times, life at Lamorbey was intensified by the terror of the Blitz. It got worse for the Tarrant boys. Two years later, their mother Edna died from tuberculosis.

It wasn't until August 1947 that their father collected them. Recently remarried and with a new-born baby, he moved the family to the Derbyshire town of Buxton, on the edge of the Peak District.

In this beautiful and savagely hilly landscape, the young Tarrant took to running with a stubborn zealousness that quickly consumed him. It became his catharsis. Soon he was known for a capacity to push himself further than most would even consider attempting.

"He used running as his psychological help," says Nicola Tyler, who is chair of the Ghost Runners running club in Hereford and was trained by Tarrant's brother Vic for many years.

"After that kind of childhood, of course, you're going to be angry and rebellious."

In 1949, aged 17, Tarrant took up boxing and participated in Buxton's inaugural fight night. He competed a further seven times over two years, earning himself a total of £17 - worth about £400 today. Full of heart but lacking much prowess, he quit the sport in 1951, blissfully unaware how damaging his inglorious stint as a professional boxer would turn out to be.

Various manual labour jobs came and went, usually discarded in search of more time to run. Even on honeymoon after his marriage to Edith Light in 1953, Tarrant took along his training gear. With his weekly mileage quickly climbing, he'd set his sights on the Olympics - but first he needed to join a club.

John Tarrant

British athletics in the 1950s was governed according to a moral standard supposedly inspired by the Ancient Greeks but which stank of inequality and exclusion.

Held up as a symbol of integrity, amateur sports were not to be sullied by those who had ever received payment for competing. It was a rule which, as Britain clawed itself out of the wreckage of World War Two, disproportionately affected the poor.

Most got round the issue by simply not disclosing any earnings, but Tarrant felt it only right to formally declare his boxing exploits when applying to join the Amateur Athletic Association (AAA).

Two weeks later a letter arrived returning his six shillings subscription fee. He was informed that he was now banned from amateur athletics for life - including events such as the de facto British championships and trial races for Olympic selection. He bombarded officials with replies, pleading his case, but to no avail.

Driven by a burning sense of injustice, Tarrant and his brother Vic concocted a plan. Why not simply run unregistered in the AAA races? Not only would it allow him to compete, it might even spark a debate within the media.

Things began badly, however. Various misfortunes meant they arrived late to race starts in Macclesfield and Leeds. Nothing was left to chance when Tarrant arrived in Liverpool for the city's marathon on 11 August 1956.

After discreetly changing, he wound his way through crowds to the start line, the only man without a number.

As the race began, he attached himself to the leading pack before bursting clear after 11 miles. Rarely one for finesse or race strategy, Tarrant would come with one gear - full throttle - and a relentless, almost reckless approach to competition.

In this case, his rookie exuberance held up until mile 19 when he was caught by the chasing pack. His body racked with exhaustion and cramp, he slumped to the ground two miles from the finish.

Despite this disappointment, Tarrant's endeavours in Liverpool had caught the eye. After he gave an impromptu press conference before boarding the train back to Buxton, a new nickname spread, courtesy of the Daily Express: the Ghost Runner.

Over the coming years he would repeat the trick again and again, gatecrashing races across the country. As media attention and public interest grew, he would frequently need to slalom through a pack of stewards desperately trying to catch him at the start of races. When he won, which he began to do frequently, his success would be met either with eerie silence or a public scolding over the loudspeakers.

And yet, despite the official line, Tarrant had become a hugely popular character who would be cheered on by hundreds, sometimes thousands, of spectators.

"Tarrant was an unattractive human sledgehammer of a runner but with an indomitable spirit," says Bill Jones, author of The Ghost Runner - The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Catch.

"He ticked all the right boxes in the 1950s of the young, angry, working-class hero."

In 1958 a letter finally arrived from the AAA informing Tarrant that his ban had been overturned. Although exact reasoning was not given, the decision came just one month after Harold Abrahams - 100m gold medallist at the 1924 Paris Olympics and influential member of various athletic committees - wrote an article highlighting crude deficiencies in the case against Tarrant.

But elation quickly gave way to renewed resentment. It emerged that while Tarrant had been cleared to run in British races, he would remain banned from representing his country internationally.

His dream of running at the Olympics crushed, Tarrant nonetheless went on to dominate the domestic scene, establishing himself as one of the best long-distance runners in Britain.

The 1960s saw him win a blizzard of events, including the London to Brighton 54-mile race twice, the Liverpool to Blackpool 48-mile race three times, and the Exeter to Plymouth 44-mile race five times. He set world records at 40 and 100 miles - to go with his Territorial Army 110-mile march record set in 1959.

But just as in Liverpool, there were also numerous races where he failed to finish, often because of the stomach complaints that plagued his career. On any given day he could reign supreme or be seen staggering away, arms clutched around his abdomen.

By the mid-1960s, a sense of dissatisfaction was setting in. The desire for a new challenge, and to compete around the world, now consumed Tarrant.

South Africa's Comrades Marathon, linking Durban and Pietermaritzburg, describes itself as the oldest ultra-marathon in the world, stretching for about 55 miles through KwaZulu-Natal province.

In 1968 it was still an exclusively white male race. Black competitors, and women, were formally excluded. But a few still raced nonetheless.

Tarrant was among the interlopers that year, after South African officials rejected his application to run following pressure from the AAA. For the first time in his life, the Ghost Runner joined other phantoms on the fringes.

A fourth-place finish was more than respectable, but below par in the eyes of Tarrant. He returned the following year, this time while entertaining the idea of emigrating.

His second Comrades looked like being a complete disaster but was salvaged by a gutsy display that saw him finish 28th after suffering debilitating stomach issues along the way - far beyond what had seemed possible at halfway.

Tarrant took on the Comrades twice more, in 1970 and 1971, failing to finish both times. His dream of conquering the gruelling contest remained unfulfilled, but it did lead to arguably his defining moment.

During the 1969 Comrades, whispers began circulating about a new, multi-ethnic race that would be open to all. As the date neared, it remained unclear whether it would go ahead and how many - if any - white runners would compete.

On the morning of 6 September 1970, as runners gathered in Stanger for the Gold Top Marathon, a 50-mile race to Durban, there was a solitary white competitor: John Tarrant. He won it in five hours 43 minutes.

The following year the number of white runners doubled, with a 15-year-old Dave Upfold, who had begun training with Tarrant occasionally, also competing.

"We were expecting the police, maybe even the army," says Upfold.

"In 1971 we simply weren't allowed to compete together, but there was nothing.

"It was the start of the acceptance that people of colour could run, and run well.

"By 1975, the Comrades was fully integrated with women and all ethnicities taking part, and Tarrant was certainly part of that."

Tarrant also won that 1971 Gold Top, improving his time by three minutes, but serious problems were emerging.

Six weeks later he suffered a massive haemorrhage and woke up vomiting blood. Doctors failed to diagnose a cause so he was discharged from hospital and soon back running over 100 miles a week. All was clearly not well, but quite remarkably, one final epic remained.

On 23 October 1971, 12 runners, including a 39-year-old Tarrant, began the Radox 100 Mile track race held at the Uxbridge Sports Centre in west London.

By mile 60 he was struggling badly, alternating between walking and slowly jogging, with race leader Ron Bentley 17 minutes ahead. The once imperious ghost was fading dramatically and few held much hope of him finishing, let alone winning.

But as he had done time and time again, Tarrant dug deep into what propelled him and battled on. Slowly the gap began to shrink until he was just two laps behind Bentley. Suddenly the unthinkable seemed possible.

In the end, thanks to a late burst, Bentley finished 14 minutes ahead of second-placed Tarrant, who ended his last major race in an appalling condition - his lips blue, froth seeping from his mouth as he collapsed at the finish line. Eventually his brother Vic, his steadfast rock throughout the years, shepherded him into a waiting car and the Ghost Runner disappeared. Forever.

"It was Tarrant's greatest race," said race organiser Eddie Gutteridge in Jones' book, The Ghost Runner.

"He was in bits, mortally ill as we now know. God knows how he did it. It moved you to be there."

Two years later Tarrant was finally diagnosed with stomach cancer. He died on 18 January 1975, aged just 42.

Today, in his adopted home of Hereford, close to the city's running club, stands a sculpture in his honour - created, somewhat symbolically, by vulnerable teenagers living in a residential home nearby.

"He believed in fairness. Fairness for himself, fairness for everybody, equality for all," says Upfold. "Nearly 50 years after his death, people still remember the name John Tarrant."

Tyler adds: "He wasn't allowed to officially win, but he was still determined to show people what he could do.

"It wasn't just about running. It was about overcoming adversity and believing in yourself. That's why people still love this story."

Top Stories

Luke Littler celebrates at the World Darts Championship

'It's a free hit' - Littler bids for historic title

  • From the section Darts

Rory McIlroy

McIlroy open to LIV if it becomes 'IPL of golf'

  • From the section Golf
  • 437 Comments

Emma Raducanu

Raducanu enters main draw at Australian Open

  • From the section Tennis

More from Sport Insight

Aitana Bonmati

'She was like a tsunami' - the unstoppable rise of Bonmati

Andriy Shevchenko

A gift beyond the grave - Shevchenko's vow and victory

Matt Crossen gives a thumbs up with his England team-mates in the background

'If I didn't have my stroke, would I be playing for England?’

Mayo's Lee Keegan dejected after the game 2017

Cursed? The story of the 72-year-old hex that haunts Mayo

Luis Diaz, John W Henry and Xander Bogaerts

Glory and fury - Liverpool, Boston and a tale of two teams

Carlos Tevez, Oscar and Gareth Bale in a composite images with Mandarin text

From bidding for Bale to selling team bus - the fall of Chinese Super League

Frank Soo playing for Stoke

England's pioneer who died with a tale untold

Anthony Mullally swims in the sea off the Cornish coast

The remote retreats shaping men and medal prospects

Morocco fans in Spain celebrate their teams win over Spain

A rivalry heated by history - the significance of Morocco's win over Spain

USA players celebrate making the World Cup

Bags of urine, cans of Bud and the team that saved US soccer

Claressa Shields cheers on leaving the ring

'Don't mess with Claressa' - a fighter as hard as Flint

Justine Blainey smiles after winning her final court case and being allowed to play ice hockey with boys

'Yes, you're good enough - but you're a girl'

Graphic of James Anderson, Nasser Hussain & Henry Olonga

When politics derailed England's World Cup campaign

Dan Carter, Conrad Smith and Richard Kahui

The 'little black book' behind every All Black

Rudie van Vuuren (right) and Sachin Tendulkar (left)

The doctor who played at World Cups in two sports

Courtney Dauwalter

Up close and personal at the biggest, wildest trail race in the world

Elsewhere on the bbc.

Hunting the Rolex Rippers

Why is luxury watch theft on the rise?

Journalist Tir Dhondy meets the gang members behind the crime

Caroline Aherne

A celebration of Caroline Aherne's comic genius

Featuring contributions from Steve Coogan and Craig Cash

Attenborough and the Giant Sea Monster

The Tyrannosaurus rex of the seas!

Sir David Attenborough investigates the discovery of a lifetime...

Morecambe and Wise: In Their Own Words

One of British television's greatest double acts

Eric and Ernie's remarkable career, through rare material from the BBC archives

Also in Sport

Luke Littler is just one match away from winning the PDC World Darts Championship at the age of 16

Luke Littler - the 16-year-old who is changing darts

Stock image of South Africa bowler Nandre Burger

The smiling South African quick defying calls for more menace

Kalvin Phillips, Aaron Ramsdale and Ivan Toney

Who could be on the move in January?

