A Meet with Alan Harby

Good Day Nidder’s

Hoping you are all ticketyboo !

Last week after chatting to Alan Harby in the bar I suddenly thought, “ I want to spend a bit more quality time with this man” So I called him and asked if he would meet me for a coffee to share his past.   Whilst with Alan I asked if he minded I share his history and that of the club’s with the members, as I knew there must be many like me that would be interested.

For those that have not yet met Alan, he was Nidd Vally Road Runners Chair in the early 90’s for 3 years.  Has been with the club  for over 30 years, and has been granted a Lifetime Membership

A saying I  came across as a young man is, “We stand on the shoulders of Giants before us”.  Alan is one of those Giants,  in my opinion.

Please if you haven’t yet done so introduce yourself and shake him by the hand.

Here Goes ———

Rob –  Do you mind telling me your age Alan ?

Alan – Not at all, I was born on the 9th of April 1937, and 84 right now.

Rob-  And Family ?

Alan– Married to Barbara.  We had 2 boys, Glynn and Mark.  We lost Glynn just before lockdown to a heart problem at the age of 60.  Mark has 3 children Jess ( Jessica) who is now at the the club carrying on the Harby name. Bethany and India (who trains with Harrogate Harriers).  We don’t discuss that in our house Lol.

Rob – Where were you born

Alan – I was born in Southgate, North London, and joined the Royal Air Force on the 20th May 1952 at the age of 15. My father wasn’t too pleased as my 2 brothers had proper jobs and went on to do very well.  However although opposed,  he needed to sign  the papers, which he duly did and there I stayed boy and man for 40 years travelling all over the World from 1952 until 1992 when I left.

Rob-  Tell me about your career Alan

Alan–  I flew with the 49th Squadron at the age of 17 which was unheard of. Was based in Nicosia during the Suez invasion in 1956.  In 1961 I was posted to Singapore.

For 4 years I was seconded to The Malaysian Air Force, even wearing their uniform. This was followed by a posting in Hong Kong for 3 more years. The latter part of my career was based in Germany, where I ran the Hamburg Marathon, The  Berlin Marathon, and then the Brussells Marathon.  There were many more postings, too many to talk about.

Rob –  When did you join Nidd Valley Road Runners

Alan–  I was posted in Germany with the RAF and came back to England based at Leeming in 1990.  Having done some running abroad I saw one day a group of runners that had began the race from the old Rugby ground,  and later discovered it was that year’s Guy Fawkes 10.  So I looked up where they were based and joined Nidd Valley in the same year.

Jean Blakey,  that some may remember,  was a Founder Member, and Bill Humphrey’s the Chair.  In those days we were part of and known as Harrogate Athletics Club.  We wanted to be known as a running club and suggested Nidd Valley Road Runners.  Well there was uproar and so we decided to break away and call ourselves Nidd Valley Road Runners.

The football teams colours were Black and Gold, and we decided that our colours should reflect the colours of the football team, and do to this day.

Rob – Were you a good runner

Alan–  I have never liked talking about times as I always did  it for health reasons.

Rob – I know that Alan, however tell me about some of your times and performances.

Alan– Before I came back to England in 1990 based in Germany I ran the Hamburg Marathon in 3 hours 40’.  The Berlin Marathon in  3hours 23′ and the Brussells Marathon in 3hours 30’

After joining Nidd Valley I ran the Dublin Marathon in 3 hours 17’ and there is a picture of me and the time crossing the line. I was 56 years old.

My fastest 10k was just under 35 minutes, and half marathons regularly under 1hour 30’.  In fact I ran the Falklands Half in 1 hour 28’ with Skull & Crossbones signs around the route warning us of live mines that the Argentinians planted a few years earlier.  So I suppose without the hazards we could have all run a little faster.

Rob- What about Barbara, did she join in ?

Alan–  Haha, yeah Barbara came along and was known as The Bag Lady.  When all the runners arrived they used to say “ Barbara can you look after my bag please” Therefore she decided to stop being the Bag Lady and started running with us.

Barbara ended up running 6 Marathons, her 1st being the New York Marathon. I was booked in and she said “ Can I come with you “ which was great,  so we did the New York Marathon together. I tell the story she was arrested, which I am not sure she is keen on however we have photographic evidence.

Rob – Did you travel anywhere else with Nidd Valley Alan?

Alan –  Oh yeah we would regularly get coaches to events.  They became so popular we often needed 2 coaches.  Certainly The Great North Run was popular and The London Marathon.  However we once went to Benidorm to do The Benidorm Marathon

Rob –  How did you communicate to the Membership Alan

Alan – Well we never had social media or the internet so we had what we called “The Nidd Valley Flyer” A printed booklet which began with a A letter From The Chairman.  It would go out 6 monthly or sometimes sooner.  It took some thinking about, quite a bit of work before it went to print.  The front had a picture of the cartoon Road Runner.

Rob – How  did you come to be in Harrogate

Alan – Now there’s a story.  When i had one of my visits back to the UK I based myself in London.  An old RAF pal Arthur came to stay with me and suggested a weekend away in Manchester.  He had a girlfriend up there. When we arrived I discovered he had paired me up with his girlfriend’s friend.  This was in 1957.  This girl turned out to be Barbara my wife of 63 years as we got married in 1958.

At one point with no money we had to rent a Caravan in Wittingley.  In 1964  when I was posted at Linton on Ouse we jumped into the deep end and bought a brand new Wimpey house on Forest lane which stands to this very day.


We stand on the shoulders of Giants before us.  Alan is one of those Giant’s.  The pleasure was all mine, and taking the time to meet him, listen to him and truly understand some of the history of the club was wonderful.

As a result of my short piece on Facebook about Alan I had a Member ask if I would do the same with Sue Threadgold in November.   Sue was approached and like most Giants was apprehensive.   If you do not know who Sue is, please take the time to ask before I meet with her in November.

We look forward to meeting Sue

In the meantime, let us all keep that wonderful Nidd Valley Road Runners camaraderie that has been  for over 30 years now, going strong.

Onwards and Upwards


Posted in General News.