Arthur Keily

Arthur Keily

Arthur Keily - Honorary Degree of Master of the University (HonMUniv)

Arthur is a truly remarkable Derby athlete. Between 1954 and 1960 he broke nine world records in distance running namely the half marathon, 15 miles, the track marathon, 45 km, 30 miles, 50 km, 35 miles, 60 km and the furthest distance run in exactly three hours. The longer distance records were achieved on the cinder track at Waltham-on-Thames. He also captained the Great Britain team in a number of international races in mainland Europe. In 1960 he represented Britain in the Rome Olympic marathon and led the race at 12 miles, setting a blistering pace that culminated in a world record for the famous Bikala Abebe.

Remarkable achievements

After returning to running in 1991 at the age of 70, he broke a number of British records. This included an astonishing performance in the London Marathon, a world cup event, which he completed in three hours and 24 minutes, 22 minutes ahead of the next runner in his age category. Impressive as these statistics are, it is the energy, extraordinary determination and powers of endurance, together with a sense of sheer joy of life, that stand out and make Arthur inspiring.

Early years

Arthur Keily was born in Derby in March 1921, the first of a family of nine including five brothers - Jerry, Joe, Bill, Michael and Dominic - all destined to be very fine runners. As a teenager he was a walking champion, but after being invalided from Dunkirk at 19, he spent his twenties in a local amateur football team. Then, at the age of 29, he thought that he would try running and joined Derby and County Athletic Club. His talented brothers joined as well. He quickly discovered that his combination of rare natural ability and exceptional dedication to training enabled him to win numerous 10 mile, 15 mile, marathon and 30 mile races. He became club captain and by instigating rigorous team training, such as racing up Burley Hill at Quarndon, he built a team capable of beating the best competition. On one occasion three Keily brothers won a major team race for the club. More successes followed and in 1960 Derby and County Athletic Club became the regional, Midlands and national champions.

Olympic selection

Arthur led by example. He trained intensively, running 15 miles around the ring road to Rolls-Royce, where worked in the machine shop, and then running the same distance home. He was Alf Tupper, the Tough of the Track, who former Victor readers may remember with admiration. He ran well over 130 miles each week, once recording 166 miles in one week taking his body to the limits, and beyond - to hospital. He ran his races from the front; a born leader in every sense. But there were disappointments too. He just missed selection for the 1956 Olympics and his time of two hours and 27 minutes in the Rome Olympic marathon was eight minutes short of his best due the lack of time allowed to acclimatise to the August heat and severe dehydration during the race. Drinking water during the marathon was heavily restricted in those days.

Return to form

After a break of 30 years Arthur, encouraged by the success of his wife Betty, returned to competitive running in 1991. His commitment was total and he ran prodigious distances in training exceeding 100 miles per week. His teeth-gritting performance in the London Marathon won him the London World Cup. In an indoor track event at RAF Cosford in March 1992, his spikes caught something and he fell heavily. He recovered enough to join the 3,000 metres race later the same day. With a supreme effort in the last lap he snatched victory, despite much chest pain. He later found that he had three cracked ribs. Arthur continued to compete at national level, becoming British Champion at 400 metres in the over 80 years of age category in 2001.

Award winner

Arthur has written several books including Common Sense for Road Runners, Common Sense to Delay the Ageing Process and 80 years of Happy Healthy Life. These books overflow with tips and good advice emphasising the importance of good dietary habit combined with exercise. Arthur was awarded the Derby Civic Award in 1992 and the Jubilee Hero Medal and the Queen's Golden Jubilee for Services to the Community in 2002 for raising £5 million for charity. More recently he was awarded the Living Legends Award, the Dame Thora Hird Award, the Derbyshire Sports Award and the Lifetime Achievement in Sport Award in 2008.

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