Naomi Osaka

'She's ready to conquer again'

Football Daily graphic

Football Daily: The Africa Cup of Nations preview

England cricketer Jos Buttler, footballer Jude Bellingham, Olympic diving champion Tom Daley and Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft all have major events in 2024

Sporting highlights to look forward to in 2024

Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver George Pickens

Beckham Jr & Fields star in NFL Plays of the Week

Usman Khawaja (left), Kane Williamson (middle) and Virat Kohli (right) have all impressed with the bat in 2023

Your men's Test team of the year revealed

A split picture of Katrina Gorry, Mary Earps and Ellie Roebuck

What to look out for in WSL January transfer window

Split image of Anthony Joshua celebrating, Katie Taylor & Chantelle Cameron fighting and Anthony Yarde celebrating

AJ-Fury & Taylor-Cameron III - boxing matches we want in 2024

Jamie Vardy celebrates

Name first Premier League scorer in every year since 2000

Split image of Natalie Gilbert in a wheelchair after her stroke and later picture of her following her first Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) tournament win

'Like a baby' after a stroke at 25 to a darts champion at 40

Pat Cummins, Meg Lanning, Ben Stokes and Heather Knight

How much do you remember from the year of cricket?

Danielle Collins serves against Caroline Garcia in the quarter-finals of the San Diego Open

The stories behind 2023's best sporting photos

Mirra Andreeva and Ben Shelton

Which young stars could shine on court in 2024?

Bruno Fernandes, Jermain Defoe & Luis Suarez

Fernandes, Defoe & Suarez - best goals by January signings

ghost runner john tarrant

We've updated our Privacy and Cookies Policy

We've made some important changes to our Privacy and Cookies Policy and we want you to know what this means for you and your data.

  • Find out what's changed
  • Close privacy banner

Let us know you agree to data collection on AMP

We and our partners use technologies, such as cookies , and collect browsing data to give you the best online experience and to personalise the content and advertising shown to you. Please let us know if you agree.

  • Accept data collection and continue
  • Manage my settings
  • Close cookie banner

Manage consent settings on AMP pages

These settings apply to AMP pages only. You may be asked to set these preferences again when you visit non-AMP BBC pages.

The lightweight mobile page you have visited has been built using Google AMP technology.

Strictly necessary data collection

To make our web pages work, we store some limited information on your device without your consent.

Read more about the essential information we store on your device to make our web pages work.

We use local storage to store your consent preferences on your device.

Optional data collection

When you consent to data collection on AMP pages you are consenting to allow us to display personalised ads that are relevant to you when you are outside of the UK.

Read more about how we personalise ads in the BBC and our advertising partners.

You can choose not to receive personalised ads by clicking “Reject data collection and continue” below. Please note that you will still see advertising, but it will not be personalised to you.

You can change these settings by clicking “Ad Choices / Do not sell my info” in the footer at any time.

  • Reject data collection and continue

The Ghost Runner: John Tarrant's story of triumph and tragedy

  • By Olivier Guiberteau

Image source, British Pathe

Tarrant (left), pictured celebrating victory at the London-Brighton race of 1968

Easter Monday, 1957. A heavy gloom settled over Doncaster as crowds gathered for the half marathon ending in Sheffield.

The starting area was swarming with race stewards, many carrying a photo of the man they had been instructed to stop at all costs.

To the officials he was a gatecrasher, a scoundrel who must be prevented from racing. To almost everybody else, he was a downtrodden champion battling injustice.

Runners now pressed forward as the start time neared. The local mayor raised his arm to the clouds and with the crack of his starting pistol, the race was under way. Seconds later, another sound ripped through the air.

A spectator huddled beneath a long coat and a large hat had thrown his disguise clear, revealing his racing attire as he jumped, numberless, into the race. The spectators thundered their approval, and the stewards flailed as he skipped around them to join the runners disappearing down the road.

John Tarrant's sporting career fused triumph and tragedy. One of Britain's finest long-distance athletes of the late 1950s and 1960s, he ran multiple world records but was denied his full share of glory by the stubborn authorities who banned him from racing.

Tarrant wouldn't let them stop him. He was a dogged and brilliant competitor. A numberless outlaw. They called him the Ghost Runner.

Born in London in 1932 to parents John and Edna, Tarrant lived his early years in poverty but they were loving nonetheless. His brother Vic arrived in 1935 and, for a time, life progressed as childhood should.

However, in 1940, with their mother's health failing and their father called up to man London's anti-aircraft batteries, the brothers were sent to Lamorbey Children's Home in Kent. There they would remain for the next seven years.

A stark setting at the best of times, life at Lamorbey was intensified by the terror of the Blitz. It got worse for the Tarrant boys. Two years later, their mother Edna died from tuberculosis.

It wasn't until August 1947 that their father collected them. Recently remarried and with a new-born baby, he moved the family to the Derbyshire town of Buxton, on the edge of the Peak District.

In this beautiful and savagely hilly landscape, the young Tarrant took to running with a stubborn zealousness that quickly consumed him. It became his catharsis. Soon he was known for a capacity to push himself further than most would even consider attempting.

"He used running as his psychological help," says Nicola Tyler, who is chair of the Ghost Runners running club in Hereford and was trained by Tarrant's brother Vic for many years.

"After that kind of childhood, of course, you're going to be angry and rebellious."

In 1949, aged 17, Tarrant took up boxing and participated in Buxton's inaugural fight night. He competed a further seven times over two years, earning himself a total of £17 - worth about £400 today. Full of heart but lacking much prowess, he quit the sport in 1951, blissfully unaware how damaging his inglorious stint as a professional boxer would turn out to be.

Various manual labour jobs came and went, usually discarded in search of more time to run. Even on honeymoon after his marriage to Edith Light in 1953, Tarrant took along his training gear. With his weekly mileage quickly climbing, he'd set his sights on the Olympics - but first he needed to join a club.

Tarrant won London-Brighton twice following the lifting of his ban

British athletics in the 1950s was governed according to a moral standard supposedly inspired by the Ancient Greeks but which stank of inequality and exclusion.

Held up as a symbol of integrity, amateur sports were not to be sullied by those who had ever received payment for competing. It was a rule which, as Britain clawed itself out of the wreckage of World War Two, disproportionately affected the poor.

Most got round the issue by simply not disclosing any earnings, but Tarrant felt it only right to formally declare his boxing exploits when applying to join the Amateur Athletic Association (AAA).

Two weeks later a letter arrived returning his six shillings subscription fee. He was informed that he was now banned from amateur athletics for life - including events such as the de facto British championships and trial races for Olympic selection. He bombarded officials with replies, pleading his case, but to no avail.

Driven by a burning sense of injustice, Tarrant and his brother Vic concocted a plan. Why not simply run unregistered in the AAA races? Not only would it allow him to compete, it might even spark a debate within the media.

Things began badly, however. Various misfortunes meant they arrived late to race starts in Macclesfield and Leeds. Nothing was left to chance when Tarrant arrived in Liverpool for the city's marathon on 11 August 1956.

After discreetly changing, he wound his way through crowds to the start line, the only man without a number.

As the race began, he attached himself to the leading pack before bursting clear after 11 miles. Rarely one for finesse or race strategy, Tarrant would come with one gear - full throttle - and a relentless, almost reckless approach to competition.

In this case, his rookie exuberance held up until mile 19 when he was caught by the chasing pack. His body racked with exhaustion and cramp, he slumped to the ground two miles from the finish.

Despite this disappointment, Tarrant's endeavours in Liverpool had caught the eye. After he gave an impromptu press conference before boarding the train back to Buxton, a new nickname spread, courtesy of the Daily Express: the Ghost Runner.

Over the coming years he would repeat the trick again and again, gatecrashing races across the country. As media attention and public interest grew, he would frequently need to slalom through a pack of stewards desperately trying to catch him at the start of races. When he won, which he began to do frequently, his success would be met either with eerie silence or a public scolding over the loudspeakers.

And yet, despite the official line, Tarrant had become a hugely popular character who would be cheered on by hundreds, sometimes thousands, of spectators.

"Tarrant was an unattractive human sledgehammer of a runner but with an indomitable spirit," says Bill Jones, author of The Ghost Runner - The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Catch.

"He ticked all the right boxes in the 1950s of the young, angry, working-class hero."

In 1958 a letter finally arrived from the AAA informing Tarrant that his ban had been overturned. Although exact reasoning was not given, the decision came just one month after Harold Abrahams - 100m gold medallist at the 1924 Paris Olympics and influential member of various athletic committees - wrote an article highlighting crude deficiencies in the case against Tarrant.

But elation quickly gave way to renewed resentment. It emerged that while Tarrant had been cleared to run in British races, he would remain banned from representing his country internationally.

His dream of running at the Olympics crushed, Tarrant nonetheless went on to dominate the domestic scene, establishing himself as one of the best long-distance runners in Britain.

The 1960s saw him win a blizzard of events, including the London to Brighton 54-mile race twice, the Liverpool to Blackpool 48-mile race three times, and the Exeter to Plymouth 44-mile race five times. He set world records at 40 and 100 miles - to go with his Territorial Army 110-mile march record set in 1959.

But just as in Liverpool, there were also numerous races where he failed to finish, often because of the stomach complaints that plagued his career. On any given day he could reign supreme or be seen staggering away, arms clutched around his abdomen.

By the mid-1960s, a sense of dissatisfaction was setting in. The desire for a new challenge, and to compete around the world, now consumed Tarrant.

South Africa's Comrades Marathon, linking Durban and Pietermaritzburg, describes itself as the oldest ultra-marathon in the world, stretching for about 55 miles through KwaZulu-Natal province.

In 1968 it was still an exclusively white male race. Black competitors, and women, were formally excluded. But a few still raced nonetheless.

Tarrant was among the interlopers that year, after South African officials rejected his application to run following pressure from the AAA. For the first time in his life, the Ghost Runner joined other phantoms on the fringes.

A fourth-place finish was more than respectable, but below par in the eyes of Tarrant. He returned the following year, this time while entertaining the idea of emigrating.

His second Comrades looked like being a complete disaster but was salvaged by a gutsy display that saw him finish 28th after suffering debilitating stomach issues along the way - far beyond what had seemed possible at halfway.

Tarrant took on the Comrades twice more, in 1970 and 1971, failing to finish both times. His dream of conquering the gruelling contest remained unfulfilled, but it did lead to arguably his defining moment.

During the 1969 Comrades, whispers began circulating about a new, multi-ethnic race that would be open to all. As the date neared, it remained unclear whether it would go ahead and how many - if any - white runners would compete.

On the morning of 6 September 1970, as runners gathered in Stanger for the Gold Top Marathon, a 50-mile race to Durban, there was a solitary white competitor: John Tarrant. He won it in five hours 43 minutes.

The following year the number of white runners doubled, with a 15-year-old Dave Upfold, who had begun training with Tarrant occasionally, also competing.

"We were expecting the police, maybe even the army," says Upfold.

"In 1971 we simply weren't allowed to compete together, but there was nothing.

"It was the start of the acceptance that people of colour could run, and run well.

"By 1975, the Comrades was fully integrated with women and all ethnicities taking part, and Tarrant was certainly part of that."

Tarrant also won that 1971 Gold Top, improving his time by three minutes, but serious problems were emerging.

Six weeks later he suffered a massive haemorrhage and woke up vomiting blood. Doctors failed to diagnose a cause so he was discharged from hospital and soon back running over 100 miles a week. All was clearly not well, but quite remarkably, one final epic remained.

On 23 October 1971, 12 runners, including a 39-year-old Tarrant, began the Radox 100 Mile track race held at the Uxbridge Sports Centre in west London.

By mile 60 he was struggling badly, alternating between walking and slowly jogging, with race leader Ron Bentley 17 minutes ahead. The once imperious ghost was fading dramatically and few held much hope of him finishing, let alone winning.

But as he had done time and time again, Tarrant dug deep into what propelled him and battled on. Slowly the gap began to shrink until he was just two laps behind Bentley. Suddenly the unthinkable seemed possible.

In the end, thanks to a late burst, Bentley finished 14 minutes ahead of second-placed Tarrant, who ended his last major race in an appalling condition - his lips blue, froth seeping from his mouth as he collapsed at the finish line. Eventually his brother Vic, his steadfast rock throughout the years, shepherded him into a waiting car and the Ghost Runner disappeared. Forever.

