Obituary: Martin Hyman, long-distance runner, trainer and administrator
Martin Hyman was an acclaimed English long distance athlete who in the 1950s and 1960s competed extensively at the highest level and from 1979 he lived in Scotland where he made a huge contribution to the sport as a inspiring coach, mentor and meticulous administrator. With his distinctive style, he has excelled on the roads, cross-country and on the track in his specialty distance of 6 miles and metric equivalent of 10,000 meters. Highlights of his career include appearances for England at the Commonwealth Games in Cardiff and Perth, and for Great Britain at the Olympic Games in Rome and the European Athletics Championships in Belgrade. In addition, he raced regularly for Great Britain in international matches, captained the men’s team in the early 1960s, and was several medalists at the British Championships.
He enjoyed many successes, including the Jean Bouin run in Barcelona and New Years Eve in Sao Paulo, Brazil, beating famed Olympic marathon champion Abebe Bikila and setting records in both. Nationwide, his biggest achievement was 3rd place at the Nantes International Championships in 1961, when he was a member of the Portsmouth Athletic Club team that won the English national title three times in the 1960s. .
Martin Hyman was born in Southampton to Edward, a union official, and Eleanor. Together with his sister Eleanor and brother Richard he was first raised in Southampton before the family moved to Jersey for his father’s job. After the war broke out, staying there was perilous as Edward came from a Jewish family, so shortly before the German invasion in 1940 they fled to Southampton. As refugees, life was tough, but while Martin had to attend many schools, he earned a place at the University of Southampton. Despite his physical frailty, a growing interest in running gave him focus and, although not a natural athlete, dedication and determination led him to compete for the cross country team of University, the start of his involvement in running.
Another highlight was joining Portsmouth AC, where he met lifelong friend and well-known international racer Bruce Tulloh, with whom he trained regularly and built a mutually beneficial coaching relationship. They were attentive to the evolution of training methods, adapting the programs to their needs.
Martin had to undertake national service, but as a conscientious objector he did so with the Friends Ambulance Unit in London and Linz, Austria. While living in a youth hostel in London, he met his compatriot Margaret Veal from Sussex, then a secretarial student. The couple married in August 1958 in Horsham and lived 62 happy years together, during which they had sons Michael and Patrick.
In athletics, 1958 was his decisive year. He won the national universities cross country title and made his international track debut for England 6 miles away at the 1958 Cardiff Games, where he finished 4th very honorable, first Englishman and bettered the record games. A lack of natural finishing speed let him down as he was well in the math until the last lap.
Martin also made his British debut that year, winning the 10,000m against France in Paris and in 1959 also represented Great Britain on several occasions. In 1960 he was selected for this event at the Olympic Games in Rome and finished 9th, a disappointment mitigated by a personal best. But like many colleagues, he was very critical of the officials who had only allowed three days of acclimatization in the sweltering heat of Rome. Shortly thereafter, he was appointed President of the International Athletes’ Club to promote the interests of athletes in the public service.
In 1961 he set a national record at 6 miles and a year later he finished 5th at the Perth Games at 6 miles and 4th in the 10,000m in Belgrade, his lack of finishing speed particularly irritating as he missed a medal in the first by 1 / 10th of a second, while in the latter he recorded the same time as the bronze medalist. Although he did not compete in more international championships, he continued to run successfully throughout the 1960s in all disciplines.
A biology teacher by profession, he was persuaded in 1979 by a colleague of Swindon who was appointed head teacher at Inveralmond High School in Livingston to join him there. A highly regarded teacher, Martin retired as Deputy Principal in 1993 and remained in Livingston. He was heavily involved in the running scene, first with the local Livingston Club and from around 2000 with the Lothian Running Club which he helped found. Martin’s involvement covered all aspects and was recognized by his status as an Honorary Life Member of Scottish Athletics.
He continued to run competitively at the master’s level, including cross country and hill climb; he has coached and encouraged young athletes in particular, regardless of their skill level, and has designed cross country, road running and hill climbing courses. A Hill Running Commission host and orienteering pioneer, he instituted regular weekly training sessions, initially for orienteers at Edinburgh’s Meadows, which expanded to include runners of all skill levels. With him at the helm, these weekly sessions became legendary and lasted for over 30 years.
His approach to training was athlete-centered in terms of advising on training program options and encouraging athletes to take responsibility for their own development. He was a firm believer in the wider benefits of participation for young people and was motivated by a desire to give something back to the sport, sometimes paying for running shoes himself for those whose families couldn’t afford them. The number of warm tributes received since by his family is testament to his success.
Besides family and running he loved the great outdoors and chess, supported the CND and was a longtime Southampton FC fan A committed socialist, he was a caring and understanding individual who sought out the best in people and inspired much to improve.
He is survived by his wife, sons and brother.
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