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Weekend Round Up - Fowles on Fire, 1984

25/04/2020 00:00, In Blog / Road /

In the absence of new results and competitions to bring you each Monday, we're replacing our Weekend Round-Ups with some stories from the archives. As this weekend would have been the London Marathon, we start with a fantastic, but perhaps lesser-known, Welsh London performance, which at the time was a Welsh Record. A full history of Welsh Athletics can be explored here and Athletics Stats Wales provides a comprehensive set of statistics for the sport.


  • Kindly written by Mick McGeoch, Les Croupiers RC

13th May 1984. This is the latest date in the calendar London has been held. It was the fourth London, and an Olympic trial for the first time. The event had grown massively since the first one in 1981, and the international flavour of the field merely added to the occasion.

The race then was much different from today. No pacemakers, and often no clue until the very late stages as to the likely outcome. It's often said that the marathon is an event which isn't always decided by athletic talent, but often goes to the most astute. This was certainly true in 1984. The early pace was dominated by two Tanzanians, Juma Ikangaa and Zakaria Barie. They passed halfway in 64:40. Ikangaa was a habitual frontrunner and a race promoter's dream. He first came to prominence in the Commonwealth Games of 1982 at Brisbane when he won the silver medal in the marathon, only being caught in the final stages by Rob de Castella.

Gateshead teammates, Charlie Spedding and Kevin Forster, bided their time in the first half and caught the leaders around 16 miles. Ikangaa attempted to throw in surges to disrupt the Gateshead pair, but only succeeded in destroying himself. Spedding hit the front around 19 miles and won the race convincingly by 1:44.

Meanwhile, coming from even further back was Cardiff's Dennis Fowles. Now 33, Dennis had finished 14th the previous year in 2:13:21, and knew exactly what he was doing. Earlier on, Dennis's Cardiff teammate Adrian Leek had been near the leaders for a long time, but he overcommitted and retired around 22 miles. As Olympic aspirants faded, Dennis continued to scythe his way through the field. The BBC coverage caught up with the relative standings as the runners came through Admiralty Arch in the 25th mile. Spedding first, Forster second and Ikangaa third. But here was a new figure, and commentators David Coleman and Brendan Foster clearly had no clue as to who he was.

Still fourth entering Birdcage Walk at 41km, Dennis was closing in for the kill. At the end, he was only 5 seconds ahead of Norway Oyvind Dahl (the 1982 runner-up), but it was a magnificent run, especially considering that in his marathon debut just two years earlier, Dennis had finished over 7 minutes behind Ikangaa in Brisbane, in what had been considered a promising debut (13th in 2:16:49), especially after a magnificent sixth place in the 10000 metres, his main event. His time of 2:12:12 eclipsed Tony Simmons six-year-old Welsh marathon record.

London Result: Charlie Spedding (Gateshead) 2:09:57; 2. Kevin Forster (Gateshead) 2:11:41; 3. Dennis Fowles (Cardiff) 2:12:12; 4. Oyvind Dahl (Norway) 2:12:17; 5. Jorn Lauenborg (Denmark) 2:12:20; 6. Juma Ikangaa (Tanzania) 2:12:33.  


  • The unfortunate sequel to this race was that the Olympic selectors chose Spedding and Forster and Hugh Jones (1982 London Marathon winner) for the Los Angeles Games.

Most knowledgeable marathon fans will know that Steve Jones broke the world marathon record later that year in Chicago with 2:08:05. Somewhat less known is the fact that it was Dennis's Welsh record 2:12:12 he took. Still fourth on the Welsh all-time list (behind Jones, Dewi Griffiths and Steve Brace), Dennis retains the club record at Cardiff AAC, a club he represented all his life.

BBC Footage from 1984