"It was Tarrant's greatest race," said race organiser Eddie Gutteridge in Jones' book, The Ghost Runner.

"He was in bits, mortally ill as we now know. God knows how he did it. It moved you to be there."

Two years later Tarrant was finally diagnosed with stomach cancer. He died on 18 January 1975, aged just 42.

Today, in his adopted home of Hereford, close to the city's running club, stands a sculpture in his honour - created, somewhat symbolically, by vulnerable teenagers living in a residential home nearby.

"He believed in fairness. Fairness for himself, fairness for everybody, equality for all," says Upfold. "Nearly 50 years after his death, people still remember the name John Tarrant."

Tyler adds: "He wasn't allowed to officially win, but he was still determined to show people what he could do.

"It wasn't just about running. It was about overcoming adversity and believing in yourself. That's why people still love this story."

Top Stories

Live live, world darts final: 16-year-old littler v humphries, 'it's a free hit' - littler bids for historic title, live live, la liga: real madrid v mallorca.

  • Skip to primary navigation
  • Skip to main content
  • Skip to primary sidebar

Click here to download the  free ebook of Alberto Juantorena’s   detailed training workouts leading up to the 1976 Montreal Olympics

SpeedEndurance.com

Success in Track & Field ... and Life

Ghost Runner–The John Tarrant Story

August 12, 2011 by Jimson Lee Leave a Comment

Last Updated on October 31, 2015 by Jimson Lee

If you think Jim Thorpe got screwed over by Avery Brundage, then John Tarrant is another person to add to that list.

John Tarrant was banned for life from running because he was paid £17 GBP for expenses as a teenage boxer in the 1950s, thus labeling him as a “professional”.

But his love for running was greater than that.  He ran without a bib number (we call them “bandits” nowadays) and he became one of the greatest long-distance runners the world has ever seen.

There are several reviews of his book on the web.  The best 2 are here:

Ghost Runner- The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop

  • By Bill Jones ( Independent.co.uk )
  • By Pat Butcher ( Globerunner.org )

Here’s a snippet:

But Tarrant, wearing a rucksack packed with rocks, pounded the Derbyshire hills, growing stronger, faster and more angry with every patronising rejection he received. By the summer of 1956, it was a hell he could no longer live in. Arriving alone in Liverpool on a warm, August Saturday he calmly stepped unannounced into a crack field of international marathon runners, wearing moth-eaten plimsolls and a shirt with no number. For over 20 miles no one could touch him; then, just as suddenly, he was gone. Within 24 hours, his story was out, and every newspaper wanted a piece of it. The Daily Express tracked him down to Buxton and tagged him “the ghost runner”. “I ran to convince the AAA that I am purely amateur and race for the love of it,” he told them. “I needed to show I had the ability.” For left-leaning tabloids such as the Daily Mirror, this dour, hard man was manna from heaven; a working-class underdog in a loaded fight against the chinless toffs they had hoped a Labour government would sweep away.For the next two years, “the ghost” gatecrashed races all over Britain, and as security increased to stop him, so did Tarrant’s cunning. Apoplectic officials armed with his photograph would be left fuming when he hopped off the back of his brother’s motor-cycle, slipped out of a crude disguise near the start and hared off after the leading pack, the crowd delightedly urging on the man with no number. Finally, in 1958 – with one terrible caveat – the administrators caved in. Tarrant would be allowed to run in Britain, but never for Britain. There would be no GB blazer, no parade under the Italian sun. Instead, almost permanently broke, wearied by the battle and steadily weakened by stomach cancer, he took himself to new challenges beyond the reach of the “gentlemen players”. In the 1960s world records would come at 40 miles and then 100 miles (over 12 non-stop hours around a track). In South Africa he tore up the apartheid rulebook, running as the only white in outlawed black races, a “ghost among ghosts”; he is still a hero there today, long after he succumbed to his illness in 1975.

ghost runner john tarrant

About Jimson Lee

I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation , writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America .

Reader Interactions

Leave a reply cancel reply.

Andros Townsend: Luton Town winger indicators new long-term contract

Gilbert arenas calls on lakers, lebron to signal him after burying threes just like the outdated days in video, fact or fiction: the sentry received't miss jon rahm this week.

LEAGUES24

The Ghost Runner: John Tarrant's story of triumph and tragedy

Editorial

Easter Monday, 1957. A heavy gloom settled over Doncaster as crowds gathered for the half marathon ending in Sheffield.

The beginning space was swarming with race stewards, many carrying a photograph of the person they’d been instructed to cease in any respect prices.

To the officers he was a gatecrasher, a scoundrel who have to be prevented from racing. To virtually all people else, he was a downtrodden champion battling injustice.

Runners now pressed ahead as the beginning time neared. The native mayor raised his arm to the clouds and with the crack of his beginning pistol, the race was below manner. Seconds later, one other sound ripped by the air.

A spectator huddled beneath a protracted coat and a big hat had thrown his disguise clear, revealing his racing apparel as he jumped, numberless, into the race. The spectators thundered their approval, and the stewards flailed as he skipped round them to affix the runners disappearing down the highway.

John Tarrant’s sporting profession fused triumph and tragedy. One of Britain’s best long-distance athletes of the late Fifties and Sixties, he ran a number of world data however was denied his full share of glory by the cussed authorities who banned him from racing.

Tarrant would not allow them to cease him. He was a dogged and sensible competitor. A numberless outlaw. They known as him the Ghost Runner.

Short presentational grey line

Born in London in 1932 to oldsters John and Edna, Tarrant lived his early years in poverty however they had been loving nonetheless. His brother Vic arrived in 1935 and, for a time, life progressed as childhood ought to.

However, in 1940, with their mom’s well being failing and their father known as as much as man London’s anti-aircraft batteries, the brothers had been despatched to Lamorbey Children’s Home in Kent. There they’d stay for the following seven years.

A stark setting at the perfect of occasions, life at Lamorbey was intensified by the fear of the Blitz. It received worse for the Tarrant boys. Two years later, their mom Edna died from tuberculosis.

It wasn’t till August 1947 that their father collected them. Recently remarried and with a new-born child, he moved the household to the Derbyshire city of Buxton, on the sting of the Peak District.

In this stunning and savagely hilly panorama, the younger Tarrant took to working with a cussed zealousness that shortly consumed him. It turned his catharsis. Soon he was identified for a capability to push himself additional than most would even think about trying.

“He used running as his psychological help,” says Nicola Tyler, who’s chair of the Ghost Runners working membership in Hereford and was skilled by Tarrant’s brother Vic for a few years.

“After that kind of childhood, of course, you’re going to be angry and rebellious.”

In 1949, aged 17, Tarrant took up boxing and took part in Buxton’s inaugural struggle evening. He competed an additional seven occasions over two years, incomes himself a complete of £17 – value about £400 as we speak. Full of coronary heart however missing a lot prowess, he give up the game in 1951, blissfully unaware how damaging his inglorious stint as knowledgeable boxer would transform.

Various handbook labour jobs got here and went, normally discarded in the hunt for extra time to run. Even on honeymoon after his marriage to Edith Light in 1953, Tarrant took alongside his coaching gear. With his weekly mileage shortly climbing, he’d set his sights on the Olympics – however first he wanted to affix a membership.

John Tarrant

British athletics within the Fifties was ruled in response to an ethical commonplace supposedly impressed by the Ancient Greeks however which stank of inequality and exclusion.

Held up as an emblem of integrity, newbie sports activities had been to not be sullied by those that had ever obtained fee for competing. It was a rule which, as Britain clawed itself out of the wreckage of World War Two, disproportionately affected the poor.

Most received spherical the problem by merely not disclosing any earnings, however Tarrant felt it solely proper to formally declare his boxing exploits when making use of to affix the Amateur Athletic Association (AAA).

Two weeks later a letter arrived returning his six shillings subscription price. He was knowledgeable that he was now banned from newbie athletics for all times – together with occasions such because the de facto British championships and trial races for Olympic choice. He bombarded officers with replies, pleading his case, however to no avail.

Driven by a burning sense of injustice, Tarrant and his brother Vic concocted a plan. Why not merely run unregistered within the AAA races? Not solely wouldn’t it permit him to compete, it would even spark a debate inside the media.

Things started badly, nonetheless. Various misfortunes meant they arrived late to race begins in Macclesfield and Leeds. Nothing was left to probability when Tarrant arrived in Liverpool for the town’s marathon on 11 August 1956.

After discreetly altering, he wound his manner by crowds to the beginning line, the one man with out a quantity.

As the race started, he connected himself to the main pack earlier than bursting clear after 11 miles. Rarely one for finesse or race technique, Tarrant would include one gear – full throttle – and a relentless, virtually reckless method to competitors.

In this case, his rookie exuberance held up till mile 19 when he was caught by the chasing pack. His physique racked with exhaustion and cramp, he slumped to the bottom two miles from the end.

Despite this disappointment, Tarrant’s endeavours in Liverpool had caught the attention. After he gave an impromptu press convention earlier than boarding the prepare again to Buxton, a brand new nickname unfold, courtesy of the Daily Express: the Ghost Runner.

Over the approaching years he would repeat the trick repeatedly, gatecrashing races throughout the nation. As media consideration and public curiosity grew, he would steadily must slalom by a pack of stewards desperately making an attempt to catch him initially of races. When he gained, which he started to do steadily, his success could be met both with eerie silence or a public scolding over the loudspeakers.

And but, regardless of the official line, Tarrant had turn out to be a massively widespread character who could be cheered on by tons of, generally 1000’s, of spectators.

“Tarrant was an unattractive human sledgehammer of a runner but with an indomitable spirit,” says Bill Jones, writer of The Ghost Runner – The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn’t Catch.

“He ticked all the right boxes in the 1950s of the young, angry, working-class hero.”

In 1958 a letter lastly arrived from the AAA informing Tarrant that his ban had been overturned. Although actual reasoning was not given, the choice got here only one month after Harold Abraham – 100m gold medallist on the 1924 Paris Olympics and influential member of varied athletic committees – wrote an article highlighting crude deficiencies within the case in opposition to Tarrant.

But elation shortly gave method to renewed resentment. It emerged that whereas Tarrant had been cleared to run in British races, he would stay banned from representing his nation internationally.

His dream of working on the Olympics crushed, Tarrant nonetheless went on to dominate the home scene, establishing himself as the most effective long-distance runners in Britain.

The Sixties noticed him win a blizzard of occasions, together with the London to Brighton 54-mile race twice, the Liverpool to Blackpool 48-mile race thrice, and the Exeter to Plymouth 44-mile race 5 occasions. He set world data at 40 and 100 miles – to go along with his Territorial Army 110-mile march report set in 1959.

But simply as in Liverpool, there have been additionally quite a few races the place he failed to complete, usually due to the abdomen complaints that plagued his profession. On any given day he might reign supreme or be seen staggering away, arms clutched round his stomach.

By the mid-Sixties, a way of dissatisfaction was setting in. The want for a brand new problem, and to compete world wide, now consumed Tarrant.

South Africa’s Comrades Marathon, linking Durban and Pietermaritzburg, describes itself because the oldest ultra-marathon on the planet, stretching for about 55 miles by KwaZulu-Natal province.

In 1968 it was nonetheless an completely white male race. Black opponents, and ladies, had been formally excluded. But a number of nonetheless raced nonetheless.

Tarrant was among the many interlopers that 12 months, after South African officers rejected his software to run following stress from the AAA. For the primary time in his life, the Ghost Runner joined different phantoms on the fringes.

A fourth-place end was greater than respectable, however beneath par within the eyes of Tarrant. He returned the next 12 months, this time whereas entertaining the concept of emigrating.

His second Comrades seemed like being a whole catastrophe however was salvaged by a gutsy show that noticed him end twenty eighth after struggling debilitating abdomen points alongside the way in which – far past what had appeared doable at midway.

