Taff was an absolute legend in veteran athletics. His record over the years will probably never be bettered and he was the most fiercely competitive trainer I have ever met. His grandson (Luke Bone) is a member of the club.
Taff joined AFD on returning from a tour of duty with the Parachute Regiment in Bahrain & Aden in 1965. His running career was very much curtailed by the necessity for him to complete several tours of duty in various theatres throughout the world including five tours of duty in Northern Ireland between 1970 & 1972. He completed 26 years of army service in 1983.
During his army years he came second in the Army Cross Country Championships six years running between 1973 and 1978 before winning it in 1979 and again in 1981 and this was as a veteran.
As a club athlete his career took off on becoming a veteran and he led the way in the eighties when AFD completely dominated the veteran scene for many years being ably backed up initially by Les Presland, Andy Jelly and Bill Peglar the team started winning trophies at National level.
I recall that when I moved southwards with my job, having been previously a member of Sale Harriers there was only one club I wanted to join and wanted to see at first hand what made the club so strong. I was soon to find out on joining in the training sessions. At Sale the veterans all tended to train together but at AFD the vets were easily good enough to train with the seniors.
Taff was fiercely competitive in his training as well as his racing. I soon learnt that the biggest mistake you could make on a long run was to try to lead Taff. In one instance on a Sunday morning run one or two younger athletes joined us and going across Caesar’s Camp area one unsuspecting brave young soul attempted to start pushing for home. Taff ran alongside him on one side and Brian O’Neill on the other – nodded and grinned at each other, then started to turn the screw. A couple of miles further on I passed the young upstart barely going faster than walking pace.
In competitive Veteran Athletics Taff’s record will probably never be bettered. He was winner of the British Veteran’s Cross Country Championship five times between 1979 and 1986 – on the last occasion winning outright as an over 45 beating all in the M40 category. He won the Southern Championships six times. He was also a member of AFD’s 12 Stage National Road Relay winning squad in 1982 and the veterans winning 8 stage squads in 1988,1989 and 1991.
In 1979 he was world vet’s cross country champion in Hanover and in the same year won the world vet’s Steeplechase in a time of 9:03 – a record which still stands. In 1985 the world Vets 10K road championships were held at Lytham St Annes. Before the race word had reached these shores about an American athlete called Barry Brown who was winning everything in the States. He was being sponsored by Nike to take the title back to the US. Taff was having none of this despite a six year age advantage to the American. Brown had gone out and attempted to dominate the race but had been unable to shake off a pack of British runners including Taff. This was when Taff played his trump card running alongside the American, saying “Tough over here, isn’t it mate” then leaving him trailing in his wake to become World Champion. Incidentally AFD also won the team race on that day.
As a 50 year old Taff showed no signs of slowing down winning the Eoropean 10K championship two years running in 1988 & 1989. He also did a world best over 50 10k at Reading in 1988 of 30min 35sec and in the same year at Stroud set the World best half marathon time for over 50′s of 67min 9sec. – a race that I was also privileged to run in and benefitted by sipping the champagne that the organisers provided.
Unfortunately repetitive injuries affected his running in the latter part of the nineties, although he did attempt a number of come-backs until in 2000 a serious car crash put him on crutches for months and although he is now mobile it is unlikely that he will ever compete again.
His world bests in M40 Steeplechase and M50 10K and Half-Marthon still stand to this day.