Tarrant took on the Comrades twice extra, in 1970 and 1971, failing to complete each occasions. His dream of conquering the gruelling contest remained unfulfilled, however it did result in arguably his defining second.

During the 1969 Comrades, whispers started circulating a few new, multi-ethnic race that may be open to all. As the date neared, it remained unclear whether or not it might go forward and what number of – if any – white runners would compete.

On the morning of 6 September 1970, as runners gathered in Stanger for the Gold Top Marathon, a 50-mile race to Durban, there was a solitary white competitor: John Tarrant. He gained it in 5 hours 43 minutes.

The following 12 months the variety of white runners doubled, with a 15-year-old Dave Upfold, who had begun coaching with Tarrant sometimes, additionally competing.

“We were expecting the police, maybe even the army,” says Upfold.

“In 1971 we simply weren’t allowed to compete together, but there was nothing.

“It was the beginning of the acceptance that folks of color might run, and run nicely.

“By 1975, the Comrades was fully integrated with women and all ethnicities taking part, and Tarrant was certainly part of that.”

Tarrant additionally gained that 1971 Gold Top, enhancing his time by three minutes, however severe issues had been rising.

Six weeks later he suffered an enormous haemorrhage and awoke vomiting blood. Doctors didn’t diagnose a trigger so he was discharged from hospital and shortly again working over 100 miles every week. All was clearly not nicely, however fairly remarkably, one closing epic remained.

On 23 October 1971, 12 runners, together with a 39-year-old Tarrant, started the Radox 100 Mile observe race held on the Uxbridge Sports Centre in west London.

By mile 60 he was struggling badly, alternating between strolling and slowly jogging, with race chief Ron Bentley 17 minutes forward. The as soon as imperious ghost was fading dramatically and few held a lot hope of him ending, not to mention successful.

But as he had executed time and time once more, Tarrant dug deep into what propelled him and battled on. Slowly the hole started to shrink till he was simply two laps behind Bentley. Suddenly the unthinkable appeared doable.

In the top, because of a late burst, Bentley completed 14 minutes forward of second-placed Tarrant, who ended his final main race in an appalling situation – his lips blue, froth seeping from his mouth as he collapsed on the end line. Eventually his brother Vic, his steadfast rock all through the years, shepherded him right into a ready automobile and the Ghost Runner disappeared. Forever.

“It was Tarrant’s greatest race,” stated race organiser Eddie Gutteridge in Jones’ ebook, The Ghost Runner.

“He was in bits, mortally ill as we now know. God knows how he did it. It moved you to be there.”

Two years later Tarrant was lastly recognized with abdomen most cancers. He died on 18 January 1975, aged simply 42.

Today, in his adopted house of Hereford, near the city’s working membership, stands a sculpture in his honour – created, considerably symbolically, by weak youngsters dwelling in a residential house close by.

“He believed in fairness. Fairness for himself, fairness for everybody, equality for all,” says Upfold. “Nearly 50 years after his death, people still remember the name John Tarrant.”

Tyler provides: “He wasn’t allowed to officially win, but he was still determined to show people what he could do.

“It wasn’t nearly working. It was about overcoming adversity and believing in your self. That’s why folks nonetheless love this story.”

Source: www.bbc.co.uk

' src=

Leagues24.com provides the latest Sports News coverage to sports lovers. News from IPL, India cricket, football, tennis, badminton, Wrestling, WWE, Formula 1, and many Olympic sports.

Related Posts

Nbc to add snoop dogg as reporter for paris olympics protection, husband charged in loss of life of olympic bicycle owner hit by automotive, per report, 'i wrote in my diary that 2023 might be particular', zango goals to be 'image of hope' for burkina faso, 23 for ‘23: simone biles is ready for the future, mikaela shiffrin was the individuals’s champion in 2023, leave a reply cancel reply.

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

Type above and press Enter to search. Press Esc to cancel.

UK Edition Change

  • UK Politics
  • News Videos
  • Rugby Union
  • Sport Videos
  • John Rentoul
  • Mary Dejevsky
  • Andrew Grice
  • Marie Le Conte
  • Sean O’Grady
  • TV & Radio
  • Photography
  • Theatre & Dance
  • Culture Videos
  • Food & Drink
  • Love & Sex
  • Health & Families
  • Royal Family
  • Electric Vehicles
  • Lifestyle Videos
  • UK Hotel Reviews
  • News & Advice
  • Simon Calder
  • Australia & New Zealand
  • South America
  • C. America & Caribbean
  • Middle East
  • Politics Explained
  • News Analysis
  • Today’s Edition
  • Home & Garden
  • Fashion & Beauty
  • Travel & Outdoors
  • Sports & Fitness
  • Sustainable Living
  • Climate Videos
  • Behind The Headlines
  • On The Ground
  • Decomplicated
  • You Ask The Questions
  • Binge Watch
  • Travel Smart
  • Watch on your TV
  • Crosswords & Puzzles
  • Most Commented
  • Newsletters
  • Ask Me Anything
  • Virtual Events
  • Betting Sites
  • Online Casinos

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged in Please refresh your browser to be logged in

John Tarrant: Sad shadow of the 'ghost runner' still stalks the track

As olympic fever mounts, a new biography recalls the incredible story of tarrant, the man british athletics tried to forget, article bookmarked.

Find your bookmarks in your Independent Premium section, under my profile

Sport

Sign up to our free sport newsletter for all the latest news on everything from cycling to boxing

Sign up to our free sport email for all the latest news, thanks for signing up to the sport email.

Next summer, when the world's millions watch their Olympians parade beneath national flags, a lonely widow in a Hereford council flat will reach for the remote and silence her TV in mute fury. For 79-year-old Edie Tarrant, the Olympic flame sputtered out 50 years ago, doused by the tragedy that destroyed and devoured the man she surrendered everything for. No reminder of that pain comes easy. London celebrates, but Mrs Tarrant will merely mourn.

In his pomp during the Fifties and Sixties, her late husband was a legend; a long-distance folk hero; a real-life Alf Tupper known to the world not as John Edward Tarrant but simply as "the ghost runner"; now almost completely forgotten, his fate still throws a long, guilty shadow over British post-war sport. And the pampered ninnies who presided over it.

I stumbled across the story in the 1980s while making a documentary about working-class runners in Manchester. On his death bed in 1975 Tarrant, only 42, penned a clumsily bitter memoir that moved me much as Captain Scott's diaries always had; the reproachful words of men subsumed by their own ambitions.

Born in Shepherds Bush in 1932, Tarrant was a man bereft of good luck. During the war, as his beloved mother lay dying of TB, he was parcelled off to a brutalising children's home in Kent and left there to rot until his father resurfaced (with a new wife) in 1947. By this time, home had switched to the Peak District.

At the weekend Tarrant and his devoted younger brother Victor could choose between Felix Mendelssohn and his Hawaiian Serenaders at Buxton's Pavilion Gardens or boxing in the blood-spattered town hall. No contest for a seething adolescent; the 18-year-old bought some gloves and stepped into the ring. His choice would haunt him like a witch's curse.

After a handful of fights, he had had enough. It wasn't the pain – Tarrant's threshold in this regard was always superhuman – he just didn't like losing. He enjoyed the training more than the ring; striding alone on the High Peak under the skylarks, feeling as if he could run forever, becoming quietly certain that the marathon would be his future. Just a few years ahead of him were the Rome Olympics. He would be there, he felt sure. Wearing a blazer in the parade like his heroes.

For that to happen, he would need to join an AAA-affiliated running club, and on his application to join the Salford Harriers he was asked if he had ever taken money for sport. It was the one question he feared: should he lie, or reveal that as a hapless boxer he had trousered £17 for his pains, knowing that in the prevailing Corinthian spirit of high amateurism – invigilated by zealots who could afford not to work – this wasn't only a folly but a sin beyond pardon? Tarrant, as was his nature, chose honesty and was doomed.

Everyone knew the amateur rules were rotten; designed and policed by people of "gentlemanly status" who eyed the working man's need for cash with disdain and suspicion. The problem in the 1950s was that no one knew how to get rid of them. Aspirant members of the Amateur Rowing Association had to prove they had never stooped to "menial duty". In the late 19th century, any athlete found to have taken cash faced court action and six months' hard labour. Things had mellowed by Tarrant's day, but not by much. Aged 20, he was summarily banned for life – without leave of appeal – from competing in any athletics event, domestically or overseas. His Olympic fantasy lay still-born. Life as a councilplumber loomed large.

But Tarrant, wearing a rucksack packed with rocks, pounded the Derbyshire hills, growing stronger, faster and more angry with every patronising rejection he received. By the summer of 1956, it was a hell he could no longer live in. Arriving alone in Liverpool on a warm, August Saturday he calmly stepped unannounced into a crack field of international marathon runners, wearing moth-eaten plimsolls and a shirt with no number. For over 20 miles no one could touch him; then, just as suddenly, he was gone.

Within 24 hours, his story was out, and every newspaper wanted a piece of it. The Daily Express tracked him down to Buxton and tagged him "the ghost runner". "I ran to convince the AAA that I am purely amateur and race for the love of it," he told them. "I needed to show I had the ability."

For left-leaning tabloids such as the Daily Mirror, this dour, hard man was manna from heaven; a working-class underdog in a loaded fight against the chinless toffs they had hoped a Labour government would sweep away.For the next two years, "the ghost" gatecrashed races all over Britain, and as security increased to stop him, so did Tarrant's cunning. Apoplectic officials armed with his photograph would be left fuming when he hopped off the back of his brother's motor-cycle, slipped out of a crude disguise near the start and hared off after the leading pack, the crowd delightedly urging on the man with no number.

Finally, in 1958 – with one terrible caveat – the administrators caved in. Tarrant would be allowed to run in Britain, but never for Britain. There would be no GB blazer, no parade under the Italian sun. Instead, almost permanently broke, wearied by the battle and steadily weakened by stomach cancer, he took himself to new challenges beyond the reach of the "gentlemen players". In the 1960s world records would come at 40 miles and then 100 miles (over 12 non-stop hours around a track). In South Africa he tore up the apartheid rulebook, running as the only white in outlawed black races, a "ghost among ghosts"; he is still a hero there today, long after he succumbed to his illness in 1975.

In a moving obituary in The Observer, Chris Brasher described Tarrant as "the most honest man I have ever met". How many lesser athletes who have followed him with their sponsorship deals and their "supplements" would merit even this simple accolade? How many – when outlawed by their sport – would run 5,000 miles a year without one penny paid into their trust funds? Not enough, I suspect, to persuade Edie Tarrant to feel any differently about what she watches on the television next summer.

The Ghost Runner: The Tragedy Of The Man They Couldn't Stop by Bill Jones is published in hardback by Mainstream on 7 July, £12.99

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Subscribe to Independent Premium to bookmark this article

Want to bookmark your favourite articles and stories to read or reference later? Start your Independent Premium subscription today.

New to The Independent?

Or if you would prefer:

Want an ad-free experience?

Hi {{indy.fullName}}

  • My Independent Premium
  • Account details
  • Help centre

We will keep fighting for all libraries - stand with us!

Internet Archive Audio

ghost runner john tarrant

  • This Just In
  • Grateful Dead
  • Old Time Radio
  • 78 RPMs and Cylinder Recordings
  • Audio Books & Poetry
  • Computers, Technology and Science
  • Music, Arts & Culture
  • News & Public Affairs
  • Spirituality & Religion
  • Radio News Archive

ghost runner john tarrant

  • Flickr Commons
  • Occupy Wall Street Flickr
  • NASA Images
  • Solar System Collection
  • Ames Research Center

ghost runner john tarrant

  • All Software
  • Old School Emulation
  • MS-DOS Games
  • Historical Software
  • Classic PC Games
  • Software Library
  • Kodi Archive and Support File
  • Vintage Software
  • CD-ROM Software
  • CD-ROM Software Library
  • Software Sites
  • Tucows Software Library
  • Shareware CD-ROMs
  • Software Capsules Compilation
  • CD-ROM Images
  • ZX Spectrum
  • DOOM Level CD

ghost runner john tarrant

  • Smithsonian Libraries
  • FEDLINK (US)
  • Lincoln Collection
  • American Libraries
  • Canadian Libraries
  • Universal Library
  • Project Gutenberg
  • Children's Library
  • Biodiversity Heritage Library
  • Books by Language
  • Additional Collections

ghost runner john tarrant

  • Prelinger Archives
  • Democracy Now!
  • Occupy Wall Street
  • TV NSA Clip Library
  • Animation & Cartoons
  • Arts & Music
  • Computers & Technology
  • Cultural & Academic Films
  • Ephemeral Films
  • Sports Videos
  • Videogame Videos
  • Youth Media

Search the history of over 867 billion web pages on the Internet.

Mobile Apps

  • Wayback Machine (iOS)
  • Wayback Machine (Android)

Browser Extensions

Archive-it subscription.

  • Explore the Collections
  • Build Collections

Save Page Now

Capture a web page as it appears now for use as a trusted citation in the future.

Please enter a valid web address

  • Donate Donate icon An illustration of a heart shape

The ghost runner : the tragedy of the man they couldn't stop : the true story of John Tarrant

Bookreader item preview, share or embed this item, flag this item for.

  • Graphic Violence
  • Explicit Sexual Content
  • Hate Speech
  • Misinformation/Disinformation
  • Marketing/Phishing/Advertising
  • Misleading/Inaccurate/Missing Metadata

some pages text closer to gutter due to cut of text

[WorldCat (this item)]

plus-circle Add Review comment Reviews

Download options.

No suitable files to display here.

IN COLLECTIONS

Uploaded by station45.cebu on July 13, 2020

SIMILAR ITEMS (based on metadata)

ghost runner john tarrant

Ultrarunning History

Podcast and Stories

63: The 100-miler: Part 10 (1968-1969) Walton-on-Thames 100

Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 32:12 — 40.4MB)

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Amazon Music | Android | Pandora | iHeartRadio | JioSaavn | Podcast Index | Email | TuneIn | RSS | More

By Davy Crockett 

ghost runner john tarrant

Racing 100 miles also rose from the ashes. A long-forgotten indoor 24-hour race started up in Los Angeles California where western ultrarunners strived to reach 100 miles on a tiny track, up seven stories, in the busy downtown metropolis.

But the most significant 100-mile race of the decade was held in 1969, at Walton-on-Thames in Surrey, England. The race featured many of the greatest ultrarunners of the world at that time who were interested in trying to run 100 miles. It was a fitting way to finish out the 1960s and news of the event would help spawn many other 100-milers in the 1970s. In America it re-opened the sport to distances longer than 50 miles.

Race-Walking 100 miles

ghost runner john tarrant

Larry O’Neil – America’s Walking Champion

ghost runner john tarrant

After graduation from college in 1928, with a degree in economics, O’Neil joined his father’s lumber business in Kalispell and then founded the Forest Products Company, a retail lumber yard in Kalispell. He began training to be a marathon runner, hoping to run at Boston in 1932. However, he injured his Achilles tendon at work and that finished his serious running career. But with his arduous outdoor life in Montana, he stayed very physically fit.

ghost runner john tarrant

In 1964 he attended a National AAU meet held in Kalispell, Montana. It included a 3,000-meter walking race. O’Neil came to watch. He explained, “I looked at the track and field program and saw this 3,000-meter walking event. I didn’t know what it was, but I figured it would be the easiest event of the meet. About that time, there was an announcement over the loudspeaker that two walkers had dropped out.” Walkers were recruited from the stands and O’Neil, age 57, hustled over to enter on a dare. He did well, finishing 4 th out of 10 walkers. O’Neil remembered, “I’m sure my form back then might have been declared illegal today. Some judges must have been wearing dark glasses to allow us to finish.” O’Neil discovered that walking long distances were his forte a started seriously competing in 12 AAU events during the next couple years.

America’s National 100-mile Championship

ghost runner john tarrant

In 1967 O’Neil received word that a National 100-mile walking championship would be held in Columbia Missouri. The event, sponsored  by the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department, established by Bill Clark, would be held on the 440-yard Hickman High School Track.

O’Neil said, “I figured they were handing out six trophies so I could probably take sixth. I just wanted to see if I could do it, go 100 miles.” He increased his training. He added sprint running to build up his speed, followed by sprint walking on a track at Flathead High School. He then increased his daily miles on the track to 12 miles. For strength training, he would also walk from the west shore of Flathead Lake to the radar station atop Blacktail Mountain, thirteen miles and a climb of 4,400 feet. “I had to see if the higher altitude bothered my wind. It didn’t”

Then a disappointment occurred. On his last trip up the mountain, he cut the side of his heel. Because of the injury, he was not sure he would be able to compete in the 100-mile event until the day before he was to leave, when he got the okay from his doctor. O’Neil was a bit nervous. “I was cornered. I had been telling my friends I could do better in these walking races if they were a little longer. I had no excuse this time.”

O’Neil, age 60, drove down from Montana and competed against four much younger walkers. Shaul Ladany (1936-) of Israel was the pre-race favorite and got most of the attention. He was undefeated in distances from 50-90 miles and was planning on walking in the 1968 Olympics.

ghost runner john tarrant

Once in the lead, the attention from spectators turned to him. “High school coaches, college coaches, everyone along the sidelines were yelling that I was going too fast. Not knowing if I was, that was the mental strain. When you’ve got hundreds of laps to go, each lap rolls off awfully slow.”

ghost runner john tarrant

O’Neil said, “Soon I began to start lapping Ladany and eventually he dropped out of the race at mile 64. It gave me great impetus to see the great Ladany out of the race.” O’Neil only had one extended stop when he needed to tape his feet to protect them from the coarse red shale gravel on the track. He said, “It got in your shoes and felt like there were filings in there. I didn’t want to stop because my muscles stiffen when I do.” He ate only five salt tables, a dozen dextrose tablets, a dozen vitamin C tablets, and lots of water.

ghost runner john tarrant

During his record walk, O’Neil walked with a very consistent pace throughout and finished with blisters on his feet and was a bit stiff but said he wanted to compete again the next year. He said that the furthest he had previously walked was about 31 miles. “I felt as good as any day in my life and that made the race enjoyable and easy.”  A few days later, O’Neil, with sore feet proclaimed, “That was the last one I’m going to be in.”

American Centurions

ghost runner john tarrant

O’Neil received national attention and it was written, “O’Neil, a modest man with a ready grin, says that while he is in training, he keeps a diet heavy in protein and does a lot of running and walking. Sports Illustrated awarded him a silver bowl for his accomplishment.

O’Neil’s later accomplishments

ghost runner john tarrant

O’Neil never retired from walking. Later that year he even went to Europe and competed in Sweden. He said, “I would still like to have that one perfect race when I knew I couldn’t do any  better. In my last race I didn’t go nearly as fast as my capacity. I wasn’t even tired after 22 hours although my heels were in terrific pain.”

ghost runner john tarrant

A poem was written in his honor that included:

He gave us pride and determination not to give up the fight. He gave us words of encouragement that got us through the night. We’ll never forget the quick, short steps that passed us from behind. And when asked how he was he’d always say “I doin’ fine”

The Last Day Run – Los Angeles

ghost runner john tarrant

Why was it held on Halloween, and why was it called “Last Day Run?” The event was called “Last Day” because it was associated with of an annual 30-day “jog” competition that originated in California. This state-wide competition was established in 1964 by the Olympic Club of San Francisco. Runners would run for 30 days in October. The club would award trophies to the running club with the highest total mileage during the month. Seymour decided to create the 1965 “Last Day Run” to help the club competitors pile up miles on the last day of October. In America’s first modern-era 24-hour race, Seymour won with 50 miles.

ghost runner john tarrant

Bud Murphy was a 41-year-old advertising executive and long-time amateur athlete. Dosti’s wife wrote that Murphy “was pretty. A strapping 6-foot plus, strawberry-blond, baby-blue-eyed Peter O’Toole.” In contrast she described her husband, Lu, as “a 5-foot-9-inch thinning-down-all-the-time Omar Sharif.” Previously, at the 1967 Last Day Run, Murphy reached 100 miles in less than 24 hours. He was determined to defend his championship and run 100 miles faster in 1968.

1968 Last Day Run

ghost runner john tarrant

Dosti didn’t sleep at all and developed tendonitis in both feet. At one point he said, “I quit.” But his coach and race director, Steve Seymour, pushed him back on the track. At the same time Murphy had stomach issues and kept throwing up. He also returned to the track “running like a gazelle.”

ghost runner john tarrant

Three Great Ultrarunners

Late in the 1960s in England, Don Turner had the idea of holding an elite 24-hour hour race but most potential runners desired to run 100 miles. An invitational 100-mile track race was scheduled in 1969 at Walton-on-Thames. Among the entrants were three historically important ultrarunning legends.

ghost runner john tarrant

Box had a focused goal of winning the Comrades Marathon (54 miles). To remind him, he put up a plaque in his bedroom that read, “Win the Comrades.”  He ran it for the first time in 1965 and placed 41 st . His experience and training increased and he finished 7 th in 1966 and 5 th in 1968.

ghost runner john tarrant

On October 11, 1968, Box went after the 100-mile world record on a track in Durban, South Africa. At least seven runners competed in the Durban 100 Miles Track Race. The race had first been held in 1964 when two runners, Manie Kuhn (1934-2005) and Ray Mover (1930-), tied in 17:48:51. The race was then held every two years until 1992.

ghost runner john tarrant

In 1968, Box ran extremely well and claimed the world record by six minutes, finishing in 12:40:48. But because of a time recording issue (lap times not recorded), it was not recognized in England. Six runners finished in less than 15 hours, all from South Africa.

Box followed up that terrific performance with a second place finish at 1969 Comrades. He then headed to England in September to compete on the world stage at London to Brighton, where he finished 5 th . He then prepared for the historic Walton-on-Thames 100 Mile Track Race.

John Tarrant

ghost runner john tarrant

John Tarrant (1932-1975) was born in London, England. In 1950 at the age of 18, he took up boxing and earned 17 pounds at prize-fights at a local town hall. When he discovered that he had talents running, he dreamed of running the marathon in the Olympics and gave up boxing. But he needed to join the Amateur Athletic Association of England (AAA). In 1952 when he tried to register with the organization, he answered honestly that he had a brief career prize-fighting. The AAA officials despised boxing, and unfairly banned him from amateur running competition for life.

ghost runner john tarrant

But Tarrant wanted to run and compete. He continued to train in the Derbyshire hills, getting faster and stronger. He would frequently run to and from work 12 miles each day. In 1956 at Liverpool, he went unannounced to a 20-mile race with international distance runners. He joined the starters, wearing a shirt without a number, and raced. He dominated, no one could come close to him.

ghost runner john tarrant

But clearly Tarrant had rankled the old running establishment and when he intended to run internationally for Britain, he received a letter from that AAA that stated, “No one who is a reinstated professional may take part in international athletic competition.” Tarrant was greatly disappointed. His Olympic marathon dreams were dashed away and he wrote, “Due to my honesty, I had lost the best athletic years of my life, and now faced the prospect of not realizing my true potential. Society often gave murders a second chance but for seventeen miserable pound notes, I was condemned for life.”

ghost runner john tarrant

In 1965 he turned his attention to ultrarunning, breaking course records and setting a 40-mile world record in 1966 of 4:03:28 at Cardiff, Wales. In 1967, he became the first man ever to win the grand slam of Britain’s four principal ultramarathons, London to Brighton (52 miles), Isle of Man (39 miles), Exeter-to-Plymouth (44 miles), and Liverpool-to-Blackpool (48 miles).

ghost runner john tarrant

Also in 1967, the first modern-era American 50-mile championship was held as part of the YMCA Thanksgiving Day Road Race, held in Poughkeepsie, New York with 13 starters. Tarrant went to America to compete. But the night before the race, the British AAA cabled the AAU in America demanding that Tarrant be banned from the race. The AAU decided to recognize the ban, even after all his effort and cost to go to the USA to compete.

ghost runner john tarrant

In 1969, Tarrant went to South Africa to perhaps live permanently. He developed a friendship with rival Dave Box and lived with the Box family. Box said, “We practically adopted him. He had no other social life. No drink. No women. He was part of the family.” Tarrant ran Comrades “bandit” because South African officials unfortunately recognized his international ban. They even warned the other 800 runners not to run near him or they could have action taken against them. Tarrant had a disappointing race with terrible stomach issues and finished in a distant 28 th place.

In the fall of 1969 Tarrant decided to return home to England. He set his sights on breaking the 100-mile world record at Walton-on-Thames. No record intrigued him more. He started training about 40-50 miles per day.

Ted Corbitt

ghost runner john tarrant

Corbitt was known for the huge miles he would put into training. On four occasions he completed 300-mile training weeks while working full time. He explained, “I was doing a lot of experimenting.”

ghost runner john tarrant

Tom Osler, America’s 50-mile champion recalled, “My most memorable meeting with Ted came in 1967 or ’68 when my wife Kathy and I visited him in his apartment in the Bronx. We sat in his living room as he described his training for upcoming ultra races. He frequently ran from his apartment to Manhattan, then circled the entire island of Manhattan and returned home, a distance of almost 35 miles. He would carry change with him so that he could ride the subway in case of difficulty. Sometimes he did two laps – nearly 70 miles!”

In 1969, at age 50, Ted was invited compete in the 100-mile race at Walton-on-Thames in England. He trained hard for the race and even did a 100-mile training run to convince himself that he could go that distance.

1969 Walton-on-Thames 100 Mile Track Race

ghost runner john tarrant

The RRC invitational race was organized at Walton-on-Thames in England to make an attempt to break the recognized 100-mile world record that stood at 12:46:34, held by Wally Hayward. The three titans of ultrarunning at that time were invited and traveled to England. They were Dave Box of South Africa, John Tarrant of England (living in South Africa), and Ted Corbitt of New York City. Of the three, only Box had ever raced 100 miles before. The month before the 100-miler, the three had competed against each other at London to Brighton. Corbitt came in 2 nd , Box in 5 th , and Tarrant DNFed at about 30 miles. Arthur Mail of England also entered the 100-miler. He had run 100 miles in 13:17:59 in 1959.

Runners prepare

ghost runner john tarrant

During the few week leading up to the historic race, Box joined Tarrant at his Hereford apartment and they trained together. Box recalled, “One day I tripped on a curb and tore my thigh muscles. John took me to the football masseur in Hereford and she was an absolute butcher, and I said it was making it worse not better, so I took a few days off.”

ghost runner john tarrant

With twelve days to go, Corbitt returned to London. “Once there, the reality of the 100 brought back all the depression and negativism. He became so homesick for his family that he was seriously tempted to take the next plane home.” But he stuck with it and ran a 45 miles park-hoping training run.

Corbitt dreamed the night before that he had broken his leg. A doctor told him to not run for a year. Ted felt relieved that he would not have to run 100 miles. But when he woke up, the leg was fine and there was no way out. He took a train to stay the day before at Don Turner’s home. He slept for several hours and read to pass the time. Neither man talked about the race. Turner didn’t want to jink Corbitt.

As the day of the race approached, Tarrant did not show his usual jitters, but instead exhibited intense calm. He felt confident that he would do well. His extended family travelled down from Buxton to be there to support him. His brother Victor, who always crewed him, was be at his side. Tarrant spent most of the day before the midnight start sleeping and then took a train with his wife to the venue.

ghost runner john tarrant

There were 25 timekeepers involved to support the 16 starters who would run on a dismal Stompond Lane track at Walton-on-Thames. A special tent was raised in the infield filled with the timers. Sixty officials outnumbered the runners four to one.

“Washing down thick jam sandwiches with honey-sweetened tea, Tarrant still harbored no doubts. As the floodlights sprang on around the 400 meters of cinder, every one of his fellow athletes could sense the change in him.”  He showed determination and certainty. One observed said, “You had that feeling he was more organized than usual. He had a lot more people surrounding him, and he seemed to have a premonition that he would win.”

ghost runner john tarrant

Tarrant arrived about 10 p.m. Corbitt soon also arrived and in the dressing room felt the tension and thought the runners all looked frightened. Ireland’s Noel Henry said, “I’ve look forward to this race for two years and now I don’t want to run it.” Corbitt saw Box and Tarrant restlessly awaiting the gun and realized he would be satisfied to finish and break Sidney Hatch’s American record of 16:07:43 set in 1909 at Riverview Park in Chicago.

Corbitt described, “They used portable lights during the night. They had a tent on the infield which was lit very well. Outside the ten there were blackboards listing 5-mile times.”

“The sky was clouded. The moon struggled through. The gun rang out. They were off on their fantasy journey. Gordon Bentley of Tipton Harriers moved directly into the lead unchallenged with a sub-seven-minute mile pace. The rest quickly broke up into several bunches.”

ghost runner john tarrant

Tarrant’s plan was to run each lap at 1:45 regardless of what was happening around him. But after a few miles, he increased his speed and tried to gain on Bentley. Box, running with Corbitt, shouted as Tarrant lapped them the second time, saying, “You’ll be sorry later, John.” Bentley increased his lead. Other runners started dropping out as early as 15 miles.

Bentley passed 20 miles in 2:16:26. But by 50k he slowly faded and Tarrant took the lead by mile 40. Box panicked seeing Tarrant go and he tried to catch the Ghost. As Box tried to unlap himself the pace went wild. Corbitt recalled, “The intermittent sprint duel was unbelievable. Box determined to pass and Tarrant was determined not to permit it. And with all those miles left!”

ghost runner john tarrant

Then without warning, Tarrant stopped and “puked his guts out” for at least a half minute. He thought he was done but soon got back into the race. The struggle between the two friends calmed down as Box, perhaps unwisely, let Tarrant recover. Corbitt watched it all and just ran steady.

For fuel, Tarrant had been drinking a honey and tea mixture with glucose. He ate candy bars, sandwiches, biscuits and drank a half a cup of water every few laps. But after his puking episode, he stayed with orange juice and glucose. Corbitt fueled on apricot nectar, Tiger’s Milk, and a form of energy bar. Box stuffed his mouth with food and drink every lap and was very talkative with other runners.

ghost runner john tarrant

The miles ticked off and four other runners dropped out by 35 miles. Tarrant stretched his lead to two minutes as Box kept putting on occasional charges. At mile 50, Box finally took the lead for the first time with a time of 5:58:11. Tarrant was struggling and looked beaten. Corbitt reach 50 miles in 6:13:22 feeling good, hoping that Tarrant and Box would annihilate each other. Others dropped out and only nine continued. Box soon had a four-lap lead and Tarrant felt that his chances for victory were gone. He just couldn’t increase his pace, even with his son shouting loudly at him.

ghost runner john tarrant

It was reported, “Approaching mile 60, the sun rose into a beautiful morning, dispelling the discouragement of the night and bring out fans to cheer the survivors.” The daylight put energy in Tarrant as he found his speed again and started gaining on Box. Tarrant’s brother, Victor, shouted, “If you keep this up you can break the UK record.” Tarrant’s reply was, “Bugger that, I want the world record.”

ghost runner john tarrant

By mile 70, Tarrant had nearly caught up to Box. “Box could hear the labored breathing of Tarrant behind. Suddenly, the two men were no longer in a marathon, they were in a sprint.”  Box surged forward, desperate to hold off Tarrant’s charge. He said, “I hated being overtaken. I couldn’t stand it.” Tarrant’s crew screamed at him to slow down. The two exchanged the lead back and forth. “For lap after lap, the gap between them opened and closed as each tried to outsprint and crush the other.” The only two others left on the track were Corbitt and Bentley.

ghost runner john tarrant

“This was no longer a sport or something that could be stopped. This was a life-and-death fight for survival. Each man’s battle to finish depended on whether he could control his mind to keep fighting. It was an agonizing, monotonous slog.”  Corbitt struggled with terrible painful thigh chafing until an official’s wife found him some petroleum jelly. He said, “The mental part came in somewhere after 11 hours when I realized that every one left in the race could finish if they could control their minds. I would slow up and start drinking. The dispensers were urging me not to stop completely, figuring I might cramp up. This was a possibility, I guess.

“With just a few laps to go, the crowd began to chatter and swell. Few of them had slept and until now it had been a cold and boring night. Abandoned flasks and plastic beakers littered the trackside. Every one of the runners who’d staggered out of the race had stayed behind to see what would happen. Without exception, they were bellowing and clapping Tarrant towards victory.”

ghost runner john tarrant

With five miles to go, Corbitt wasn’t sure he would make it. The laps seemed to be so long. He thought, “I’ve got to finish before something happens. I must keep going.” He came in at 13:33:06, a new American record, crushing the old mark by three and a half hours. At the finish Corbitt was offered beer and sandwiches. He replied that what he really needed was a new pair of legs.

ghost runner john tarrant

The race “killed” Corbitt a little. He thought his running days were finished. It took him four months to find enthusiasm for a long training run. Box was so sore that the day after he had to walk upstairs backwards. Eight hours after the finish, Tarrant was on a plane bound for South Africa to go back to his dock worker job and his quest to win Comrades. He had obtained a 300 pound loan from his employer to make the trip. He explained, “I won’t finish paying for it until March 1971. If you are keen enough to do something you will always find a way. I have committed myself up to the hilt for the next year and half, but it was worth it.”

The parts of this 100-mile series:

  • 54: Part 1 (1737-1875) Edward Payson Weston
  • 55: Part 2 (1874-1878) Women Pedestrians
  • 56: Part 3 (1879-1899) 100 Miles Craze
  • 57: Part 4 (1900-1919) 100-Mile Records Fall
  • 58: Part 5 (1902-1926) London to Brighton and Back
  • 59: Part 6 (1927-1934) Arthur Newton
  • 60: Part 7 (1930-1950) 100-Milers During the War
  • 61: Part 8 (1950-1960) Wally Hayward and Ron Hopcroft
  • 62: Part 9 (1961-1968) First Death Valley 100s
  • 63: Part 10 (1968-1968) 1969 Walton-on-Thames 100
  • 64: Part 11 (1970-1971) Women run 100-milers
  • 65: Part 12 (1971-1973) Ron Bentley and Ted Corbitt
  • 66: Part 13 (1974-1975) Gordy Ainsleigh
  • 67: Part 14 (1975-1976) Cavin Woodward and Tom Osler
  • 68: Part 15 (1975-1976) Andy West
  • 69: Part 16 (1976-1977) Max Telford and Alan Jones
  • 70: Part 17 (1973-1978) Badwater Roots
  • 71: Part 18 (1977) Western States 100
  • 72: Part 19 (1977) Don Ritchie World Record
  • 73: Part 20 (1978-1979) The Unisphere 100
  • 74: Part 21 (1978) Ed Dodd and Don Choi
  • 75: Part 22 (1978) Fort Mead 100
  • 76: Part 23 (1983) The 24-Hour Two-Man Relay
  • 77: Part 24 (1978-1979) Alan Price – Ultrawalker
  • 79: Part 25 (1978-1984) Early Hawaii 100-milers
  • 81: Part 26 (1978) The 1978 Western States 100
  • 87: Part 27 (1979) The Old Dominion 100
  • United States Centurion Walkers
  • Bill Jones, The Ghost Runner: The Epic Journey of the Man They Couldn’t Stop
  • John Chodes, Corbitt: The Story of Ted Corbitt, Long Distance Runner
  • The Independent Record (Helena, Montana), Oct 19, 1977
  • The Daily Inter Lake (Kalispell, Montana), Sep 25, 28, Oct 30, 1967
  • Great Falls Tribune (Montana), Sep 25, Oct 8, 1967
  • Chicago Tribune (Illinois), Sep 25, 1967
  • Daily Independent Journal (San Rafael, California), Dec 16, 1968
  • Coventry Evening Telegraph (England), Oct 12, 1968
  • Los Angeles Times (California), Nov 7, 1968
  • Los Angeles Times West Magazine, Jan 10, 1971
  • Sports Argus (England), May 10, 1958
  • Coventry Evening Telegraph, May 15, 1958
  • The People (England), Jun 8, 1958
  • Birmingham Daily Post (England), Oct 27, 1969
  • The Sacramento Bee (California), Oct 17, 1970

Image Unavailable

Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop

  • To view this video download Flash Player

Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop Paperback – January 1, 2011

  • Print length 352 pages
  • Language English
  • Publisher Mainstream
  • Publication date January 1, 2011
  • Dimensions 6.02 x 1.1 x 9.21 inches
  • ISBN-10 1845966066
  • ISBN-13 978-1845966065
  • See all details

The Amazon Book Review

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Mainstream (January 1, 2011)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 352 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1845966066
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1845966065
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 3.53 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6.02 x 1.1 x 9.21 inches
  • Best Sellers Rank: #2,529,774 in Books ( See Top 100 in Books )

Important information

To report an issue with this product or seller, click here .

About the author

Bill Jones is the author of several award-winning books. The Ghost Runner (2011) won the 'Best New Writer' in the British Sports Book Awards. His biography of the ice skater John Curry - Alone (2014) - was shortlisted for the William Hill Awards and won the 'Outstanding Writing' category in the British Sports Book Awards. His first novel - Black Camp 21 (2018) was shortlisted in the Hugh McIlvanney Crime Fiction awards. All three of those books are in development as major feature films. 'Mr.Pilbeam Built A Boat' is his latest, and most personal work of fiction, to date.

Before turning to full-time writing, Bill was - for many years - a distinguished documentary film-maker, producing and directing programmes for the BBC, Channel 4, ITV, Discovery, Sky TV, PBS, national Geographic and many more.

His love of writing began as a journalist on an evening paper in North Yorkshire; the county where he now lives.

Customer reviews

Customer Reviews, including Product Star Ratings help customers to learn more about the product and decide whether it is the right product for them.

To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Instead, our system considers things like how recent a review is and if the reviewer bought the item on Amazon. It also analyzed reviews to verify trustworthiness.

  • Sort reviews by Top reviews Most recent Top reviews

Top reviews from the United States

There was a problem filtering reviews right now. please try again later..

ghost runner john tarrant

Top reviews from other countries

ghost runner john tarrant

  • Amazon Newsletter
  • About Amazon
  • Accessibility
  • Sustainability
  • Press Center
  • Investor Relations
  • Amazon Devices
  • Amazon Science
  • Start Selling with Amazon
  • Sell apps on Amazon
  • Supply to Amazon
  • Protect & Build Your Brand
  • Become an Affiliate
  • Become a Delivery Driver
  • Start a Package Delivery Business
  • Advertise Your Products
  • Self-Publish with Us
  • Host an Amazon Hub
  • › See More Ways to Make Money
  • Amazon Visa
  • Amazon Store Card
  • Amazon Secured Card
  • Amazon Business Card
  • Shop with Points
  • Credit Card Marketplace
  • Reload Your Balance
  • Amazon Currency Converter
  • Your Account
  • Your Orders
  • Shipping Rates & Policies
  • Amazon Prime
  • Returns & Replacements
  • Manage Your Content and Devices
  • Your Recalls and Product Safety Alerts
  • Conditions of Use
  • Privacy Notice
  • Your Ads Privacy Choices

Congolese man sets himself on fire in protest of genocide

Kenya tops charts in organised crime, alarming trends unveiled in 2023 enact crime index, nations to negotiate terms of plastics treaty in nairobi, this is what's happening in sudan right now, agoa is vital for job creation and sustainable growth in africa, abe funeral: japan asks why state event is costing more than the queen’s, us moves to help iranians access internet as protesters rally, seven killed by car bomb near kabul mosque: ministry, lebanon mourns victims of migrant shipwreck, south korean president's office denies us hot-mic insult, ukraine war: russian threat growing, front line troops fear, alfredo cospito: hunger-striking italian anarchist moved amid protests, vistara: italian woman ‘punched and spat’ on india flight, french retirement age strike hits schools and trains, what impact has brexit had on the uk economy, african development bank strengthens partnership with the african network of delivery units, fifa media rights tenders commence for sub-saharan africa, mtn south africa, huawei bag ‘sustainability champion’ award, akufo-addo congratulates liberia’s president-elect, joseph boakai, choir master cries out after pastor snatched his wife, pedro mendes gives his news –, islam slimani advised hicham boudaoui before signing –, slumping spurs a 'problem' for man city – guardiola, inter milan extend their leaders for three seasons –, carlo ancelotti responds to alleged pressure on arbitration –, sweden opens mainland europe’s first satellite launch spaceport, 2022 was fifth-warmest year on record, nasa says, sweden claims largest discovery of ‘crucial’ rare-earth elements in europe, nasa’s chandra observatory finds once hidden supermassive black holes, james webb space telescope confirms its first exoplanet, 10 health benefits of relaxing massage –, what it is, what it is for and where to find it –, how to be treated for hiv, how aids can affect vision –, drugs that cause allergies –, the ghost runner: john tarrant’s story of triumph and tragedy.

World News

Easter Monday, 1957. A heavy gloom settled over Doncaster as crowds gathered for the half marathon ending in Sheffield.

The starting area was swarming with race stewards, many carrying a photo of the man they had been instructed to stop at all costs.

To the officials he was a gatecrasher, a scoundrel who must be prevented from racing. To almost everybody else, he was a downtrodden champion battling injustice.

Runners now pressed forward as the start time neared. The local mayor raised his arm to the clouds and with the crack of his starting pistol, the race was under way. Seconds later, another sound ripped through the air.

A spectator huddled beneath a long coat and a large hat had thrown his disguise clear, revealing his racing attire as he jumped, numberless, into the race. The spectators thundered their approval, and the stewards flailed as he skipped around them to join the runners disappearing down the road.

John Tarrant’s sporting career fused triumph and tragedy. One of Britain’s finest long-distance athletes of the late 1950s and 1960s, he ran multiple world records but was denied his full share of glory by the stubborn authorities who banned him from racing.

Tarrant wouldn’t let them stop him. He was a dogged and brilliant competitor. A numberless outlaw. They called him the Ghost Runner.

Short presentational grey line

Born in London in 1932 to parents John and Edna, Tarrant lived his early years in poverty but they were loving nonetheless. His brother Vic arrived in 1935 and, for a time, life progressed as childhood should.

However, in 1940, with their mother’s health failing and their father called up to man London’s anti-aircraft batteries, the brothers were sent to Lamorbey Children’s Home in Kent. There they would remain for the next seven years.

A stark setting at the best of times, life at Lamorbey was intensified by the terror of the Blitz. It got worse for the Tarrant boys. Two years later, their mother Edna died from tuberculosis.

It wasn’t until August 1947 that their father collected them. Recently remarried and with a new-born baby, he moved the family to the Derbyshire town of Buxton, on the edge of the Peak District.

In this beautiful and savagely hilly landscape, the young Tarrant took to running with a stubborn zealousness that quickly consumed him. It became his catharsis. Soon he was known for a capacity to push himself further than most would even consider attempting.

“He used running as his psychological help,” says Nicola Tyler, who is chair of the Ghost Runners running club in Hereford and was trained by Tarrant’s brother Vic for many years.

“After that kind of childhood, of course, you’re going to be angry and rebellious.”

In 1949, aged 17, Tarrant took up boxing and participated in Buxton’s inaugural fight night. He competed a further seven times over two years, earning himself a total of £17 – worth about £400 today. Full of heart but lacking much prowess, he quit the sport in 1951, blissfully unaware how damaging his inglorious stint as a professional boxer would turn out to be.

Various manual labour jobs came and went, usually discarded in search of more time to run. Even on honeymoon after his marriage to Edith Light in 1953, Tarrant took along his training gear. With his weekly mileage quickly climbing, he’d set his sights on the Olympics – but first he needed to join a club.

John Tarrant

British athletics in the 1950s was governed according to a moral standard supposedly inspired by the Ancient Greeks but which stank of inequality and exclusion.

Held up as a symbol of integrity, amateur sports were not to be sullied by those who had ever received payment for competing. It was a rule which, as Britain clawed itself out of the wreckage of World War Two, disproportionately affected the poor.

Most got round the issue by simply not disclosing any earnings, but Tarrant felt it only right to formally declare his boxing exploits when applying to join the Amateur Athletic Association (AAA).

Two weeks later a letter arrived returning his six shillings subscription fee. He was informed that he was now banned from amateur athletics for life – including events such as the de facto British championships and trial races for Olympic selection. He bombarded officials with replies, pleading his case, but to no avail.

Driven by a burning sense of injustice, Tarrant and his brother Vic concocted a plan. Why not simply run unregistered in the AAA races? Not only would it allow him to compete, it might even spark a debate within the media.

Things began badly, however. Various misfortunes meant they arrived late to race starts in Macclesfield and Leeds. Nothing was left to chance when Tarrant arrived in Liverpool for the city’s marathon on 11 August 1956.

After discreetly changing, he wound his way through crowds to the start line, the only man without a number.

As the race began, he attached himself to the leading pack before bursting clear after 11 miles. Rarely one for finesse or race strategy, Tarrant would come with one gear – full throttle – and a relentless, almost reckless approach to competition.

In this case, his rookie exuberance held up until mile 19 when he was caught by the chasing pack. His body racked with exhaustion and cramp, he slumped to the ground two miles from the finish.

Despite this disappointment, Tarrant’s endeavours in Liverpool had caught the eye. After he gave an impromptu press conference before boarding the train back to Buxton, a new nickname spread, courtesy of the Daily Express: the Ghost Runner.

Over the coming years he would repeat the trick again and again, gatecrashing races across the country. As media attention and public interest grew, he would frequently need to slalom through a pack of stewards desperately trying to catch him at the start of races. When he won, which he began to do frequently, his success would be met either with eerie silence or a public scolding over the loudspeakers.

And yet, despite the official line, Tarrant had become a hugely popular character who would be cheered on by hundreds, sometimes thousands, of spectators.

“Tarrant was an unattractive human sledgehammer of a runner but with an indomitable spirit,” says Bill Jones, author of The Ghost Runner – The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn’t Catch.

“He ticked all the right boxes in the 1950s of the young, angry, working-class hero.”

In 1958 a letter finally arrived from the AAA informing Tarrant that his ban had been overturned. Although exact reasoning was not given, the decision came just one month after Harold Abraham – 100m gold medallist at the 1924 Paris Olympics and influential member of various athletic committees – wrote an article highlighting crude deficiencies in the case against Tarrant.

But elation quickly gave way to renewed resentment. It emerged that while Tarrant had been cleared to run in British races, he would remain banned from representing his country internationally.

His dream of running at the Olympics crushed, Tarrant nonetheless went on to dominate the domestic scene, establishing himself as one of the best long-distance runners in Britain.

The 1960s saw him win a blizzard of events, including the London to Brighton 54-mile race twice, the Liverpool to Blackpool 48-mile race three times, and the Exeter to Plymouth 44-mile race five times. He set world records at 40 and 100 miles – to go with his Territorial Army 110-mile march record set in 1959.

But just as in Liverpool, there were also numerous races where he failed to finish, often because of the stomach complaints that plagued his career. On any given day he could reign supreme or be seen staggering away, arms clutched around his abdomen.

By the mid-1960s, a sense of dissatisfaction was setting in. The desire for a new challenge, and to compete around the world, now consumed Tarrant.

South Africa’s Comrades Marathon, linking Durban and Pietermaritzburg, describes itself as the oldest ultra-marathon in the world, stretching for about 55 miles through KwaZulu-Natal province.

In 1968 it was still an exclusively white male race. Black competitors, and women, were formally excluded. But a few still raced nonetheless.

Tarrant was among the interlopers that year, after South African officials rejected his application to run following pressure from the AAA. For the first time in his life, the Ghost Runner joined other phantoms on the fringes.

A fourth-place finish was more than respectable, but below par in the eyes of Tarrant. He returned the following year, this time while entertaining the idea of emigrating.

His second Comrades looked like being a complete disaster but was salvaged by a gutsy display that saw him finish 28th after suffering debilitating stomach issues along the way – far beyond what had seemed possible at halfway.

Tarrant took on the Comrades twice more, in 1970 and 1971, failing to finish both times. His dream of conquering the gruelling contest remained unfulfilled, but it did lead to arguably his defining moment.

During the 1969 Comrades, whispers began circulating about a new, multi-ethnic race that would be open to all. As the date neared, it remained unclear whether it would go ahead and how many – if any – white runners would compete.

On the morning of 6 September 1970, as runners gathered in Stanger for the Gold Top Marathon, a 50-mile race to Durban, there was a solitary white competitor: John Tarrant. He won it in five hours 43 minutes.

The following year the number of white runners doubled, with a 15-year-old Dave Upfold, who had begun training with Tarrant occasionally, also competing.

“We were expecting the police, maybe even the army,” says Upfold.

“In 1971 we simply weren’t allowed to compete together, but there was nothing.

“It was the start of the acceptance that people of colour could run, and run well.

“By 1975, the Comrades was fully integrated with women and all ethnicities taking part, and Tarrant was certainly part of that.”

Tarrant also won that 1971 Gold Top, improving his time by three minutes, but serious problems were emerging.

Six weeks later he suffered a massive haemorrhage and woke up vomiting blood. Doctors failed to diagnose a cause so he was discharged from hospital and soon back running over 100 miles a week. All was clearly not well, but quite remarkably, one final epic remained.

On 23 October 1971, 12 runners, including a 39-year-old Tarrant, began the Radox 100 Mile track race held at the Uxbridge Sports Centre in west London.

By mile 60 he was struggling badly, alternating between walking and slowly jogging, with race leader Ron Bentley 17 minutes ahead. The once imperious ghost was fading dramatically and few held much hope of him finishing, let alone winning.

But as he had done time and time again, Tarrant dug deep into what propelled him and battled on. Slowly the gap began to shrink until he was just two laps behind Bentley. Suddenly the unthinkable seemed possible.

In the end, thanks to a late burst, Bentley finished 14 minutes ahead of second-placed Tarrant, who ended his last major race in an appalling condition – his lips blue, froth seeping from his mouth as he collapsed at the finish line. Eventually his brother Vic, his steadfast rock throughout the years, shepherded him into a waiting car and the Ghost Runner disappeared. Forever.

“It was Tarrant’s greatest race,” said race organiser Eddie Gutteridge in Jones’ book, The Ghost Runner.

“He was in bits, mortally ill as we now know. God knows how he did it. It moved you to be there.”

Two years later Tarrant was finally diagnosed with stomach cancer. He died on 18 January 1975, aged just 42.

Today, in his adopted home of Hereford, close to the town’s running club, stands a sculpture in his honour – created, somewhat symbolically, by vulnerable teenagers living in a residential home nearby.

“He believed in fairness. Fairness for himself, fairness for everybody, equality for all,” says Upfold. “Nearly 50 years after his death, people still remember the name John Tarrant.”

Tyler adds: “He wasn’t allowed to officially win, but he was still determined to show people what he could do.

“It wasn’t just about running. It was about overcoming adversity and believing in yourself. That’s why people still love this story.”

World News

LEAVE A REPLY Cancel reply

Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.

  • Advertise with us
  • Privacy Policy

Ghanamma.com - All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners.

IMAGES

  1. The Ghost Runner: John Tarrant's story of triumph and tragedy

    ghost runner john tarrant

  2. THE GHOST RUNNER: JOHN TARRANT’S STORY OF TRIUMPH AND TRAGEDY

    ghost runner john tarrant

  3. The Ghost Runner: John Tarrant's story of triumph and tragedy

    ghost runner john tarrant

  4. Ghost Runner statue unveiled at Hereford Skate Park in honour of John

    ghost runner john tarrant

  5. Running away from his demons

    ghost runner john tarrant

  6. Mavericks: John Tarrant (The Ghost Runner)

    ghost runner john tarrant

VIDEO

  1. ghost runner intro

  2. Ghost runner episode 1

  3. Ghost Runner 2 Demo

  4. Ghost runner episode 2

  5. ghost runner #shorts

COMMENTS

  1. John Tarrant (runner)

    John Tarrant (4 February 1932 - 18 January 1975) was an English long-distance runner, nicknamed "The Ghost Runner" for his habit of "gatecrashing" races from which he was barred due to his "non-amateur" status, acquired during a brief career as a teenage prize-fighter. [1] Early life

  2. The Ghost Runner: John Tarrant's story of triumph and tragedy

    John Tarrant's sporting career fused triumph and tragedy. One of Britain's finest long-distance athletes of the late 1950s and 1960s, he ran multiple world records but was denied his full share...

  3. The Ghost Runner: John Tarrant's story of triumph and tragedy

    One of Britain's finest long-distance athletes of the late 1950s and 1960s, he ran multiple world records but was denied his full share of glory by the stubborn authorities who banned him from...

  4. Ghost Runner-The John Tarrant Story

    John Tarrant was banned for life from running because he was paid £17 GBP for expenses as a teenage boxer in the 1950s, thus labeling him as a "professional". . But his love for running was greater than that.

  5. The Ghost Runner: John Tarrant's story of triumph and tragedy

    The Ghost Runner: John Tarrant's story of triumph and tragedy By Editorial August 23, 2022 Updated: August 23, 2022 No Comments 11 Mins Read Tarrant (left), pictured celebrating victory on the London-Brighton race of 1968 Easter Monday, 1957. A heavy gloom settled over Doncaster as crowds gathered for the half marathon ending in Sheffield.

  6. John Tarrant: Sad shadow of the 'ghost runner' still stalks the track

    Born in Shepherds Bush in 1932, Tarrant was a man bereft of good luck. During the war, as his beloved mother lay dying of TB, he was parcelled off to a brutalising children's home in Kent and...

  7. The Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop

    John Tarrant. The extraordinary man whom nobody could stop. As a hapless teenage boxer in the 1950s, he'd been paid GBP17 expenses. When he wanted to run, he was banned for life. His amateur status had been compromised. Forever. Now he was fighting back, gatecrashing races all over Britain. No number on his shirt. No friends in high places.

  8. The Hereford Ghost Runners: legacy of a legend

    John Tarrant, the man dubbed "the ghost runner" has gone down in history as one of the greatest runners never to compete, at least officially…. Born 1932, John and younger brother Victor spent their early years in London. With their father away on active service during the war, their mother's death from tuberculosis in 1942 saw the boys ...

  9. John Tarrant (runner)

    John Tarrant (4 February 1932 - 18 January 1975) was an English long-distance runner, nicknamed "The Ghost Runner" for his habit of "gatecrashing" races from which he was barred due to his "non-amateur" status, acquired during a brief career as a teenage prize-fighter. Oops something went wrong: 403 Enjoying Wikiwand?

  10. The Ghost Runner : The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop

    The mystery man threw off his disguise and started to run. Furious stewards gave chase. The crowd roared.A legend was born. Soon the world would know him as 'the ghost runner'. John Tarrant. The extraordinary man whom nobody could stop. As a hapless teenage boxer in the 1950s, he'd been paid £17 expenses. When he wanted to run, he was banned for life.

  11. The ghost runner : the tragedy of the man they couldn't stop : the true

    As a teenage boxer in the 1950s, John Tarrant has been paid seventeen pounds expenses. When he wanted to run, he was banned for life as his amateur status had been compromised. Now he was fighting back, gatecrashing races all over Britain. No number on his shirt. No friends in high places.

  12. The Ghost Runner : The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop

    John Tarrant. The extraordinary man whom nobody could stop. As a hapless teenage boxer in the 1950s, he'd been paid £17 expenses. When he wanted to run, he was banned for life. His amateur...

  13. Book Review: The Ghost Runner by Bill Jones :: Hudson-Mohawk Road

    The Ghost Runner by Bill Jones is a biography of John Tarrant, a talented long-distance runner. Tarrant's story underscores the lonely plight of the distance runner. Early in life Tarrant had a brief, but failed, career as a boxer. During this stint Tarrant accepted a £17 prize payment that would end up haunting him for the remainder of his life.

  14. The Ghost Runner: John Tarrant'S Story of Triumph and Tragedy

    Subscribe to HornbillTV to follow news at hyperlocal, regional, national and international level. Press the bell icon on YouTube for all the latest updates f...

  15. The Ghost Runner: John Tarrant's story of triumph and tragedy

    Tarrant wouldn't let them stop him. He was a dogged and brilliant competitor. A numberless outlaw. They called him the Ghost Runner. Born in London in 1932 to parents John and Edna, Tarrant lived his early years in poverty but they were loving nonetheless. His brother Vic arrived in 1935 and, for a time, life progressed as childhood should.

  16. 63: The 100-miler: Part 10 (1968-1969) Walton-on-Thames 100

    John Tarrant. Tarrant's plan was to run each lap at 1:45 regardless of what was happening around him. But after a few miles, he increased his speed and tried to gain on Bentley. Box, running with Corbitt, shouted as Tarrant lapped them the second time, saying, "You'll be sorry later, John." Bentley increased his lead.

  17. The Ghost Runner: The Epic Journey of the Man They Couldn't Stop

    Bill Jones The Ghost Runner: The Epic Journey of the Man They Couldn't Stop Hardcover - March 13, 2013 by Bill Jones (Author) 229 ratings

  18. The Ghost Runner : The Epic Journey of the Man They Couldn't Stop

    Bill Jones. Open Road Media, Mar 5, 2013 - Biography & Autobiography - 352 pages. The incredible, inspiring, and heartbreaking story of a phenomenal long-distance runner's race against insurmountable odds and his own demons. John Tarrant was one of the best runners the world has ever seen. With a strange, loping gate and a nearly fanatical ...

  19. The Ghost Runner

    The incredible, inspiring, and heartbreaking story of a phenomenal long-distance runner's race against insurmountable odds and his own demons. The mystery man threw off his disguise and started to run. Furious stewards gave chase. The crowd roared. A legend was born. Soon the world would know him as "The Ghost Runner," John Tarrant, the extraordinary man whom nobody could stop.

  20. Mavericks: John Tarrant (The Ghost Runner)

    This week's maverick is John Tarrant, the man who evaded the authorities, rallied against apartheid and earned himself the shadowy sobriquet 'The Ghost Runner'.

  21. The Ghost Runner by Bill Jones

    Synopsis. The mystery man threw off his disguise and started to run. Furious stewards gave chase. The crowd roared. A legend was born. Soon the world would know him as 'the ghost runner'. John Tarrant. The extraordinary man whom nobody could stop. As a hapless teenage boxer in the 1950s, he'd been paid £17 expenses.

  22. Ghost Runner: The Tragedy of the Man They Couldn't Stop

    The mystery man threw off his disguise and started to run. Furious stewards gave chase. The crowd roared. A legend was born. Soon the world would know him as 'the ghost runner'. John Tarrant. The extraordinary man whom nobody could stop. As a hapless teenage boxer in the 1950s, he'd been paid GBP17 expenses. When he wanted to run, he was banned ...

  23. The Ghost Runner: John Tarrant's story of triumph and tragedy

    The Ghost Runner: John Tarrant's story of triumph and tragedy. Easter Monday, 1957. A heavy gloom settled over Doncaster as crowds gathered for the half marathon ending in Sheffield. The starting area was swarming with race stewards, many carrying a photo of the man they had been instructed to stop at all costs.